Tag Archives: Arctic

Melt: Dispatches from the High Arctic

On our last full day in Svalbard, Orion and I made a wide arc across the ridges east and south of Longyearbyen yesterday, covering the summits of Sukkertoppen, Gruvefjellet, Trollsteinen, and Lars Hiertafjellet, while arcing across the ridge behind the glacier, Larsbreen.

The skies were the clearest of our week-long visit here, and the views were incomparable, with endless ridges of glaciated peaks and valleys newly tinted green. While our eyes and imagination were drawn to distant horizons, the one constant throughout the day was most often just underfoot — the sound, presence, and often, unfortunately, palpable cold of running water. Everywhere — under the snow, atop the hard ice of the glacier, meandering through swales of fine silty moraine — it was the braiding of these many streams that heralded the warmth of this Arctic summer day.

Melt is, of course, an essential annual event for the Arctic — allowing a few short weeks in which millions of migrating birds, resident reindeer, foxes, and hundreds of species of plants revel in the relative warmth of this briefest and most intense of summers.

One can’t help, though, but place this annual flood in the context of our warming global climate — in which for instance, between June and August 2015, in Svalbard alone, glaciers lost four and a half million metric tons of meltwater every hour, and billions of tons of glacial ice are lost each year to global warming.

Like many aspects of the Arctic, this is nearly impossible to imagine, but being here, seeing both the immutable beauty of the hard blue ice of Larsbreen and Longyearbreen and the power of their melting waters, helps to bring this imagined world into clearer focus.

Melt from Pavel Cenkl on Vimeo.

8 Weeks until the Arctic Trail Run & Matching Fundraiser!

On the morning of August 1st, I’m planning to head out from Sulitjelma, Norway on the Nordkalottruta, bound for the Swedish border and my first campsite midway between the two lakes, Vastenjaure and Akkajaure, approximately 40 miles beyond the start of the trail.

4859990028_b192e75587_o

Vastenjaure photo by Magnus / salgo1960

With only 8 weeks to go, I’m settled into a training routine of between 60 and 70 miles of running a week, with a few short races remaining on the schedule for June and July. Combine that with cross-training, logistic planning, and working out the kinks in my camping setup, and suddenly there’s a whole lot to do!!

I was very excited to receive a Live Your Dream grant from the American Alpine Club late last month, and, in these final weeks of planning and prep, I am hoping to match the $750 from the AAC to complete my fundraising in advance of the Arctic Trail Run.

How can you help?

There are three ways!!

  1. Head on over to Atayne’s Climate Run Store and buy an Arctic Trail shirt. $10 from each sale goes directly to support Climate Run.
  2. Buy a Climate Run Skida Hat! Choose from all sorts of colors and sizes. Use my PayPal donation page to make your purchase & I’ll be in touch about styles. $15 from each sale goes to support Climate Run!
  3. Donate directly through the Climate Run GoFundMe Page!

I am so grateful to those who have already supported Climate Run: Sterling College, The Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Skida, Atayne, The Catamount Trail Association, The Northwoods Stewardship Center, Protect Our Winters, The Craftsbury General Store, Adventure Scientists, and many other organizations and individuals.

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Live Your Dream

I am super excited to share with everyone that the American Alpine Club has awarded me a Live Your Dream grant for the 2017 Arctic Trail Run.

The goals of the grant, which is supported by The North Face and other regional organizations, are to empower athletes “to dream big, to grow, and to inspire others.”

I am honored and humbled to have this support to help me build on my dream & share my experience as widely as possible.  I’m also excited to be an ambassador for the AAC during the process of this year’s run.

I wrote in my application back in February:

The goal of completing the 500-mile Arctic Trail Run in 12 days will push my abilities as a mountain and trail runner beyond anything I have experienced before. In doing so, I will also be able to draw increased attention to the critical issues facing cultures and ecological systems around the world from our changing climate.

The main goals of the Arctic Trail Run are:

  • Bearing witness to climate change
  • Fostering individual and community resilience
  • Working to change the narrative about climate change from resistance to resilience.

Thank you to everyone for the ongoing support — only 1,675 hours left before the run starts on August 1st!

Goals

One of the season’s first forays onto dry trails at Cady Hill, Stowe, Vermont


With the transition from the spring to summer semesters here at Sterling College, the trails have dried out, the sun rises earlier, and it’s been easier to find a few more hours in the week to focus on training. The Sterling running team has started 5:00 am summer practices three times each week, which has helped add more miles and more hill workouts into my weekly regimen.

