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Home → April, 2015

Monthly Archives: April 2015 − News & Stories


Eas­ter wee­kend in Bjørn­da­len

(4th/5th April 2015) After some calm ear­ly April days, it is time to get out again when the Eas­ter wee­kend is approa­ching. Ever­y­bo­dy here who has some means of trans­por­ta­ti­on and pos­si­b­ly even access to one of the nowa­days much sought-after huts is abs­con­ding from zivi­li­sa­ti­on, and I am hap­py to be part of that. It does not have to be far and adven­tur­ous. That is one of Longyearbyen’s nice aspects: the arc­tic wil­der­ness starts as soon as you have pas­sed the last house.

For many here, Bjørn­da­len is some­thing like a city park in a wider sen­se. It is easy to get the­re by car or snow mobi­le, and the­re is a num­ber of huts in local owners­hip near the Isfjord coast. This is whe­re I spend this lovely wee­kend. All inclu­si­ve! Sce­nic views of the wide Isfjord, good food in good com­pa­ny, and small things are sear­ched for by tho­se who still belie­ve in the Eas­ter bun­ny, hid­den by tho­se who know bet­ter. At least in this case.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

The­re is no Eas­ter bun­ny in Bjørn­da­len, but Arc­tic fox and ptar­mi­gan are at home the­re. I will have to spend some more time here, soon.

Per­ma­cul­tu­re: vege­ta­bles, fresh and tas­ty from the arc­tic

Modern life in the arc­tic is deman­ding con­si­derable resour­ces. Food stuffs are impor­ted over long distan­ces, which is cos­t­ly and burns a lot of fuel. Many visi­tors get a bit ner­vous when they see the pri­ces for food in the high north, and so-cal­led fresh vege­ta­bles are not always as fresh as you might want.

Food was­te is shred­ded and was­hed strai­ght into the fjord tog­e­ther with was­te water, altog­e­ther a gre­at was­te. Ano­t­her solu­ti­on would be high­ly desi­ra­ble, both from an envi­ron­men­tal and an eco­no­mic per­spec­ti­ve.

Thin­king local food in the arc­tic, most peop­le would pro­bab­ly have rein­de­er steaks on their mind, which is obvious­ly not the solu­ti­on. Local vege­ta­bles? Nega­ti­ve. Even the Rus­si­an (Sov­jet, back then) sett­le­ments Bar­ents­burg and Pyra­mi­den were, in a way, more advan­ced, with con­si­derable local pro­duc­tion in green­houses and sta­bles for cows, pigs etc., most of which have been aban­do­ned years ago.

But crea­ti­ve peop­le are working on solu­ti­ons to grow vege­ta­bles local­ly, fresh and envi­ron­ment­al­ly friend­ly. A start up pro­ject cal­led Polar Per­ma­cul­tu­re Solu­ti­ons is deve­lo­ping tech­ni­ques in Lon­gye­ar­by­en for advan­ced green­houses to grow vege­ta­bles in per­ma­frost are­as without high ener­gy and water con­sump­ti­on. First tests are pro­mi­sing: accord­ing to Polar Per­ma­frost Solu­ti­ons, pars­ley, cori­an­der, basil, papri­ka, sum­mer squash, mini corn, oni­ons, let­tuce, tomatoes, egg­plant, red chi­li pep­pers and more have alrea­dy been grown suc­cess­ful­ly. Food was­te is used to pro­du­ce soil and fer­ti­li­zer with bio­lo­gi­cal tech­ni­ques (sounds bet­ter than worms, but that’s what it is)

Fresh, tas­ty, local pro­duc­tion and envi­ron­ment­al­ly friend­ly – we are loo­king for­ward to see the fur­ther deve­lo­p­ment!

Fresh vege­ta­bles of local pro­duc­tion in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: so far an uto­pia, hope­ful­ly soon a rea­li­ty that makes a lot of sen­se for the envi­ron­ment and eco­no­my.

Polar Permaculture

Source: Polar Per­ma­cul­tu­re

Lower extent of win­ter sea ice in the Arc­tic

During this win­ter sea­son 2014/2015 the sea ice in the Arc­tic has exten­ded much less than it usual­ly did.

As the U.S. Natio­nal Snow and Ice Data Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Colo­ra­do reports, this win­ter the ice likely reached its maxi­mum extend as soon as Febru­a­ry 25th. This is 15 days ear­lier than the average of the years 1981 to 2010 which ser­ves as the refe­rence peri­od.

More alar­ming is the fact that the extent of sea ice on this date had not pro­cee­ded very far yet. Inde­ed, sin­ce the begin­ning of the satel­li­te record the maxi­mum extent of Arc­tic sea ice has never been as low as in this win­ter. On Febru­a­ry 25th the ice cove­r­ed an area of 14.54 mil­li­on squa­re kilo­me­ters. This is 1.1 mil­li­on squa­re kilo­me­ters less than the long term average and 130.000 squa­re kilo­me­ters less than the for­mer nega­ti­ve record of 2011. All are­as were affec­ted except for the Labra­dor Sea and the Davis Strait bet­ween Green­land and Cana­da. The­re was a remar­kab­ly low extent of ice on the Paci­fic side of the Arc­tic and in the Bar­ents Sea west of Nova­ya Sem­lya and sou­thwest of Spits­ber­gen.

After reaching its low maxi­mum on Febru­a­ry 25th the sea ice extent initi­al­ly decre­a­sed signi­fi­cant­ly (with regio­nal varia­ti­ons) and then incre­a­sed again in the second half of March. Howe­ver, a new maxi­mum could not be reached. Cur­r­ent­ly the ice is retrea­ting again, accord­ing to the time of the year.

It can be expec­ted that the low extent of sea ice in win­ter will also lead to less ice in the sum­mer sea­son. This sce­n­a­rio is sup­por­ted by the effect that open water sur­faces are absor­bing more solar ener­gy and are war­ming up fas­ter than ice sur­faces which reflect most of the sun­light (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news: Retre­at of Arc­tic sea ice acce­le­ra­tes glo­bal war­ming from Febru­a­ry 2014).

Sea ice in nort­hern Spits­ber­gen.

Sea ice in Spitsbergen

Source: Natio­nal Snow and Ice Data Cen­ter

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