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Structures in the Arctic

Arctic being cold and un-welcoming for human settlement, it has remained one of the most inhabitable places in the earth. That doesn’t mean human activities will not exist in the area. People have been living in the Arctic region for various activities including research, exploration, and oil drilling. These activities require job specific structures to be constructed in the area.

It is common for offshore structures in the Arctic region to interact with oncoming ice features. Such interactions are random in terms of intensity and direction, and are usually difficult to predict.


Understanding behaviors of different variables of ice-structure interaction can be helpful in achieving structural safety and economy of offshore structures by providing better design and construction guidance.

According to a USGC report published in 2008, the Arctic accounts for about 22 percent of undiscovered and technically recoverable natural resources. Although seemingly high, the estimate can prove to be highly conservative with the advancement in technology and future explorations of vast majority of unexplored arctic region.

To make use of such a vast resource, the Arctic region demands increased activities in the area in terms of exploration and investigation on the economical viability of explorations. Harsh climate in the Arctic region also demands for economical structures with better safety ratings against ice and environmental actions.

I will talk about ice-structure interaction in the next post.


Antarctic ice flow mapped for the first time

A complete map showing the speed and direction of ice flow in Antarctica is prepared for the first time. Antarctica is huge and mapping is not easy task. The map is derived from radar interferometric data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s ALOS PALSAR, the European Space Agency’s Envisat ASAR and ERS-1/2, and the Canadian Space Agency’s RADARSAT-2 spacecraft.


The researchers funded by NASA overlaid the color-coded satellite data on Antarctica mosaic created with data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft.

Read more in NASA article.

Walruses started hauling out on the Alaska shore

Earlier than normal decrease in sea ice and the movement of walruses towards shore has worried the environments and wild life conservationists. 

walruses-haul-outTwo large haul-outs of walrus seen on Aug. 17, 2011, near a beach north of Point Lay. Total number of walrus is estimated to be 8,000 in the area. Credit: Blaine Thorn, via –

Last year, as many as 20,000 walrus migrated to land. This year, the immigration started three weeks earlier than last year and it is expected to be higher than previous years. Walrus normally feed on mollusks, clams and other animals found in sea floor,  by diving to the seafloor. When ice disappears on the area of relatively shallow waters and when ice remains in deep sea areas, the walruses can’t dive in such depth and move to lands for refuge.

This can strain the local ecosystem as the animals feed in a concentrated location, and the cramped quarters can lead to stampedes that kill many, generally calves, leaving behind carcasses that can attract hungry polar bears.

In 2009, 131 dead walruses were found near Icy Cape, Alaska, and in 2007, 500 dead individuals were found at a "mega haul-out" site near a Russian village. These mass migrations were first reported in 2006 in Russia.

The United State Geological Survey had tagged some 40 walruses with satellite radio-tags on Aug. 7 in the southern Chukchi Sea to observe their movements.

The Arctic cover was the record low ice cover in 2011 July and the trend is expected to continue in the future. The Arctic warming will bring challenges to deal with the wild live and the environment.

Shrinking Greenland ice sheet

Following the trend of melting of the ice in the Arctic, Greenland’s ice sheet and glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate. Melting of ice in Greenland sends huge icebergs (like the one that blocked the Newfoundland’s Goose Cove harbor) and gushing water in the Atlantic. The melting threatens to raise ocean level causing flooding in the coastal areas.

Thousands of years old ice in Greenland forms 1.7-million-square-kilometer ice sheet covering about 80 percent of the total area of Greenland.

Click here to go to the MSNBC site for the interactive map showing how the ice sheet area is decreasing from 1980s (screenshot below).


Related previous posts

2011 July saw the record low ice cover in the Arctic. Research show that the melting is at a rate of four times the previously predicted rate. Some hope the Arctic will be ice free in the near future, opening opportunity for increased commercial activities in the Arctic. Although some study suggest a temporary pause in melting, it is not expected to help in stopping the decrease in Arctic ice cap.

Melting of Arctic ice to pause for a decade?

A NCAR research team has found that the Arctic ice, under current climate conditions, might expand for about a decade before it follows the current declining trend. The study published in Geophysical Research Letters,

Read more in this UCAR article.

