Thursday, October 28, 2010

American breaks record by reaching summit of Mount Everest, North and South poles in one year

Explorer Eric Larsen is the first person ever to reach the South and North poles and the summit of Mount Everest within one year.
Larsen, a Cedarburg, Minn. native, traveled to places he calls "the top, bottom and roof of the world" with the goal of boosting public awareness of the impact of climate change on the most remote environments.
His Save the Poles website provides photos, video and reports from each leg of the expedition.
Larsen and a team made it to the top of Mount Everest on Oct. 14, after 44 days on the mountain.
Larsen and a different team reached the Geographic North Pole on Earth Day, April 22. They used snowshoes and skis to traverse 500 miles of shifting sea ice on a 51-day journey.
On Jan. 2, Larsen and a separate team arrived at the Geographic South Pole after skiing 750 miles in 48 days.
His firsthand look revealed how each place is changing with the climate, Larsen said. He plans to chronicle the expedition with a documentary film and book.
In the last year, scientists reported the collapse and disintegration of an 1,250-square-mile ice shelf off Antarctica while other researchers estimated the Arctic Ocean would be ice free in summers by 2030. The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that 80 percent of Himalayan glaciers will be gone in 30 years.
Larsen joins only 15 other explorers in history - and he is the first American - to have successfully traveled to all three places. None of the others did it within a year's time, according to and other international explorer websites.
In July 2006, Larsen and Lonnie Dupre became the first explorers to reach the North Pole in summer without the aid of a submarine or icebreaker or sled dogs. They did it on skis and in canoes.
Save the Poles:

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Expedition nets 10,000 plus species

They had hoped to collect around 1 500 species on their groundbreaking DNA expedition to South Africa’s biodiversity hotspots – but they came home with thousands more.
The efforts of the team of local and Canadian scientists and researchers who ventured to the Succulent Karoo, Cape Floristic region and the Maputuland-Pondoland-Albany area in recent weeks as part of the 2010 Toyota Enviro Outreach, may have made the single biggest contribution yet to an international DNA project.
The expedition, led by the University of Johannesburg (UJ), amassed more than 10 000 plant, animal and insect species in just over two weeks. Over 3 500 species will be offered to the International Barcode of Life project, which originated in Canada, and aims to assemble a DNA barcode library for all life on earth.
Dr Olivier Maurin, of the department of botany and plant biotechnology at UJ, told the Saturday Star this week that the plant team gathered around 800 specimens corresponding to around 700 species.
“The plant team didn’t discover any new species, although while processing samples we might be surprised… However, we did encounter one tiny daisy at Noup, which seemed to be restricted to this area and was only collected twice previously by botanists. The plant is considered by some researchers as a possible new species and by others as a subspecies. In such cases like this we hope DNA barcoding will assess its identity.”
His colleague, Professor Michelle van der Bank, has received widespread acclaim for her discovery of the matK-gene, used as the identifier for all plant species DNA.
For Maurin, it was the beautiful forests around Knysna that left him most entranced.
“During the two days we stayed there, we had no rain, but the vegetation got a constant mist that made the forest constantly humid. Trees are tall with a good diversity, from places you have these majestic tree ferns and there are lots of little plants (orchids and ferns) growing on tree trunks.”
South Africa has undertaken to barcode 20 000 specimens by April 2011 and a further 40 000 by April 2013. It’s an ambitious target, but Maurin believes it’s within reach.
“Although the 20 000 is a very high target in a year the combination of all the collections made during this trip (plants, fishes and insects) bring the number of samples being processed and sent to Canada up to 5 000.
“If we combine these numbers with the material previously processed since the start of the project the total has reached 8 000 species.”
The rest of the target, he believes, will be achieved through collaborations with other institutions. “Promoting DNA barcoding at different levels of society is the best way the technique will be understood and accepted not only by scientists, but also by the general public,” he says. - Saturday Star

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Russia looks north for oil transit routes

Moscow aims to send as many as seven oil tankers to Asia through icy waters in the arctic next year, a Russian shipping service announced.
Rosatomflot, a subsidiary of the state nuclear corporation Rosatom, said six or seven oil tankers and several dry-cargo ships are slated through the so-called Northern passage next year, Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti reports.
Rosatomflot said it hasn't awarded any contracts yet but the northern route could shorten the trip to Asia by 5,000 nautical miles, saving about two weeks in transit time.
Moscow is undertaking an exploration operation of its arctic territories. With sea ice receding in part because of global climate change, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia are examining territorial claims to the arctic as once-trapped hydrocarbons become more exposed.
Moscow is trying to convince the international community that it has a greater claim to the arctic. A 1982 convention gives bordering nations the right to extend arctic claims if the government can prove its continental shelf extends beyond a 200-mile limit.

