by the Night Writer
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my warm house, in a comfy chair, just flicking my gloveless fingers over my keyboard and I discovered that the amount of global sea ice was as high as it had been at any time since 1979, according to satellite observations of both the northern and southern hemisphere polar regions monitored by the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center. Of course, those paying attention will remember that 2008 was the year that some were predicting that the North Pole would melt entirely.
Didn’t happen. In fact, there was about 10 percent more ice in August of ’08 than there was in August of ’07. The last quarter of the year then saw an exceptionally fast and widespread refreeze to reach the 29-year high reported above.
Meanwhile, the Caitlin Arctic Survey team from the UK set out earlier this year to measure for themselves the amount and thickness of the arctic ice, predicting that due to climate change they’d have to swim (using special suits) for as much as 15 percent of the excursion.
Instead, severe weather and extreme cold put the team in danger as re-supply flights had trouble reaching the explorers:
Three global warming researchers stranded in the North Pole by cold weather were holding out hope Wednesday as a fourth plane set off in an attempt deliver them supplies.
The flight took off during a break in bad weather after “brutal” conditions halted three previous attempts to reach the British explorers who said they were nearly out of food, the Agence France-Presse reported.
“We’re hungry, the cold is relentless, our sleeping bags are full of ice,” expedition leader Pen Hadow said in e-mailed statement. “Waiting is almost the worst part of an expedition as we’re in the lap of the weather gods.”
Fortunately, a relief flight did manage to reach the group the other day, but it was touch and go for awhile:
“It’s been a pretty grim time waiting for the weather to lift enough to get the plane in. It’s no place to just hang around when it’s minus 40 degrees [Celsius], but we could not afford to move without our essential kit, food, fuel and batteries for our survey and communications gear,” said Hadow, the expedition leader, “All of us are just wanting to get going quickly and have a high calorie meal to fuel ourselves up.”
I’m glad to hear that the team is all right for now as only polar bears would truly be happy about the group’s predicament. Some of the commenters on the rescue story are upset, however, that fuel-burning, carbon-dioxide-spewing airplanes were used to resupply the expedition. Perhaps relief via a nuclear sub would have been better?