Posts Tagged "norway"

Glaciers Serve as Radioactive Storage, Study Finds

Posted by on Aug 17, 2016 in Adaptation, All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Glaciers Serve as Radioactive Storage, Study Finds

Spread the News:ShareThe icy surfaces of glaciers are punctured with cryoconites – small, cylindrical holes filled with meltwater, with thin films of mineral and organic dust, microorganisms, and other particles at the bottom of the hole. New research conducted by Polish scientists reveals that cryoconites also contain a thin film of extremely radioactive material. The study confirms previous findings of high levels of radioactivity in the Arctic and warns that as Arctic glaciers rapidly melt, the radioactivity stored in them will be released into downstream water sources and ecosystems. The study, headed by Edyta Łokas of the Institute of Nuclear Physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences and researchers from three other Polish universities, was published in Science Direct in June. The study examines Hans Glacier in Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island of the glacier-covered Svalbard archipelago, off the northern Norwegian coast in the Arctic Ocean. While investigating the radionuclide and heavy metal contents of glacial cryoconites, the researchers revealed that the dust retains heavy amounts of airborne radioactive material and heavy metals on glacial surfaces. This radioactive material comes from both natural and anthropogenic, or human-caused, sources, according to the study. However, the researchers determined through isotope testing that this deposition was mainly linked to human activity. Head researcher Edyta Lokas says she believes that this radioactive material mainly derives from nuclear weapons usage and testing. “The radionuclide ratio signatures point to the global fallout [from nuclear weapon testing], as the main source of radioactive contamination on Svalbard. However, some regional contribution, probably from the Soviet tests performed on Novaya Zemlya was also found,” Lokas wrote in an email to GlacierHub. The Arctic region bears an unfortunate history of radioactive contamination, from an atom bomb going missing at the U.S. base in Thule, Greenland, to radiation from Chernobyl getting picked up by lichens in Scandinavia, making reindeer milk dangerous. But how does all this radioactive materials end up in the Arctic? The Arctic, and polar regions in general, often become contaminated through long-range global transport. In this process, airborne radioactive particles travel through the atmosphere before eventually settling down on a ground surface. While these particles can accumulate in very small, non harmful amounts in soils, vegetation, and animals in all areas of the world, geochemical and atmospheric processes carry the majority of radioactive particles to the Poles. Once the particles reach the Poles, “sticky” organic substances excreted by microorganisms living in cryoconites attract and accumulate high levels of radioactivity and other toxic metals. As cryoconites occupy small, but deep holes, on glacier surfaces, they are often left untouched for decades, Edyta explains. Cryoconites also accumulate radioactive substances that are transported with meltwater flowing down the glacier during  summertime. Climate change lends extra meaning to the study, as the researchers note that, “the number of additional contamination sources may rise in future due to global climate changes.” They expect that both air temperature increases and changes to atmospheric circulation patterns and precipitation intensity will all quicken the pace of contamination transport and extraction from the atmosphere. Edtya explained that as Arctic glaciers retreat, “The radioactivity contained in the cryoconites is released from shrinking glaciers and incorporated into the Arctic ecosystem.” She said she hopes that future climate change vulnerability assessments of the Arctic to pollution consider cryoconite radioactivity. Spread the...

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Survival is just the tip of the iceberg in Blair Braverman’s memoir on Arctic life

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Survival is just the tip of the iceberg in Blair Braverman’s memoir on Arctic life

