Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

Wild strawberries in mild Arctic autumn (Sveriges Radio)

November 8, 2011

The Swedish wild strawberries (smultron) are a rare sight this late in the year. Photo: Scanpix

Winter is late, even in the Swedish Arctic.

The far northern city of Kiruna usually meets winter on the 10th of October, and the northern coastal city of Umeå usually has winter weather by the 4th of November.

But instead of winter, fresh wild strawberries are still growing.

Alexandra Ohlsson at the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI) says to news agency TT that winter will probably be at least another week away.

As well as ripening strawberries, the mild temperatures in the northern part of Sweden are also good for pests like mosquitoes and ticks.

Winter is officially defined as an average temperature of below zero for five days in a row. It usually reaches Stockholm by the 1st of December, Gothenburg by the 29th, and Malmö by the 7th of January.

Radio Sweden, original article here

Melt water washed oil into the White Sea in Russian Arctic.

May 21, 2011

Bellona, Barents Observer and RIA Novosti report on the early May 2011 oil spill now threatening the Kandalaksha National Park.
Hornfar.

Ecologists say too early to estimate impact of Barents Sea oil slick

(RIA Novosti 2011/05/12, original article here)

Ecologists have warned that it is too soon to judge what environmental impact an oil slick in the Barents Sea has had.

The oil spilled into the sea in the Kandalaksha Bay, off the northern Russian port city of Murmansk, after melt water carried oil from beneath the soil offshore on May 7.

Officials say the oil is up to 5 millimeters thick in places. An area of the sea covering 210,000 square meters is polluted, the latest satellite data indicates.

Scientists say it is too soon to gauge the full extent of the incident.

“It is still hard to assess the consequences of the oil slick for animals and birds of the Kandalaksha wildlife park,” Ivetta Tatarenkova, a scientist at the park, which is situated on the coast, told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

“The spill may pose a threat to eider ducks,” she said.

“The invertebrates – mussels, small crustaceans and others – may also suffer at the hands of the spill,” she added.

Efforts are underway to clean up the slick.

MOSCOW, May 12 (RIA Novosti)

Oil spill threatens national park

Barents Observer 2011/05/18 Original article here

Oil spill on the shore near Kandalaksha on the White Sea Coast. Photo: Bellona Murmansk

An area of 200,000 square metres on the White Sea coast near Kandalaksha is polluted.

The oil spill that happened on May 7 has been traced back to Belomorskaya petrol bulk plant report the regional environmental group Bellona Murmansk. The storage tanks of the plant is located just outside the town of Kandalaksha south on the Kola Peninsula.

The oil spill now presents an immediate threat to the Kandalaksha Bay nature reserve located a kilometre and a half away, according to Bellona Murmansk.

The regional department of Rosprirodnadzor, Russia’s Environmental agency has stated investigation into the case and cleanup measures have been deployed.

Images from the coastal area clearly show how the shore is polluted with oil.

Text: Thomas Nilsen

Russia: White Sea oil spill of early May creeps up on Kandalaksha National Park

Bellona, 17/05/2011, original article here

Part of: Oil spills and accidents

MURMANSK – The May 7 oil spill in Kandalaksha Bay of the White Sea in Russia’s far northern Kola Peninsula now presents an immediate threat to a nearby nature reserve. Cleanup measures have been deployed, but the oil slick from a coastal petrol bulk plant is now approaching Kandalaksha National Park, only a kilometre and a half away, which is home to hundreds of protected wild species. Anna Kireeva, 17/05-2011 – Translated by Maria Kaminskaya

State environmental authorities in Russia’s Northwest Federal District say the polluted area totals around 200,000 square metres. An investigation has been started into the accident, the authorities say. Click here for a slide show on the progression of the spill.

The spill has been traced back to Belomorskaya (White Sea) petrol bulk plant, an enterprise based in the town of Kandalaksha, on the shore of the White Sea’s Kandalaksha Bay in Russia’s far northern Murmansk Region.However, Belomorskaya director Sergei Khmelyov says the circumstances at hand do not warrant for calling the incident an oil spill, much less attributing it to his company’s operations.

