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The White Rainbow
Warnings from the Arctic 2007

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The White Rainbow - Warnings from the Arctic 2007

The total surface area of ice coverage in the Arctic region has recorded an all-time low since observation of these levels began.

What has happened this year in the Canadian Basin, the Western Arctic region where global warming has taken a step further than anywhere else?
This documentary will reveal the answers.

This documentary extensively covers a one month survey of the sea area, having taken place in July 2007, by the Canadian ice breaker The Louis S. St. Laurent.

The coverage also focuses on Shishimaref Island, the damages it sustained from global warming, and the fleeing of its' residents as they are forced to abandon the village.

Route of the Louis S. St. Laurent
Date of Broadcast: November 23, 2007
Airtime: 72min
Reporter: Masaichi Nagata, Marine Journalist
Advisor: Dr. Koji Shimada, Arctic Ocean Climate System Group Leader, Global Environment Observation Research Center, JAMSTEC
With Cooperation from:
Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology
Institution of Ocean Science (Canada)
Canadian Coast Guard
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (USA)

Produced by :
Documentary Workshop Inc.
Asahi Broadcasting Corporation

Introduction

melting sea-ice that is one year oldThe total surface area of ice coverage in the Arctic region has recorded an all-time low since observation of these levels began. The present levels have exceeded IPCC's expectations, leading to the conclusion that by the end of this century, the summer ice in the Arctic region may disappear completely.

Dr.Kouji Shimada, from the Japan Agency for Marin-Earth Science and Technology has predicted that the condition of the Arctic region in 2007 will have significant implications for the global environment. He has been observing images taken from satellites and reading the signs of change in the extent of sea-ice coverage.

What has happened this year in the Canadian Basin, the Western Arctic region where global warming has taken a step further than anywhere else?
This documentary will reveal the answers.

This documentary extensively covers a one month survey of the sea area, having taken place in July 2007, by the Canadian ice breaker The Louis S. St. Laurent.

The coverage also focuses on Shishimaref Island, the damages it sustained from global warming, and the fleeing of its' residents as they are forced to abandon the village.

On the July 26th, 2007, The Louis S. St. Laurent started on its voyage from Kuguluktuk, Nunavut. Beginning at the Bering Strait, where the current from the Pacific flows into the Arctic area and thereby causes the warming, She went through the Northwind oceanic ridge, the area where an enormous polynya appeared a year ago, and finally sailed up to 80°N.

Observational buoys equipped with GPS were placed at this spot, each capable of recording and analyzing the movement, temperature and salinity of the ice. In this way, changes in the condition of the ice in the area are carefully investigated and surveyed, and the crucial environmental changes of the region off the Western part of Banks Island are studied.

The members of the research team are composed of individuals from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the American Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Japan Agency for Marine- Earth Science and Technology. Each is a specialist who is involved in surveying the Arctic region every year. The work accurately captures images of the crises that the Arctic is now facing with highly realistic pictures.

The Louis S. St. Laurent as a guide.

The Louis S. St. LaurentFrom the very first day of the survey, the scheduled course was altered.
It was reported that a drastic change had taken place off to the west of the Banks Island.

A number of cracks on the ice floe had become apparent, and a water surface had developed in the problematic area. The ice observer who had been examining this from a helicopter did not hide his surprise, and mentioned that he had "never seen such a condition before". The region, which had once so stubbornly refused to allow the ice breaker to enter its territory, had turned into a helpless river of slush, flowing as if resigned to its fate.

The water from the Pacific is triggering the warming effect of the Arctic.

The water temperature of the area off the Barrow in Alaska was 7°C. It is the place where the Pacific water enters into the Arctic Ocean. The warming effect responsible in the Arctic region is this water from the Pacific.
This warming trend was first noted 10 years ago in 1998. The sea-ice coverage of the region saw a radical reduction to 30% coverage, down from 80% coverage the previous year.

After this research, it was found that the water temperature had risen about 1 degree in the Arctic Ocean and a sharp increase in the inflow to the region was also observed. A one degree rise in water temperature is equal in effect to a 10 degree rise in air temperature.