Some students are starting out and running trails for the first time, some training for the upcoming Mount Washington Road Race, and some have longer term goals. Each person’s goals are unique, of course — from running a mile to completing a race to running across a small (or medium-sized!) country — the actual goal doesn’t matter.

What matters more is that we find meaning and intention in the goals we do build, and keep close those whose strength can help support us. A good friend recently asked me how I could find such focus on resilience and hope. So much so that my vehicle for doing so — running — has become a central part of my life — and the processes of training, planning, organizing, mentoring, and sharing stories of both adventure and climate.

When I leave for Norway in mid-July, I know that I’ll have the support of family, friends — so many new friends who have helped to support this work. I’m looking forward to meeting with new friends along the Arctic Trail and during stops in Svalbard, Tromsø, Bodø, Kautokeino, and elsewhere.

My goal, huge as it may seem, is at its heart really simple: I am just trying to figure out the best way that I can contribute to building meaningful communities and having thoughtful conversations.

And running has become a way for me to do just that.

From a recent training run on Mount Elmore, Vermont

Facts and science in a complicated world

Amid the political, social, and emotional tumult across our national stage this year, I have treasured my time training as a time to step outside the web of tweets, truths, media blackouts, funding cuts, posturing, and ‘alternative facts.’

Maybe to help me find some solid footing, during my hours (and hours) running, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about glaciers.

In particular, I have become preoccupied with glacial responses to climate change,  which is the rest of this post is all about. I hope you read on, but if you don’t (if glaciers <gasp> aren’t your thing), at least take away this:

Few things in this world are truly simple, and most are deserving of close attention to nuance.

The world is complicated.

Facts are essential.

Embrace complexity.

Climate change is one of those things. We can track the changing surface temperatures, ocean salinity, water temperature, glacial melt, polar sea ice extent, sea level, shoreline erosion, permafrost melt, and so on — all of which are small parts of a hugely complex system.

And all of which have, for many years now, painted a clear and compelling picture of a warming climate.

Even as we begin to understand the complexity of the climatic system, though, we can often find puzzling contradictions, like surging glaciers, which appear to store energy for decades in a period of quiescence and then release a burst of movement so quick it can often be thousands of times faster than the glacier’s typical speed.

Only about 1% of all the world’s glaciers fall into the category of surging glaciers, and they appear in one of the greatest concentrations in the Svalbard archipelago 500 miles north of Norway. One glacial system in particular, Nathorstbreen, surged forward more than 15 km over the course of 4 years — sometimes moving as fast as 25 meters per day (2500 times faster than normal).

sund-nathorstbreen

A satellite view of the Nathorstbreen surge from ‘Surge dynamics in the Nathorstbreen glacier system, Svalbard’ by M. Sund, et al.

Glaciologist Heidi Sevestre, an expert on surging glaciers around the world, admits,

Today in a period of global glacier recession, glaciers surge in many parts of the world. Surging glaciers complicate the investigation of glacier response to climate variability.

Dramatic as it is, a surge is simply another data point in a massively complicated global system. A glacial surge does not mean that these glaciers are growing. Their volume is still dramatically decreasing. Between June and August 2015, in Svalbard alone, glaciers lost four and half million metric tons of meltwater every hour.

That’s nearly impossible to imagine, but it matters.

This is where beliefs and facts based on empirical observation meet — and where we need to work hard to be sure that far-reaching decisions are based on evidence and are not merely reactionary.

Silencing the sharing of data, as complex or unimaginable as that data may be, is anathema to building resilience, community, or sound decision making.

svalbard-glacier

The Nathorstbreen Glacial System image from TopoSvalbard / NorskPolarinstitutt

 

We started a new semester yesterday, and in an effort to help students explore their new surroundings here in Vermont, we looked at, among other things, Terry Tempest Williams’ 2004 essay, Ground Truthing, in which she writes about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska:

The power of nature is the power of a life in association. Nothing stands alone. On my haunches, I see a sunburst lichen attached to limestone; algae and fungi are working together to break down each rock into soil. I cannot help but recognize a radical form of democracy at play. each organism is rooted in its own biological niche, drawing power from its relationship to other organisms. An equality of being contributes to an ecological state of health and succession.

A radical form of democracy begins with us, the people, making clear that facts, science, and transparency are essential — whether for building resilient communities or making intelligent decisions about our relationship with the natural world.