“Water emulsion with oil products mixed in has leaked out of the ground, from ground waters onto the surface, as a result of a [recent] flood,” Khmelyov told Bellona.Ru in an interview.

Khmelyov blames the culture of utter disregard for ecological safety that was prevalent during the Soviet times for what is now happening in Kandalaksha: Back in the Soviet Union, all oil spills from loading racks used to simply go into the ground and get absorbed by the soil and ground waters. The recent springtime flood has lifted this decades-old emulsion out of the ground with flood waters, according to Khmelyov.

“Since 1995, when Belomorskaya Oil Bulk Plant was created here, the loading racks have undergone complete renovation, and no leaks can possibly happen here from the equipment or the pipelines,” Khmelyov told Bellona.

Belomorskaya’s director said it is currently hard to determine precisely the area of pollution as there are also small local slicks only a millimetre or less thick.

However, Bellona has learnt from conversations with some of the company’s employees, who wished to remain unnamed, that oil leaks happen regularly at the enterprise – though they have never seen a spill as large as this most recent one.

“It is apparent that oil pollution in the area and part of the coastal line adjacent to the petrol storage depot is that of a chronic nature,” Nina Lesikhina, an expert with Bellona-Murmansk, said. “This may be due to an inefficient effluent water purification system at the plant, leaky storage tanks, or the accumulation of oil products in the soil over the many years, which then start seeping onto the surface, pushed by flood waters.”

Lesikhina said environmental authorities would yet have to establish the precise cause of this latest spill, but the responsibility for the accident would still lie solely and entirely with the owner of the storage depot.

“It is apparent that it was none other than neglect of the rules of environmental safety and lack of appreciation of ecological risks that has led to this pollution of the White Sea,” she added.

The spill is being investigated by the department for marine environmental safety supervision of the Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor) in the Northwest Federal District, which includes Murmansk Region.

According to the department’s head, Nina Sukhanova, an inspection of the Kandalaksha Bay coastline revealed that a stretch of the basin between the first and fourth piers was polluted with oil products. The slick was two to five millimetres thick.

“It has been established from a detailed survey of the coastline and the basin of Kandalaksha Bay that 71,000 square metres of the basin of the bay has been polluted in the area around […] Belomorskaya Petrol Bulk Plant. The water in the port is polluted within an area of 128,000 square metres. The total area of water pollution comes to 199,000 square metres, and shoreline pollution totals another 400 square metres,” Sukhanova told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Sukhanova said department specialists have attributed the oil spill to the spring flood, which caused oil products to seep out of the ground and spread from the territory of the storage depot across the adjacent area and into bay waters.

The experts drew up an inspection report, took soil and water samples, and determined the incident merited initiating an administrative violation case.

The ecological threat

Specialists are hard-pressed to assess at the moment the scope of resulting environmental damage, including to the nearby Kandalaksha National Park.

“Installing booms in the affected area is currently impeded by the ice conditions in the bay,” Sukhanova said.

Meanwhile, the spot where the oil products are leaking is just a kilometre and a half away from the territory of the Kandalaksha nature reserve.

“It is at this point difficult to estimate the consequences of the oil spill for the animals and birds of the Kandalaksha reserve,” said Ivetta Tatarenkova, an employee of the reserve’s. “The specialists will have yet to investigate the damage after this spill. There could be a threat to the eiders, which are not yet showing up on the shore.”

Kandalaksha is one of Russia’s oldest and northernmost nature reserves. Sprawling across 70,000 hectares, of which 70 percent accounts for part of the basins of the White and Barents Seas and includes over 370 islands, it is home to around 9,500 animal and bird species and was founded with the specific cause of protecting the invaluable eider population in the area.

According to Tatarenkova, these rare birds are currently staying in the water and, should the oil spill expand significantly across the bay waters, the birds will be at risk of smearing their wings with the oil. A slick has already been discovered by the Kandalaksha reserve’s specialists during an inspection of the area around one of the archipelago’s largest islands, Ryazhkov.

