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Daily Archives: 17. March 2022 − News & Stories


… bad times: rain and mel­ting snow in the win­ter

Well, “bad times” is clear­ly a very rela­ti­ve descrip­ti­on of life in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. We are having a good life. No bombs are fal­ling from the sky. Just rain. But, hey … rain! In March! And far too much, and a lar­ge pro­por­ti­on of the white beau­ty around is is just mel­ted and flown away during the last cou­p­le of days.

A strong low pres­su­re sys­tem fur­ther south in the north Atlan­tic has pum­ped a lot of warm air up north. This warm air incur­si­on brings wind, rain and mel­ting tem­pe­ra­tures. Far more of all of the­se than we actual­ly appre­cia­te.

Our litt­le world up here is mel­ting.

Longyearbyen: rain and melting snow in the winter

Lon­gye­ar­by­en: rain and meltwa­ter turn streets into litt­le lakes.

This was at least our impres­si­on for several days, whe­re­ver you tur­ned the eye. Water was fal­ling down from the sky, water tur­ned the snow grey, then dark and final­ly into water, crea­ting lakes on flat tun­dra are­as. Water bro­ke through the snow in rivers that should remain fro­zen for several mon­ths still.

Rub­ber boots were the best choice for a litt­le walk. It hap­pens quick­ly that you make one wrong step and your foot disap­pears in a deep hole of slush, a very cold and unplea­sant mix­tu­re of snow and meltwa­ter. On the other hand, it can be slip­pe­ry and smooth as glass just a step fur­ther. It is very popu­lar in Nor­way to use spikes. A gre­at inven­ti­on, they have cer­tain­ly saved many peop­le from bro­ken legs and what not.

Longyearbyen: rain and melting snow in the winter

Drai­na­ges had to be crea­ted in many pla­ces to pre­vent the rivers from floo­ding.
Nor­mal rou­ti­ne in May and June, but very uncom­mon in March.

For anything fur­ther away, any tours out into the arc­tic win­ter­won­der­land of Spits­ber­gen in the late win­ter: it is pret­ty much the only rea­son­ab­le opti­on to wait until Spits­ber­gen actual­ly is a win­ter­won­der­land again. It wasn’t for days on end, and it still isn’t at the time of wri­ting. Win­ter will bey­ond any doubt return. It is not gone, it is just taking a break. It will be col­der again, the rivers will free­ze again, lakes will turn into ice.

The ques­ti­on is if we get enough snow again to tour rea­son­ab­ly out the­re in the wild, fil­ling the many dark gaps whe­re the tun­dra is now free of snow. Let’s hope so, in the inte­rest of all who are com­ing up here with dreams of the arc­tic win­ter. The­re are many of them in March and April.

Spitsbergen: rain and melting snow in the winter

Snow mobi­le rou­tes have tur­ned into slus­hy snow swamps and lakes. If you dri­ve here, you risk get­ting stuck and dama­ging the vege­ta­ti­on under the slush.

Until the snow melt comes in May and finis­hes this win­tern for good.

Adventdalen: damaged tundra

It is, for good rea­son, not allo­wed to dri­ve on natu­ral ground unless it is fro­zen AND snow-cove­r­ed. The­re are tho­se who take a libe­ral approach to this rule at the end of the sea­son or during warm wea­ther spells, to put it mild­ly – alt­hough it is legal­ly bin­ding. The result loo­ks like this and it will take many years without fur­ther dis­tur­ban­ce to for the vege­ta­ti­on to reco­ver (Advent­da­len, next to the road. Pic­tu­re taken in june 2019).

The ques­ti­on will ine­vi­ta­b­ly come up: is this now wea­ther or cli­ma­te chan­ge? My short ans­wer: it has aspects of both. Wea­ther and cli­ma­te are hard to sepa­ra­te when it comes to any given meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal event. Both are just dif­fe­rent per­spec­ti­ves, dif­fe­rent time sca­les, for pret­ty much the same collec­tion of phe­no­me­na which altog­e­ther descri­be the atmo­s­phe­re, espe­cial­ly its lower lay­ers (that’s whe­re we usual­ly are). Such as tem­pe­ra­tu­re, pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on, wind, air pres­su­re and humi­di­ty, to name some of the most important ones. Wea­ther is what you can see, feel and mea­su­re here and now. If you collect the same data over many years and turn them into aver­a­ges and other sta­tis­ti­cal values, then you take the cli­ma­te per­spec­ti­ve.

So, in this given case, it is hard to say if it would have hap­pend without cli­ma­te chan­ge. Sci­ence has made important advan­ces in recent years regar­ding such ques­ti­ons, so it would be inte­res­ting to hear an expert’s opi­ni­on or even see the results of sci­en­ti­fic model­ling of this week’s warm air incur­si­on in Spits­ber­gen.

All I can do here is try to come up with some more or less edu­ca­ted gues­sing. The ten­den­ci­es that cli­ma­te chan­ge crea­te for this part of the Arc­tic appe­ar to be pret­ty clear: more fre­quent wea­ther chan­ges, more strong wind, more pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on, espe­cial­ly more rain in the win­ter.

The­re are tho­se who will say now that win­ter rain was not com­ple­te­ly unhe­ard of 100 years ago, and yes, that is true. But both the fre­quen­cy and the inten­si­ty of the­se events are incre­a­sing now, and cur­rent cli­ma­te chan­ge makes an important con­tri­bu­ti­on to this deve­lo­p­ment, or rather: the decisi­ve one.

So, chan­ces are that we would not have had this week’s warm air incur­si­on up here without cli­ma­te chan­ge, or at least that it would have been much less inten­se. We have had days of rain and tem­pe­ra­tures up to around 5 degrees cen­tig­ra­de – abo­ve free­zing! In March! I still can’t real­ly belie­ve it.

Also locals who have seen many Spits­ber­gen win­ters watch the wea­ther with asto­nis­ment and very litt­le amu­se­ment the­se days. And tho­se who came up exact­ly this week to enjoy the arc­tic win­ter­won­der­land – well, what can I say. My pity is with them.

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

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News-Listing live generated at 2022/August/14 at 02:47:33 Uhr (GMT+1)
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