Time and Ice
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In the “black forest”, among black pyramids left by the melting Skeiðarárjökull. The glacier will be gone by 2070. Photo by Andri Snær Magnason
Nature

Time and Ice

Andri Snær Magnason
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time 16 minutes

I grew up in America as a child and when we moved home there were many things that struck me visually. There were elements in the landscape that had a deep impact, but I could not put it all into words. There were just these feelings stuck in my mind, and pictures, and things that I only understood much later.

In the north we had a farm by the ocean, just below the Arctic Circle. For many years, I was not sure what defined the nature there so strongly, because the most obvious thing was all the life. It is a place where you can listen to 14 species of birds singing or quacking at the same time. Walking around the beach or the meadows in late June, you have to tread gently: everywhere you will find nests with eggs, or small chicks. This is nature, but it is neither calm nor tranquil. It is as busy as a metropolis; the cliffs full of screaming birds, the meadows full of birds trying to divert you away from their eggs, or Arctic terns coming in swarms to attack you. All these elements resemble life in an obvious way, but a few years ago I found out that it was not life that defined this nature. It was death. The abundance and overwhelming presence of death. In a short walk you would find a dead bird, a dead chick, a half-eaten duck, a dead lamb wriggling with worms, dead fish, an old skeleton of a whale and a seal’s head. And looking closer, skeletons were everywhere, alongside parts of wings. The smell in the air was actually rotting seaweed.

In the sky you would see gliding gulls, threatening the newly hatched birds, swooping down and flying away with the little innocent creatures. This was a culture shock for a child. You would remember that in a park, or the zoo, in a city or on the farm, you would never encounter death or anything dead. So up north,

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On Thin Ice
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Photo by Nikołaj Kozakow
Nature

On Thin Ice

The Changing Climate in Yakutia
Michał Książek

“Very warm, only minus five degrees. No snowfall,” writes my friend from Yakutsk, the capital of Yakutia, complaining about the lack of winter. I ask other Yakut friends whether anyone remembers late October being so warm. Suoch, they answer unanimously, with the Yakut word for ‘no’. This time last year, it was -20°C. Everywhere is getting warmer, even Yakutsk; far into the mainland, covered in permafrost.

It was business as usual at first. In September, the frost set in. But then at the beginning of October, temperatures went up. There were puddles everywhere and the snow almost totally disappeared. A thaw set in, as never seen before in Yakutia. And then frost again, followed by more warming up. It used to be that once winter came, it was here to stay and you would expect the first thaw only in March. In any case, the Yakut language does not have any words for ‘thaw’; nor do the languages of the neighbouring Even, Evenki and Yukagir people. In some districts (called uluses) of Yakutia (which is 10 times larger than Poland) daily temperatures in late October have reached 3°C.

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