The temperature anomaly for June in the North Atlantic was 2-3 C above average, see image below.
Overall, the Barents Sea polar bear subpopulation region still has concentrated pack ice to the north and around Franz Josef Land in the east:
Oddly, sea ice over the Barents Sea in 2016 at 20 July was much less than this year (see below), after a June of apparently unremarkable North Atlantic sea surface temperatures.
As for the status of polar bears around Svalbard, Norwegian scientists who monitor the bears have not updated the MOSJ website with data from this spring’s research, as they have been doing for the last several years at least. Last year this chore was completed by 31 May and I reported on it in June. I’ve never seen it go this late and there has been no explanation for the delay.
While Gummer throws his toys about, Norway just keeps drilling:
Norway’s energy ministry approved oil and gas projects with a total value of more than 200 billion kroner ($18.5 billion) as Europe’s biggest supplier of natural gas works to keep up production.
The projects, which include Aker BP ASA’s Yggdrasil and Valhall PWP og Fenris in the North Sea, as well as Equinor ASA’s Irpa in the Norwegian Sea, cover 19 new developments, build-outs of existing fields and increased oil-recovery projects, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Nordic nation has become the biggest supplier of natural gas to Europe in the aftermath of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and will likely continue to see strong demand as buyers turn their back on Russian energy. A flurry of development plans were submitted at the end of last year in order to benefit from pandemic-era tax breaks introduced to maintain investments as demand sank.
“Norway is the only net exporter of oil and gas in Europe, and by implementing these projects we ensure new production from the latter half of the 2020s, so that we can maintain high Norwegian deliveries,” Petroleum & Energy Minister Terje Aasland said in a statement.
As many as 55 wells are planned at Yggdrasil. That area is estimated to contain about 650 million barrels of oil equivalent, making it one of the biggest development projects on the Norwegian continental shelf in recent years.
In Norway, resistance to sharing electricity with Germany is growing, although Economy Minister Habeck made a deal in January for a hydrogen pipeline between the two countries to produce electricity. The Norwegians argue that the generated wind power is exclusively for their country and they do not want to share it. A spokesman emphasized that it was “their wind” (Berliner-Zeitung: 02.05.23).
Norway as Europe’s leading oil and gas producer: Resistance to energy supplies to Germany grows
According to the Norwegian Chamber of Commerce (AHK), the Scandinavian country produced an impressive 2022 million standard cubic meters of oil and gas in 232, making it the leading producer in the European Economic Area. Norway has abundant fossil mineral resources, but also ideal conditions for the production of green electricity and green hydrogen. In view of this, it seems obvious that Norway would give up a piece of the pie. However, there seems to be growing resistance among Norwegians to their role as Germany’s number one energy supplier, while Germans would like to stick to the existing partnership.
Norway has one of the highest per capita electricity consumption in the world with almost 22,400 kilowatt hours (kWh), while people in Germany consume less than 6,700 kWh per capita, according to the Energy & Climate Protection Foundation. Although Norway has electricity surpluses and was also cheaper in the past, the high consumption is now no longer justifiable. The head of analysis and consulting firm Rystad Energy, Jarand Rystad, explained that many people think there is more than enough electricity to meet their own needs, but that is now over.
Norwegian electricity price activist criticises high energy prices and electricity exports to Europe and announces resistance
Norway no longer seems to be willing to pay for the problems of other countries, as the price of electricity is apparently the reason for this. Especially in southern Norway, the increase in wholesale prices is above average, as the region is directly linked to the Central European market. The well-known Norwegian electricity price activist Olav Sylte criticises the fact that Norway exports electricity to Europe via these cables and thus also imports the high prices.
Norway as Europe’s leading oil and gas producer: Resistance to energy supplies to Germany grows Image: Krib, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Sylte has made a name for himself by representing the victims of the large Ponzi schemes in Norway between 2002 and 2005. Now he is not only campaigning for lower energy prices, but is also fighting against the power cables that connect Norway to Germany and the UK. He has a large network, including the Facebook group “We demand cheaper electricity”, which has around 612,000 members.
Although gas continues to be exported to Norway, there is a limit to electricity that the activist and lawyer draws: “Our electricity should be used mainly for our country. […] It’s our Norwegian water, our Norwegian wind,” says Sylte.
Equinor and RWE enter into partnership for the construction of hydrogen power plants
At the beginning of the year, an energy partnership was announced, which provided for the construction of gas-fired power plants that would run on hydrogen. During his visit to Norway in January, Economics Minister Robert Habeck said that the hydrogen should come from Norway. As a result, the Norwegian energy supplier Equinor and the Essen-based energy group RWE entered into a strategic partnership, which was accompanied by Habeck and the Norwegian Minister of State at the signing. Part of the memorandum of understanding was the construction of a hydrogen pipeline between the countries by 2030.
Despite criticism and increasing resistance from the population, Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Terje Aasland defended the decision. He emphasized that Norway is dependent on foreign electricity and that going it alone would not make sense. It is important that Europe sticks together. Aasland said: “If we were to cut the cables to Central Europe, we would have to build even more power plants here to ensure our supply at all times.”
