Saturday, April 1, 2023

The mesmerizing polar night turns darker in the warmer Arctic

LONGEYRBYEN, Norway ( Associated Press) — At 10:40 a.m. on a January day, two powerful beams of light from Svalbard’s governor’s ship pierced the pitch blackness of the mountain-ringed fjord in which it sailed. He was leading a group of boys from this remote village church to an even more isolated arctic outpost.

Such is the polar night in the Norwegian archipelago, so close to the North Pole that the Sun is at least six degrees below the horizon from mid-November to late January.

For miners, scientists and tourist workers of more than 50 nationalities, who comprise most of Svalbard’s 3,000 residents, it is at first difficult to adjust to living without a hint of sunset in a black-and-white landscape.

“For the first time in Svalbard, it was like going to the moon,” said Rev. Leif Magne Helgeson, who was pastor of Svalbard Kirke, which is the only church in the main village of Longyearbyen, for 12 years as of 2019, and has written on this fragile environment. Is.

But then the polar night becomes an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the only glimpses of natural light: the stars, the elusive swirl of the aurora borealis, and the full moon, circling overhead without setting for a few hours. time.

In almost every window, a candle or a star-shaped decoration twinkles as a welcome sign. In total darkness, the lights of snowmobiles and some passing vehicles reflect off the reindeer’s eyes or the reflective bands and vests that all humans wear while hiking or skiing.

But more than anything, there is a shimmer of snow cover. However, all that changes as the Arctic, and in particular this archipelago bathed in warm currents, warms faster than the rest of the world, causing delays and reductions in snowfall.

This winter in Svalbard it rained a few weeks after the start of the polar night.

“When the season of darkness comes … we are used to seeing how the northern lights, the moon, the stars and the snow shine. Now it has become dark and depressing,” said Espen Rotteveten, principal of Svalbard Folkehogskole, an alternative school in Longyearbyen. Rotveton has been proposing local solutions to climate change.

As Karina Bernlow’s sled pups frolicked happily in the freezing snow one afternoon in mid-January, they too dreaded the prospect of warmer weather.

“I can’t live in a muddy winter,” said Burnlow, who, with his family, runs the Green Dog dog-sledding company in a vast valley outside Longyearbyen.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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