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Plannng an expedition to an extreme environment

The place that our expedition is going to take is in the region of Norway called Svalbard. To get there we have to take a boat from Norway port and bring our equipments ready for the cold environment. The average temperature is around 5�C and -12�C in winter.

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Equipments I need to bring on the expedition are:

A parka is essential in cold weather. It insulates the heat even at a -47 degree Celsius. It is waterproof so the melted snow couldn’t get in to your body.

Insulator trousers are used to keep our legs warm. It is water proof with fleece lining to keep the heat in because the temperature is really low there.

Fleece jumper is essential in this harsh weather condition. It keeps our body temperature in which is great.

A woolly jumper is also good to keep heat in. I use this jumper as a spare in case the fleece gets dirty.

A long sleeve shirt is to be worn before the jumper to keep me extra warm.

Tracksuit bottoms with fleece lining are ideal to put on first before the thermal trousers. It will keep me extra warm.

These are essential accessories for parts of our body like hands, neck and head.

This faux fur hat keeps most of my body temperature in because the heat is loss through our head.

Earmuffs are good to keep my ears warm; scarf is great to prevent coldness to enter my body.

Waterproof gloves are used to keep my hands warm and prevent melted ice to get through the material.

Thermal socks are there to keep my feet warm and these water proof boots are useful to walk through snow and uneven land. They have thick rubber soles to prevent slipping and provide good friction.

Map and compasses are the must have. They will help me to find my way back if I get lost.

Water is good because it stop me from being dehydrated.

Dry food is ideal in this weather as it is easy to cook and quick.

Swiss knives are useful because you never know when you need it. I will need it to open a can or defend myself when I get attacked by a bear.

Task 2: Glacier retreat project

A: Find maps and photographs of Glaciers on Spitsbergen

1: Label the features you can see

2: How did glacier form and move?

1. Snow is collected over millions of years. The snow flake compressed and fused together, squeezing air and moistures out to create one solid ice block. With the pressure of more snow the firn will eventually over years become glacier ice.

2. Glacier is like a mighty river of ice. It is capable of doing what a river can do such as flow and change in flow rate. In ice, the flow rate is faster in the centre than at the edges and quicker on the surface than at the bottom because the gravity pulls the weigh there greater. That is why some glacier surge forwards than the other.

3. When ice moves it picks up rocks on the way therefore the rock make good cutting tools such as erosion. Erosion by plucking and abrasion make the hollow deeper and bigger.

* Plucking is when rocks and stones froze to the bottom of the glacier and being plucked up by the movements of the glacier.

* Abrasion happens when the materials rubbed against the bedrock at the bottom and sides of the glacier. They were being pulled down by gravity. This also causes wearing to the landscape. Fine grained debris polishes the bedrock called glacial polish.

4. Some of this debris is deposited at the edge of the corrie, as a moraine, building up the lip. This combined process creates a rounded shape, with a steep back wall, and an armchair shape characteristic of a corrie.

5. When the ice melts, a lake is left in the corrie. This is called a tarn.

3: Why do you think that many people might find them both interesting and enjoyable to look at?

I think people find it interesting to look at the glacier because they can find answers to their wonders of how landscape form. It is amazing to see the nature is so powerful which can move and change the land. They can also do some sporting activities such as camping and sledge riding. Furthermore they can compare the difference between places which are affected by glacier retreated and see how much ice have melted. They might find it interesting because they can see how the climate is changing and some responsibilities are down to human.

B: Look at the map on page 11 and other evidence that shows how glaciers have retreated on Spitsbergen

1: Using the picture above, the time scale that retreating of glacier has been measured is 103 years. Since 1900 and up until 2003, the resources tell me that the glacier has moved 3 miles from 1983 to 2003. I measure the scale and worked out that 3mile is equivalent to 1 cm. Therefore I can say that from 1900 to 2003, the glacier has moved 16 miles and in the present time, there is a great possibility of it moving further than 16 miles.

