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What science says



Restoring Arctic ice through pumping sea water on top of it in winter

In 2016, a group of scientists proposed a simple solution to save the Arctic ice: increase its volume by pumping water onto the existing ice sheets. The Arctic sea water, when pumped over the ice, freezes quickly due to the low Arctic atmosphere temperature. This results in thicker ice sheets, which are less likely to melt completely during summer. Being a promising idea due to its simplicity, however, it requires further exploration to determine the most effective approach to implement it on a large scale.

A new concept

We are developing a new concept which makes use of specific locations around the Arctic Ocean to create ice and then have it transported into the Arctic waters by existing ocean currents. Through this much more effective ice distribution process and larger pumps, we believe the number of installations, necessary to save a 100.000 square kilometers of ice from melting during the summer, can be reduced dramatically to about 100 to 1000 installations.

Engineering with nature

Coming from The Netherlands, a country mostly below sea level, we learned that working with nature, rather than against it, is in most cases the best way to accomplish huge projects. For example, to reinforce our coast line a large artificial peninsula was created out of 21.5 million cubic meters of sand, dubbed ‘The Sand Motor’. Ocean current, wind and waves are now gradually spreading the sand along the coast and into the dunes. This example of ‘engineering with nature’ reflects how we plan to use the force of nature to help with the effective distribution of Arctic sea ice.

Think big, start small

Though the scale of this project will be gigantic, it all starts very small. We used a university cold room to mimic the Arctic temperatures. In here, we filled a series of coolers with a combination of fresh water and the right amount of sea salt. This ‘ice lab’ enables us to test our hypotheses about ice growth using different methods and under different circumstances. Hypotheses validated in the lab will consequently be tested in real Arctic environments in our upcoming field test. We will then use the outcomes for our first demonstration installation in the Arctic. This will be a continuous iterative process leading eventually to an effective process for Arctic ice thickening to help the Arctic ice survive the summer months and use the reflective assets of the ice sheets for ‘Solar Radiation Management’  to keep our planet cool.

Involving local communities

The local indigenous communities have a deep understanding of the Arctic environment, its ecosystems, and the dynamics of sea ice. For generations, they have inhabited and relied on the Arctic region for their livelihoods and cultural sustenance. Their traditional knowledge encompasses a comprehensive understanding of the sea ice’s behavior, seasonal variations, and its ecological significance. They are also the ones disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change. For them the loss of sea ice is very real and having a huge impact. By involving the local population in restoration initiatives, their invaluable traditional ecological knowledge can be integrated into scientific research and planning, leading to more effective strategies and outcomes.

The indigenous communities have inherent rights to their lands and resources. These rights are recognized and protected by international agreements, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These rights make they have a final say in providing permits for projects in their region. Nature restoration projects like ours have the potential to create employment opportunities and contribute to local economic development.

We will use the  8 Inuit Qaujimajatuangit principles as guidelines:

  • ᐃᓅᖃᑎᒌᑦᓯᐊᕐᓂᖅ – Inuuqatigiitsiarniq
    Respecting others, relationships and caring for people
  • ᑐᙵᓇᕐᓂᖅ – Tunnganarniq
    Fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming and inclusive.
  • ᐱᔨᑦᓯᕐᓂᖅ – Pijitsirniq
    Serving and providing for family and/or community.
  • ᐋᔩᖃᑎᒌᓐᓂᖅ – Aajiiqatigiinniq
    Decision making through discussion and consensus.
  • ᐱᓕᒻᒪᒃᓴᕐᓂᖅ – Pilimmaksarniq
    Development of skills through observation, mentoring, practice, and effort.
  • ᐃᑲᔪᖅᑎᒌᓐᓂᖅ – Ikajuqtigiinniq
    Working together for a common cause.
  • ᖃᓄᖅᑑᕐᓂᖅ – Qanuqtuurniq
    Being innovative and resourceful.
  • ᐊᕙᑎᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃ ᑲᒪᑦᓯᐊᕐᓂᖅ – Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq
    Respect and care for the land, animals and the environment.

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