Hazardous conditions caused by climate change put Arctic research study on ice

June 13th 2017 – National Observer


The Canadian Press

An Arctic climate change study has been canceled because warming temperatures have filled the sea off northern Newfoundland with hazardous ice up to eight metres thick.

artic ice2

Image Credit Scientific American


Instead of cruising north with a team of scientists, the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen has been busy freeing fishing boats and helping other ships surrounded in ice that usually doesn’t travel so far south at this time of year.

David Barber, the expedition’s chief scientist, says the irony is that climate change itself has put the climate change research project on ice.

“I have been in the Arctic for 35 years and this is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had,” he said Monday. “Normally these conditions aren’t so bad. This is climate change fully in action — affecting our ability to make use of marine resources and transport things.”

Barber said warming temperatures have made the ice in the high Arctic thinner. When buffeted by storms and high winds, the ice can move much more freely and travels south on ocean currents.

The expedition of 40 scientists was planning to travel to Hudson Bay, but the Amundsen had to be diverted to help ships caught in the Strait of Belle Isle and along the coast of Newfoundland.

Barber, a University of Manitoba Arctic ice expert, said the heavy icebreaker helped rescue stranded fisherman and carved a path for tankers carrying diesel fuel to remote communities.

At times, the ice was so thick the ship had to repeatedly back up and ram its way through the frozen barrier.

“Typically we run into this when we overwinter in the High Arctic,” he said. “To be doing that off the Newfoundland coast in June was completely unheard of.”

Barber said the delay caused by the ice prompted the cancellation of the expedition, but scientists put the time to good use. They will share information about the ice conditions with the Coast Guard and shipping companies.

The Coast Guard said last week that some fishing boats that had been stuck in thick ice had returned safely to shore. Five fishermen were flown to safety by a military helicopter after their boat started to take on water.

Scientists said the ice conditions are another indicator that climate change is not something that is going to happen — it is already here.

Barber said the shifting of thick ice will have implications for ship movements in other areas of the Arctic, including Baffin Bay and parts of the Northwest Passage.

He suggested the federal government needs to be more prepared for the changes through better monitoring of ice conditions and ensuring that Canada’s fleet of aging heavy icebreakers is up to the task.

“It was a real eye-opener for me — just how unprepared we are for climate change when it comes to ice hazards,” he said. “This is a wake-up call for all of us in the country.”



The Clayoquot Slope

Clayoquot Slope lies about 1250 m below sea level and approximately 20 km landward of the toe of the Cascadia subduction zone. The Cascadia subduction zone is the area where the Juan de Fuca plate is subducting beneath the North American plate. This is a zone where much of the thick layer of sediments deposited on the eastern flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge are scraped off and accreted as the tectonic plates converge.

Clayoquot Slope

Image Credit / Ocean Networks Canada

Clayoquot Slope is home to a variety of deep-sea organisms. Many demersal fish such as rockfish, flatfish, throny heads, and rattails are found near the bottom. Other organisms such as echinoderms (sea cucumbers, brittle stars, sea stars), octopus, crabs, cnidarians (sea pens, corals, anemones), and bacterial mats are also seen at Clayoquot Slope. In the water column, organisms such as squid, krill, jellyfish, siphonophores, and larvaceans have been observed during installation and maintenance work.

  • Location: Lat: 48°40.2387’ N, Lon: 126°50.8832’ W
  • Seafloor Composition: Soft muddy sediments 3-5 km thick, along with gas hydrate deposits.

World Ocean Day 2017

Our Oceans, Our Future

Canada made the original proposal for World Oceans Day in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The day has been unofficially celebrated every June 8 since then, and, in 2008, the United Nations officially recognized it. Since then, World Oceans Day has been coordinated internationally by The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network. These organizations say it has greater success and global participation each year.

ocean plastics

The oceans need our protection. These blue bodies of water that cover seventy percent of our planet and sustain a world population approaching 7.5 billion must be protected. World Oceans Day is a United Nations recognized day of ocean celebration and citizen action held every June 8th.

Changing habits is hard, but the more we discuss how our oceans can no longer be our convenient wastebasket, the sooner we will respect them to secure their future. We play in them and we rely on them for food… our waters deserve better than history has treated them.

The oceans have many threats, but the easiest to address is our reliance on plastics. Over the last ten years, we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Our quest for convenience have driven this increase, as 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.

As we celebrate World Ocean’s Day on June 8, we need to recognize our consumption of plastic and how we can change our habits.

The dominant issue with plastic is how when it enters the ocean, it breaks down into such small segments that pieces of a one-liter plastic bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.