As the sea ice melts, so melts the Arctic

The Harper government, to its credit, put in a great deal of money to fund Canada’s participation in the International Polar Year, 2007-2008. For a government that doesn’t like talking about climate change and has among its supporters many who don’t think the Earth is warming, the results might be disturbing.

Everywhere in the Arctic, things are changing rapidly as sea ice melts and thins, water and air heat up, tundra warms, vegetation alters and climate patterns shift. (This, of course, isn’t just happening in the Arctic.)
The findings from the International Polar Year research are starting to arrive. They have been assembled by more than 160 endorsed science projects from researchers in more than 60 countries, operating with a budget of more than $400-million. Many of Canada’s best Arctic scientists, including David Hik of the University of Alberta, were involved, and still are.
Perhaps the most stunning finding concerned sea ice. From 2000 to 2010, about two million square kilometres of sea ice melted. That loss was preceded by two previous decades in which less than a million square kilometres was lost. In other words, sea ice loss accelerated dramatically in the 2000-2010 period. In addition, areas of first-year thin ice also declined markedly.
In Greenland, “the rate of ice loss is growing,” the scientists reported, “thus raising sea levels.” In the Arctic regions of Canada and Russia, vegetation is changing as trees and shrubs move farther north, with attendant insects. These movements are affecting caribou herds in the Northwest Territories and Yukon, disrupting traditional feeding and calving grounds so that a ban on hunting has been imposed on some traditional territories, a story that doesn’t get any southern Canadian media coverage but is big news in parts of the Far North.
As the permafrost warms, chances increase that pools of carbon previously trapped in the frozen permafrost will be released. Much more ominous will be the release of methane in the warming permafrost, since methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
In other words, there are accelerating warming trends that feed into others that have been confirmed by scientists during the International Polar Year. To wit, more water instead of ice means more reflected sunlight, which, in turn, contributes to warming, which then causes more melting ice, and so on. To wit, more warming of permafrost changes patterns of animal and insect behaviour, and releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases, in turn, produce more warming. The scientists confirmed that the permafrost melt accelerates, in turn, when sea ice disappears and is replaced by open water.
An instructive map developed by the scientists shows more persistent high-pressure systems over the Arctic that, in turn, push colder, wetter weather down the eastern portion of North America, starting with Newfoundland (as if it needs colder, wetter weather) and running south.
It will take at least another year to collate, analyze and publish more of the material collected in the International Polar Year. In 2012, a conference of more than 3,000 people is scheduled for Montreal; the Russians have proposed that the International Polar Year be replaced by the International Polar Decade.
The irony in all this is starkly apparent for Canadians. Few countries, if any, are seeing their geography so altered so rapidly by climate change, yet Ottawa, having done a fine job funding research, doesn’t seem interested in a serious national effort to reduce the emissions that cause global warming. It has a greenhouse-gas reduction target of a 17-per-cent drop by 2020 that no serious analyst thinks can be met with existing policies.
The effects of warming are not exactly under the noses of most Canadians, because they are most dramatic in the Arctic, where few Canadians venture. The Arctic is too remote, forbidding and foreign for most Canadians to think much about. It’s out of sight and out of mind, a bit like the whole issue for the government.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NOAA: Warming Arctic unlikely to return to how it was

