Tag Archives: water

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.

Microplastics — Bigger than you think!

ASC_logoI’m excited to announce that as part of the run across Iceland this June, I will be collecting more than a dozen 1-liter samples of both seawater and upstream river water for a global microplastics study through the terrific folks at Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. The research study, led by marine research scientists Abby Barrows, incorporates data from samples sent in by adventurers around the world.

What are microplastics & why study them?

Primary microplastics are the tiny plastic beads — microbeads — used in cosmetics like exfoliants and in industrial applications such as sand blasting.

Secondary microplastics come from the degradation of larger pieces of plastic that make their way into the ocean.

Worldwide production of plastics has increased 9% annually since 1950 to more than 230 million tons annually today.

Disposable plastic goods account for 10% of all global landfill waste.

An estimated 10% of this plastic waste ends up in our oceans.

Microplastics are now found in nearly all marine habitats–and often in shocking quantities:

According to one study over 2004 and 2005, just two rivers in Los Angeles CA contributed 2 billion microplastic particles to the ocean over a 3 day period.

In the Pacific Ocean alone, fish ingest an estimated 12,000-24,000 tons of plastic each year.

During the scouting, preparation, and with the help of support team members, I will be able to take samples from the south and north coasts of Iceland as well as along  rivers running from the interior highlands into both the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

I’m curious to see what we’ll find.

To learn more about microplastics and about ASC, check out the following:

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation

“Microplastics as contaminants in the marine environment