Happy New Year! Another year that, if we are to believe predictions, will be warmer than normal.
Australia has been on fire since October. And even though forest fires have always been a natural part of Australia’s ecosystem, this year’s fires have broken all former records. So far, more than five million hectares (50,000 square kilometers) have burned. That is more than ten times as much as during the forest fire season of 2008-2009, which was one of the worst in Australian history.
And on the opposite side of the globe, we also see clear signs that the globe is warming up, slowly but steadily.
Today brought the news from the Norwegian Met Office that Svalbard has had a temperature above normal for 109 consecutive months. The median temperature at Svalbard airport was -10.6 degrees Celsius, which is 2.6 degrees above normal. At Hopen, the month’s average temperature was -7.0 degrees, 5.2 above normal.
One does not know whether it is trouble with access to food – due to warmer weather – that is the reason for a polar bear to go into Longyearbyen town during Christmas. However, the bear visited the settlements in Longyearbyen four times within a week. In the night leading up to New Year’s Day, the Svalbard Governor saw no other solution than to take out the bear.
Between Christmas and New Year, polar explorers Mike Horn and Børge Ousland finally managed to go home from what had become a more strenuous polar expedition than they had envisioned before setting out. The former research vessel “Lance” had been stuck in ice for more than two weeks when it finally managed to break loose. It arrived at port in Tromsø last Monday.
We have read a new report tasked by Greenland’s authorities arguing that both parents as well as professionals in Greenland lack knowledge about how to recognize signs indicating that children have been exposed to abuse.
And for the first time ever in Canadian history, there is now a Minister in the federal cabinet whose sole task is Canada’s northern affairs. His name is Dan Vandal and he is also the only first nations member of the current cabinet.
We have also taken a look at business in the High North and found that doing business in the Arctic may actually be a competitive advantage rather than a disadvantage. It provides companies with a unique position when it comes to resources, lack of competitors and proximity to customers.
During the holidays, our longread story has taken us to a Russian mono-town, one out of many mono-industrial towns in the Arctic, struggling with social problems. “Even though it is a diamond town, it is quite an expensive, under-developed town. Expensive because it is situated quite far from big cities and transportation is long and costly. Under-developed because it looks like it is still stuck in the Soviet time and very few new buildings are constructed since then. Air quality is bad due to the open kimberlite pipe”, says Maria Ivanova (36), who lives in Mirny, a town with more than 35,000 inhabitants, dominated by the diamond industry and located 820 kilometres west of Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic.
We stay in Russia, where Moscow’s heavy investments in Arctic industry and shipping has direct influence on security in the Arctic, according to researchers.
In Norway, the past fall and winter have been characterized by noise related to the air ambulance services in Northern Norway. It all started when a Swedish-British company won a supply bid – against a Norwegian competitor. We ask: How much criticism can be justified, how much of it is a campaign, and how much is politics?
That’s it for now, but we will be back next week.
Have a great first weekend of 2020!
Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke
News Editor, High North News