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Climate in the Barents Region  

Rasmus Benestad

The Barents Sea is a region of the Arctic Ocean named after one of its first known explorers (1594–1597), Willem Barentsz from the Netherlands, although there are accounts of earlier explorations: the Norwegian seafarer Ottar rounded the northern tip of Europe and explored the Barents and White Seas between 870 and 890 ce, a journey followed by a number of Norsemen; Pomors hunted seals and walruses in the region; and Novgorodian merchants engaged in the fur trade. These seafarers were probably the first to accumulate knowledge about the nature of sea ice in the Barents region; however, scientific expeditions and the exploration of the climate of the region had to wait until the invention and employment of scientific instruments such as the thermometer and barometer. Most of the early exploration involved mapping the land and the sea ice and making geographical observations. There were also many unsuccessful attempts to use the Northeast Passage to reach the Bering Strait. The first scientific expeditions involved F. P. Litke (1821±1824), P. K. Pakhtusov (1834±1835), A. K. Tsivol’ka (1837±1839), and Henrik Mohn (1876–1878), who recorded oceanographic, ice, and meteorological conditions. The scientific study of the Barents region and its climate has been spearheaded by a number of campaigns. There were four generations of the International Polar Year (IPY): 1882–1883, 1932–1933, 1957–1958, and 2007–2008. A British polar campaign was launched in July 1945 with Antarctic operations administered by the Colonial Office, renamed as the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS); it included a scientific bureau by 1950. It was rebranded as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in 1962 (British Antarctic Survey History leaflet). While BAS had its initial emphasis on the Antarctic, it has also been involved in science projects in the Barents region. The most dedicated mission to the Arctic and the Barents region has been the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), which has commissioned a series of reports on the Arctic climate: the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) report, the Snow Water Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) report, and the Adaptive Actions in a Changing Arctic (AACA) report. The climate of the Barents Sea is strongly influenced by the warm waters from the Norwegian current bringing heat from the subtropical North Atlantic. The region is 10°C–15°C warmer than the average temperature on the same latitude, and a large part of the Barents Sea is open water even in winter. It is roughly bounded by the Svalbard archipelago, northern Fennoscandia, the Kanin Peninsula, Kolguyev Island, Novaya Zemlya, and Franz Josef Land, and is a shallow ocean basin which constrains physical processes such as currents and convection. To the west, the Greenland Sea forms a buffer region with some of the strongest temperature gradients on earth between Iceland and Greenland. The combination of a strong temperature gradient and westerlies influences air pressure, wind patterns, and storm tracks. The strong temperature contrast between sea ice and open water in the northern part sets the stage for polar lows, as well as heat and moisture exchange between ocean and atmosphere. Glaciers on the Arctic islands generate icebergs, which may drift in the Barents Sea subject to wind and ocean currents. The land encircling the Barents Sea includes regions with permafrost and tundra. Precipitation comes mainly from synoptic storms and weather fronts; it falls as snow in the winter and rain in the summer. The land area is snow-covered in winter, and rivers in the region drain the rainwater and meltwater into the Barents Sea. Pronounced natural variations in the seasonal weather statistics can be linked to variations in the polar jet stream and Rossby waves, which result in a clustering of storm activity, blocking high-pressure systems. The Barents region is subject to rapid climate change due to a “polar amplification,” and observations from Svalbard suggest that the past warming trend ranks among the strongest recorded on earth. The regional change is reinforced by a number of feedback effects, such as receding sea-ice cover and influx of mild moist air from the south.

