“There is clear evidence of climate change here,” Werner said via email from Svalbard. “The Linne´ Glacier has been retreating since 1936 at an average rate of 20 meters per year. Since 2002, that rate has increased twofold, to nearly 40 meters per year. Now, we’re seeing the return of warm-water-loving mollusks. These results are consistent with other Arctic regions that likewise show accelerated warming in the past two decades.”
It’s an alarming trend that the REU is monitoring in the Norwegian High Arctic. The project’s ultimate goals are to monitor the area’s glacier/river/lake system, and to provide a better understanding of natural (pre-industrial) climate change there.
The Svalbard research is just one part of the much larger REU program, funded by the National Science Foundation, that aims to attract undergraduates to scientific fields by immersing them in field research experiences. In this way, Werner says, his REU project is mainly about educating and, hopefully, inspiring tomorrow’s climate change scientists.
This summer, he led seven U.S. students and three from the local Norwegian university, UNIS, on the five-week Svalbard trip. While the overall goal was to provide a better understanding of past climate change in the High Arctic, Werner and Hampshire faculty member Steve Roof worked with each of the students, helping them collect data for their individual honors thesis work.
The team was based at Isfjord Radio, an old communications outpost that has been turned into an eco-tourism station. The distance to the research site varied each day depending on what data was needed—one day, for example, project members hiked for nearly 12 straight hours to the top of the Linne´ Glacier and didn’t arrive back at home base until 11 pm.
“Most days involve lots of hiking with a heavy pack, and it is almost always rainy and cold,” Werner said. “Still, it is a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding--and what a privilege to work with the next generation of climate change scientists!”
The experience has been a role reversal of sorts for Werner, who did his dissertation fieldwork in the Norwegian High Arctic in the 1980s. Twenty years later, in 2002, he began the REU project there, in Svalbard’s Linne´ Valley, which is home to a small glacier, a meltwater river system, and a proglacial lake. Core samples taken from the lake, Werner said, are beautifully layered.
“Think of tree rings,” he explained. “These annual layers reflect glacier and climate variation through time. In a sense, we have this system (glacier-river-lake) instrumented like a critically ill patient, so that we can see the effects of annual snowfall, rainfall, summer air temperature, and glacier mass balance on lake sedimentation.”
The prognosis is not good. If the Linne´ Glacier continues to retreat at it’s current rate, Werner said, it will disappear in a matter of decades. That makes the Svalbard REU’s mission of developing scientists who will be able to research past and future climate change all the more important.
While ominous, present conditions, said Werner, make it an exciting time to conduct research in the Arctic. “By loading the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses we are conducting an incredible experiment with the climate system and we are able to watch it play out in real time."
Max Pearlstein | Newswise Science News
New insights into the ancestors of all complex life
29.05.2017 | University of Bristol
A 3-D look at the 2015 El Niño
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences
29.05.2017 | Life Sciences
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy