The Bermuda-based Catlin Group Limited announced that it is sponsoring a major scientific expedition to capture vitally needed data for scientists studying the impact of global warming on the Arctic ice cap.
“The project – to be known as the Catlin Arctic Survey – will be led by British explorer Pen Hadow,” said the announcement. “The extensive program of scientific measurements will include some of the most accurate and detailed observations of the thickness of the permanent Arctic ice. The measurements will be taken as part of a pioneering surface survey over a 1,200-mile (2,000-kilometre) route from the Canadian coast to the North Geographic Pole, beginning in February 2009.
“Hadow’s expedition has already secured support from UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) and WWF International (Worldwide Fund for Nature), as well as the Royal patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales.”
Hadow explained: “Our scientific partners at NASA, the US Navy’s Department of Oceanography and the University of Cambridge want this data to assess more accurately the current state of the Arctic Ocean’s rapidly disappearing sea ice and to predict more precisely when it will no longer be a perennial surface feature of our planet.”
Catlin’s Chief Executive, Stephen Catlin, noted that, “as a specialty insurance/reinsurance company, the potential effects of global warming will have a direct impact on our business” The goal of the Arctic project is to fill in “gaps in our knowledge.” He explained that “much of the evidence regarding the pace of global warming is not scientifically proven;” therefore, as Catlin “manages risk based on hard facts, so we believe that obtaining this information is vital. The Catlin Arctic Survey will help inform all those who must plan for the potential effects of global warming.”
Professor Wieslaw Maslowski, one of the world’s leading scientists in the study of Arctic sea ice based at the US Navy’s Department of Oceanography in Monterey, California, and a lead scientific partner of Catlin Arctic Survey, commented: “We’ll be integrating the survey’s actual observations with same-day weather data to obtain near real time model estimates of sea ice conditions on a daily basis. In this way we can test the accuracy of our modeling of the ice’s thickness and re-assess our projections as to how long the surviving thicker ice is likely to last as a perennial feature”.
The announcement also pointed out: “Because the Arctic is so vulnerable to changes in the Earth’s climate, it is a significant barometer, acting as an early warning for wider impacts across the globe such as temperature and the rise in sea levels.
“The Arctic polar ice cap currently acts as a ‘reflective heat shield’, reflecting 80 per cent of incoming solar energy, but it is disappearing quickly [See IJ web site – https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2008/09/03/93311.htm]. The seawater below absorbs energy, resulting in thermal expansion and rising sea levels. Sea levels rose between 10 and 20 centimeters [app.4 to 8 inches] during the 20th century, and a further increase of between 20 and 80 centimeters [8 inches to over 2.6 feet] could lead to 300 million people being flooded each year.”
Catlin also noted that, while the ice cap currently covers almost 3 per cent of the Earth’s surface, “the permanent central region of the Arctic Ocean’s ice cover has receded at a rate of approximately 300,000 kilometers [187,500 miles] each year since 2001. This is equivalent to an area the size of the United Kingdom, Italy, or the Philippines and greater than the size of California. Scientists’ current projections for seasonal total meltdown range from 100 years to less than five years.”
“The disintegration also has significant global consequences for planning in political, economic and business terms. Already there are political tensions over access to approximately 20 per cent of the world’s remaining untapped oil and natural gas below the Arctic Ocean and new commercial sea routes through the North-West Passage.”
Besides Pen Hadow the Catlin Arctic Survey team includes one of the world’s foremost women polar explorers, Ann Daniels, and world-class polar photographer Martin Hartley. They will be pulling their sledges and even swimming between ice floes from late February to the end of May 2009. During their journey they will:
— take up to 20 million surface measurements of the sea ice using a specially built, portable ground-penetrating radar;
— take measurements of the water column under the sea ice and density measurements of the snow and ice;
— collect samples of the water, snow ice and air; and
— measure the thickness and density of both the ice and overlying snow layers by manually drilling through the sea ice.
Hadow explained why being on the ground was so important, as neither satellites nor submarines can differentiate between the ice and snow layers. “I have teamed up with scientists because it is clear that only polar explorers can undertake such a detailed survey and provide actual measurements as opposed to the observed estimates from underwater or space by submarines and satellites,” he stated.
Source: Catlin Group – www.catlin.com
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