“The ice there is dirty, it’s black; the same can be observed near the island of Oleny. The invertebrates could come under harm, too – mussels, crayfish, and other families of the order,” Tatarenkova said.

Bellona-Murmansk specialists note that extensive oil pollution and generation of oil slicks on the surface of seawater prevents oxygen from entering the water, which impedes photosynthesis. The presence of oil and oil products in the water has thus a toxic effect on the animals and organisms inhabiting the sea.

Even insignificant amounts of pollutants can cause serious damage to the plant and animal life, environmentalists say. And in areas where low temperatures are prevalent throughout the year, the process of recovery from the stress of oil pollution is extremely slow for marine organisms and ecosystems.

Cleanup measures

Efforts are ongoing in the area to contain and clean up the spill; Belomorskaya petrol depot has deployed its coastal rescue brigade and the necessary equipment to handle the accident. More people and equipment have been engaged from the emergency rescue outfit called Navekoservice, a branch of Ecocentre group of companies, to assist in the efforts to prevent further expansion of the pollution.

According to Ecocentre head Alexander Glazov, what happened is an alarming sign indicating a broader syndrome that affects all petrol bulk plants on the Kola Peninsula: All of these enterprises are quite old and may well have accumulated spilled oil products in the ground and ground waters on their territory.

Specialists say the cleanup may take up to a month. Remediation measures will then have to be enacted to restore the soil and water in the polluted area. In order to rule out the risk of further pollution, a survey will then have to be conducted, followed by drilling a well to pump out the remaining oil. Save these measures, small and large slicks threatening local wildlife are bound to be observed in the bay each year that the spring season floods Kandalaksha with snowmelt waters after another snowy winter.

Bellona-Murmansk’s Lesikhina underscores the very high ecological risks of oil and gas operations in the Arctic territories, including dealing with the consequences, as the environmental danger is not just confined to the specific vulnerability of the Arctic climate to such impacts.

“Not only do the severe weather conditions precipitate the risk of accidents, but they also hamper timely and efficient emergency response to oil spills such as this,” she said.

Scientists predict Arctic could be ice-free within decades

March 26, 2011

Physorg.com on March 25, 2011 By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today – Original article here

Scientists predict arctic could be ice-Free within decades

Sea ice data through mid- March 2011. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Bad news for what is now the beginning of the “melt season” in the Arctic. Right now, the sea ice extent maximum appears to be tied for the lowest ever measured by satellites as the spring begins, according to scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center. And because of the trend of how the amount of Arctic sea ice has been spiraling downward in the last decade, some scientists are predicting the Arctic Ocean may be ice free in the summers within the next several decades.

“I’m not surprised by the new data because we’ve seen a downward trend in winter sea ice extent for some time now,” said Walt Meier, a research scienitist with the NSIDC.

The seven lowest maximum Arctic sea ice extents measured by satellites all have occurred in the last seven years, and the from the latest data, the NSIDC research team believes the lowest annual maximum ice extent of 5,650,000 square miles occurred on March 7 of this year.

The maximum ice extent was 463,000 square miles below the 1979-2000 average, an area slightly larger than the states of Texas and California combined. The 2011 measurements were tied with those from 2006 as the lowest maximum sea ice extents measured since record keeping began in 1979.

Virtually all climate scientists believe shrinking Arctic sea ice is tied to warming temperatures in the region caused by an increase in human-produced greenhouse gases being pumped into Earth’s atmosphere.

Meier said the Arctic sea ice functions like an air conditioner for the global climate system by naturally cooling air and water masses, playing a key role in ocean circulation and reflecting solar radiation back into space. In the Arctic summer months, sunlight is absorbed by the growing amounts of open water, raising surface temperatures and causing more ice to melt.

“I think one of the reasons the Arctic sea ice maximum extent is declining is that the autumn ice growth is delayed by warmer temperatures and the ice extent is not able to ‘catch up’ through the winter,” said Meier. “In addition, the clock runs out on the annual ice growth season as temperatures start to rise along with the sun during the spring months.”

