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Fieldwork in the High Arctic found cataclysmic impact of climate change happening 70 years ahead of what the scientific models expected.


 During the month of December 2021 two warnings of impending sea level rise were issued by highly respected groups of climate scientists. These are professional scientists who do not deal in hyperbole. Rather, they are archetypical conservative serious-minded scientists who follow the facts.

The most recent warning on December 30th is of deteriorating conditions at the Arctic and Greenland.

The second warning is the threatening collapse in Antarctica of one of the largest glaciers in the world.

As these event unfortunately coincide so close together, one at the top of the world, the other at the bottom, should coastal cities plan to build sea walls? An article by M. Farquharson, et al in Geophysical Research Letters d/d June10, 2019 stated: “Observed maximum thaw depths at our sites are already exceeding those projected to occur by 2090.” In other words, fieldwork in
the High Arctic found cataclysmic impact of climate change happening 70 years ahead of what the scientific models expected.

 Counterpunch 7th Jan 2022

 https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/01/07/when-to-build-sea-walls/

January 13, 2022 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Enormous Antarctic glacier becoming unstable

Boaty McBoatface craft to explore further beneath ‘Doomsday glacier’ than ever before

Glacier the size of the UK contains enough water to raise global sea levels by 65cm

Harry Cockburn, Environment Correspondent,

Antarctica’s enormous Thwaites glacier, AKA the “Doomsday glacier”, is the size of Britain, but is becoming increasingly unstable and poses a major risk to millions of people living on coastlines around the world.

Thwaites contains enough water to directly raise sea levels by 65cm if it collapses, but there are fears it could also spark a chain reaction leading to

even greater sea level rises of several metres. Now, a new research mission has been launched using a fleet of underwater robots, to further investigate the melting ice sheet which is – for now – holding the
glacier back.

 Independent 6th Jan 2022

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/boaty-mcboatface-doomsday-glacier-antarctica-b1987253.html

January 10, 2022 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change | Leave a comment

Maori workers exposed to radiation in cleaning up USA’s failed nuclear reactor in Antarctica

Detour: Antarctica – Kiwis ‘exposed to radiation’ at Antarctic power plant,  https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/detour-antarctica-kiwis-exposed-to-radiation-at-antarctic-power-plant/NY5WTQ72JF4OFUW4F35ZSUCB6U/ 8 Jan, 2022 By Thomas Bywater, Thomas Bywater is a writer and digital producer for Herald Travel

In a major new Herald podcast series, Detour: Antarctica, Thomas Bywater goes in search of the white continent’s hidden stories. In this accompanying text series, he reveals a few of his discoveries to whet your appetite for the podcast. You can read them all, and experience a very special visual presentation, by clicking here. To follow Detour: Antarctica, visit iHeartRadio, or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Waitangi Tribunal will consider whether NZ Defence Force personnel were appropriately warned of potential exposure to radiation while working at a decommissioned nuclear reactor in Antarctica.

It’s among a raft of historic claims dating from 1860 to the present day before the Military Veterans Inquiry.

After an initial hearing in 2016, the Waitangi Tribunal last year admitted the Antarctic kaupapa to be considered alongside the other claims.

“It’s been a bloody long journey,” said solicitors Bennion Law, the Wellington firm representing the Antarctic claimants.

Between 1972 and the early 1980s, more than 300 tonnes of radioactive rubble was shipped off the continent via the seasonal resupply link.

Handled by US and New Zealand personnel without properly measuring potential exposure, the submission argues the Crown failed in its duty of care for the largely Māori contingent, including NZ Army Cargo Team One.

“This failure of active protection was and continues to be in breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” reads the submission.

The rubble came from PM3A, a portable nuclear power unit on Ross Island, belonging to the US Navy. Decommissioned in 1972, its checkered 10-year operating history led it to be known as ‘Nukey Poo’ among base inhabitants. After recording 438 operating errors it was shut off for good.

Due to US obligations to the Antarctic Treaty, nuclear waste had to be removed.

Peter Breen, Assistant Base Mechanic at New Zealand’s Scott Base for 1981-82, led the effort to get similar New Zealand stories heard.

He hopes that NZDF personnel involved in the cleanup of Ross Island might get medallic recognition “similar to those who were exposed at Mururoa Atoll”. Sailors were awarded the Special Service Medal Nuclear Testing for observing French bomb sites in the Pacific in 1973, roughly the same time their colleagues were helping clear radioactive material from Antarctica.

A public advisory regarding potential historic radiation exposure at McMurdo Station was published in 2018.

Since 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal has been a permanent commission by the Ministry of Justice to raise Māori claims relating to the Crown’s obligations in the Treaty of Waitangi.

The current Military Veterans’ Kaupapa includes hearings as diverse as the injury of George Nepata while training in Singapore, to the exposure of soldiers to DBP insecticides during the Malayan Emergency.

Commenced in 2014 in the “centenary year of the onset of the First World War” the Māori military veterans inquiry has dragged on to twice the duration of the Great War.

Of the three claimants in the Antarctic veterans’ claim, Edwin (Chaddy) Chadwick, Apiha Papuni and Kelly Tako, only Tako survives.

