The stunning speed of the coastal erosion on Wiese Island in the northern Kara Sea is a graphic example of the impact of warming temperatures in the Siberian Arctic. Ironically, this collapsing building is a disused Soviet meteorological station that now stands on the brink due to global warming. Picture: Ivan Mizin / WWF Russia

By Olga Gertcyk
10 August 2016

(Siberian Times) – The shoreline on remote island retreats by 74 metres in seven years due to increased wave power of unfrozen sea, and thawing permafrost.

The stunning speed of the coastal erosion on Wiese Island in the northern Kara Sea - shown here - is a graphic example of the impact of warming temperatures in the Siberian Arctic. Ironically, the collapsing building is a disused Soviet meteorological station that now stands on the brink due to changes in the weather.

Our main pictures shows it about to collapse into the frozen sea last winter. It may already have done so this summer.

Seven years ago it stood some 74 metres from the sea. When it was built in 1945, it was much further away.

Glaciologist Dr Alexander Aleinikov compared the coastline on the island - also called Vize Island -  between 2009 and this year.

“The shores of the Wiese Island were collapsing earlier too,” he said. “It is a natural process. However, if back in the 1950s polar experts reported (a retreat of) about 1.5 metres per year, according to satellite images taken from 2009 to 2016, the shore has stepped back by 74 metres at this place.

“The speed has increased significantly.”

Oksana Lipka, coordinator of WWF's climate and energy programme, said: “It was earlier believed that the fastest pace of shore erosion in Russia and the world was in the Novosibirsk Islands (between the Laptec and East Siberian seas) that 'step back' by 5-to-15 metres a year, sometimes by 20 metres after a strong storm.

“It is likely that the pace of shore erosion is even higher (on Wiese Island). We've got to continue monitoring." […]

Dr Ivan Mizin, senior expert at the WWF's Barents Sea office, said: “Sea islands that are altering both because of human influence and climate change require careful attention of researchers.”

He warned: “Wiese Island needs protection first of all as a year-round habitat of Polar bears, Atlantic walruses, and Ivory gulls. It is located on the border of two seas and joins the population of these rare species.

“We need to understand if reduction of the size of the island will affect these species and to what extent.

“To do that, it is desirable to limit human impact to the already existing Polar meteorological station and obtain reserve status (for the island).” [more]

Arctic's climate on a cliff-edge

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