An iceberg above the Arctic Circle in Canada | Christopher Debicki / MCT

New observations this year about snow, ice and temperatures support the conclusion that the Arctic is unlikely to return to the conditions known in the 20th century — and that's likely to affect the weather in the lower 48 United States.
That was this year's key message in the annual update of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Arctic report card, released Thursday. The key points, a video and links to scientific reports by 69 scientists from eight countries are available from NOAA online.
The report card is one way that scientists share information about trends they're seeing in the Arctic as a result of the region's warming cycle: Higher air temperatures melt snow and ice, leaving the ocean and land darker, and they then absorb more solar energy, causing more heating and melting.
In the past year:
— There was a link between changes in the Arctic and the severe cold weather last winter in eastern North America, northern Europe and eastern Asia. Usually, cold air is bottled up in the Arctic, but this year the cold was blown south.
"As we lose more sea ice, we'll probably see more of that," said Jim Overland, an oceanographer with NOAA in Seattle. Many scientists are studying the link, but they don't fully understand it yet, he said.
The unusual shift in weather patterns that brought cold air down from the Arctic has happened only twice before in the last 160 years. Overland said it was "a major surprise. I'd put it right up there with the (record) ice loss in 2007."
— Greenland had its warmest year on record. The largest glacier loss ever observed in Greenland occurred during the summer, when a 110-square-mile chunk of the Petermann Glacier broke away. Other glaciers also shrank, and this ice loss is accelerating.
Predictions about sea level rise will have to be revised upward, said Jason Box, a glaciologist at the Byrd Polar Research Center of the Ohio State University, one of a group of scientists who briefed reporters Thursday.
— It was another low year for sea ice cover. When the ice reached its minimum for the year in September, it was the third lowest year of the past 30 years, the period of satellite records. The three lowest years have been over the last four years.
Jackie Richter-Menge, the chief editor of the report and a research civil engineer at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., said the warming trend made any return to previous Arctic conditions increasingly unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future.
"It's very likely Arctic climate warming will continue and that we'll continue to set records in the years to come," she said.
NOAA's Arctic report card

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Judge asks federal government to explain polar bear listing


Date: Friday Nov. 5, 2010 7:17 AM ET
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A federal court judge is giving the Interior Department until Dec. 23 to explain why polar bears are listed as a "threatened" species instead of the more-protective "endangered."
The written order issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C., follows an October hearing on multiple lawsuits filed over the listing.
Sullivan writes that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erroneously concludes that a species must be in imminent danger of extinction to be declared endangered. The judge says that runs counter to the plain meaning of the Endangered Species Act.
Former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in 2008 declared polar bears were threatened because of the rapid disappearance of the Arctic sea ice.
The state of Alaska argues that polar bears should not even be listed as threatened.

Lawyers for the federal government, the state of Alaska, and oil and gas interests were in court Wednesday to fight efforts by a coalition of environmental groups trying to force the Obama administration to put polar bears on the endangered species list, not just list them as threatened.
A U.S. district judge held off on a full hearing, saying he would instead like the federal government to further explain what exactly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used in the Endangered Species Act to make its determination that polar bears are merely threatened, not endangered.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he would issue a written order shortly, but he said that the government is likely to have about 30 days to explain how it arrived at its decision.
At issue is the definition of a threatened and endangered species, and how the government arrived at its decision on polar bears. The distinction dates back more than three decades, to when the Endangered Species Act was written, said Clifford Stevens, a Justice Department attorney representing the Interior Department's position in the case. A threatened species is likely to become endangered, not extinct, the government argued.
"What they were concerned about was when all they had was the endangered category ... it was too close," Stevens said. "So they added this category so you could take action further back in time."
The environmental organizations, however, led by the Center for Biological Diversity and including Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council, argued that polar bears are already so threatened that there's no way they could be considered anything but endangered.
"This isn't in the distant future, it's happening now," said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity.
The rapid melting of Arctic sea ice has caused a decline in polar bear populations, including those in Alaska, the center said. If the Arctic continues its current melting trend, worldwide polar bear populations could decline by as much as two-thirds by 2050. They could be near extinction by the end of the century.
The environmental coalition is pursuing a separate effort within the same case to force the Obama administration to reconsider a rule that prohibits the Endangered Species Act from being used as a tool to regulate the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
When it first listed the bears as threatened in 2008, the Bush administration also issued a decision saying that the Endangered Species Act can't be used to regulate greenhouse gases emitted by sources outside of the polar bears' habitat. If the bears are found to be endangered, however, that could open the door to using the Endangered Species Act to regulate greenhouse gases.
Sullivan will hold a separate hearing in January on that portion of the case.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Historic Fraser Sockeye Fishery Caught in Hi-Def