“We’re obviously concerned with time because we’re losing veterans,” said Bennion Law.

Detour: Antarctica is a New Zealand Herald podcast. You can follow the series on iHeartRadio, Apple PodcastsSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

January 8, 2022 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, health, indigenous issues, New Zealand, wastes | Leave a comment

Climate change has crashed Earth’s ”air – conditioners” – the North and South poles.

Though the continent stays frozen for much of the year, rising temperatures in the Pacific have changed how air circulates around the South Pole, which in turn affects ocean currents. Warm, deep ocean water is welling up towards coastlines, lapping at the ice sheet’s weak frozen underbelly, weakening it from below.

“This is triggering the beginnings of a massive collapse,” Scampos wrote in an email from Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, where he is preparing for a field trip to Thwaites Glacier’s failing ice shelf………………………………….

Climate change has crashed Earth’s ‘air-conditioners’, risking rest of planet, The Age , By Sarah Kaplan, 16 Dec 21,   The ice shelf was cracking up. Surveys showed warm ocean water eroding its underbelly. Satellite imagery revealed long, parallel fissures in the frozen expanse, like scratches from some clawed monster. One fracture grew so big, so fast, scientists took to calling it “the dagger”.

“It was hugely surprising to see things changing that fast,” said Erin Pettit. The Oregon State University glaciologist had chosen this spot for her Antarctic field research precisely because of its stability. While other parts of the infamous Thwaites Glacier crumbled, this wedge of floating ice acted as a brace, slowing the melt. It was supposed to be boring, durable, safe.

Now climate change has turned the ice shelf into a threat – to Pettit’s field work and to the world.

Planet-warming pollution from burning fossil fuels and other human activities has already raised global temperatures more than 1.1 degrees Celsius. But the effects are particularly profound at the poles, where rising temperatures have seriously undermined regions once locked in ice.

In research presented this week at the world’s biggest earth science conference, Pettit showed that the Thwaites ice shelf could collapse within the next three to five years, unleashing a river of ice that could dramatically raise sea levels.

Up north, aerial surveys document how warmer conditions have allowed beavers to invade the Arctic tundra, flooding the landscape with their dams. Large commercial ships are increasingly infiltrating formerly frozen areas, disturbing wildlife and generating disastrous amounts of rubbish. In many Alaska Native communities, climate impacts compounded the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to food shortages among people who have lived off this land for thousands of years.

“The very character of these places is changing,” said Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre and co-editor of the Arctic Report Card, an annual assessment of the state of the top of the world. “We are seeing conditions unlike those ever seen before.”

The rapid transformation of the Arctic and Antarctic creates ripple effects all over the planet. Sea levels will rise, weather patterns will shift and ecosystems will be altered. Unless humanity acts swiftly to curb emissions, scientists say, the same forces that have destabilised the poles will wreak havoc on the rest of the globe.

“The Arctic is a way to look into the future,” said Matthew Druckenmiller, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre and another co-editor of the Arctic Report Card. “Small changes in temperature can have huge effects in a region that is dominated by ice.”

This year’s edition of the report card, which was presented at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting on Tuesday, describes a landscape that is transforming so fast scientists struggle to keep up. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global average. The October to December 2020 period was the warmest on record, scientists say.

Separately on Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed a new temperature record for the Arctic: 38 degrees in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk on June 20, 2020.

These warm conditions are catastrophic for the sea ice that usually spans across the North Pole. This past northern summer saw the second-lowest extent of thick, old sea ice since tracking began in 1985. Large mammals like polar bears go hungry without this crucial platform from which to hunt. Marine life ranging from tiny plankton to giant whales are at risk.

“It’s an ecosystem collapse situation,” said Kaare Sikuaq Erickson, Inupiaq, whose business Ikaagun Engagement facilitates cooperation between scientists and Alaska Native communities.

The consequences of this loss will be felt far beyond the Arctic. Sea ice has traditionally acted as Earth’s “air conditioner”; it reflects as much as two-thirds of the light that hits it, sending huge amounts of solar radiation back into space.

By contrast, dark expanses of water absorb heat, and it is difficult for these areas to refreeze. Less sea ice means more open ocean, more heat absorption and more climate change.

“We have a narrow window of time to avoid very costly, deadly and irreversible climate impacts,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Rick Spinrad said.

Record highs have also sounded the death knell for ice on land. Three historic melting episodes struck Greenland in July and August, causing the island’s massive ice sheet to lose about 34 trillion kilograms. On August 14, for the first time in recorded history, rain fell at the ice sheet summit…….

Though the Greenland ice sheet is more than a mile thick at its centre, rain can darken the surface, causing the ice to absorb more of the sun’s heat, Moon said. It changes the way snow behaves and slicks the top of the ice.

The consequences for people living in the Arctic can be dire. …………..

In Antarctica, University of Colorado-Boulder glaciologist Ted Scampos said “climate change is more about wind changes and ocean changes than warming – although that is happening in many parts of it as well.”