Spread the News:Share“On a bad day we called it the Goddamn Ice Cube. On a good day Summer Camp on the Moon.”   In her memoir published July 5, writer and musher Blair Braverman recounts her time living in the isolated wilderness of the Arctic, and her struggles to reconcile the many contradictions—both real and perceived—that accompanied her journey. Over the course of its 274 pages, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North provides an honest and eloquent narrative of Braverman’s personal pursuit to create a home in the fjords of Norway and glaciers of Southeastern Alaska. While Braverman’s experiences in the north were not always positive, she persistently returns to the Arctic to overcome her fears and self-doubts–seeking safety in extreme environments and confronting her status as an outsider in a “man’s world.” Her Arctic roots trace back to a young age. Braverman spent a year in Oslo when she was 10-years-old and continuously returned, feeling connected to the country in a way that she never felt in her hometown of Davis, California. A year as a high school foreign exchange student in Norway helped her reestablish her connection. But a host father who made her feel unsafe also made her time there difficult. Braverman was insecure, but not defeated. As testament to her personal strength and character, she pushed herself to return to Norway and struggle through the extreme physical and mental challenges of survival training and dog sledding in the Arctic at the Norwegian Folk School 69°North. “I knew I would never be a tough girl,” she writes in the memoir. “And yet the phrase, with its implied contradiction, articulated everything that I wanted for myself: to be a girl, an inherently vulnerable position, and yet unafraid.” In the far reaches of the North, there were many things to fear—the biting cold, the seemingly unending darkness of winter, being buried alive under the snow. However, Braverman approached these physical challenges head-on throughout her time at 69°North and in the years to follow. “Of course I was scared. But at least I was scared of dangers of my own choosing. At least there was joy that came with it.” There were other equally pressing physical and emotional dangers that Braverman faced, one of which is not exclusive to the Arctic: the danger of men threatening her safety and encroaching on her body. In the eyes of the men Braverman encountered, the Arctic was seen as exclusively male territory. Despite the intimidation, harassment, and dismissal by men, Braverman was determined to have an equal right to also call the Arctic “home.” After completing her survival training at the folk school, Braverman left Norway to work at a summer tour company on a glacier in southeast Alaska. Living on a remote glacier with an aggressive boyfriend, the irony of her job cannot be lost—providing a comfortable experience for tourists to be “explorers” out in the wilderness, when the reality of living in such an environment is anything but comfortable. She writes in the book that she was also “discouraged from acknowledging climate change, even as the glacier melted away beneath us.” While the majority of people may prefer to sweep difficult truths under the rug, Braverman is admirable for her desire to seek it out, regardless of convenience. While Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube is, to a large degree, a story of emotional and physical struggle, it is also one of deep admiration for nature and the Arctic. Braverman’s love of the environment is contagious and brought to life through her vivid...

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1,400-Year Old Sledge Thawed Out of Norwegian Glacier

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 6 comments

1,400-Year Old Sledge Thawed Out of Norwegian Glacier

Spread the News:Share  In the most recent issue of the Journal of Glacial Archaeology (JGA), a team of Norwegian scientists from the Hordaland County Council and University Museum of Bergen announced their discovery of a prehistoric sledge freed from the ice.  The discovery, announced in the 2015 article, followed significant melting of the Vossaskavlen Glacier in western Norway. A team of Norwegian surveyors discovered the artifact, after they spotted what appeared to be poles marking a route over the glacier, approximately 50 meters from the ice edge at an altitude of 1500 meters.  Upon further examination, the team of archaeologists found 21 wooden fragments with signs of craftsmanship. Radiocarbon dating puts the age of the pine wood sledge fragments between 545-655 AD, or to the beginning of the Late Iron Age. This makes it the oldest sledge ever found in Norway. According to the article, the archaeologists determined the wood originated from a sledge by way of several clues, such as rounded notches on several pieces. These notches indicated that the pieces were likely used as supports between the runners and the deck that stored cargo. Previous archaeological finds in the northern part of the Vossaskavlen, including skis dating back to the medieval period, a spearhead from the Early Iron Age, and arrowheads from the Late Iron Age, support the notion that the area was frequently used as an east-west crossing route, as well as for hunting. The archaeologists hypothesized the region could have once been used to transport trade goods over a two kilometer stretch of the glacial plateau in the warmer months, or employed by hunters to carry large prey, such as reindeer, back to their villages during the cold months. The archaeologists from Hordaland County Council and University Museum of Bergen were not able to be reached GlacierHub regarding queries on the specifics of the expedition and further comments on the historical significance of the find by time of publication. Approximately eight kilometers east of the archaeological site lies a mountain village named Hallingskeid, which is believed to have been a meeting point for trade and festivities between the people of east and west Norway. Historians speculate the trade route was only in use when the weather was warm, as the inclement winter climate hampered trade and other social and professional activities.   However, the artifacts were found at the edge of a flat two kilometer section of the glacier, and would have made transporting goods across that distance significantly easier.  The archaeologists hypothesize the sledge could have been left each season to help in the transportation of trade goods, then forgotten or abandoned, and finally buried under the ice for the next 1,400 years. The article states two types of sledges were historically used.  One was lighter, equipped with ski runners, and pulled by humans.  The other was stronger, heavier, outfitted with sleigh runners, and pulled by horses.  The remnants discovered in 2014 appear to have originated from the lighter variety. Until a major melting event in the summer of 2006, most of the plateau was covered in glacial ice and snow.  Additional melting between 2006 and the time of discovery released the remains of the sledge from the ice that preserved it for nearly one and a half millennia. According to the Archaeological Institute of America, between 2006 and 2013 more than 1600 artifacts have been found in Oppland County, Norway, which is northeast of Vossaskavlen, alone. This explosion of artifacts brought on by rapid melting of glaciers and ice patches brought on by rising global temperatures presents an opportunity for archaeologists to locate well preserved...