Winner of $45,000 Trip to Antarctica is Blogging from the White Continent

The winner of the USD$45,000 prize in the Adventure with Julie competition sponsored by Quark Expeditions and SeaWorld, is blogging from an Emperor Penguin colony in AntarcticaChris Epting and his daughter Claire are adventure cruising with SeaWorld Animal Ambassador Julie Scardina, aboard Quark's 24,000 horsepower Russian icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov.
After his first visit to the colony, Epting observed, "The concept of observing nature all of a sudden flips and you realize that the nature is also observing you - by the thousands." The 14-day vacation cruise in the Weddell Sea is one of two icebreaker expeditions to the rookery in 2010. Both are sold out.
Epting described the helicopter flight from the ship to the base camp established on the sea ice: "A brief (about 8 minutes), thrilling chopper ride from the deck across a strange, profoundly frozen, powder-blue landscape." Khelbnikov is the only icebreaker outfitted for passenger travel in Antarctica equipped with helicopters for aerial-sightseeing and transfers.
It took Epting and his daughter 36 hours to travel to the embarkation point in Ushuaia, Argentina from California. From Ushuaia, it was a two day sail to the Weddell Sea. An 8 minute helicopter flight and a 1.5 mile hike completed the journey to the Emperor Penguin colony. The Eptings hope to visit the colony twice more before beginning the return journey. Readers can follow their adventures at Adventure With Julie Antarctic Blog.
About Quark Expeditions
Since 1991, Quark Expeditions has specialized in expedition cruising to the Arctic and Antarctica, in ships with ice-strengthened hulls or in icebreakers. The first voyage operated by Quark was the Transpolar Bridge Cruise in 1991. The ship was the nuclear powered icebreaker Sovetskiy Soyuz. She sailed across the top of the world via Franz Josef Land, the North Pole, the New Siberian Islands, the Wrangel Island area and the Chukotka Peninsula, disembarking in Provideniya, Russia. 2011 is Quark Expeditions 20th anniversary as a polar adventure specialist.
SOURCE Quark Expeditions

Monday, October 18, 2010

Coast Guard Admiral asks for Arctic resources - HOW MANY ICEBREAKERS?

In this photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010, Rear Admiral Christopher C. Colvin speaks to a reporter during a flight over northern Alaska en route to the Arctic Ocean. Colvin said it's imperative the Coast Guard has icebreakers operating in the Arctic, and not only to have a presence there to protect U.S. claims. "We need to have U.S. vessels with U.S. scientists operating in the U.S. Arctic, conducting research," he said.

The ice-choked reaches of the northern Arctic Ocean aren't widely perceived as an international shipping route. But global warming is bringing vast change, and Russia, for one, is making an aggressive push to establish top of the world sea lanes.

This year, a Russian ship carrying up to 90,000 metric tons of gas condensate sailed across the Arctic and through the Bering Strait to the Far East. Last year, a Russian ship went the other way, leaving from South Korea with industrial parts. Russia plans up to eight such trips next year, using oil-type tankers with reinforced hulls to break through the ice.

All of which calls for more U.S. Coast Guard facilities and equipment in the far north to secure U.S. claims and prepare for increased human activity, according to Rear Admiral Christopher C. Colvin, who is in charge of all Coast Guard operations in Alaska and surrounding waters.

"We have to have presence up there to protect our claims for the future, sovereignty claims, extended continental shelf claims," Colvin told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview conducted aboard a C-130 on a lumbering flight to the Arctic Ocean.

The advent of Russian shipping across the Arctic is of particular concern to Alaska and the U.S. because "there's one way in and out of the Arctic Ocean for over half the world, and that's the Bering Strait," Colvin said.

The 56-mile wide strait lies between northwestern Alaska and Siberia, separating the North American and Asian continents and connecting the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean.