2: The ice moves at the rate of 241 metres every year from 1983 to 2003. The map shows the glacier melted the most in 1983 to 2003, the gap between 1900 to 1916 is smaller therefore I can say that less ice receded then. The amount of precipitation on this island is very little; causing ice on Svalbard accumulates snow very slowly. This affects the way the ice movements.

3: The evidence of glacier retreating appears to match with the theory of global warming because the ice is melting very fast as the year goes on. It is because the Earth is affecting by the green house effect. This means that heat and CO2 gas are being trapped in the atmosphere instead of leaving the Earth. They insulate the heat which causing ice to melt. The pollution is increasing which makes the ice melt faster as well. The “albedo effect” has an important role in climate change. It is used to describe what material can reflect sunlight. The higher the albedo the greater it can reflects the sunlight. The higher the Earth’s albedo, the more solar radiation will reflect and the Earth will heat up less. White is a good colour which doesn’t absorb the heat. If the ice melts, there will be more heat being trapped and will lead to more global warming because dark colour material tends to absorb heat than the lighter colour.

4: What the likely effects on melting glaciers in the sea around Svalbard Islands? Think about salinity, exposure to erosion and changes in the land/sea level.

Salinity: amount of salt dissolved in water.

Melting glaciers in the sea around Svalbard Islands effects on a lot of things such as the Thermohaline, living things like polar bear and climate not only on the island but also UK and other countries.

Ocean water never rest which means it moves constantly. The complicated patterns are influence by wind, the water’s salinity and heat content, bottom of the ocean’s structure and the Earth’s rotation. One of the biggest oceans current is the Gulf Stream. It transports 150 millions cubic metres per second of warm water from the Gulf of North Mexico across the Atlantic to Svalbard. On the way it mixes with water from other current, exchanging qualities of salinity, temperature, plants and animal. When warm Gulf Stream collides with the cold Atlantic current, it causes the seawater to become extremely dense. It is because warm water has higher mass due to the heat and salty water is heavier than fresh water.

The warm water sinks and exporting towards south but some will continue towards Svalbard. When it reaches South Atlantic, it moves east to join the current flows to Indian Ocean and the rest move to Pacific Ocean. There it will heat up and repeat the same cycle.

If the ice in Svalbard melts even more, there will be an increase in sea level as well as more fresh water will be added in to the ocean. This fresh water will move down south and affect the Gulf Stream because it will get colder and less salty; this also upset the process of Thermohaline. If the Gulf Stream slow down or shut down completely the climate in Britain would be colder. It would be like Moscow which is on the same latitude. This is called Rapid Climate Change. Britain is warmer than Moscow due to the warm current.

If the ice in Svalbard melts even more polar bear will have no where to live and reproduce because these bears rely on ice. They can not swim well enough to catch seals or fish. It will results in shortage of food and could lead to distinction.

If the ice in Svalbard melts even more the land will expose more because the glacier would disappear. This will have an impact on people and tourism on this island. The unique site and land on this island will change dramatically.

C. Read the Glacial meltdown information sheet.

1: The problem in suggest the reason why the glacier melts because of global warming is that it is not the only reason why. They blame it on human because we consume a lot of fossil fuel can produce toxic gas that harms the environment. Yes they are right partly, but even before we begin to us fossil foil, glacier already started to retreat. This is normal for them. They have different opinions and views but they need to know both side of the evidence. Furthermore, global warming doesn’t occur in a short amount of time. It is measured over a long period and find out the changes in pattern of the temperature, ocean life, etc…

2: It is important to know who produce and interpret the evidence of global warming because they could be bias and have different views of the global warming. Some time they can exaggerate. It is good to know all the evidence that global warming caused by human and nature.

This statement from Greenpeace is saying that the cause of global warming that makes ice melt is due to human activity such as burning fossil fuels in cars, aeroplane, bus, etc…They exaggerated it even though parts of it is down to human activity. The climate change is measured over many years, decades even centuries. Climate change doesn’t happen that quickly.

This evidence suggests that one of the reasons why glacier retreated faster is because some ice surges forward than the other. This is normal and is due to nature and not human activities.