Though the continent stays frozen for much of the year, rising temperatures in the Pacific have changed how air circulates around the South Pole, which in turn affects ocean currents. Warm, deep ocean water is welling up towards coastlines, lapping at the ice sheet’s weak frozen underbelly, weakening it from below.

“This is triggering the beginnings of a massive collapse,” Scampos wrote in an email from Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, where he is preparing for a field trip to Thwaites Glacier’s failing ice shelf………………………………….

For many Arctic residents, climate change is a threat multiplier – worsening the dangers of whatever other crises come their way. Another essay in the report card documents the threats to Alaska Natives’ food security caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Quarantine restrictions prevented people from travelling to their traditional harvesting grounds. Economic upheaval and supply chain issues left many supermarkets with empty shelves.

But the essay, which was co-written by Inupiaq, Hadia, Ahtna and Supiaq researchers, along with experts from other Native communities, also highlights how Indigenous cultural practices helped communities stave off hunger. Existing food sharing networks redoubled their efforts. Harvesting traditions were adapted with public health in mind………………….

Though no place on Earth is changing as fast as the Arctic, rising temperatures have already brought similar chaos to more temperate climes as well. Unpredictable weather, unstable landscapes and collapsing ecosystems are becoming facts of life in communities around the globe.

None of this represents a “new normal,” Moon cautioned. It’s merely a pit stop on a path to an even stranger and more dangerous future.

Global greenhouse gas emissions are on track to keep rising. Governments and businesses have not taken the steps needed to avert catastrophic warming beyond 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. There is every reason to believe that instability at the poles – and around the planet – will get worse.

But achieving the best case climate scenarios could cut the volume of ice lost from Greenland by 75 per cent, research suggests. International cooperation could prevent garbage from getting into the oceans and alleviate the effects of marine noise. Better surveillance and early warning systems can keep people safe when melting triggers landslides and floods.

“There’s such a big range and difference in what the future of the Arctic and the future anywhere on our globe can look like,” Moon said. “It all depends on human actions.”

The Washington Post   https://www.theage.com.au/world/north-america/climate-change-has-crashed-earth-s-air-conditioners-risking-rest-of-planet-20211215-p59hny.html

December 16, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

An Antarctic glacier the size of Britain could ”shatter like a car windscreen” in the next 5 to 10 years

 An Antarctic glacier the size of Britain could “shatter like a car windscreen” in the next five to 10 years, causing a significant rise in global sea levels, scientists have warned. The Thwaites glacier in the western Antarctic is the widest on earth at 80 miles across.

A huge part of it is now in danger of breaking off and releasing hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice into the ocean. Data from a comprehensive study by the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) shows that this colossal glacier is particularly vulnerable to climate change, and the effects of its collapse would be devastating.

Thwaites – also known as the ‘Doomsday glacier’ – has already lost an estimated 900 billion metric
tons of ice since 2000. Its annual ice loss has doubled in the past 30 years, and it now loses approximately 45 billion metric tons more ice than it receives in snowfall per year, according to The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC).

If the glacier were to break up entirely and release all its water into the ocean, sea levels worldwide would rise by more than 2 feet (65 centimetres), said ITGC lead coordinator Dr Ted Scambos. “And it could lead to even more sea-level rise, up to 10 feet (3m), if it draws the surrounding glaciers with it,” Dr Scambos said in a statement.

 Telegraph 14th Dec 2021

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2021/12/14/antarctic-glacier-size-britain-could-shatter-like-car-windscreen/

December 16, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Antarctic ice sheet changed alarmingly quickly in past – and may be happening again now

Our findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence suggesting the acceleration of Antarctic ice-mass loss in recent decades may mark the beginning of a self-sustaining and irreversible period of ice sheet retreat and substantial global sea level rise,

“When we might see the eventual stabilisation of the ice sheet is unknown, because it will depend significantly on how much future climate warming occurs.”

Antarctic ice sheet changed alarmingly quickly in past – and may be happening again now, more https://www.miragenews.com/antarctic-ice-sheet-changed-alarmingly-quickly-676904/  19 Nov 21, Patterns of rapid ice loss in the past could predict style of future Antarctic ice sheet retreat.

The melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet may have already passed a point of no return, a new study has found, and scientists say it could contribute to sea level rise over coming centuries and possibly millennia.

The study, published overnight in Nature Communications and co-authored by Dr Zoë Thomas and Professor Chris Turney from UNSW Sydney, used geological data from Antarctica combined with computer models and statistical analyses to understand how recent changes compare to those from the past going back thousands of years.

Our study reveals that during times in the past when the ice sheet retreated, the periods of rapid mass loss ‘switched on’ very abruptly, within only a decade or two,” says Dr Thomas.

“Interestingly, after the ice sheet continued to retreat for several hundred years, it ‘switched off’ again, also only taking a couple of decades.”

Dr Thomas says the Antarctic Ice Sheet went through many of these on/off episodes, each time contributing to global sea level rise as the world warmed at the end of the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago.

The researchers’ findings confirm computer modelling that had indicated that the diminishing ice sheet had passed a critical tipping point leading to irreversible loss of parts of the ice sheet below sea level.