Norway’s renewable energies in focus: hydropower as the frontrunner
Norway currently produces almost exclusively renewable electricity, with hydropower taking the top spot at 88 percent, playing a central role among renewable energies, as reported by AHK Norway.
Despite the high production of green electricity and exports of electricity and hydrogen, Norway had not been spared from the energy crisis. The price of electricity rose sharply on the stock exchange and amounted to around 2022 euros/mWh in July 250 compared to just under 50 euros/mWh in July 2021. Nevertheless, the Norwegian electricity price remains on average lower than the German price, which was 2022 euros/mWh in July 450. Norway therefore remains an important player in renewable energy production and has a lot of potential to make its contribution to global climate protection in the future.
Norway’s demand for electricity is increasing – nationalisation of the gas pipeline network as a plan B?
Statnett, the state-owned grid operator, predicts a significant increase in Norway’s electricity demand, although the price of electricity seems to be recovering this year. According to a market analysis, electricity demand will increase from the current level of around 140 terawatt hours (TWh) over the next five years to 164 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2027, without a corresponding increase in electricity generation. This will lead to a negative net energy balance in 2027.
That is why Norway has already considered a Plan B. With existing concessions expiring in 2028, Norway plans to nationalize most of its gas pipeline network, according to Aasland’s oil and energy ministry. The goal is to strengthen control over the key infrastructure. However, there is still no exact information about the reasons for this plan.
Historical records show that sea ice extent along the west coast of Svalbard, Norway varied greatly in the 1600s and that there is currently more ice than was usually present at this time of year in the 17th century.
April through early June is when polar bears need sea ice the most–for feeding on newborn seals and for finding mates–and so far this spring, bears in the Western European Arctic around Svalbard, Norway have had an abundance of ice. In fact, there is only a little less ice than was normal for the late 1970s and apparently, quite a bit more than was often present in the 1600s.
Western European Arctic 1975-1979
The Western European Arctic is centered on Svalbard in the Barents Sea but includes the Denmark Strait off East Greenland and western Kara Sea off Novaya Zemlya. The map below shows average ice extent for April in the late 1970s (Degroot 2022: his figure 1). Note how much of Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya are covered in glaciers and how little ice there was around the extreme tip of southeast Greenland (Laidre et al. 2012, 2022).
Barents Sea Arctic ice extent 2023
Note the amount of pack ice butting up against the entire north shore of Svalbard, which wasn’t happening even in the late 1970s. There was more ice along the west shores of Spitsbergen (largest Svalbard island) and Novaya Zemlya, and along the north shore of Russia in the Barents Sea (west of Novaya Zemlya) but otherwise there isn’t a huge amount of difference. There is an abundance of sea ice now as there was then in the spring, when polar bears need it the most.
Here’s how current ice extent looks according to the numbers just for the Svalbard area, against an average of 1991-2020. Note that only one standard deviation is presented (two is standard).
Compare above to previous years, charts saved from the NIS archive for early May in 2009, 2012, and 2016.
Degroot’s research on whaling activities during the 17th century indicates that the west coast of Spitsbergen being largely free of sea ice by early April was the norm even during the Little Ice Age (LIA). As he puts it, on pg. 70 (my bold):
During the first decades of the seventeenth century, up to one hundred thousand bowhead whales calved and mated near Jan Mayen early each year. In the spring, the whales migrated northeast along the retreating edge of the vast expanse of congregated sea ice—ice formed by frozen salt water—that constitutes the Arctic ice pack (fig. 1). By early April, they entered feeding grounds in bays along Svalbard’s largest islands, Spitsbergen and Edgeøya, that were now largely clear of sea ice (fig. 2).
Figure 2 from his paper (below) shows that one of the primary “bays” used by bowhead whales included a huge fjord on the northwest coast of Spitsbergen with several entrances that was favoured by whalers, called Smeerenburgfjorden. “Hollander’s Bay” marks an important onshore whale processing camp established in the 1600s.
Smeerenburgfjorden is today (3 May 2023) inaccessible due to fast and pack ice (closeup of NIS chart below, see extreme upper left corner):
The large island of Edgeøya in the southeastern portion of the archipelago, mentioned by DeGroot as also being used by whales in the 1600s in early April, is also inaccessible today (3 May 2023), as the closeup ice chart below shows:
Bottom line: Sea ice extent off the west coast of Svalbard in the Western European Arctic has been highly variable in spring and summer for centuries: some decades had much less ice, some decades had much more. Currently, there is more ice than was present in early May in many years of the 1600s. Amazing how useful a bit of historical perspective can be in cooling down the hot air.
Degroot, D. 2022. Blood and bone, tears and oil: Climate change, whaling, and conflict in the seventeenth-century Arctic.The American Historical Review 127(1):62–99. Open access. https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/rhac009
Laidre, K.L., Born, E.W., Gurarie, E., Wiig, O., Dietz, R. and Stern, H. 2012. Females roam while males patrol: divergence in breeding season movements of pack ice polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280: 1-10. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2371 Open access http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1752/20122371
Laidre, K.L., Supple, M.A., Born, E.W., et al. 2022. Glacial ice supports a distinct and undocumented polar bear subpopulation persisting in late 21st century sea-ice conditions. Science 376(6599):1333-1338.