Since satellite record keeping began in 1979, the maximum ice extent has occurred as early as Feb. 18 and as late as March 31, with an average date of March 6. Since the researchers determine the maximum extent using a five-day running average, there is small chance the data could change.

As of March 22, ice extent declined for five straight days. But February and March tend to be quite variable, so there is still a chance that the ice extent could expand again. Ice near the edge is thin and is highly sensitive to weather, scientists say, moving or melting quickly in response to changing winds and temperatures, and it often oscillates near the maximum extent for several days or weeks, as it has done this year.

In early April the NSIDC will issue a formal announcement on the 2011 maximum with a full analysis of the winter ice growth season, including graphics comparing 2011 to the long-term record.

US submarines surface in tug of war over Arctic riches (Reuters)

March 26, 2011

Ice camp called way to show US ‘use and presence’ as other nations make claims

By Andrea Shalal-Esa/Reuters 3/25/2011 – Original article here

APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY ICE STATION, Arctic Ocean — The United States is staging high-profile submarine exercises in the Arctic Ocean as evidence mounts that global warming will lead to more mining, oil production, shipping and fishing in the world’s last frontier.

Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and a Who’s Who of other VIPs braved below-zero temperatures this month to visit a temporary camp on the ice about 150 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where two nuclear-powered U.S. submarines are conducting military training exercises.

“It is important for us to continue to train and operate in the Arctic,” said U.S. Navy Captain Rhett Jaehn, the No. 2 official overseeing U.S. submarine forces.

He said U.S. submarines are a powerful symbol of U.S. military power, and the training was meant to ensure that the United States maintained access to the Arctic, home to the world’s largest undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

“It is a key potential transit line between the Atlantic and the Pacific. We want to be able to demonstrate that we have global reach. That we can operate in all oceans, and that we can operate proficiently in any environment,” Jaehn said.

Russia, the United States, Denmark, Greenland, Canada and Norway, which border the Arctic, and China are already jockeying for position to benefit from new business opportunities there.

Navy scientists predict the Arctic will have one ice-free summer month in about the mid-2030s, and two to three ice-free months by around mid-century. Less ice means the 56-mile wide Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska could one day compete with the Persian Gulf and other shipping lanes because it is as much as 40 percent shorter than conventional routes.

Changing ice conditions in the Arctic are expected to lead to greater commercial traffic, increasing the need for submarine and Coast Guard patrols.

The Navy’s chief oceanographer, Rear Adm. David Titley, who visited the camp last week, said just finding a thick enough multi-year ice sheet to put the camp was difficult this year.

Jaehn is the officer in charge of the temporary ice camp, where more than two dozen Navy officials, researchers, engineers and scientists, and some military officials from Britain and Canada, are facilitating the biannual exercises.

Statoil orders control umbilicals for Fossekall-Dompap

March 23, 2011

Oil and Gas Journal – Original article here.

HOUSTON, Mar. 23 — Statoil let a 200 million kroner contract to Aker Solutions for control umbilicals for the fast-track Fossekall-Dompap subsea development that will tie back the fields to the Norne floating production, storage, and offloading vessel in 380 m of water on Block 6608/10 in the Norwegian Sea. Fossekall, discovered in 2010 with well 6608/10-14, and Dompap, discovered in 2009 with well 6608/10-12, along with Vilje South are part of Statoil’s second-wave of fast-track projects. Statoil plans to start development drilling on the fields in March 2012 with production starting in December 2012. Statoil expects to recover from Fossekall 37-63 million bbl of oil and 1-3 billion cu m of gas. The company drilled the Fossekall discovery well, in 352 m of water, to 2,749 m into the Lower Jurassic Are formation and encountered oil in the Ile, Tofte, and Are formations and gas in the Melke formation. For Dompap, Statoil’s preliminary estimate is that the field holds 25-50 million bbl of recoverable oil. It drilled the exploration well 6608/10-12 to 3,158 m into the Lower Jurassic Are formation. Statoil also drilled the 6608-12 A sidetrack to 2,931 m that terminates in the same Are formation. The well is in 334 m of water. The 26 km of umbilicals ordered from Aker Solutions will have dynamic and static sections and will provide hydraulic, electrical, and fiber optic functions for three planned four-well-slot templates on Fossekall-Dompap. The umbilicals also include a 2.5-in. monoethylene glycol line for hydrate prevention and inhibition during shutdowns. Aker Solutions plans to manage the engineering of the control umbilicals at its Oslo facility and manufacture the umbilicals at its facility in Moss, Norway. It expects to make the final deliveries in second-quarter 2012. Fossekall-Dompap are in PL 128 and operator Statoil holds a 63.95% interest in the license. Partners are Petoro AS 24.55% and Eni Norge AS 11.5%.