“We have already observed over the last two decades that the Antarctic Ice Sheet has suddenly started losing ice which has contributed to rising sea levels around the world,” says Prof. Turney.

“But the satellite data showing this speed-up only go back about 40 years, so we needed longer records to put this change in context.”

Looking for clues

The researchers examined the gritty sediments released from melting icebergs that settled into mud on the sea floor for clues to the ice sheet’s history of retreat and growth phases.

By counting the amounts of this iceberg-rafted sediment through the core, the scientists were able to identify eight phases with high amounts of debris which they interpreted as retreat phases of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Each phase showed the same pattern – the ice sheet destabilised within a decade, contributed to global sea level rise for centuries to a millennium, and then subsequently re-stabilised equally rapidly.

Combining the sediment record with computer models of ice sheet behaviour, the team showed that each episode of increased iceberg calving reflected increased loss of ice from the interior of the ice sheet, not just changes in the already-floating ice shelves.

Professor Nick Golledge from Te Puna Pātiotio, the Antarctic Research Centre at Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington, led the ice-sheet modelling.

“We found that iceberg calving events on multi-year time scales were synchronous with discharge of grounded ice from the Antarctic Ice Sheet,” he says.

Warning signs

Dr Thomas then applied statistical methods to the model outputs to see if early warning signs could be detected for tipping points in the ice sheet system. Her analyses confirmed that tipping points did indeed exist.

“If it just takes one decade to tip a system like this, that’s actually quite scary because if the Antarctic Ice Sheet behaves in future like it did in the past, we must be experiencing the tipping right now,” she says.

Lead author Dr Michael Weber, from the Institute of Geosciences at the University of Bonn, led the team that recovered cores of the sediment from the Southern Ocean.

“Our findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence suggesting the acceleration of Antarctic ice-mass loss in recent decades may mark the beginning of a self-sustaining and irreversible period of ice sheet retreat and substantial global sea level rise,” he says.

“When we might see the eventual stabilisation of the ice sheet is unknown, because it will depend significantly on how much future climate warming occurs.”

November 20, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change | Leave a comment

A nuclear arms race is unavoidable without serious intervention.

This one-upmanship will never provide a solution to the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons. The only winning move is to step off the track and return to the negotiating table. The parties to the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, including the P5 nuclear weapon states, are obliged to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race”. They will meet in January 2022 to take stock of their progress. Diplomacy, for all its certain challenges, is the only path forward.

A nuclear arms race is unavoidable without serious intervention. China, the US and Russia are each investing in highly effective missiles and defence systems,  https://www.ft.com/content/e30c0402-32a1-4c96-846d-48f2a2da7276 Ft.com LAURA GREGO  27 Oct 21, There are conflicting interpretations of the news that China has tested a specialised new long-range missile, capable of carrying a nuclear weapon around the Earth. US officials claimed it was part of a fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS) which could travel in Earth orbit and then release a manoeuvring vehicle to glide toward a terrestrial target. China’s Foreign Ministry objected to that description, calling the launch simply a test of reusable space technology.

Details may be obscure, but a few things are clear. One, none of these technologies are new, and it should be no surprise that China is capable of fielding them. Two, while China’s nuclear arsenal remains much smaller than that of the US or Russia, Beijing is pursuing strategies to make it larger and more sophisticated. A nuclear arms race is on, absent a serious effort to stop it.  

So why is China building new nuclear delivery systems and modernising its weapons after decades of retaining a modestly sized arsenal? One core driver is to make clear to an unconvinced United States that it is vulnerable to Chinese nuclear retaliation despite enormous investments in missile defences. Many of the technologies China is pursuing, including those believed to have been tested this summer, are designed to overwhelm or evade such defences.  

If this sounds familiar, it should. This dynamic has echoes of the US-Soviet Cold War arms race. Many of the technologies — FOBS, hypersonic gliders, missiles equipped with multiple nuclear warheads — are even the same. It took years for the United States and Soviet Union to arrive at a shared understanding that unconstrained pursuit of missile defences was destabilising the strategic balance.

However, having exited the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty designed to halt that race, the US has been developing a defence against intercontinental-range ballistic missiles for the past two decades. China’s new missiles hedge against the possibility that the United States may one day believe its technical advances permit it to strike China first while remaining invulnerable to a retaliatory nuclear attack.  


If this sounds familiar, it should. This dynamic has echoes of the US-Soviet Cold War arms race. Many of the technologies — FOBS, hypersonic gliders, missiles equipped with multiple nuclear warheads — are even the same. It took years for the United States and Soviet Union to arrive at a shared understanding that unconstrained pursuit of missile defences was destabilising the strategic balance. However, having exited the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty designed to halt that race, the US has been developing a defence against intercontinental-range ballistic missiles for the past two decades. China’s new missiles hedge against the possibility that the United States may one day believe its technical advances permit it to strike China first while remaining invulnerable to a retaliatory nuclear attack.