Hornsea Offshore Wind Project, Yorkshire, England [image credit: nsenergybusiness.com]
This puts a whole new slant on claims of wind power boosting energy security. – – – Russia has a programme to sabotage wind farms and communication cables in the North Sea, according to new allegations, says BBC News.
The details come from a joint investigation by public broadcasters in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
It says Russia has a fleet of vessels disguised as fishing trawlers and research vessels in the North Sea.
They carry underwater surveillance equipment and are mapping key sites for possible sabotage.
The BBC understands that UK officials are aware of Russian vessels moving around UK waters as part of the programme.
The first of a series of reports is due to be broadcast on Wednesday by DR in Denmark, NRK in Norway, SVT in Sweden and Yle in Finland.
A Danish counter-intelligence officer says the sabotage plans are being prepared in case of a full conflict with the West while the head of Norwegian intelligence told the broadcasters the programme was considered highly important for Russia and controlled directly from Moscow.
The broadcasters say they have analysed intercepted Russian communications which indicate so-called ghost ships sailing in Nordic waters which have turned off the transmitters so as not to reveal their locations.
The report focuses on a Russian vessel called the Admiral Vladimirsky. Officially, this is an Expeditionary Oceanographic Ship, or underwater research vessel. But the report alleges that it is in fact a Russian spy ship.
The documentary uses an anonymous former UK Royal Navy expert to track the movements of the vessel in the vicinity of seven wind farms off the coast of the UK and the Netherlands on one mission.
In another failed prediction, a new study on the number of polar bears killed in self-defense in Svalbard, Norway did not find the expected correlation with lack of sea ice or more tourists (Vongraven et al. 2023). Contrary to expectations, fewer bears were actually killed in self-defence as sea ice declined between 1987 and 2019.
Money Quote from the abstract:
“…ice cover had no significant impact on the odds for a [polar bear] kill.”
“Poor ice conditions for polar bears at Svalbard this year. Low ice will make tough hunting conditions this coming spring. Time to plan for more human-bear conflicts unless conditions change.” [13 Feb 2023 tweet, my bold]
Vongraven et al. 2023, Figure 4A, number of polar bears killed in self-defence 1987-2019.
From the Discussion section of the Vongraven paper (pg. 9), my bold:
“More bears on land for longer periods during which more people were accessing the same habitats could have been expected to increase the number of bear-human interactions, and the number of bears killed in defence of life and property. Despite a positive relationship between number of tourists and number of kills at a given time, the total numbers of bears killed did not increase over the years of the study and per-capita kills strongly declined. … This overall reduction in kills, despite greatly reduced sea ice habitat availability and more polar bears spending more time on land, may reflect success of the Svalbard Environmental Act of 2001.”
Nice save there, at the end. Hey, this wasn’t a failure of our prediction that loss of sea ice due to global warming would cause more polar bears to be killed because they attacked people, it’s a resounding victory for a law prohibiting people “seeking out” polar bears! As noted in the next two sentences:
“This act prohibits people from “luring, pursuing or otherwise seeking out polar bears in such a way as to disturb them or expose either bears or humans to danger” (Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, 2001). These requirements may make visitors more cautious and result in human behaviours that make lethal conflicts between humans and bears less likely.”
I wonder why polar bear researchers hadn’t considered this option before they started harping about lack of ice (Abrahms et al. 2023: Atwood and Wilder 2021; Rode et al. 2022; Wilder et al. 2017)? Odd, that.
I note with interest that this law appears not to have saved the bear that died in August 2020 (the year after this study concluded). The bear that died was not responding to being harassed by people but was shot because he killed a person sleeping in a tent in the early hours of a Svalbard morning.
Bottom line: This result by veteran polar bear researchers blows a big hole in the emerging narrative nudging the public to expect more polar bear attacks and problem incidents with less sea ice. They want people to forget about their failed prediction from a few years ago that declining ice would mean declining numbers (Crockford 2917, 2019) and focus on their new boogeyman. Sadly for them, it appears that a big component of their new prediction is also wrong.
Crockford, S.J. 2017. Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). PeerJ Preprints 19 January 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v1 Open access. https://peerj.com/preprints/2737/
Crockford, S.J. 2019. The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened. Global Warming Policy Foundation, London. Available in paperback and ebook formats.
Vongraven, D., Amstrup, S.C., McDonald, T.L., et al. 2023. Relating polar bears killed, human presence, and ice conditions in Svalbard 1987-2019. bioRxiv [preprint] https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.03.17.533082
Wilder, J.M., Vongraven, D., Atwood, T., et al. 2017. Polar bear attacks on humans: implications of a changing climate. Wildlife Society Bulletin 41(3):537-547. https://doi.org/10.1002/wsb.783
Global warming, climate change, all these things are just a dream come true for politicians. I deal with evidence and not with frightening computer models because the seeker after truth does not put his faith in any consensus. The road to the truth is long and hard, but this is the road we must follow. People who describe the unprecedented comfort and ease of modern life as a climate disaster, in my opinion have no idea what a real problem is.