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Home → May, 2008

Monthly Archives: May 2008 − News & Stories


Per­ma­frost on Mars

The news of the suc­cess­ful lan­ding of the NASA space­craft “Phoe­nix” on Mars on 25 May 2008 went around the world. Now, images have been publis­hed that show sur­face struc­tures that resem­ble frost pat­ter­ned ground which is com­mon in the Arc­tic. The stone rings shown in the NASA images are not per­ma­frost struc­tures: their deve­lo­p­ment does not requi­re per­ma­frost, but fre­quent and strong free­zing and thawing. But more import­ant­ly, they requi­re water/ice for their for­ma­ti­on. 
The NASA images.

Stone rings in Spits­ber­gen (Woodfjord).

Permafrost on Mars

Source: NASA

Van Mijen­fjord – Sveagru­va – Lunck­ef­jel­let

Van Mijen­fjord is the ship­ping rou­te to the Nor­we­gi­an mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va. It is most­ly blo­cked by the long, nar­row island of Akseløya, which incre­a­ses the local fjord ice deve­lo­p­ment signi­fi­cant­ly. Recent­ly, Norway’s stron­gest ice­brea­ker, KV “Sval­bard”, had to give up brea­king the ice to Sveagru­va in a distance of 10-12 kilo­me­tres to the sett­le­ment. The thic­kness of the ice was near one met­re, and one out of four main engi­nes of the ves­sel was not working. Fol­lowing behind KV “Sval­bard” was a car­go ves­sel with sup­plies and equip­ment for the mine. The­se had to be unloa­ded in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and taken to Sveagru­va on the ground with bull­do­zers and by air.

KV “Sval­bard” had alrea­dy bro­ken a lead through most of the length of the fjord. Becau­se of its uni­que geo­gra­phy (blo­cked by the abo­ve-men­tio­ned island) and in the light of recent cli­ma­te chan­ges, the fjord is the only one on the west coast of Spits­ber­gen whe­re regu­lar local ice for­ma­ti­on is likely to occur for some time in the future. Fjord ice is an important habi­tat for arc­tic wild­life spe­ci­es such as seals who give birth to their off­spring on fjor ice and for Polar bears as hun­ting ground and so on.

Brea­king the ice in Van Mijen­fjord regu­lar­ly is thus cri­ti­cis­ed by envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­sa­ti­ons. It is one of the rea­sons why many are scep­ti­cal to the plans of the SNSK (Nor­we­gi­an mining com­pa­ny) to estab­lish a new coal mine at Lunck­ef­jel­let north of Sveagru­va. Ano­t­her rea­son is the lar­ge amount of car­bon that is stored in the ground in shape of coal, which would be released to the atmo­s­phe­re in case of mining and sub­se­quent bur­ning.

SNSK argues that their coal is more envi­ron­ment­al­ly friend­ly than other coal on the world mar­ket due to its low metha­ne con­tent. During mining of one ton in Svea, only 0,9 m3 of metha­ne are released to the atmo­s­phe­re in con­trast to 20-40 m3 as the glo­bal average, accord­ing to SNSK.

Ano­t­her argu­ment used against the plans for a new mine is the posi­ti­on very clo­se to the bounda­ries of the Nor­dens­kiöld Land Natio­nal Park (part­ly even insi­de). Regu­la­ti­ons for pro­tec­ted are­as in Spits­ber­gen are very strict.

SNSK plans to open the new mine in 2013.

Fjord ice in Van Mijen­fjord i April.

Van Mijenfjord - Sveagruva - Lunckefjellet -> Van_Mijenfjord” title=”Van Mijenfjord – Sveagruva – Lunckefjellet -> Van_Mijenfjord” width=”400″ height=”267″ class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-235″ /></div>
<p>Sources: <a href=Sval­bard­pos­ten, Sys­sel­man­nen, Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kull­kom­pa­ni

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