Article

Monitoring and Assessing Arctic Climate Change  

Lars-Otto Reiersen and Robert W. Corell

This overview of climate observation, monitoring, and research for the Arctic region outlines the key elements essential to an enhanced understanding of the unprecedented climate change in the region and its global influences. The first recorded observation of sea ice extent around Svalbard date back to the whaling activities around 1600. Over the following 300 years there are periodic and inadequate observations of climate and sea ice from explorers seeking a northern sea route for sailing to Asia or reaching the North Pole. Around 1900 there were few fixed meteorological stations in the circumpolar North. During the Second World War and the following Cold War, the observation network increased significantly due to military interest. Since the 1970s the use of satellites has improved the climate and meteorological observations of Arctic areas, and advancements in marine observations (beneath the sea surface and within oceanic sediments) have contributed to a much improved network of climate and meteorological variables. Climate change in the Arctic and its possible effects within the Arctic and on global climate such as extreme weather and sea level rise were first reported in the ACIA 2005 report. Since then there has been a lot of climate-related assessments based on data from the Arctic and ongoing processes within the Arctic that are linked to global systems.

Article

Climate Change Communication in Canada  

Candis Callison and D. B. Tindall

The immense geographical and cultural breadth of Canada includes a significant Arctic region and many distinct indigenous and rurally located peoples who are profoundly affected by climate change. However, most of Canada’s population is located in the urban south, in major cities. While Canadian media coverage of climate change has been more than the global average, it has generally tended to focus on policymaking at the national level, with a secondary focus on energy and economics. Unlike its close neighbor, the United States, Canada has had consistently positive public attitudes and media coverage toward climate change, but this hasn’t necessarily translated to policy or action. Canada’s steadily increasing greenhouse gas emissions are among the highest per capita in the world. Canada is the home base for highly visible environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the David Suzuki Foundation, which have successfully framed and mobilized on many issues, including climate change. Canada’s resource-based economy includes the controversial oil sands in the western province of Alberta. Scholars note that media coverage of both the oil sands and the proposed and existing pipelines through British Columbia to tidewater are complex because of the way that oil interests have been represented by think tanks and aligned politicians, and, in some regions, because of lingering skepticism and doubts about the ability of political institutions to address climate change. Regional differences on all these points matter immensely, as does framing by environmental groups, indigenous groups, media, and industry proponents. A further complication for Canadian media coverage relates to both the Arctic and indigenous peoples. The Arctic has not been central to Canadian coverage of climate change, nor have the climate justice issues associated with the disproportionate impacts that this region will experience. Most of the Canadian north is inhabited by indigenous peoples, who have been the primary representatives of climate justice and human rights as frames for media coverage. However, Canadian media has usually either not represented or misrepresented indigenous peoples. Emerging self-representation through Internet-based media provides some hopeful alternatives. In general, taking into account the vast structural changes that are sweeping Canadian media is a key area that new scholarship should attend to, particularly given that most scholarship to date on climate change and media in Canada has focused on national newspapers.

Article

Climate Change Communication and Indigenous Publics  

Candis Callison

Indigenous experiences with climate change have become increasingly visible through media stories of rising sea levels, heavy storms, and coastal erosion due to climate change in places as different as Tuvula in the South Pacific and Shishmaref in the Alaskan Arctic. Despite these bursts of attention, indigenous concerns and experiences have not been well or diversely represented in media coverage, nor have they been consistently studied in media scholarship—nor until recently, have indigenous people or knowledge been mentioned in major climate agreements and scientific assessments. There is, however, a growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship that draws on indigenous knowledge, experiences, and activism related to climate change. Indigenous peoples comprise 5% of the world’s population and live in over 90 countries around the world. Because indigenous communities are often located outside major urban centers, indigenous peoples are likely to suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change. Many indigenous people live in close connection with the ecosystems in their region, and collectively held Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is passed down through multiple generations, providing in-depth, systematic, meaningful, and historically informed views of climate change and potential pathways for resilience and adaptation. Indigenous people have often been portrayed in media coverage as victims with little attention paid to TEK, communal resilience, human rights and climate justice frameworks, or the historical contexts that may amplify climate change impacts. While indigenous people have diverse circumstances and histories, many are likely to have suffered enormous upheaval in recent centuries due to colonialism, resource development, economic shifts, loss of human rights, and lack of self-determination. Climate change often intensifies existing vulnerabilities and risks. These deeply intertwined social and environmental crises create distinct challenges for considering how and what climate change means for diverse indigenous peoples, how to address it at all levels of governance, and how media can and should be accountable to and represent indigenous publics.