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Photo Friday: Jostedalsbreen Glacier

Posted by on May 6, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Jostedalsbreen Glacier

Spread the News:ShareJostedalsbreen Glacier, the largest glacier in northern Europe, is located within Jostedalsbreen National Park which was founded in 1991 in Norway. The Jostedalsbreen Glacier is so large that it alone covers over a third of the park and separates two of the longest fjords in the world. It is fitting that Norway has such an imposing glacier since the most iconic Norwegian characteristics—fjords and valleys—owe their creation to past glacial movements. Scientists have flocked to this glacier for centuries to study its retreat since the Little Ice Age, particularly with an interest in studying post-glacial vegetation and landscape. As climate change accelerates glacial retreat across the world, a degree of urgency is added to the quest to learn from Jostedalsbreen Glacier’s retreat. Sometimes, the past can help us prepare for the future.   - MattW -/Flickr Karen Blaha/Flickr Karen Blaha/Flickr Guttorm Flatabø/Flickr Roman Königshofer/Flickr Spread the...

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Glacier Retreat Ushers in Arachnids

Posted by on Feb 3, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Glacier Retreat Ushers in Arachnids

Spread the News:ShareHarvestmen— a spider-like arachnid— are among the first creatures to inhabit land in the wake of glacier retreat, according to a recent study by Sigmund Hågvar and Daniel Flø in the Norwegian Journal of Entomology. The land where glaciers have recently melted is an ideal habitat for creepy-crawlies including spiders, beetles, and other invertebrates. Perhaps surprisingly, these predators are often the first species found on this new land, before herbivores and even plants, although classical theories in ecology state that it should be the other way around. The authors suggest that this reversal is made possible by the availability of two types of prey: insects that fly in from neighboring areas or are carried in by the wind, and midges that hatch in the carbon-rich puddles formed by meltwater from the retreating glaciers. Although Hågvar and Flø mention other species in their article, the study focuses on Mitopus morio, a common spider-like creature in the arachnid family called a harvestman (Opiliones). In America, harvestmen are commonly known as daddy-longlegs. These creatures are both predators and scavengers, since they consume living and dead invertebrates. Having a relatively short life cycle of only one year, young harvestmen hatch during snowmelt in spring and die as mature adults in the fall. Due to their habit of living on newly uncovered land, harvestmen are considered pioneer invertebrates. Harvestmen are found across Norway, but Hågvar and Flø focused on the ones living in areas of glacier retreat, specifically at the Midtdalsbreen Glacier near the mountain village Finse. This glacier drains the eastern portion of the Hardangerjøkulen (Hardanger Ice Cap). The study was conducted in different areas— on land that was uncovered 205 years ago and on more recently uncovered terrain. Hågvar and Flø found that harvestmen greatly outnumbered spiders except at the oldest site, and also outnumbered the total number of carabid beetles located at three of the sites (areas uncovered 40, 160 and 205 years ago). In the land that has been uncovered for three years, harvestmen follow the glacier retreat, living alongside the glacier’s edge. The creatures live on barren ground, meaning there doesn’t need to be any vegetation for them to thrive. The lack of vegetation allows them to move freely, and the empty land is better heated by the sun— an important benefit for these cold-blooded organisms. The study found that the harvestmen thrive best during warm and dry years. Because of the quick establishment of life on what is considered inhospitable land, harvestmen serve as a reminder that nature is remarkable and surprising. Spread the...

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