Sea ice lecture inspires and fascinates

By Julia Taylor

Sun Star Reporter

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Hajo Eicken talks about sea ice during the lecture on Oct. 15. Photo by Julia Taylor

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and sea ice changes in the Arctic are similar according Hajo Eicken, associate professor of geophysics and geology at UAF.

Both are slow moving large threats to the entire planet. Both have fast elements that impact specific groups of people in a devastating way. Both have distinct challenges that come from human behaviors and choices.

“Sea ice is just like land for those who live on and near it,” Eicken, supervisor at the International Arctic Research Center, said. “You don’t think about how much pressure and how many factors are constantly in motion.”

Eicken almost didn’t make it back in time for his lecture because he spent the last few days making sure that sea ice instruments were properly placed along the Arctic coast. He flew back from Barrow earlier in the afternoon after spending time with graduate students and following up on projects with local experts.

Eicken discussed the choice to delay the final fuel delivery to Nome in 2011. The company believed that climate change was making the freeze-up happen later each year and so a delay in the delivery seemed reasonable.

Freeze-up was not late in 2011.

The Coast Guard sent an ice breaker to escort the fuel tanker to Nome. Without sea ice specialists being on hand, the tanker could have navigated into an ice formation that could have broken it apart. Nome would not have had enough fuel to last that winter.

Eicken said that the natural curiosity of people about the environment provides an unending stream of things to explore. He encouraged students to consider going into fields that will give them challenges they can be passionate about and that will keep their minds sharp.

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