Photo courtesy of the University of Manitoba.

Arctic Climate Change Study Canceled Because of Climate Change

Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?

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Jun 12 2017, 6:20pm

Photo courtesy of the University of Manitoba.

A multi-million dollar study on the impact of climate change which was set to take place in the Hudson's Bay had to be cancelled due to, you guessed it, climate change.

The study, entitled BaySys, is a $17-million four-year-long program headed by the University of Manitoba. It was planning to conduct the third leg of its research by sending 40 scientists from five Canadian universities out into the Bay on the Canadian Research Icebreaker CCGS Amundsen to study "contributions of climate change and regulation on the Hudson Bay system."

The Amundsen, operated by the Canadian Coast Guard and a collaboration of Arctic universities, had to be deployed early because of severe ice conditions off the coast of Newfoundland and Strait of Belle Isle. The scientists tried to work with the Amundsen's schedule and push their study ahead by tagging along on the ship while it went to help in the heavy ice plaguing Eastern Canada.

The team doing their research. Photo courtesy of the University of Manitoba.

"It became clear to me very quickly that these weren't just heavy ice conditions, these were unprecedented ice conditions," Dr. David Barber, the lead scientist on the study, told VICE. "We were finding thick multi-year sea ice floes which on level ice were five metres thick... it was much, much thicker and much, much heavier than anything you would expect at that latitude and at that time of year."

The ice was creating havoc in the area, puncturing hulls causing some boats to sink and freezing other boats in place. Barber said that there were numerous search and rescue operations requiring helicopters taking place multiple times a day. The team quickly saw that, because Canada has limited ice breakers and the situation was so dire, there was no other alternative to canceling their mission.

"If we were to leave and go do the science program we would be putting lives and equipment at risk off the Newfoundland coast," said Barber. "If we were to go we would then be contracting our field program in the Arctic significantly thereby putting our own science teams at risk."

Fishing boats stuck in the arctic sea ice off the coast of Newfoundland. Photo courtesy of the University of Manitoba.

So, stuck between some ice and a hard place, the team called it and went home. That said, the scientists, being scientists and all that, managed to conduct science on the sea ice which was causing them so much ire—what Barber, who has studied see ice for 30 years, found was worrisome.

"It was clear it was from the Arctic, I just needed to be among the ice to see it," said Dr. Barber. "What was also clear to me was that climate change has caused this event to happen."

Essentially, the Arctic ice, because of climate change, is having its thickness reduced which in turn allows the ice to become more mobile. The ice was able to escape the Arctic to the Labrador current and make its way south. Barber says that situation works as a microcosm that showcases the need for Canada to start planning for the transformation climate change is, and will, bring, as it will affect our everyday activities and trade routes. "We're really at the beginning of this," said Barber. "It's only going to get worse."

The crew hopes that their recent findings will help further understand the ice hazards that climate change will be bringing upon Canada and plans to resume the study on July 6. Still though, this was a big hit to BaySys. In the press release announcing the cancellation of this leg exists a jagged little pill showcasing just how truly shitty the cruel irony that forced the end of the study is:

"The research of our scientists clearly indicate that climate change is not something that is going to happen in the future—it is already here."

Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.

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