The Changing Arctic: Monthly Weather Review 1922

Monthly Weather Review, November 1922, page 589. (See NOAA PDF here.)

by George Nicolas IFFT

(Under the date of October 10, 1922, the American consul at Bergen, Norway, submitted the following report to the State Department, Washington, D.C.)

The Arctic seems to be warming up. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters, and explorers who sail the seas about Spitzbergen and the eastern Arctic, all point to a radical change in climatic conditions, and hitherto unheard-of high temperatures in that part of the earth’s surface.

Spetzbergen2In August, 1922, the Norwegian Department of Commerce sent an expedition to Spetzbergen and Bear Island under the leadership of Dr. Adolf Hoel, lecturer on geology at the University of Christiania. Its purpose was to survey and chart the islands, take soundings of the adjacent waters, and make other oceanographic investigations.

Dr. Hoel, who has just returned, reports the location of hitherto unknown coal deposits on the eastern shores of Advent Bay – deposits of vast extent and superior quality. This is regarded as of first importance, as so far most of the coal mined by the Norwegian companies on those islands has not been of the best quality.

NorthPole610The oceanographic observations have, however, been even more interesting. Ice conditions were exceptional. In fact, so little ice has never before been noted. The expedition all but established a record, sailing as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes in ice-free water. This is the farthest north ever reached with modern oceanographic apparatus.

The character of the waters of the great polar basin has heretofore been practically unknown. Dr. Hoel reports that he made a section of the Gulf Stream at 81 degrees north latitude and took soundings to a depth of 3100 meters. These show the Gulf Stream very warm, and it could be traced as a surface current till beyond the 81st parallel. The warmth of the waters makes it probable that the favorable ice conditions will continue for some time.

Later a section was taken of the Gulf Stream off Bear Island and off the Isfjord, as well as a cection of the cold current that comes down along the west coast of Spitzbergen off the south cape.

In connection with Dr. Hoel’s report, it is of interest to note the unusually warm summer in ArcticNorway and the observations of Capt. Martin Ingebrigtsen, who has sailed the eastern Arctic for 54 years past. He says that he first noted warmer conditions in 1918, that since that time it has steadily gotten warmer, and that to-day the Arctic of that region is not recognizable as the same region of 1868 to 1917.

Many old landmarks are so changed as to be unrecognizable. Where formerly great masses of ice were found, there are now often moraines, accumulations of earth and stones. At many points where glaciers formerly extended far into the sea they have entirely disappeared.

SpetzbergenThe change in temperature, says Captain Ingebrightsen, has also brought about great change in the flora and fauna of the Arctic. This summer he sought for white fish in Spitzbergen waters. Formerly great shoals of them were found there. This year he saw none, although he visited all the old fishing grounds.

There were few seal in Spitzbergen waters this year, the catch being far under the average. This, however, did not surprise the captain. He pointed out that formerly the waters around Spitzbergen held an even summer temperature of about 3 degrees Celsius; this year recorded temperatures up to 15 degrees, and last winter the ocean did not freeze over even on the north coast of Spitzbergen.

With the disappearance of white fish and seal has come other life in these waters. This year herring in great shoals were found along the west coast of Spitzbergen, all the way from the fry to the veritable great herring. Shoals of smelt were also net with.

[Image source here.]

2 thoughts on “The Changing Arctic: Monthly Weather Review 1922”

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