We have told you that the reason for the expedition to the Arctic is to raise awareness of global warming and its worldwide impacts and to urge the necessary action which needs to be taken to fight global warming. But how exactly do the impacts influence global population?
Due to the warmer temperatures the glaciers and ice shields of the world are in great danger to melt. This means that a higher amount of water is feeding the oceans as it isn’t present in frozen form anymore. The greater water volume would lead to a higher sea level and therefore, would endanger a lot of coastal places. Not only small islands which would be the first ones experiencing the sea level rise, also the big cities of the world would be in great danger. Most cities are located to water bodies, especially the oceans. This location threatens the home of millions of people. An animation of National Geographic shows the possible coastlines if all ice would melt. Resulting in vanishing cities like London, New York, Cairo or Buenos Aires, just to name a few. If all inhabitants of these cities are becoming climate refugees there would be millions of people on escape to find safer places and crowding continental cities, making urban supply with food and living area a huge challenge. And this all resulting by the ice melting…! This is why it is important that you take your first steps at home to fight climate change and convince people around you to help you!
On this interactive map that National Geographic have put together you can see what the world will look like if all the all the ice on land melts.
Our adventurers are of course, not the first people traveling the Arctic. The American Robert Edwin Peary and his assistant as well as some Inuit are said to be the first ones who reached the North Pole in April 1909.
In their expedition they used the great knowledge of the local Inuit: They could always accurately assess the weather situation and were also able to detect thin spots in the ice in time, so that the researchers did not collapse with their sledge. If he really was the first man who has entered the North Pole, however, is not certainly proved.
Also, the researcher Frederik Cook stated that he had first reached the North Pole, but that was disproved.
The first man to reach the pole on foot and which is verified was the Briton Sir Walter William Herbert (image) in 1969.
They traveled with four sleds and 40 huskies on the 3,800 miles (= 6,100 km) long transarctic expedition from Alaska to Spitsbergen.
The first flight over the North Pole was in 1926 by Umberto Nobile, Ronald Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth on board the Norge.
As you learned yesterday, the Arctic region includes more than just Arctic ice. Besides the natural resources which can be found there, you can also find considerable biodiversity. This term includes the variety of different species, for example animals and plants. Separately, all animal species are called ‘fauna’ and the plant species ‘flora’.
Besides polar bears and seals, which live mostly on the Arctic ice, there are also other animal species that live on land. There are a lot of birds that call the tundra their home. This area is also often a breeding place for many migrating birds from the south. There are also birds which we know from our own latitudes, such as the common eider duck or the northern raven.
In addition to insects, the Arctic is also host to mammals, small and large, as well as amphibeans:
Arctic Hare Caribou Musk Ox
Besides oil, there is another interesting natural resource to find in the Arctic – gas. About 22% of the undiscovered but technical accessible oil and gas deposits of the world can be found at the North Pole. Due to the heavy melting of the ice cover in the Arctic, natural resources are easier to access and the neighboring states are getting prepared to mine them.
The melting ice is causing a run on exactly those fossil fuels which have led to the melting in the first place. There are 50 billion cubic meters of gas in the Arctic, and a further 44 billion barrels of liquid gas, which is equivalent to about 5 trillion liters. Compared to the assumed Arctic oil deposits, these gas deposits are three times greater. In total around 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas reserves and 20% of liquid gas are supposed to lie in the North. Important areas for gas are the West Siberian Basin (Russia), the East Barents Basin (Norway/Russia) and the Arctic Alaska (USA).
Dangers related to gas exploitation are broken pipe lines and tanker disasters. Additionally, in these very thinly populated regions the infrastructure is inadequate and roads, airfields, accommodation and pipelines would still have to be constructed. It is also clear that neither the technology nor the capacity to react to catastrophes are present in the Arctic.
In yesterday’s blog post you learned something about the existing natural resources in the Arctic. About 22% of the world’s undiscovered but technical reachable oil and gas resources are located at the North Pole. In the new Arctic drill areas up to 90 billion barrel oil (about 10.4 trillion liters) are suspected. That means: a lot of money for companies!
However, this amount of oil is just enough to cover the worldwide oil needs for 3 years and it is not easy to access these deposits. To be able to drill in the Arctic, oil companies would need to keep icebergs away from platforms and need to melt drift ice with huge water cannons. A disastrous oil accident would only be a question of time. It’s said that cleaning-up operations after oil spills in the Arctic and its unique environment would be almost impossible and technical or human failure would destroy the delicate ecosystem in the Arctic.
In 2010 the oil rig, Deep Water Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. 800 million liters oil streamed into the sea and eleven people died. This was the most severe catastrophe of such kind in history.
Just a few hours ago the sun returned to Resolute Bay in the Canadian Arctic. Tom Griffin, Kenn Borek’s manager send me this picture from his office today. I asked him if the sun gave any heat. He looked at his thermometer and noted it was -45°C outside. The days leading up to the sun’s return are often the coldest of the year, much colder then even in January. But the sun is more then heat, it is comforting for light and the sun makes you happy even if you can’t feel the rays. From this position, just a few degrees above the horizon it will rotate around in that position, never getting higher or lower until later in the spring. When we set foot on the ice, the sun will be halfway its highest point in the horizon, 23.5° so we will see the sun at a angle of about 10° – not even enough for a sun tan or a charge with the solar panels.