Arctic climate amplification and Siberia’s burning forests

Usually Arctic amplification is referred to as the reason why the Arctic is warming faster than the earth’s average, as the Arctic’s surface gets darker (due to less sea ice and snow), and the surface absorbs more heat.
What we see currently in Siberia with the burning forests sheds yet another light on how this affects people’s life in the region concretely. Right now in Yakutsk, usually the world’s coldest big city, you can hardly breathe through the smog from the burning forests in Siberia.

In Yakutsk the afternoon sun hardly cuts through the smog, foto 16/07/2021

This seems to be having really bad health consequences for local people. Last night I couldn’t sleep because dry cough kicking in, and the usual option of ‘going out to get some fresh air’ doesn’t work: outside the air is still worse than in any room, as the entire region is full of smoke.
Friends told me last night that they hardly saw any sun for the last three weeks, even when there were no clouds. And in cloudy weather, some of the rain didn’t make it all the way to the ground through the thick smog. So I started reading the local news and was shocked: as of yesterday in the city the heavy particle concentration exceeded the legal maximum 8 times, and so did the nitrogen dioxide concentration. Therefore the authorities recommend not to go out, not do physical exercise, and wear masks with particle filters – good that people got used to wearing masks for the last 1.5 years anyway:( . But what on earth can all our friends do who live in the forests herding their reindeer, horses, cattle in the area? They don’t have houses where they can isolate themselves with air condition behind windows from this ‘fresh’ air. They’ve got to breathe it 24/7. And they will hardly wear masks in their nomadic tents…
One commentary to that news said that recently they measured exceeded limits by 36 times and he wondered how the air got so much cleaner that it’s now ‘only’ 8 times? They must have adjusted the legal limits to make it look less severe, he argues.

One could say ‘yes, forests and land is burning all over the place: last year Australia, every year US, so what’s special about Siberia’s burning land?
I am not an expert, and surely the colleagues from the Yakutsk permafrost institute could say more – but I think the difference to forests in non-Arctic forests is this: here the plants, forests, tundra grow on permafrost ground. Long-term fires heat up that ground even further than usual. Thus, the permafrost thaws even deeper, the active layer gets even bigger. This might amplify the unearthing of all kinds of ingredients, for better or worse: mammoth tusks, anthrax bacteria, methane, and all sorts of stuff. So the forest fires’ impact on the permafrost might be another dimension of the Arctic amplification, with consequences for the entire planet. Maybe the American and Australian forest fires were also pretty bad for the entire planet, but it seems in Siberia that impact on the permafrost is another addition.
Ironically, Yakutia is the world’s only place (as far as I know) where the authorities have passed a law on the protection of the permafrost (22.05.2018 2006-З № 1571-V) . As beautiful as it sounds – what does this help if the forest fires cannot be fought effectively locally? In the local news commentaries, the authorities have been criticized heavily for their disaster response

As of the 17 July noon there are still 134 fires burning in Yakutia. . I have been mostly in the city so far, and even there local people have to pay the local toll for this ecological disaster. Even more so people in villages and in the forest, who depend on the treasures of the land for their traditional livelihood.

Permafrost thaw responsible for Norilsk oil spill, impacting indigenous fishing?

Talking to a friend in Se Yakha, at the shore of the Ob Bay close to the Kara Sea, I realised how far the consequences of the recent Norilsk oil spill could go: the recent New York Times article about the oil spill cite environmentalists and even a Russian minister saying that the consequences of the spill could last for a decade. This is echoed by our friends from the Yamal Peninsula, who might be again among the most vulnerable victims.
The concern is that the spilled oil will eventually end up in the Kara Sea. And if that happens, it will contaminate the water along of the migration route of fish, on which the indigenous population along the shores rely for their subsistence and livelihood.

Continue reading “Permafrost thaw responsible for Norilsk oil spill, impacting indigenous fishing?”

Record early river-thaw in Siberia

The warm weather in Siberia seems to have led to an exceptionally early ice-thawing on Siberia’s major rivers. The specific of the river geography here is that all the major rivers flow from south to north, into the Arctic Ocean. This means the ice melts in the south first, and then the water pushes into the existing ice downstream northwards, leading to ice-jams. Sometimes this is visually quite impressive. This year this happens earlier than usual all over the Russian Arctic, read the following info west to east:

Sometimes the ice chunks pushed one over another by the river water can be quite high. In Yamal this is all carefully monitored by search and rescue services (12 May 2020, Salekhard, photo K. Ochepkov)
Continue reading “Record early river-thaw in Siberia”

Cities and Water in a Time of Climate Change

International PhD Academy June 1–5, 2020 in Venice

last call for Applications until February 15, 2020 via VIU website!

Join this unique opportunity for a broad global comparison of climate change results from the Arctic to the Global South, from Asia to Europe in one of the cities, that is much affected by climate change and dependent on water.