Title: Interannual to multidecadal Arctic sea ice extent trends in a warming world
Authors: Jennifer Kay, Marika Holland, and Alexandra Jahn
Publication: Geophysical Research Letters

Arctic to be ice-free soon – melting at 4x faster than predicted?

With the record decrease in ice extent and volume, the threat of global warming on the global climate has turned out to be very real. Many are alarmed and frustrated on the realization that there is nothing much they can do, except of course, to dump the pop can they used during lunch in the recycle bin.

Although some commercially inclined climate scientist are optimistic on Ice-free Arctic, for increased commercial activities in the region, the whole world will have to live with the increased water level, unbearable heat, and various natural disasters.

Some try to soothe themselves by telling that the nature will correct itself in the due course of time, but nature is not swift enough to make a difference in one’s lifetime.


What alarms most is the study at MIT that found the Arctic ice thinning at 4 times faster than previously predicted.

[Read More]

Japan Tsunami caused huge icebergs to break away from Antarctica

The tsunami caused by earthquake in Japan in March 11 have caused the ice shelf in Antarctica to break free and form huge icebergs some 13,000 Kilometers away from Japan. The European Space Agency (ESA) has released satellite imageries showing the formation of huge iceberg and their drifting off from the Sulzberger ice shelf into the Ross Sea.

antarctica_tsunami_iceberg The March 2011 images show the icebergs formed in Antarctica (AFP/ESA)

The largest iceberg measured on the satellite image measured about 9.5 kms in length and 6.5 kms in width. The iceberg can be as deep as 80 meters.

The 23 meter high tsunami generated by an underwater quake of 9.0 magnitude off-shore Japan is estimated to be as high as 30 centimeters high by the time it has travelled 13,000 km on the sea to reach the Antarctica.

The news in NASA video:

Two glaciers in Nepal to disappear

Analysis of two glaciers in Nepal, for the past 10 years, have revealed that they are shrinking in an alarming rate.

According to a research conducted by researchers from Japan’s Nagoya University, the Yala glacier of Langtang Himal and the AX010 glacier of Shorong Himal have shrunk annually by 0. 8 meters and 0.81 meters respectively in the 2000s. The rate of shrinkage was 0.68 and 0.72 meters per year in the time between 1970 and 1990.


Study of another glacier, Rikha Samba, glacier located in the Kaligandaki Hidden Valley however showed an opposite trend. The rate of shrinkage of Rikha Samba has increased from 0.57 meters per year between 1970 and 1990 to 0.48 meters per year in the 2000s.


Located at an altitudes of 5,400 meters and 5,200 meters respectively, the Yala glacier and AX010 glacier are considered to be at lower altitudes, when compared to other glaciers in the Himalaya. Rikha Samba is located at a slightly higher altitude of 5,700 meters, and has an arid environment. The researchers say that the humidity and elevation should have helped in the acceleration of the shrinkage of Yala and AX010 glaciers.

[Read More]

Climate scientist: optimistic on Ice-free Arctic

US Climate scientist has told that the Arctic will be practically ice-free during the summer within thirty years. By the rate the ice cover is decreasing, the estimate looks highly possible.

The climate change in that time can bring some good as well as bad changes in the earth. While talking with CNN, Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center told, "I’m a climate scientist, but I’m also a realist on this."

Read more in the CNN blog where, Serreze explains how "We will adapt, because we have to."


Joachim Schwarz

Dr. Joachim Schwarz was awarded the POAC Founders Lifetime Achievement Award at the POAC 2011 conference in Montreal, Canada.

  • 1962 – Graduation as Dipl.-Ing. in Civil Engineering – Technical University Hannover
  • 1970 – Dr.-Ing. on “Ice Forces on Piles”
  • 1971 to 1974 – a Visiting Research Scientist and Adjunct Professor at the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research in Iowa City, USA.
  • 1974 the Director of the Ice and Environment Department at the Hamburg Ship Model Basin, GmbH (HSVA), Germany.
  • 1992-1994 – the President of POAC (hosted the POAC’93 conference in Hamburg, Germany)
  • 2006 –  IAHR Ice Research and Engineering Award
  • 2007 – Bundesverdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Cross of Merit from the Republic of Germany)