Norway extends ban on Arctic shelf oil production until 2013

March 20, 2011

18:36 14/03/2011 original article here


Norway’s government has extended a 30-year moratorium on oil production on its Arctic shelf until 2013 under pressure from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the environmental organization said on Monday.

“The moratorium for Lofoten and Vesteralen [islands] in Norway’s northern arctic waters is part of an overall management plan for the Barents Sea that is aimed at protecting important areas for fish, sea birds, seals and whales,” the WWF said on its website, adding that the ban would last until 2013.

The moratorium is part of WWF-supported campaigns already under way in Alaska and Russia to protect fisheries and communities.

The wildlife protection campaigns are based on studies showing that oil returns in the long term would be less than returns from well-protected biological resources.

“It is complete madness to trade in a sustainable fishery that could continue to accommodate the interests of both people and nature for generations for a few years of quick and dirty profits from oil,” said Rasmus Hanssen, Secretary General of WWF Norway, according to the website.

The organization has long called for Russia to follow Norway’s suit and protect its biological resources from oil company expansion. In particular, a recent Rosneft-BP deal to jointly extract oil from the Arctic shelf has raised serious concerns among environmentalists. The companies plan to start drilling in 2015.

MOSCOW, March 14 (RIA Novosti)

TNK-BP moves closer to Russian arctic

March 8, 2011

MOSCOW, March 7 (UPI) – original article here
Anglo-Russian energy venture TNK-BP could join Rosneft and Gazprom in developing the Russian arctic shelf if terms are good, the Russian prime minister said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said TNK-BP might be able to persuade its oil and natural gas colleagues to tap into more domestic natural resources if the terms are favorable to all parties involved.

“There is a law, under which we have entrusted Rosneft and Gazprom with work on the shelf,” Putin was quoted by Russia’s official RIA-Novosti news agency as saying. “If TNK-BP offers suitable terms of joint work to one of the companies it can (join the project). Why not?”

TNK-BP, a joint venture between a group of Russian billionaires and BP, is at odds with the British supermajor and Rosneft over an asset swap that included exploration deals in the Russian arctic.

BP in January agreed to pay Rosneft more than $8 billion in shares for a 9.5 percent stake in the Russian energy company in addition to a development agreement for the Kara Sea on Russian’s northern continental shelf.

Putin brushed off the historic rival between TNK-BP and its London counterpart by noting any rivalry is an internal matter for each company to address.

“These are their problems, they must solve them between themselves,” he said.

Penguin Colony in the Antarctic Disappears

March 5, 2011

Softpedia News, March 5th, 2011 Original article here

Map 2: Emperor Island, Dion Islands, ASPA No. 107: topographic map. Map specifications: Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic; Standard parallels: 1st 67° 0' 00" W; 2nd 68° 00' 00"S; Central Meridian: 68° 42' 30" W; Latitude of Origin: 68° 00' 00" S; Spheroid: WGS84; Datum: Mean sea level. Horizontal accuracy: ± 1.5 m; Vertical accuracy ±1 m (best accuracy of the control points); Vertical contour interval 5 m (index contour interval 15m).

Biologists have documented the first instance of what they call the global warming-induced disappearance of an animal colony. The experts can no longer find even the smallest traces of a small colony of penguins that once lived on an island off the coasts of Antarctica.

It has been proposed a long time ago that penguins would be among the most affected species when climate change finally struck, right alongside other ice-dependent animals, like polar bears.

