Greenland Warming Up

In case you have not noticed, the high Arctic is happily warming up and disposing of all that sea ice. The local climate is been restored to the conditions that once supported Viking agriculture with cattle. The present disconnect with the climate of the mid latitudes could not be plainer.

Again our climate added a degree or so until the end of 1998, taking it to a high plateau. Since it has been cooling of, but not sufficient to either halt or even reverse the loss of sea ice. It is a little like having a stock price stable for decades at a price range $7-$12 lift to a new range of $9-$14 and whining because the price is declining back to $12. You still are always on the plus side of the ledger.

Because we have spent the entirety of the past decade on the excess melt side of that imaginary ledger, we have run out of sea ice so that a major cooling event is now needed to avoid complete annual sea ice collapse.

This year, for the curious, the following possibilities have probabilities that are not utterly remote:

1 The NorthWest Passage will open. – It has opened the last two years and with extensive sea ice still to the west, the probability is about fifty fifty.

2 The NorthEast passage will open. – It is presently way ahead of schedule and has opened from the European side. It did open last year, but it is dicey at best and I say three to one at best.

3 The Northern Greenland Passage. – This passage is clearly an impossibility except one writer predicted its plausibility. Today half of it is actually open and the right combination of winds might just open it up, so we will give it an overly generous ten to one. I am actually putting this in for the first time just in case it ever happens.
We are in for decades of warmer Arctic weather because of the longer open seas, and we will have time to see how these probabilities stand up.

This underlines the fact that sixty percent of the measured sea ice from the 1959 geodetic year had disappeared by 2000 leaving forty percent of the original. We now have visibly well under twenty percent left and I suspect it is closer to ten percent. I actually think is already essentially gone and we are in a mopping up phase induced by the two year cycle of the Arctic gyre itself.

So of course, this allows a earlier spring and longer warmer growing season for Greenlanders.

Global warming impacting Greenlanders' daily lives

In southern Greenland, the longer summers are benefiting vegetable farmers, who are experiencing some of their most lucrative times. "Trees are growing and the fields are full of potatoes, lettuce, carrots and cabbage" to be sold at the local market, explains Anders Iversen, who heads a plant nursery near Qaqotorq in the south.

by Staff Writers

Nuuk (AFP) July 9, 2009

From his trawler that motors along the Nuuk fjord, fisherman Johannes Heilmann has watched helplessly in recent years as climate change takes its toll on Greenland.

Global warming is occurring twice as fast in the Arctic as in the rest of the world.

Heilmann, in his 60s with a craggy, rugged face from years of work in the outdoors, says he and his colleagues can no longer take their dogsleds out to the edge of the ice floes to fish because the ice isn't thick enough to carry the weight.

And yet the freezing waters with large chunks of ice are too difficult to navigate in their small fishing boats, making fishing near impossible.

"We can't use the sleds any more, the ice isn't thick enough," laments Heilmann, saying he now has to rely on bird hunting, and sometimes seal hunting, while waiting for the summer months to go fishing.

At Ilulissat, more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, Emil Osterman tells local daily Sermitsiaq how "in 1968, when I was 13, we went fishing in December in the fjord and the ice was several metres thick."

Now, more than 40 years on, the ice at the very same location at the same time of year "is only 30 centimetres thick."

The head of Nuuk's fishing and hunting association, Leif Fontaine, explains how climate warming is also affecting the region's shrimp industry -- Greenland's main export and biggest industrial sector.

"When the water gets warmer, the shrimp become rarer as they move further north," he says.

"And the
melting ice is worrying, especially for the residents of isolated villages in the north and the east who only have sleds and no boats to hunt, fish and survive," he adds.

That has forced some hunters to let their sleddogs starve to death, since they can't provide them with the seals and fish they need to eat.

Polar bears that roam the ice also have an increasingly difficult time finding food, especially seals, as the ice floes melt. As a result they end up approaching villages in search of nourishment, presenting a danger to the locals and themselves.

-- 'It's very visible in the Arctic' --

In Nuuk, residents like Nana Pedersen and Sofus Moeller, two recent high school graduates, are worried about the changes to the climate.

They recall a snowstorm that took place on June 20 -- rare even for Greenland.

Moeller says he is "worried" about the changes, but admits that he doesn't think about it every day.

"I don't know if it's warmer than before, since winter after all lasts until May here," he says.

But at the new Arctic research centre in Nuuk, director Soeren Rysgaard has no doubts that climate change is having an impact.

"It's very visible in the Arctic."

Fishermen who pull up fewer fish in their nets or who can no longer fish in certain areas because the ice is too thin are those most affected right now, he says.

But the speaker of the local parliament, Josef Motzfeldt, notes that global warming has also brought "some good."

A growing number of tourists have come to Greenland to see how climate change is causing the North Atlantic island's enormous glaciers to melt, and new species never before found in Greenland are turning up, such as sea urchins and squid.

In southern Greenland, the longer summers are benefiting
vegetable farmers, who are experiencing some of their most lucrative times.

"Trees are growing and the fields are full of potatoes, lettuce, carrots and cabbage" to be sold at the local market, explains Anders Iversen, who heads a plant nursery near Qaqotorq in the south.

Temperatures are warmer now, with the mercury sometimes rising above 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) in summer, he says.

"If global warming continues, we will be able to grow even more kinds of vegetables during a longer season," he adds.

The farmers' hopes could soon be confirmed by new worrying observations in Greenland's far north.

The Arctic Sunrise, a ship belonging to
environmental group Greenpeace, has recently arrived at the Petermann glacier, one of the region's biggest glaciers that is in the process of breaking up, where experts will study its developments.

For Greenpeace, the shrinking of the glacier is a clear sign that global warming is no longer "a theory, but a harsh reality."

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