Our planet is suffering dramatic urgencies, exacerbated by climate change.
Excess and lack of water largely impact urban life in our cities and territories. Floodings and droughts are among the main causes of social tension, migrations among continents, desertification and hydrogeological risks, loss in food production, inadequate waste treatment.
Cities use too much water and too quickly for nature to keep up, and there is an urgent need to radically rethink the role of water in cities. Reducing consumption and better use of water is not enough under the pressure of climate change. Water is largely mismanaged: the preservation of aquifers and the extension of the lifecycle of water for entire cities is necessary.

Faculty
Maria Chiara Tosi, Iuav University of Venice (Coordinator)
Margherita Turvani, Iuav University of Venice (Coordinator)
Francesco Musco, Iuav University of Venice
Paola Viganò, Iuav University of Venice
Bruno De Meulder, KU Leuven
Kelly Shannon, KU Leuven
Jiane Zuo, Tsinghua University
Michele Vurro, National Research Council of Italy
Andrea D’Alpaos, University of Padua
Patrizio Antici, INRS, Canada
Uwe Lübken, Ludwig Maximilian University
Oleg Pachenkov, EUSP
Stephan Dudeck, EUSP
Renzo Rosso, Polytechnic University of Milan
Mariam Traore Chazalnoel, IOM, New York
Gideon Wolfaardt, Stellenbosch University

The one-week program is structured as a series of guest lectures (from the universities partner and others), poster presentations from the participants PhD students and transversal skill sessions, structured to guide the participants towards the development and presentation of group projects.

Four thematic modules:
– Settlements and water in a time of climate change
– Historical and geographical perspectives
– Climate migrants, water, food, urban daily life
– Urban projects-policies, water projects-policies
– Site visits to provide participants with practical examples of the issues at stake.

The program also includes a parallel program of training in a range of Transversal Skills for developing their academic careers, and poster sessions for the participants to present their PhD research projects.

Who can apply?
This PhD Academy is offered to PhD students, post-docs and researchers in Urban Design, Urban Studies, Urban planning, Geography, Sociology, Economics, History of cities and water, Environmental Science and Engineering.
The PhD Academy is primarily for candidates from VIU’s member universities, although applications from excellent external candidates will be considered and evaluated. External candidates admitted to the PhD Academy will pay fees (further information available in the Brochure). VIU Alumni are eligible for a reduced fee.
Students from the VIU member institutions will pay no participation fees. Grant support is also available to support, partially or fully, the costs of international travel; accommodation on campus, in shared rooms, will be offered.

Applicants must submit the (1) application form, (2) a letter of motivation – which should include a short bio and a brief description of the candidate’s research project, (3) a curriculum vitae and (4) a photo.
For further information: please download the Brochure and the Program or write to phdacademy@univiu.org

Future Arctic Ecosystems revisited or reindeer herding at the verge of extinction?

30 Oct, 14:00, Rovaniemi, Arktikum, 2nd floor, coffee room.

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The world’s northernmost herding horses? at work in herding reindeer, Kharaulakh, Laptev Sea

In this Wednesday Afternoon Coffee Chat (WACC) Florian Stammler will have a dialogue session with Aytalina Ivanova from Yakutsk reflecting on Arctic research agendas. What was supposed to be the first trip in a new multi-party consortium on scenarios of a changing Arctic became an example of how research agendas can – and should – change in response to the concerns of those people with whom we work in the field. During the first research trip, it turned out that rather than the project topic – people in the field were concerned about other things that are more immediately related to their future as a community. You are welcome to join and find out what worries people even more than the changing Arctic Climate. This WACC will feature impressive photos and videos from a very extreme environment on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, with nomads who unite tradition and innovation in very original ways. All welcome, coffee and biscuits will be served.

ACCESS project – Arctic Climate Change, Economy and Society

Greetings from stormy Bugøynes

‘Havet (‘ocean’ – norweg.) is giving and taking’. 

Many people in the coastal area refer to ‘giving and taking’ properties of seawater. The coastal village lives from the sea – cod/salmon/crab fishing, ‘Arctic’ tourism. The King crab, introduced to the Barents Sea from the North Pacific Ocean the 1960s by Soviet scientists, has become a blessing for the local community. While the Norwegian government and scientists are still challenged with the question – Is the King crab a curse or an asset? – the market demand for the delicacy is high and the local crab farm and processing factory create jobs for the community. The story of Bugøynes – ‘from the brink of existence to prosperity’ (http://barentsobserver.com/en/sections/business/bugoynes-story-survival-and-prosperity) – is a successful story of survival through the different downturns (collapse of cod stocks, unemployment, aging population, outmigration) and about community viability.

Bugoynes

Continue reading “ACCESS project – Arctic Climate Change, Economy and Society”