The damages caused by the warming temperature are apparent here in Shishimaref.

damages of Shishimaref caused by the warming temperatureShishimaref is an island near the Bering Strait where an entire village has had to relocate. The surrounding ocean has not been frozen in the fall (the months of October and November), and the island has sustained a series of cases of damage by tidal waves in the past few years.

In the village, Mayer speaks about these fearsome high tide water. He stands in front of a house that fell down as a result of the erosion of the frozen ground beneath it.

Went out on a boat to take the temperature of the sea water, and the temperature was 10 degrees. It is beyond a doubt that the water is warming.

The Arctic as Ground Zero for the global warming effect

melted one year old sea-iceAt the Northwind ridge, one of the most important locations for data for the report, a large scale open water surface was observed once again this year.

Mr. Itou, the researcher from (Jamstec) says that "we are at the very point where the warm water of the Pacific is flowing in and preventing the winter growth of the ice."

The possibility of seeing more of this open water surface every year is very high. The ice breaker The Louis S. St. Laurent sails smoothly on the water to encounter only some thin first year ice. While filming the water surface, a peculiar scene is then witnessed- a very thin layer of ice is forming on the open water surface. Reason for this phenomena is then.....?

The ice observer teaches the group of reporters how to identify the actual age of ice.

melting ice layerThe flat looking ice with some black melt ponds are first year ice.
When it has developed some beautiful colored melting ponds, then it is more than 3 year old ice. Lastly, a half-dissolved, collapsing ice is called rotten ice. This particular word, rotten, was overheard many times during the research.

The under water camera has captured the shimmering layers of fresh water coming from dissolving rotten ice and sea water. The fact that the Arctic region's warming mechanism has reached the point of no- return was fully felt and realized through the pictures.

Soft and hard ice brings seals and polar bears to 80°N.

observation ice machine installationThe ship has reached 80°North near the North Pole, but the first year ice is still endlessly seen which offers no challenges to the ice-breaker. The program shows the Canadian archipelago region, the film taken in 1989 as the comparison. The thinness of the ice in 2007 can be clearly realized here.
The team, in search of the 3 m thick ice suitable for setting observatory buoys, finally found this ice and was able to place the equipment.
The temperature was taken from the hardest part of the excavated ice column and was just -0.6°C. Considering that sea water freezes at –1.6°C, it can be understood that this ice is starting to melt.

The head of a seal has popped out between the cracks of the ice. It is at 80°N, but there are plenty of gaps in the ice for them to breath and seems that their food is also gathering. Already the biological environment is changing.

The second switch for the warming mechanism is turned on.

The second switch for the warming mechanism is turned on.Aug.18th, 75°North,128°West.
Entering the region off Banks island, "The vital observation point".
The helicopter is being sent for reconnaissance to the area where even the ice-breaker has been known to have difficulty in finding its way.
What has prevailed in the view is a large open water surface and fragmented ice floe. Dr. Kouji Shimada mentions that "the rate which the sea-ice rotates in the Canada Basin region has increased drastically" and he explains the collapse mechanism of the sea-ice.

Even at the region off the Banks Island, it seems the quality of the sea-ice has changed. The under-water camera captures the beautiful, but damaging, images of sea-ice on the verge of collapsing.

Melting of Frozen Ground Threatens Shishimaref.

The ocean around Shishimaref has also changed over the past 10 years. Marine algae have begun to grow, and the number of migratory birds is increasing. High tide water has continued for three days. Embankment construction is underway along the shore, but the tides snatch away the sand underneath even while work is in progress.

The village mayor's greatest concern is for the layer of frozen soil lying just 1 meter below ground level. When warm ocean waters hit the island, it may trigger massive sinkholes on a large scale as the frozen layer melts. This frozen ground was dug up and its temperature measured. -0.6°C. For this island, global warming is an immediate threat.

"The White Rainbow, it is a new landscape brought to the Arctic by global warming."

The white rainbow was shot a few times a while visiting Banks Island.
It appears in a very short time when the sun heats up the exposed water surface, causing fog to rise. It is as if the white rainbow is in fact the symbol of global warming.

The White Rainbow
 
narrator
Peter Fincke
reporter
Marine journalist, Masakazu Nagata
Production
Documentary Workshop Inc.
Asahi Broadcasting Corporation
 
 
 
 

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