This one-upmanship will never provide a solution to the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons. The only winning move is to step off the track and return to the negotiating table. The parties to the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, including the P5 nuclear weapon states, are obliged to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race”. They will meet in January 2022 to take stock of their progress. Diplomacy, for all its certain challenges, is the only path forward.

October 28, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Scientists still don’t know how far melting in Antarctica will go – or the sea level rise it will unleash

Scientists still don’t know how far melting in Antarctica will go – or the sea level rise it will unleash

Chen Zhao and Rupert Gladstone

The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest mass of ice in the world, holding around 60% of the world’s fresh water. If it all melted, global average sea levels would rise by 58 metres. But scientists are grappling with exactly how global warming will affect this great ice sheet.

September 21, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Environmental degradation, illness, international tensions – small nuclear reactors had bad results in the Arctic

The U.S. military’s first attempts at land-based portable nuclear reactors didn’t work out well in terms of environmental contamination, cost, human health and international relations. That history is worth remembering as the military considers new mobile reactors

the U.S. still has no coherent national strategy for nuclear waste disposal, and critics are asking what happens if Pele falls into enemy hands.

The US Army tried portable nuclear power at remote bases 60 years ago – it didn’t go well   https://theconversation.com/the-us-army-tried-portable-nuclear-power-at-remote-bases-60-years-ago-it-didnt-go-well-164138
Paul Bierman
Fellow of the Gund Institute for Environment, Professor of Natural Resources, University of Vermont, 21 July 21

In a tunnel 40 feet beneath the surface of the Greenland ice sheet, a Geiger counter screamed. It was 1964, the height of the Cold War. U.S. soldiers in the tunnel, 800 miles from the North Pole, were dismantling the Army’s first portable nuclear reactor.

Commanding Officer Joseph Franklin grabbed the radiation detector, ordered his men out and did a quick survey before retreating from the reactor.

He had spent about two minutes exposed to a radiation field he estimated at 2,000 rads per hour, enough to make a person ill. When he came home from Greenland, the Army sent Franklin to the Bethesda Naval Hospital. There, he set off a whole body radiation counter designed to assess victims of nuclear accidents. Franklin was radioactive.

The Army called the reactor portable, even at 330 tons, because it was built from pieces that each fit in a C-130 cargo plane. It was powering Camp Century, one of the military’s most unusual bases.


Camp Century was a series of tunnels built into the Greenland ice sheet and used for both military research and scientific projects. The military boasted that the nuclear reactor there, known as the PM-2A, needed just 44 pounds of uranium to replace a million or more gallons of diesel fuel. Heat from the reactor ran lights and equipment and allowed the 200 or so men at the camp as many hot showers as they wanted in that brutally cold environment.

The PM-2A was the third child in a family of eight Army reactors, several of them experiments in portable nuclear power.

A few were misfits. PM-3A, nicknamed Nukey Poo, was installed at the Navy base at Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound. It made a nuclear mess in the Antarctic, with 438 malfunctions in 10 years including a cracked and leaking containment vessel. SL-1, a stationary low-power nuclear reactor in Idaho, blew up during refueling, killing three men. SM-1 still sits 12 miles from the White House at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. It cost US$2 million to build and is expected to cost $68 million to clean up. The only truly mobile reactor, the ML-1never really worked.

The U.S. military’s first attempts at land-based portable nuclear reactors didn’t work out well in terms of environmental contamination, cost, human health and international relations. That history is worth remembering as the military considers new mobile reactors.

Nearly 60 years after the PM-2A was installed and the ML-1 project abandoned, the U.S. military is exploring portable land-based nuclear reactors again.

In May 2021, the Pentagon requested $60 million for Project Pele. Its goal: Design and build, within five years, a small, truck-mounted portable nuclear reactor that could be flown to remote locations and war zones. It would be able to be powered up and down for transport within a few days.

The Navy has a long and mostly successful history of mobile nuclear power. The first two nuclear submarines, the Nautilus and the Skate, visited the North Pole in 1958, just before Camp Century was built. Two other nuclear submarines sank in the 1960s – their reactors sit quietly on the Atlantic Ocean floor along with two plutonium-containing nuclear torpedos. Portable reactors on land pose different challenges – any problems are not under thousands of feet of ocean water.

Those in favor of mobile nuclear power for the battlefield claim it will provide nearly unlimited, low-carbon energy without the need for vulnerable supply convoys. Others argue that the costs and risks outweigh the benefits. There are also concerns about nuclear proliferation if mobile reactors are able to avoid international inspection.

A leaking reactor on the Greenland ice sheet

The PM-2A was built in 18 months. It arrived at Thule Air Force Base in Greenland in July 1960 and was dragged 138 miles across the ice sheet in pieces and then assembled at Camp Century.

When the reactor went critical for the first time in October, the engineers turned it off immediately because the PM-2A leaked neutrons, which can harm people. The Army fashioned lead shields and built walls of 55-gallon drums filled with ice and sawdust trying to protect the operators from radiation.

The PM-2A ran for two years, making fossil fuel-free power and heat and far more neutrons than was safe.