"The Bering Strait will end up becoming a significant marine highway in the future, and we're seeing it with Russia, the way they are promoting this maritime transportation route above Russia right now, today."

Warming has facilitated such travel. The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado reported last month that Arctic sea ice coverage was recorded at a summer low of 1.84 million square miles. It said sea ice melted to the third-lowest level since satellite monitoring began in 1979.

More open water is something Colvin's veteran icebreaker captains confirm.

They're also concerned about the state of their fleet.

The Coast Guard has three icebreakers, of which only one — the Healy — is operational. The two other icebreakers, the Polar Sea and the Polar Star — "are broken right now," Colvin said. Both are docked in Seattle, with the Polar Sea expected back in service next June. The Polar Star isn't expected back until 2013.

(How Many Polar Icebreakers Does the U.S. Need? See: )

Help could be on the way. A bill that awaits President Obama's signature would have the government conduct a 90-day review of the icebreaker fleet, looking at possibly renovating the current fleet and building new icebreakers.

Colvin said it's imperative the Coast Guard has icebreakers operating in the Arctic, and not only to have a presence there to protect U.S. claims.

"We need to have U.S. vessels with U.S. scientists operating in the U.S. Arctic, conducting research," he said.

Such research was the basis for last week's flight to the Arctic Ocean, deploying two buoys to collect information from both ice floes and the open ocean. However, the buoys in the University of Washington project failed. The first was not deployed after a malfunction aboard the C-130, and the other did not transmit data after it was dropped out the back of the plane and fluttered to the open water via a parachute.

Icebreakers aren't the only need for the Coast Guard. It also needs operations in northern Alaska since the closest base is in Kodiak, about 1,000 miles to the south.

"What I'd like to see someday is a hangar in Barrow," he said of the nation's northernmost city. It would have to be large enough to house a Coast Guard C-130 and perhaps H60 helicopters.

He bases that need on an incident in October 2008 when the Coast Guard flew one of the cargo planes to the North Pole. They had to stop on the way back in Barrow, and left the airplane outside overnight.

Arctic temperatures caused the seals on the propellers to freeze, forcing a four-day delay to fly mechanics to Barrow to change out all the seals.

"That just doesn't work. We really need a structure that we can put our C-130s in to protect them when we come up here and operate," he said.

Adventurers going to the opening Arctic are another reality for the Coast Guard. Two years ago, seven people went to the Arctic, including two people who had to be rescued while trying to kayak across the Bering Straight. This year, 18 thrillseekers ventured north. Future rescues are a certainty as more people venture to the Arctic.

"I'm sure people will say, 'Why are we going to waste U.S. government money on a rescue?'" Colvin said. "But you know, that's our responsibility, our requirements to rescue anybody that does get in distress."

This month, Shell Oil said it has applied for one exploration well in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's north coast and will seek a permit for a second.

While Colvin said he is always concerned about a possible oil spill, he's not as wary about oil exploratory operations in the summer months in open Arctic water.

"Open water, summer months, 24 hours of daylight, shallow water, that's been done successfully throughout the world, I'm not particularly concerned about that," he said.

"Where I become concerned is year-round production in the winter months up in the Arctic," Colvin said, adding more science, research and information is needed before moving forward.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Treks to Everest, North and South poles - SAVE-THE-POLES

A Minnesota man says he's now the first person to scale Mount Everest and reach the North and South poles within one year.
Eric Larsen of Grand Marais wrote in his online journal this week that he reached the summit of Everest on Thursday.
The 39-year-old says only 15 people have been to the top of Everest and both poles, but none did it within a year.
Larsen says his expedition is intended to call attention to the environmental issues in those regions. He says humans need to act on global warming while there's still time.
Larsen told the Duluth News Tribune in August he expected the Everest climb to be the most challenging of the expeditions.
He made a 750-mile trek to the South Pole in January and a 500-mile hike to the North Pole in April.

About Eric
Modern-day explorer and expedition guide Eric Larsen’s life epitomizes adventure. A polar adventurer, dog musher and educator, he has spent the past 15 years of his life traveling in some of the most remote and wild places left on earth.

