When I was invited to participate in a training for teachers and educators about climate in Longyearbyen my first thought was “where am I going?”. I soon discovered that Longyearbyen is a small coal-mining town in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, the realm of polar bears, reindeers and arctic foxes. I was going to the Arctic!
Svalbard is the perfect place to learn about climate and to investigate in situ indicators of climate change. During the five days of the course we investigated the depth of permafrost, sedimentation processes, landscape evolution and glacier size. The effects of climate change in Svalbard are already visible and dangerous. Due to abnormal rainfall (one month’s rainfall fell on just one day, and this is becoming more frequent) one of our outside trips to the Longyearbreen glacier had to be cancelled for safety reasons. However, we managed to map the front end of the glacier with the help of satellite data. Satellites are extremely useful for monitoring remote areas, like the Arctic, where bad weather and long periods of darkness make it difficult to do systematic in-situ monitoring.
Glacier dynamics and climate change are a very complex combination of processes. Which of these are due to natural phenomena and which due to global warming? I didn’t get a final answer but I brought a message home: we urgently need to communicate and teach accurately about climate to make the future generations aware of the challenges of our changing climate.
The field trip to Longyearbyen was part of the course “Climate research in the polar landscape” held by the Nordic European Space Education Research Office (Nordic ESERO) in cooperation with the Nord University, thanks to Nordic ESERO
for inviting me and to EJR-Quartz for covering my participation.