Whilst we’ve all been enjoying the sledging opportunity provided by the ‘Beast from the East’, have any of you thought about why such extreme, cold weather has shown its face in the UK?
This has caused anxieties among Arctic travelling expeditioners about whether this cold climate is a prelude to the climate change affecting the Northern Hemisphere. According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, temperatures in Greenland have been 30 degrees higher than the historic average for this time of year.
Cornwall has been swept up in the Siberian wind, with temperatures reaching -4 degrees Celsius and receiving its heaviest snow-storm in thirty years.
Devon and Cornwall Police Officer, Ben James, is about to embark on his 200km fundraising expedition across the Arctic in April. The cross-country ski route will travel the east coast to Svalbard in Norway and the region’s highest mountain Newtontoppen, across to the west coast.
His team of four are going without outside help, raising money for the Kreslu Police Charity which provides support for officers who have been physically assaulted. The charity’s work ranges from providing hampers, to respite breaks for colleagues in need of relaxation to help their psychological well being.
“People say, ‘Don’t go to the Arctic, you’ve got snow here,’ but that’s not right…
If it doesn’t directly affect us, we won’t care enough; it’s human nature.”
James told Truthfal how the Arctic’s melting snow ice is a new concern in combination with the physicality of the trip.
He has been training for the challenging terrain by refining his skiing skills and pulling tyres with ropes from behind.
However, he mentioned how equipment will now be carried in duffle bags in preparation for open stretches of water which don’t provide the surface needed for cross-country skiing.
The unpredictable weather conditions have potential for the men to change where the expedition starts.
“We don’t know what we’re going to find, you can’t plan it”.
He claimed that many North Pole expeditions have been re-routed to adapt to the melting ice sheets. A study by NASA using satellite imagery from 2008-2015 measured the increasing sea levels, with the speed of Glaciers falling into the west side of the Antarctic’s peninsula doubling each year.
“Dry suits are now being used a lot because the snow ice is breaking so quickly that you might fall through”.
He emphasised how he wants to document the sights of the expedition for future generations to look back on.
Particularly interesting is this interest in sharing the Arctic experience, after Eric Larsen’s 2014 ‘Last North Pole’ expedition saw flights to the North Pole banned because of the unpredictability of the ice.
James said: “If we lose all that ice, we’re in trouble. You can’t imagine that change. People are so disassociated from it.”
The weakened polar vortex is partly responsible for the Arctic heatwave, according to James.
This vortex is an air pressure which circulates the North and South Pole. It acts as a buffer for containing strong winds and cold temperatures within the Northern Hemipshere, allowing the Arctic Circle to stay at freezing point.
From this vortex split, warmer air conditions have been released northward and circulated around the atmosphere. Forbes argued that this has given the Arctic an increase of almost 45 degrees Fahrenheit as a result.
We are left wondering whether we could see a complete vortex collapse, making it impossible for Arctic expeditions like James’ to be carried out in the near future.Temperatures in the Archipelago of Svalbard reached about freezing at the end of February.
Although, James acknowledged how there have been too many periods of ‘hot and cold’ for us to identify a clear link between climate change and these increasing temperatures.
“We’re changing the climate faster but we’re not solely responsible ..”
He claimed the satellite measurements do not go far back enough for us to notice a direct impact of human activity on the ozone layer.
To donate to Ben James’ expedition, please visit his justgiving page.