In 2006, Eric and Lonnie Dupre completed the first ever summer expedition to the North Pole. During this journey, the duo pulled and paddled specially modified canoes across 550 miles of shifting sea ice and open ocean. Eric successfully led his first expedition to the South Pole in 2008, covering nearly 600 miles in 41 days. Eric is now one of only a few Americans in to have skied to both the North and South Poles.

In November 2009, Eric returned to Antarctica for the first leg of his world record Save the Poles expedition. This time he completed a 750-mile ski traverse to the geographic South arriving on January 2, 2010. Two short months later he was dropped off at northern Ellesmere Island for a winter-style North Pole Journey. The international team reached the North Pole 51 days later on Earth Day – April 22, 2010. He is currently embarked on the final leg of the Save the Pole expedition – climbing to the summit of Mt. Everest.

Eric's other expeditions include dog sledding in the Canadian Arctic, training trips to Hudson Bay and countless dog sled races (including the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon). He has summited Mt. McKinley, ridden his bike across the United States, been a backcountry ranger in Alaska and a white water canoe guide in Colorado. Eric has dedicated his adult life to sharing his love for the outdoor world with others. As an educator, Eric strives to connect people to places and issues. In recognition of those efforts, Eric was elected as one of Outside Magazine's Eco All Stars in 2008. He was also inducted as a member of the Explorer's Club based in New York City.

Eric travels extensively giving motivational and educational lectures to schools, universities, non profit organizations and corporate groups. He is currently planning a book and documentary about the Save the Poles expedition.

Eric splits his time between Boulder, Colorado and Grand Marais, Minnesota.

Expedition List

Mt. McKinley

In June 2009, Eric and a small team climbed the tallest peak in North America. The team, including American Ryan Waters and Australian Mark Sheen summited in an unusually fast six days. While conditions were fairly severe during the hike up the Kahiltna Glacier, the team took advantage of ideal conditions and attained the summit after leaving from 14,000' camp earlier in the morning.

South Pole

In 2008, Eric successfully led a 41-day expedition to the Geographic South Pole. Traveling from the edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf along the 'Messner Route'. Eric and the team skied nearly 700 miles to reach the Pole.

North Pole

On May 10, 2005 polar explorers Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen embarked on a history-making expedition to become the first ever to cross the Arctic Ocean in summer. Their nearly four-month journey ended abruptly when unusual ice conditions and backwards drift forced an early evacuation. The team is currently planning a 2006 attempt for more information, please visit


While Education Director at NOMADS, (Polar Husky program) Eric was a team member for the Pimagihowin 2002 Expedition. Eric and NOMADS co-founder, Paul Pregont traveled nearly 700 miles across northern Ontario by dog team. The expedition emphasized the culture and land of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation territory, the traditional home of the Northern Ojibway and Cree. To read trail reports from this expedition, please visit the Polar Husky Online Classroom.

Great Slave Lake

After a successful season guiding dog sled trips during the winter of '94/'95, Eric headed to the Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. There he guided a month of expeditions into the barrenlands of the Canadian Arctic. With summer approaching, Eric and a team of three others raced the break up of Great Slave Lake, covering 200 plus miles in four days. The group mushed four teams of Huskies onto the shores of Fort Resoultion on May 3rd.

Dog Sled Racing

While technically not expeditions, Eric has trained and raced sled dogs for many years. Traveling throughout the Midwest and West, Eric has consistently proven himself an adept dog musher completing some of the toughest races in the region. A  definite highlight of his career is the 12 th place finish in the John Beargrease Sled dog Marathon, the longest conitinuous race in the lower 48.

Seeney Iditarod Qualifier - 12 dog - 200 miles
Empire Sled Dog Race - 8 dog - 60 miles
John Beargrease Half Marathon - 8 dog - 150 miles
John Beargrease Marathon - - 12 dog - 390 miles
Tequamenon - 6 dog Pro - 42 Miles

Hudson Bay

Eric and Lonnie traveled to Hudson Bay on two separate occassions. In May 2004, the team traveled to Coral Harbor on South Hampton Island to train and film in Arctic-like conditions. In March 2005, the team completed a final seven-day shakedown trip on the Hudson Bay sea ice just outside of Churchill, Manitoba. Temperatures there hovered around minus 20 F. Eric and Lonnie were able to effectively test their modified canoes for the first time in an around the pressured sea ice.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