Task 3: Climate change and effects on the food chain

A: Find out about phytoplankton that grows in Arctic waters.

Phytoplankton – Microscopic plants and plant-like organisms found in massive quantities in the sea. They are known as ‘the ocean’s grass’.

Algae bloom – A plankton bloom also known as algal bloom, is simply an area where phytoplankton (algae) reproduce very fast that you may find many thousand plant cells per litre of water. The chlorophyll in these plants colour the water green.

Zooplankton – Microscopic animals and animal-like organisms found in the sea.

1: Just like any normal plant, phytoplankton needs light, warmth, nutrients, carbon dioxide and water in order to grow and reproduce. The condition and environment around it has to achieve some of the requirements for algae to grow.

2: The Ocean’s bottom contains decaying plants and animals which carry nutrients; they are being brought to the surface by currents. Algae bloom occurs when the Sun comes out like in spring because plants need sunlight to develop healthily and gives it the colour green. The phytoplanktons also use the nutrients to produce; this leads to algae bloom as well as the bloom of zooplankton because they have more food to eat. The light and warmth control the multiplication of algae. In winter it is harder for this specie to grow.

3: The growth of phytoplankton is very important to the Arctic food chain because they are the producer. They are food to zooplanktons which they are eaten by fish. Small fishes like Arctic cod are eaten by other predators such as polar bears, whales, seabirds and other fish. If there are less of them then the population of other consumers and predator can decreased.

B: Look at page 12 in the High Arctic book. Look at the maps and other information about the growing conditions for plants on land in the Svalbard Islands and the Arctic in general.

CAFF stands for The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna.

1: Land surface: the Arctic tundra made of flat and low land surface. The further north you go the higher the land due to some mountains. The further up north, the land is usually covers in snow and only a few plants can survive, like in Spitsbergen. Plants on land only cover just over 5% of the surface and home to 165 species of plants on Svalbard.

Low land and mountain tundra’s vegetation is composed of dwarf shrubs, sledges and grasses, mosses and lichens. Scattered trees grow in some tundra. The ecological boundary region between the tundra and the forest is known as the tree line. There are likely no trees and no bushes.

Taiga is described to be home to many living organism. Boreal forest refers to the southern part of this biomass. Northern taiga has small-leaves trees like birch, alder, willow and aspen. Nearly all the trees in this kind of forest are fir trees. They grow for just a few weeks and have tough leaves to survive frost, wind and snow. Whereas in southern also known as middle boreal. Trees grow bigger and home to many animals like red squirrel. The further south you go the more trees will grow and more living things are able to survive.

Soil: mountain tundra has permanent frozen soil. But judging in the pictures the soil is quite fertile as there are living things growing on it. Snow buttercups, lichens etc… are able to grow and reproduce on this soil. It is moist from the melted snow. Plants can not grow on the glacier because it is too cold to it to survive.

Temperature: plants on Spitsbergen can grow at temperature as low as -5�C. Plants like dwarf shrubs, sledges and grasses, mosses and lichens can survive at this temperature. The temperature increases as you go further south because it is nearer to the sun. the temperature raises after the snow melts so the plants can start growing.

Precipitation: the mountain tundra gets less rain than the other part of this Arctic because it is colder and dryer. Places like the taiga have more precipitation because the trees need rain in order to grow big. There are more moisture in the air there than the area around glacier.

Growing season:

The map shows the length of time that plants need to grow. So in spring, the mountain tundra will have 80 days to grow. These plants are short whereas the middle boreal will have 160 days of growing season because the plants are tall and have loads of leaves. The further south you go the longer the growing season. Colourful wildflowers bloom from the end of June to the end of July. They have to adapt to this every short season.

2. Describe the main characteristics of plants that are found on the land.

It is hard for plants to grow in the Arctic. Once the snow melts, the growing season is going to be short. Despite getting the most sunshine in summer, but the harsh weather condition have made the plants adapted to their environment such as Arctic tundra. They have distinctive characteristics such as being small, grow close together and close to the ground. This protects them from the cold temperatures and the strong winds. Some flowering plants covered in fine hair like the Arctic crocus to provide protection from the wind.

