View Full Version : Arctic ice free? Reality check.

Auburn Boy
01-29-2009, 11:57 AM
If the Arctic seas become ICE Free GLobal Politics will have some serious adjustments to make.


Arctic's thaw brings security risks for NATO
By DAVID STRINGER Associated Press Writer
Posted: 01/29/2009 04:24:56 AM PST

REYKJAVIK, Iceland—An Arctic thaw will open up sea routes and competition for lucrative energy reserves in a multinational scramble sure to pose new security threats, NATO's chief said Thursday.
NATO commanders and lawmakers meeting in Iceland's capital said a military presence in the region will eventually be needed as standoffs between powerful nations unfold.

"I would be the last one to expect military conflict—but there will be a military presence," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told delegates. "It should be a military presence that is not overdone, and there is a need for political cooperation and economic cooperation."

The NATO chief said negotiations involving Russia, NATO and other nations are the key to preventing a future conflict. De Hoop Scheffer is expected to meet Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov next week to discuss such issues.

The opening up of Arctic sea routes once only navigable by icebreakers threatens to complicate delicate relations between countries with competing claims to Arctic territory—particularly as once inaccessible areas become ripe for exploration for oil and natural gas.

The United States, Russia and Canada are among the countries attempting to claim jurisdiction over Arctic territory alongside Nordic nations. Analysts say China is also likely to join a rush to capture oil and gas trapped under the region's ice.

"Several Arctic rim countries are strengthening their capabilities, and military activity in the High North region has been steadily increasing," de Hoop Scheffer said.

Strategists expect territorial disputes to become increasingly aggressive as the world's energy demands increase.

"Climate change is not a fanciful idea, it is already a reality, a reality that brings with it certain new challenges, including for NATO," said de Hoop Scheffer, acknowledging that an upsurge of energy exploration would likely require a larger NATO presence in the Arctic.

Some scientists predict that Arctic waters could be ice-free in summers by 2013, decades earlier than previously thought. De Hoop Scheffer said trans-Arctic routes are likely to become an alternative to passage through the Suez or Panama canals for commercial shipping.

"The end of the Cold War resulted in a marked reduction in military activity in the High North—Iceland would like it to stay that way," Iceland's outgoing Prime Minister Geir Haarde told the conference.

Haarde tendered his resignation Monday amid the country's economic crisis and said the one-day conference was among his final duties before he steps down on Saturday.

Lee Willett, head of the maritime studies program at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based military think tank, said that as routes open up, warships from nations seeking to defend claims to possible energy resources are will follow.

"Having lots of warships, from lots of nations who have lots of competing claims on territory—that may lend itself to a rather tense situation," Willett said. "We may see that flash points come to pass there more readily than elsewhere in the world."

Russia and Canada have already traded verbal shots over each other's intentions in the Arctic.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he'll firm up control of the disputed Northwest Passage, while Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seeks to lay claim to Arctic territory equivalent to the size of France.

Six people were arrested on Wednesday outside the Reykjavik conference venue—two for burning a NATO flag. Many Icelanders oppose the volcanic island's membership in the military bloc, fearing it compromises the nation's independence.

02-21-2009, 08:26 PM
Glacier's Plumbing System Overwhelmed

Thursday February 19, 2009http://images.livescience.com/images/090219-mountain-glacier-04.jpg

A recent University of Colorado at Boulder press release (http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2008/16.html) announced new research suggesting meltwater periodically overwhelms the interior drainpipes of Alaska's Kennicott Glacier and causes it to lurch forward.
This picture reveals the view of Kennicott Glacier, Alaska, looking toward 16,390 foot Mt. Blackburn in its headwaters. Research on this Alaskan glacier by a small team of researchers based out of the University of Colorado, led by Robert and Suzanne Anderson and graduate student Tim Bartholomaus, takes advantage of an annual outburst flood from a side-valley water-body called Hidden Creek Lake.

The outburst flood serves as a probe of how the hydrologic system of a glacier influences its sliding speed, which in turn governs how glaciers erode the landscape.

In a study funded by the National Science Foundation, the researchers made detailed measurements of the glacier's speed using five GPS instruments, water depths in side-glacier lake basins, and water discharge in the outlet river. The data strongly suggest that basal motion (sliding and/or till deformation) occurs whenever water flowing into the glacier exceeds the capacity of the glacial plumbing system. Specifically, the addition of excess water from melting and flooding causes water to back up into a honeycomb of passages inside the glacier, and the resulting increase in water pressure appears to cause the glacier to slide more rapidly down its bedrock valley.

This overcharging of the plumbing system occurs during diurnal melt cycles, seasonal cycles, and during the huge annual outburst flood that is akin to a natural hydrology experiment on the glacier each summer.
"The phenomenon is similar to the plumbing system of a house that is incapable of handling excess water or waste, causing it to back up," Anderson said. "This is a feedback we are still trying to understand and one that has big implications for understanding the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets, including the behavior of outlet glaciers on the Greenland ice sheet," which have been accelerating and are contributing to global sea rise.

The sliding eventually halts when the moving glacier opens up spaces in its bed that can accommodate some of the excess water. In addition, high rates of water flow eventually enlarge the conduits and ducts permeating the glacier, melting them back and allowing more water to bleed from the system, further decreasing the pressure.

http://www.livescience.com/researchinaction/ria-090219.html (http://www.livescience.com/researchinaction/ria-090219.html)