As Arctic Sea Ice Melt Season Ends, Sharp Downward Trend Continues

By Andrew Freedman, Climate Central
Fri Oct 1, 2010 4:28pm EDT

After a false alarm earlier this month, the 2010 Arctic sea ice melt season has come to a close, with sea ice extent reaching the third-lowest in the satellite record. This continues the steady and steep decline in sea ice cover during the past few decades, which scientists have traced mainly to emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as natural climate variability. Underscoring the rapid changes sweeping the Arctic, both the Northwest and Northeast Passages were open for a time, and two sailboats set new records for transiting both of them in just one season — a feat that would have been impossible throughout modern history.

Yesterday, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colo. announced the end of the melt season, with sea ice extent dropping very close to the level reached in 2008. (Earlier this month, NSIDC had pronounced the sea ice melt season over, only to retract that five days later after sea ice began declining again. Further declines at this point are not anticipated.)

According to NSIDC, sea ice extent fell to the third-lowest on record at 1.78 million square miles, which was more ice than in the record melt season of 2007, but only about 14,000 square miles greater than the second lowest melt season on record in 2008. The 2010 minimum ice extent was 672,000 square miles below the 1979 to 2009 average. The minimum occurred on Sept. 19, which was eight days later than the 1979 to 2009 average.

The chart below shows sea ice extent this year compared to the last several years. Note how close 2010 came to dropping below the 2008 minimum. [Credit: NSIDC]

Another key metric—sea ice volume—tells a similar, albeit more alarming story (for information on the differences between sea ice volume and extent, see NSIDC's FAQ page). According to the University of Washington's Polar Science Center, sea ice volume plunged to a new record low this year. The chart of sea ice volume shows a stunning drop compared to the overall rate of decline in the past several decades, and indicates that this summer, the Arctic Ocean contained unusually sparse and thin sea ice. [Credit: Polar Science Center]

Here's how the Polar Science Center describes the relevance of sea ice volume in relation to the NSIDC's reporting of sea ice extent:

"Arctic Sea Ice Volume is an important indicator of climate change because it accounts for variations in sea ice thickness as well as sea ice extent. Total Arctic sea ice volume cannot currently be observed continuously. Observations from satellites, Navy submarines, moorings, and field measurements are limited in space or time. The assimilation of observations into numerical models, currently provides one way of estimating sea ice volume changes on a continuing basis."

More ice monitoring products are also available at the National Ice Center, which is a federal agency that tracks land and sea ice.

As Joe Romm has reported over at Climate Progress, the openness of the Arctic Ocean this summer allowed two sailing vessels to set a new milestone by transiting both the Northwest and Northeast Passages in the same season. (Check out the captain's log from one of the vessels, which belongs to a Norwegian polar explorer, as the ship exited the Northwest Passage). That alone should be enough to drive home the implications of sea ice loss for marine shipping, natural resources extraction, and military activities.

Sea ice decline will be very difficult to reverse—even if greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly and significantly cut, a scenario that appears increasingly unlikely—since feedback effects help ensure that sea ice loss in the summer leads to warmer water and air temperatures and thinner ice in the fall and winter, which leaves more vulnerable ice heading into the next melt season. The realclimate blog has an excellent post on climate feedbacks that explains the ice-albedo feedback, which is one of the key ways in which a warming climate may propel a virtually self-sustaining loss of sea ice.

Some climate change contrarians, such as meteorologist Anthony Watts, instead promote the idea that sea ice decline (along with the majority of recent warming in general) is primarily driven by natural ocean cycles, and that a cooler North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean could allow Arctic sea ice to recover. I find that argument to be highly dubious, based on a reading of the scientific literature and interviews with Arctic sea ice researchers.

(Republished with permission)

See Also

Returning from Arctic Voyage, Researchers Call for Action on Record Ice Loss

James Hansen on Climate Tipping Points and Political Leadership

Arctic Nations Order Investigation of Black Carbon, Blamed for Significant Ice Melt

Adrift in the Arctic to prove Russia’s claim

A team of Russian scientists have begun a year-long expedition, drifting on an ice floe in the North Pole. Their aim is to prove Russia’s claim to the resources of the Arctic.