Those stray neutrons caused trouble. Steel pipes and the reactor vessel grew increasingly radioactive over time, as did traces of sodium in the snow. Cooling water leaking from the reactor contained dozens of radioactive isotopes potentially exposing personnel to radiation and leaving a legacy in the ice.

When the reactor was dismantled for shipping, its metal pipes shed radioactive dust. Bulldozed snow that was once bathed in neutrons from the reactor released radioactive flakes of ice.

Franklin must have ingested some of the radioactive isotopes that the leaking neutrons made. In 2002, he had a cancerous prostate and kidney removed. By 2015, the cancer spread to his lungs and bones. He died of kidney cancer on March 8, 2017, as a retired, revered and decorated major general.

Camp Century’s radioactive legacy

Camp Century was shut down in 1967. During its eight-year life, scientists had used the base to drill down through the ice sheet and extract an ice core that my colleagues and I are still using today to reveal secrets of the ice sheet’s ancient past. Camp Century, its ice core and climate change are the focus of a book I am now writing.

The PM-2A was found to be highly radioactive and was buried in an Idaho nuclear waste dump. Army “hot waste” dumping records indicate it left radioactive cooling water buried in a sump in the Greenland ice sheet.

When scientists studying Camp Century in 2016 suggested that the warming climate now melting Greenland’s ice could expose the camp and its waste, including lead, fuel oil, PCBs and possibly radiation, by 2100, relations between the U.S, Denmark and Greenland grew tense. Who would be responsible for the cleanup and any environmental damage?

Portable nuclear reactors today

There are major differences between nuclear power production in the 1960s and today.

The Pele reactor’s fuel will be sealed in pellets the size of poppy seeds, and it will be air-cooled so there’s no radioactive coolant to dispose of.

Being able to produce energy with fewer greenhouse emissions is a positive in a warming world. The U.S. military’s liquid fuel use is close to all of Portugal’s or Peru’s. Not having to supply remote bases with as much fuel can also help protect lives in dangerous locations.

But, the U.S. still has no coherent national strategy for nuclear waste disposal, and critics are asking what happens if Pele falls into enemy hands. Researchers at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the National Academy of Sciences have previously questioned the risks of nuclear reactors being attacked by terrorists. As proposals for portable reactors undergo review over the coming months, these and other concerns will be drawing attention.

The U.S. military’s first attempts at land-based portable nuclear reactors didn’t work out well in terms of environmental contamination, cost, human health and international relations. That history is worth remembering as the military considers new mobile reactors.

July 22, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, environment, history, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Ice sheets melting, ocean currents, and the risk of climate tipping points

Ice sheets and ocean currents at risk of climate tipping points can
destabilise each other as the world heats up, leading to a domino effect
with severe consequences for humanity, according to a risk analysis.


Tipping points occur when global heating pushes temperatures beyond a
critical threshold, leading to accelerated and irreversible impacts. Some
large ice sheets in Antarctica are thought to already have passed their
tipping points, meaning large sea-level rises in coming centuries.

The new research examined the interactions between ice sheets in West Antarctica,
Greenland, the warm Atlantic Gulf Stream and the Amazon rainforest. The
scientists carried out 3m computer simulations and found domino effects in
a third of them, even when temperature rises were below 2C, the upper limit
of the Paris agreement.

Yhe study showed that the interactions between
these climate systems can lower the critical temperature thresholds at
which each tipping point is passed. It found that ice sheets are potential
starting points for tipping cascades, with the Atlantic currents acting as
a transmitter and eventually affecting the Amazon.

 Guardian 3rd June 2021

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/03/climate-tipping-points-could-topple-like-dominoes-warn-scientists

June 5, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Ominous news; Antarctic ice is melting at an accelerating rate

Climate News Network 4th March 2021, Antarctic warming is accelerating: at least one of the southern  continent’s ice shelves has been melting faster than ever. The polar summer of 2019-20 set a new record for temperatures above freezing point over the George VI ice shelf off the Antarctic Peninsula.
The finding is ominous: the ice shelves form a natural buttress that slows the rate of glacier flow from the continental bedrock. The faster the glaciers flow into the sea, the higher the hazard of sea level rise. And a second study confirms that this is already happening in West Antarctica: researchers looked at 25 years of satellite observation of 14 glaciers in the Getz sector to find that meltwater is flowing into the Amundsen Sea ever faster.
Between 1994 and 2018, these glaciers lost 315 billion tonnes of ice, enough to raise global sea levels by almost 1mm. Melting rates in Antarctica have been a source of alarm for years. The latest studies confirm the picture of continuing melt.

https://climatenewsnetwork.net/antarctic-warming-speed-up-alarms-researchers/

March 6, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change | Leave a comment

Vital need to protect Antarctic seas: groups aim for new protected areas

‘No other choice’: Groups push to protect vast swaths of Antarctic seas, Mongabay
BY ELIZABETH CLAIRE ALBERTS ON 19 OCT, 2020

  • A coalition of conservation groups is advocating for the establishment of three new marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea, which would encompass 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of the Southern Ocean, or 1% of the global ocean.
  • These proposals will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which is due to take place online because of the pandemic.
  • Conservationists anticipate that China and Russia may not support these MPA proposals due to fishing interests in the region, although they are optimistic that the MPAs will eventually be approved.
‘……………… While Antarctica’s land mass is currently protected through the Antarctic Treaty (although this expires in 2048), vast swaths of its marine region are open to industrial fishing for species such as Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) and Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides). Conservationists say these fishing activities are endangering the Southern Ocean’s delicate marine ecosystem that hosts more than 15,000 species, and a region that plays a vital role in regulating the world’s climate.

