Notes from the Arctic
Digital negatives from the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic.
The Arctic acts as an early warning global warming system for the entire planet. The temperature on New Year's Eve of 2015 was a staggering 30 C warmer than normal and the extent of sea ice covering the polar ocean is now at a record low. The areas covered in ice around Svalbard in December 2016, was 50 percent below average. Every month since December 2010 has been record high.
The Arctic glaciers may look white from a distance, but on closer examination the glaciers are patched by dark streaks of inky black and dusty brown. All are the mark of man.
Coal mining has been the main industry at Svalbard. Although several coal mines have been shut down, there is still an active coal mine in Barentsburg. Coal mining and burning coal release harmful pollutants into the air. These include mercury, fine pollution particles, and chemicals that form smog — all damaging to our health. Pollution from burning coal also leads to acid rain, which kills fish and plants.
Historical observations and models indicate the effect of climate change is more pronounced at the poles. White sea ice reflects sunlight, whereas when ice cover diminishes, the darker Arctic water is able to absorb more energy. The result is a feedback loop known as Arctic amplification. NASA climatologists also note that strong tropical thunderstorms at the equator draw heat into the upper atmosphere, where it is circulated toward poles.
The recent record warm Arctic temperatures could trigger one or more “tipping points”—abrupt, possibly irreversible changes that tip Earth’s climate into a un unknown state.