”The task is to prove it scientifically, that Russia's continental shelf goes far beyond its northern shores, that it ends up deep in the Arctic. This is the primary task,” said presidential envoy to the North and South Poles, Artur Chilingarov.
The members of the epic North Pole-38 expedition received a warm goodbye as they drifted off on their tough and lonely mission in the northern Chukchi Sea on Friday.

The 15-strong team, most of them in their 20s, will carry out dozens of experiments in the fierce winter. As well as studying the continental shelf, they will try to shed light on why the Arctic ice caps are melting and how rich the region is, in gas and oil deposits.
Chilingarov said the first telegrams sent from the new station were to the President and the Prime Minister, who are personally tracking all the latest news from the team. Further updates to the mainland will be sent by the head of the station, Tomash Petrovsky.
With over two dozen polar expeditions under his belt, Petrovsky will supervise the unloading and construction of the floating station.
”We will start with equipping our houses, with all the necessary amenities, with electricity. Then we will build a traditional canteen. But this at the end, when we’ve done the rest,” he said.
The youngest member of the expedition is the cook Dmitry Mitkovets. He promised his colleagues the menu of his Arctic restaurant will be rich and diverse. He showed RT a warm storage where the food will be kept.
“The products that should not be exposed to frost are here – vegetables, canned food, tea…. candies, cookies, pastries, groceries – everything, absolutely everything,” he said.
The electrician, Sergey Chernyaev is the oldest. He says this expedition is his dream come true and younger team members do not even realize how lucky they are to be part of such a thrilling adventure.
“For 20 years I had been trying to get here, you wouldn't believe it,” he said. “I had written countless letters to various institutions but they would tell me ‘You are a 30-year-old railroad worker. Stay where you are, you are too old for us!’ Now I am 50 and I am here.”
On Friday as dusk fell, fireworks marked the official beginning of the mission. The Russian flag was hoisted and the «Rossiya» icebreaker, which carried the men to the Arctic, is now heading for the mainland, leaving the 15 men face to face with the severe Arctic night.

Adrift in the Arctic to prove Russia’s claim

A team of Russian scientists have begun a year-long expedition, drifting on an ice floe in the North Pole. Their aim is to prove Russia’s claim to the resources of the Arctic.

”The task is to prove it scientifically, that Russia's continental shelf goes far beyond its northern shores, that it ends up deep in the Arctic. This is the primary task,” said presidential envoy to the North and South Poles, Artur Chilingarov.
The members of the epic North Pole-38 expedition received a warm goodbye as they drifted off on their tough and lonely mission in the northern Chukchi Sea on Friday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Paddle to Seattle through the Inside Passage - WILL JJ and JOSH JOIN GREY GOOSE FOR THE NW PASSAGE?

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2010 - Crew circles North Pole in one summer

Norway's explorer Boerge Ousland (R), Norway's navigator Thorleif Thorleifsson (C) and Vincent Colliard of France (L)
A trimaran sailing boat circled the North Pole in a single summer season, a feat made possible by global warming and the melting of the Arctic ice cap, the boat's international crew said Thursday.
The "Northern Passage" left the western Norwegian port of Bergen at the end of June and was expected to arrive back after first sailing the northern passage off Russia and then the northwestern passage off Canada.
Just a few years ago, the trip would have been impossible to complete so quickly due to the polar ice.
Following in the wake of the Russian ship "Peter I," which sailed a similar route at almost the same time, the Norwegian trimaran is the second vessel to ever complete the mythical voyage in the space of a single Arctic summer.
"Less than 10 years ago the first steel-hulled sailboat managed to get through just one of the passages, and 100 years ago, a circumnavigation would have taken six years," the "Northern Passage" crew said in a statement.
"This is a clear indication that climate change affects the Arctic," it added.
The crew comprises two permanent Norwegian members, explorer Boerge Ousland and navigator Thorleif Thorleifsson, and a rotation of one other Norwegian, two Frenchmen, one Russian and one from Dubai.