But no one documented an actual case of that happening until now. Experts believe that the emperor penguin colony disappeared because of dwindling sea ices around their home island.

The island in question is located off the West Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the areas that lost the most ice due to the warming climate. Without the shelfs to provide them with support and food, the penguins most likely could not secure enough to eat.

When the Emperor Island colony was first discovered in 1948, it featured about 150 breeding pairs of penguins. An 1978 report showed a sharp decline in numbers, while a 2009 aerial survey found the entire island deserted.

One of the biggest unknowns in this study is whether the penguins died off, or just relocated to a more hospitable environment, says lead researcher Philip Trathan. He holds an appointment as a conservation biologist as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), LiveScience reports.

An explanation could be that fewer and fewer emperor penguins returned to this location over the years. The animals live for about 20 years, and they tend to return yearly to the site where they hatched.

Over time, it could be that more and more parents from the Emperor Island colony laid their eggs elsewhere. As such, the new generation did not return to the former colony, because they did not know where it was, and had no connection to it.

On the other hand, the researchers did find a connection to climate change and rising temperatures. “The one site in Antarctica where we have seen really big changes is the West Antarctic Peninsula,” Trathan explains in the February 28 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Ices in this region were observed over the past two decades forming about 54 days later than normal, and melting some 31 days earlier. This may have also contributed to the decline of the penguin colony. These birds are completely reliant on ice for most of their activities.

The BAS team admits that more studies are required to establish a clear cause for the penguins’ disappearance. “We need to look at more colonies so we can reduce the uncertainty. With the first report, there is a high degree of uncertainty,” the BAS team leader concludes.

Reindeer and Other Herbivors Determine the Tree Line – Not Warmth

December 3, 2010
Monday, 29 November 2010 11:17 Written by Gustaf Klarin, SR Vetenskapsradion
Original article here
It is not principally a warmer climate that is making the tree line creep upwards in many directions in the Swedish mountains. This is shown in a new study from the Torneträsk region in northern Sweden. There are several other factors that affect the spread of trees more than higher temperatures.

It is mainly grazing reindeer, insect attacks, and several other factors that affect the spread of the mountainous forest, more than the changed temperature situation.

“Tree line can go up, down or stay in the same position even during the same climatic period. That has not being showed before,” says Terry Callaghan, director of the Abisko Scientific Research Station.

Researchers were able to see that precisely reindeer grazing affects more than the temperature, since the tree line advanced furthest upward during the cold period that started in the late 1960s and continued through the 1970s, it was a time of fewer reindeer.

A warmer climate has more of an indirect effect through, for example, there being more insects that can damage trees.

Many climate models expect the forest in the tundra and the upper Arctic will expand heavily northward in the next hundred years because of higher temperatures. But the new research indicates that the assumptions may be grossly inaccurate. The effect of grazing reindeer and moose must be reckoned with.

“We can not just expect the tree line to move northwards, we have to look in more detail,” Terry Callaghan says.

Manitoba polar bear wanders 400 km south

September 5, 2010


(CBC News, 30 August 2010) — A polar bear has created a buzz of excitement in the northern Manitoba community of Shamattawa. The bear was spotted Sunday swimming in the river, about 400 kilometres south of the Churchill tundra where the big white bears are typically found. Residents spotted the bear at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, according to RCMP. Officers launched the police boat and made a patrol, locating the lone bear swimming in the river and drinking at the shore. “The bear appeared to be young, but was quite a good size … [and] the people in the community were very excited to see it,” RCMP Sgt. Noel Allard said. “This is the first time anyone in the area remembers seeing a polar bear,” Allard said after speaking to several elders in the community. Manitoba Conservation wildlife manager Daryll Hedman called the sighting rare but not an unheard-of occurrence. He believes the last time they were called about a polar bear in that community was in the mid-1990s, although some polar bears have actually been seen even further south. It is probably a teenaged bear, Hedman said, noting those are the ones that tend to explore. “They wander. They are built for travel,” he said. RCMP members monitored the bear’s movements until darkness fell and it left the area.

Via Circumpolar Musings

Original article here