The Catlin Ice Follies

The global warmists have yet another embarrassment on their hands.  

The Catlin Arctic Survey was the brainchild of British explorer Pen Hadow who organized an expedition to trek to the North Pole to highlight how global warming was melting the Arctic ice cap. But his quest was thwarted when Mother Nature responded with fierce winds, bitter cold temperatures, and just plain lousy weather which destroyed ice measuring equipment and hampered resupply efforts, which at one point, left the team close to starvation.

While the Hadow team was struggling on the ground, a German expedition was measuring thicker than expected second year ice from the comfort of an aircraft with advanced monitoring equipment. They reported that this second year ice was up to four meters thick, rather than the two meters they expected.

Meanwhile, a Russian expedition simply drove to the North Pole in trucks which might be described as Humvees on steroids, with none of the discomforts the Catlin team experienced. But the Russians were more interested in oil than ice thickness. The Russians want to stake a claim to the oil rights in the Arctic Ocean while the Catlin team wants to save us from oil.

The problems for the Catlin team began shortly after they were airlifted to a point on the ice north of Canada about 942 kilometers from the North Pole. A fierce storm arrived with high winds and cold temperatures of -40 deg C which took a toll on equipment and the team. The high tech ice measuring equipment broke down along with the data communications equipment. The three person team also suffered from the brutal conditions and one of the team members had frostbite. As a result the team only covered a total of 434 km, which is less than half way to the pole.

Instead of measuring ice electronically, team leader Hadow had to drill holes in the ice and measure thickness with a measuring tape the old fashioned way. And instead of a large number of ice thickness measurements, the team could only drill so many holes each day.

The loss of the ice measuring equipment meant that the team could not transmit ice thickness data back to headquarters continuously as planned. But this loss also meant that another part of the program had to be scuttled as well. The CAS team had planned to place the ice thickness data on their website and then have school children around the world plot the data during the journey north. As the team ventured north and the additional sunlight melted more ice as temperatures rose, they expected there would be ever decreasing ice thickness and the school children would no doubt be convinced of the need to do something to save earth from the ravages of global warming.

Arctic weather also adversely affected resupply efforts by air, and twice the team had to subsist on emergency rations while waiting. The latest resupply aircraft arrived ten days late when the team was subsisting on near starvation rations of 1,000 Calories per day and had only one meal left. The team normally consumed 6,000 Calories a day while trekking north.

There were barrels of jet fuel left on the ice during this resupply effort. The resupply aircraft had positioned a cache of fuel on the ice so they could then refuel at this halfway point on the next trip. But bad weather prevented the plane from landing there and instead the aircraft had to load additional fuel tanks on the plane to make this resupply before the team ran out of food. There is no word on what happened to these barrels after the team left.

The CAS team was led by Hadow (whose full name is Rupert Nigel Pendrill Hadow). The other team members are Ann Daniels (who was the cook) and Martin Hartley, a photographer. Hadow performed the scientific studies.

HRH the Prince of Wales was the Patron for this expedition. The Prince of Wales is, of course, Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and well known environmentalist.

The team pulled sledges containing their supplies as they skied northwards. On one occasion, they had to swim 50 meters while wearing immersion suits due to an opening in the ice. The report from the ice on April 18 notes:

The emergence of open water at this stage of the survey is typical for this time of year and will become almost a daily occurrence towards the end of the expedition.

But after April 18 up to the end of the expedition, open water was not a daily occurrence and the team had to swim no more, perhaps because there was too much ice.

The team did not see any polar bears but did find bear tracks at one point. The team apparently brought a firearm along just in case, since their website refers to firearms training. Such a practice is common with Arctic explorations since polar bears are known to attack people. It was fortunate that the team did not have to shoot any polar bears they were presumably embarking on this expedition to save the bears.

The CAS made their trip at a time when the Arctic sea ice extent is recovering this year and is close to the historic averages for May. This recovery apparently reflects less melting due to cooler than average temperatures. Over the past several years, the amount of multi-year ice has been decreasing so it will be interesting to see if the summer melt will be lessened and more multi-year ice develops.

The team did release their initial "scientific data" which covers March 1 to April 14.The first samples apparently came from multi-year ice with thicknesses ranging from 5.2 meters to 2.0 meters thick. Further on, they found only first year ice about 1.8 meters thick. There is a caveat that these results are for "Measurements biased for undeformed ice." This presumably means that the team drilled only on flat ice. These thickness values seem consistent with first year ice.

Plus, the CAS team stated that they were surprised that they did not find more multi-year ice instead of the largely first year ice they encountered. But as noted in Watts Up With That, the team was in fact trekking in an area of largely first year ice so the results are not surprising. Plus, the initial measurement of 5 meters is consistent with second or multi-year ice that the German expedition found.  

With all the concern about the environment, we were surprised that there was no data released by the CAS about the extent of their carbon footprint for this expedition. So we decided to do it for them.

By using fuel consumption data for the De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft along with cruising speed and distances, we estimate that 84,000 lbs of CO2 were released into the atmosphere by the aircraft alone. There would be additional CO2 from flights from the UK to Canada.

The Russian expedition, by comparison, was far more environmentally friendly. We estimate their trucks released about 22,000 lbs of CO2, or about one quarter the amount of the CAS.

The bottom line is that the Catlin team did little to advance the knowledge of the condition of Arctic ice. But they did show that the Arctic weather can be brutal, cold and dangerous.
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