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Frozen Planet: Off to the Cold Coast

Updated Monday 12th April 2010

Mark Brandon is heading North - once more into the icy extremes of the planet.

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Hi. My name is Mark Brandon and I am Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science and member of the Science Faculty.

At heart, I am a research scientist and have spent my entire career studying the polar oceans around Antarctica and the Arctic. You can see the sorts of science I have published listed at the OU's Open Resarch Online, and on ResearcherID.

But of course a huge and exciting part of my job is creating teaching materials on environmental science for the University. You can see the courses I have written books for on my faculty home page, but you can sample a couple of chapters of Environment: Journeys through a Changing World in the LearningSpace.

I have also been working with the Open Broadcasting Unit on various TV series such as Coast and my favourite to date – Are We Changing Planet Earth? That was a pretty serious couple of programmes narrated by Sir David Attenborough about the state of the planet – and it won a lot of awards.

At the moment I am working on a really great project that combines both environmental science education and public outreach. The BBC Natural History Unit and Open University are working on a series called Frozen Planet , and allied to the series I am working on a Science Short Course about the science of the polar regions.

And that is the reason I am off to the Cold Coast or Svalbard.

Svalbard is a small archipelago on the edge of the Arctic Ocean and I will be up there for a week working alongside a BBC Frozen Planet film crew.

It seems a bit strange to be heading into the cold just as spring is arriving in Britain after our worst winter for many years, and as I am going so far north it is going to be pretty cold. Looking at the weather forecast for the week, when I land it is going to be below -10C.

That is nothing new to me as I have done a lot of polar fieldwork and wrote a blog on one recent trip for Open2. On that trip I started my blog with an entry called “heading for the global warming front line”. Over the last couple of weeks when I have told my friends I am heading north to do some climate related work some have been surprised.

"I thought global warming was over now – isn’t the world cooling?"

I wish.....

It may have been cold in northern Europe and North America but globally – so far 2010 is the third warmest year since 1880. There are a bunch of graphs and plots shwoing the warming on the NASA site.

Graph showing January-February mean surface temperature anomaly Creative commons image Icon NASA Goddard Institute For Space Studies. Full graphs comparing 1998, 2005 & 2010 available as a pdf download. under Creative-Commons license
Graphic showing January-February 2010 mean surface temperature & anomaly

If you look at part of the Arctic I am going to, it is in the warmest region on the plot. It is still the front line, and over the next couple of weeks I will be writing on this blog about what I find in the Arctic and the people I meet there.

Until the next entry...

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