A coalition of conservation groups, including Pew, ASOC, SeaLegacy, Antarctica2020, Ocean Unite, and Only One, are working together to advocate for the formation of three marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Weddell Sea. Together, these areas would protect about 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles), encompassing 1% of the world’s ocean. That’s two and a half times the size of Alaska, and nearly three times the size of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaiʻi, which is currently one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries.

“If these three marine protected areas … [are] created at the same time, it would form the largest marine protection in the history of humanity,” Cristina Mittermeier, National Geographic wildlife photographer and co-founder of SeaLegacy, told Mongabay. “[It would be] a piece of good news that the planet needs.”

This is a matter of political will’

The body responsible for making decisions surrounding Antarctica’s marine region is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), an international commission with 25 member states and the European Union, as well as 10 acceding states. Originally established to manage krill fisheries in the Southern Ocean, the commission meets each year in Hobart, Australia, to negotiate total allowable catches for fisheries, and to discuss other matters related to Antarctica’s marine region, including the designation of MPAs.

Any decision requires a consensus among all members, and proposals can take a long time to be approved. For instance, it took more than five years for the commission to approve a proposal to turn a region of the Ross Sea into an MPA, according to Werner. But it finally went ahead in 2016: now 1.55 million km2 (nearly 600,000 mi2)of the Ross Sea is classified as an MPA, with 1.12 million km2 (432,000 mi2) of the region fully protected from commercial fishing.

“In CCAMLR, everything is possible,” said Werner, who acts as an official observer and scientific representative at the commission. “You can have a proposal blocked for years like the Ross Sea, and then one day [it happens].”…………

The way that Antarctica goes, so does the world’

One of the most important species living in the Southern Ocean is krill. These tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans are the foodstuff for many species, such as whales, seals, penguins, squids, fish and seabirds. Without krill, the pelagic food web would entirely collapse.

Krill is also heavily harvested for human consumption, mainly for fish meal and omega-3 dietary supplements.

The establishment of the three proposed MPAs — which would include no-take zones, but also areas that would allow regulated fishing — would help protect krill populations from overharvesting and enable fishing activities to continue in other areas, Cousteau said. According to one study, MPAs help increase fish mass………

But it’s not just fishing that’s a threat to krill — climate change is wreaking havoc on the species as high temperatures melt the ice it vitally depends upon. …….. https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/no-other-choice-groups-push-to-protect-vast-swaths-of-antarctic-seas/

October 22, 2020 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, oceans | Leave a comment

Scientific women get together in plan for marine protected area for Antarctica Peninsula

All-female scientific coalition calls for marine protected area for Antarctica Peninsula Plus other ways to help penguins, whales, and seabirds, EurekAlert, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY, Research News  19 Oct 20, The Western Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on earth. It is also home to threatened humpback and minke whales, chinstrap, Adélie and gentoo penguin colonies, leopard seals, killer whales, seabirds like skuas and giant petrels, and krill – the bedrock of the Antarctic food chain.With sea ice covering ever-smaller areas and melting more rapidly due to climate change, many species’ habitats have decreased. The ecosystem’s delicate balance is consequently tilted, leaving species in danger of extinction.

Cumulative threats from a range of human activities including commercial fishing, research activities and tourism combined with climate change is exacerbating this imbalance, and a tipping point is fast approaching.

Dr Carolyn Hogg, from the University of Sydney School of Life and Environmental Sciences, was part of the largest ever all-female expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula, with the women in STEMM initiative, Homeward Bound, in late 2019. There, she witnessed the beauty and fragility of the area, and the negative impacts of climate change and human activity on native species, first-hand. As part of the Homeward Bound program she learnt about the science, conservation and governance of Antarctica.

In a new commentary piece published in Nature, Dr Hogg and her colleagues from the expedition outline these threats, and importantly, offer ways to counter them. More than 280 women in STEMM who have participated in the Homeward Bound initiative are co-signatories to the piece.

A global initiative, Homeward Bound ‘aims to elevate the voices of women in science, technology, engineering mathematics and medicine in leading for positive outcomes for our planet’.

Women are noticeably absent in Antarctica’s human history, which is steeped in tales of male heroism. Female scientists are still a minority in the region’s research stations.

“Now, more than ever, a broad range of perspectives is essential in global decision-making, if we are to mitigate the many threats our planet faces,” said Dr Hogg.

“Solutions include the ratification of a Marine Protected Area around the Peninsula, set to be discussed on 19 October, at a meeting of a group of governments that collectively manage the Southern Ocean’s resources,” said Dr Hogg. “The region is impacted by a number of threats, each potentially problematic in their own right, but cumulated together they will be catastrophic.”

