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Home → March, 2022

Monthly Archives: March 2022 − News


… 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.

Local tou­rism orga­ni­sa­ti­on asks mem­bers not to spend money in Rus­si­an sett­le­ments

Against the back­ground of Putin’s aggres­si­ve war in the Ukrai­ne, the local tou­rism inter-tra­de orga­ni­sa­ti­on Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd encou­ra­ged the mem­ber com­pa­nies not to spend money in the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen, Bar­ents­burg and Pyra­mi­den.

Barentsburg: brewery

Popu­lar in the past, now con­tro­ver­si­al: the bre­we­rey in Bar­ents­burg.

It was just a few days ago that Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd initi­al­ly made a dif­fe­rent decisi­on, arguing that boy­cotts and sanc­tions should be mea­su­res bet­ween governments and sta­tes, but not on a local level. The recent tur­naround came becau­se many poin­ted out that the inco­me gene­ra­ted in the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments bene­fits the owner of the sett­le­ments inclu­ding all tou­ris­tic offers and ser­vices: the Rus­si­an sta­te-owned Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol, or in other words: the Rus­si­an government, which now leads a bru­tal and ille­gal war in the Ukrai­ne.

Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd does not advi­se against tours to Bar­ents­burg and Pyra­mi­den, just from spen­ding money the­re. Tours espe­cial­ly to Bar­ents­burg used to be very popu­lar befo­re the recent lar­ge-sca­le Rus­si­an inva­si­on star­ted. The­se excur­si­ons usual­ly inclu­ded a local meal and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to buy sou­ve­nirs, inclu­ding local­ly made ones. Many tour ope­ra­tors will now stop this prac­ti­ce.

But not all: also the new decisi­on is con­tro­ver­si­al. The­re are tho­se tour ope­ra­tors who argue that such boy­cotts will hit the wrong peop­le, name­ly the local popu­la­ti­on – which inclu­des many Ukrai­ni­ans – rather than the regime in Moscow.

Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd makes only recom­men­da­ti­ons to the mem­ber com­pa­nies, but the­se recom­men­da­ti­ons are not bin­ding. Every tour ope­ra­tor will deci­de indi­vi­du­al­ly if they will con­ti­nue tours to the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments and if they con­ti­nue to buy and pay for local ser­vices.

Sun fes­ti­val in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The sun fes­ti­val (sol­fest) is an important high­light in the annu­al calen­dar for many in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It is tra­di­tio­nal­ly cele­bra­ted on 08 March, when the first direct rays reach Skjæ­rin­ga, the oldest part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. On this day, a lar­ge crowd comes tog­e­ther at the stairs of the old hos­pi­tal (which does not exist any­mo­re) clo­se to the church.

Sun festival (Solfest), Longyearbyen

Sun fes­ti­val (Sol­fest) in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

This was also what hap­pen­ed in good tra­di­ti­on this time, alt­hough clouds on the sou­thern hori­zon threa­tened to spoil the event. Many locals and cer­tain­ly also a num­ber of tou­rists gathe­red to cele­bra­te the return of the light. The tra­di­tio­nal pro­gram­me inclu­des sin­ging, and when the sun was figh­t­ing to get through around 12.45 hours, she was lively chee­red to until she inde­ed final­ly came out, to ever­y­bo­dies gre­at delight!

Sun festival (Solfest), Longyearbyen

Sun fes­ti­val in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: “Here comes the sun” 🙂

Talk of luck – soon, the hori­zon disap­peared again behind a grey curtain of clouds.

The sun fes­ti­val is actual­ly nmo­re than “just” the 08th of March, it is a who­le week with a seri­es of various cul­tu­ral events. Some of them, such as the tra­di­tio­nal revye that always comes with the sol­fest, have to be post­po­ned by several weeks becau­se too many of the artists are cur­r­ent­ly figh­t­ing Covid-19 🙁

Local tou­rism inter-tra­de orga­ni­sa­ti­on against boy­cott of Rus­si­an sett­le­ments

While the Rus­si­an war is raging in the Ukrai­ne, many are asking in Lon­gye­ar­by­en how to deal with the Rus­si­an neigh­bours in Bar­ents­burg, whe­re part of the popu­la­ti­on is Ukrai­ni­an, and the lar­ge­ly aban­do­ned sett­le­ment of Pyra­mi­den.

The important win­ter tou­rism sea­son has star­ted, and the many tou­rism com­pa­nies in Lon­gye­ar­by­en were loo­king for­ward to the sea­son after two very dif­fi­cult coro­na years. Day trips to Bar­ents­burg have, so far, been amongst the most popu­lar offers; Pyra­mi­den is also an important desti­na­ti­on, alt­hough less fre­quent­ly visi­ted than Bar­ents­burg becau­se if it fur­ther away.

Now many in the indus­try are won­de­ring how to deal with the­se offers con­si­de­ring the Rus­si­an aggres­si­on, war and cri­mes in the Ukrai­ne and the inter­na­tio­nal reac­tions. The local tou­rism inter-tra­de orga­ni­sa­ti­on Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd has taken the ques­ti­on upn and dis­cus­sed it bet­ween their mem­bers and with aut­ho­ri­ties.

Barentsburg

Bar­ents­burg: usual­ly a popu­lar desti­na­ti­on, now con­tro­ver­si­al.

As a result, Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd does not recom­mend to boy­kott the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments. The orga­ni­sa­ti­on argues that sanc­tions should be mea­su­res on a govern­men­tal level but not on a local, pri­va­te sec­tor level, whe­re a boy­kott is more likely to hit peop­le local­ly rather than the Rus­si­an government and others who are respon­si­ble for the cur­rent war and crime in the Ukrai­ne. Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd indi­ca­tes that they unders­tood from Oslo aut­ho­ri­ties that a nor­mal rela­ti­ons­hip is desi­red on a local level, accord­ing to Sval­bard­pos­ten.

Some mem­bers had argued for a boy­kott of the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments, and cli­ents had can­cel­led their boo­kings. Accord­ing to Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd, it is up to every com­pa­ny not to offer trips to Bar­ents­burg or Pyra­mi­den, and it is any­way up to every tou­rist to book a tour to the­se sett­le­ments or not.

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News-Listing live generated at 2022/August/14 at 02:57:31 Uhr (GMT+1)
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