An Iceberg of Science

05.01.2010
Melting ice and the effects on nature and society in the Arctic region and globally were visualised and discussed extensively at the Arctic Venue inside the North Atlantic Pier House in central Copenhagen during COP15. Stands and presentations from numerous institutions and stake holders could be visited, among them NordForsk.
- Arctic climate is changing significantly at a rapid pace and the consequences will be felt on a global scale, stated Freshnor project co-ordinator Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen from DMI (Danish Meteorological Institute), and program committee member in the Top-level Research Initiative at a session on 17 December.

Satellite images and field studies show clearly that the ice in the arctic is shrinking dramatically in both thickness and volume. The Freshnor project is supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers and is studying the fresh water cycle in the Nordic region. The main aim has been to coordinate efforts made in the field within the Nordic countries, so as to understand the climate system and the hydrological cycle of the Nordic seas. Models of the various components at high resolution are necessary to capture the physical processes at play.

- Continued loss of sea ice at the present rate may result in an ice free arctic ocean within one decade, said Christensen.

Mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet has been increasing each year. Even when considering great variations over the past 25 years, the trend is clear: There is a marked change, with increased release of fresh water. The amounts of fresh water will have global effects.

One effect of the release of fresh water is more humidity in the air, and increased precipitation. Another is that Ecosystems are affected through warmer waters, including earlier spring bloom in the ocean and larger primary production.

Society itself in the Arctic region is already experiencing the effects of climate change as thawing permafrost results in damage to infrastructure and buildings. North Greenland hunters are experiencing rapid changes in climate that affect hunting habits, accessibility to hunting grounds and safety in transportation.

Common Nordic efforts
NordForsk Senior Adviser and Programme Secretary Michael Andersson presented the Top-level Research Initiative, the greatest Nordic effort on research and innovation ever, offering financing to Nordic research projects within climate change and its effects on nature and society. Two of the sub programmes within the initiative are specifically intended to build Nordic research contributions to the study of effects of climate change, and on how society should prepare for such effects.

Tough (for) climate in the Bella Center
In the Bella Center, where the main negotiations were held, the Nordic institutions presented the extensive ongoing collaboration involving Nordic institutions; from ambitious research projects and green energy solutions to financing climate projects in developing countries and activities in the Arctic.

Difficulties in the Bella Center the second week of COP15, affected also the Nordic activities there. - On the whole, the extensive Nordic climate cooperation received attention and good visibility. Problems in the practical arrangements by the UN did however affect some of our activities, says Patrik Edman from the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Communications Department.



Text: Anne Riiser
Photo: The North Atlantic House in Copenhagen was decorated to look like an iceberg during COP15. Photo by Inuk Silis Høegh, from Arctic Council.
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