Decreasing krill affects whole ecosystem

The Peninsula’s waters are home to 70 percent of Antarctic krill. In addition to climate change, these krill populations are threatened by commercial fishing. Last year marked the third largest krill catch on record. Nearly 400,000 tonnes of this animal were harvested, to be used for omega-3 dietary supplements and fishmeal.

“Even relatively small krill catches can be harmful if they occur in a particular region, at a sensitive time for the species that live there,” said Dr Cassandra Brooks, a co-author on the comment from the University of Colorado, Boulder. “For example, fishing when penguins are breeding lowers their food intake, and affects their subsequent breeding success. A Marine Protected Area will conserve and protect this unique ecosystem and its wildlife, and we need to implement it now.”

Climate change is fundamentally altering the Western Antarctic Peninsula:……

Three ways to protect the Peninsula

1. A Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation for the waters………

2. Protect land areas ………

3. Integrate conservation efforts…….

….https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/uos-asc101520.php

October 20, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, ANTARCTICA, climate change, environment | Leave a comment

The United Nations weather agency on the impact of climate change on the cryosphere

Climate change: UN agency laments northern summer’s ‘deep wound’ to Earth’s ice cover   https://www.9news.com.au/world/climate-change-news-un-agency-laments-summers-deep-wound-to-earth-ice-cover/52152578-420d-40af-932f-cab14f5af6ac, By Associated Press-Sep 1, 2020   The United Nations weather agency says this summer will go down for leaving a “deep wound” in the cryosphere — the planet’s frozen parts — amid a heat wave in the Arctic, shrinking sea ice and the collapse of a leading Canadian ice shelf.

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The World Meteorological Organisation said today that temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global average, provoking what spokeswoman Clare Nullis called a “vicious circle.”
“The rapid decline of sea ice in turn contributes to more warming, and so the circle goes on and the consequences do not stay in the Arctic,” Ms Nullis said during a regular UN briefing in Geneva.
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The weather agency said in a statement that many new temperature records have been set in recent months, including in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk. The town, located in Siberia above the Arctic Circle line, reached 38 degrees Celsius on June 20.
“What we saw in Siberia this year was exceptionally bad, was exceptionally severe,” Ms Nullis said.
She noted a heat wave across the Arctic, record-breaking wildfires in Siberia, nearly record-low sea ice extent, and the collapse of one of the last fully intact Canadian ice shelves.
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“The summer of 2020 will leave a deep wound on the cryosphere,” the World Meteorological Organisation statement said, pointing to a “worrisome trend” of floods resulting from the outburst of glacier lakes that are becoming “an increased factor of high-risk in many parts of the world.”
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In late July, an 81-square-kilometre section of Canada’s Milne ice shelf broke off, reducing the total area of the ice shelf by 43 per cent, the weather agency said.
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The consequences include the loss of a rare ecosystem, possible acceleration of glaciers sliding into the ocean and contributing to sea level rise, and creation of new “drifting ice islands,” it said.
The WMO is preparing to release on September 9 a report on the impact of climate change on the cryosphere.

September 7, 2020 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Antarctica – global heating and nuclear issues – polar theme for September 20

Antarctica is not in the news as much as the Arctic is,  But global heating is affecting Antarctica too, and Antarctica has its nuclear issues.

Antarctica has made headlines several times this year due to extremely warmer than usual temperatures. It has been steadily heating up for decades.  Antarctic ice shelves have lost nearly 4 trillion metric tons of ice since the mid-1990s, scientists say. Ocean water is melting them from the bottom up, causing them to lose mass faster than they can refreeze.  As ice shelves melt, they become thinner, weaker and more likely to break. When this happens, they can unleash streams of ice from the glaciers behind them, raising global sea levels. Antarctica is also losing ice from melting ice sheets, and chunks of ice falling from glaciers.

Less studied than the Arctic region, Antarctic is now being investigated by Australian researchers, using robots to gather data from difficult to reach underwater areas. Satellite monitoring confirms the shelves’ melting trend.

Nuclear issues.  From 6,000 nautical miles away, uranium mining in Australia is polluting the Antarctic.  After 1945 atomic bomb testing sent radioactive pollution to the South Pole, as well as to everywhere else on the planet.

USA  operated  a small nuclear power plant at Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound. It was known as “nukey poo” because of its frequent radioactive leaks. It had 438 malfunctions – nearly 56 a year – in its operational lifetime, including leaking water surrounding the reactor and hairline cracks in the reactor lining. The emissions of low level waste water where in direct contravention of the Antarctic Treaty, which bans military operations as well as radioactive waste in Antarctica. After the reactor was closed down, the US shipped 7700 cubic metres of radioactive contaminated rock and dirt to California.  Many USA naval workers there developed cancers.

Today, small nuclear reactors similar to this one, are being touted for remote areas in Australia and other countries. The history of this one in Antarctica, and 7 others elsewhere, was one of malfunctions, and closing down within a few years. This does not augur well for the small nuclear reactors being promoted today.

September 6, 2020 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, Christina's themes | 6 Comments