Flowering plants use all the sunlight they can to produce flowers at very fast speed because they knew growing season is very short. Some plants have cup shaped flowers that face up to the sun, so they can get the sunlight shines directly at the centre of the flower that’s why they are so bright. However, other plants have dark colour because they can absorb more heat. Some plants have small roots because only the top layer of the soil thaw and they have small leaves to retain moisture. Because of the short growing season, most tundra plants are perennials and they do not die in the winter. Other living organisms like lichens and mosses can survive on bare rock. They are very short.

3: Plants can be said to be part of a “fragile” environment is because they can be easily damaged. For example, tracks from a passing vehicle will tear up the fragile insulating tundra, allowing the soil to thaw into scars that may remain for hundreds of years therefore the surface layer is vulnerable to environmental damage. There are also other factors that could stop plants from growing such as colder temperature and shorter growing season. Plants there have already adapted to that low temperature, if it gets any lower there is a likely chance they will not survive. Furthermore, if the sun is not giving them enough sunlight, they wouldn’t be able to grow healthily.

C: Look at the Arctic food chain on page 13 in the High Arctic book.

1: The Arctic food chain consists of many animals, sea animals, land and sky. The most important producers start in the sea like the phytoplankton. They are food to the zooplankton and from that fishes consume them. Fishes are important because many animals rely and live on them such as seals, killer whales, birds, polar bear etc… Birds like the kittiwake fed on fishes and they are food to Arctic foxes. If it wasn’t for the sea animals, the land animals wouldn’t be able to survive because they have nothing to eat.

The sea environment keeps the food chain balance by providing the right amount food at the right time. Like when a female polar bear gave birth to her cub in December, the algae would bloom after December and make food for the polar bear. Numbers of birds are more than number of fishes. If the fishes do not multiply then it could cause a fall in number of animals. Numbers of whales are shortening due to whale hunting by human and animals. The food chain has interlinking which means a specie consumes more than one type of food. This increases the chance of getting something to eat than some other living organisms.

2: If the ice melts, the number of seals will decrease because they will have no where to mate and rest which will lead to the falling in polar bear’s population. However, the number of fishes will increase and population of birds and foxes. It is because they will have fewer predators and more food to eat. Killer whales will be relying on squids and other fishes instead having them as well as seals. Their population will decrease but not greatly. In the future, seals might be hunted for their skin or their fat or it could be the melting of ice which will leave them homeless.

4: After the coal mining industry closed in the 1980s the future of Longyearbyen, a city in Svalbard seems to have no hope. The economy went down hill because there was not enough income and the population was decreasing. The Norwegian government decided that it would create new business opportunities on Svalbard. One of the main activities to be developed was tourism.

Svalbard is a very beautiful wilderness, with many rare living organisms, and it’s also a part of the Arctic that is easily accessible by plane. Because of the Gulf Stream, the temperature is not as cold compared to other places on the same Northern latitude.

Longyearbyen received 25,000 tourists every year and they arrive by plane and another 25,000 visit on a cruise ship. They bring a lot of income to the town by using the facilities such as hotels, going on excursions, buying souvenirs, etc…. It’s important that the government carefully manage the wilderness so that tourists can still enjoy coming here in the future because the view and places here are exclusive to Svalbard.

It is advised not to use modern transport to go around on this island. Tourists can take the aeroplane or cruise ships but if they want to explore this land more it is best to only go with dogs, or on foot, or by skiing. One of the reasons they believe using those environmental friendly transport is because tourist come here from big city to find peace and quite. Silence is a valuable commodity today. If they raced around on snowmobiles, then people wouldn’t want to come as much. In addition, motorised vehicles cause damage to the environment.

They produce more C02 and destroy landscape. The Government of Norway has set a goal of trying to make Svalbard one of the best managed wildernesses in the world. To achieve this they have put a lot of regulations into force, including the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act. The purpose of this Act is to preserve a virtually untouched environment in Svalbard. Littering is forbidden, you can not pick a flower or even move a stone on the beach.