Polar holidaymakers see an icy world melting

By Katia Dolmadjian, AFP

PARIS–They go to paddle between glistening icebergs or ski on blinding white ice, but a rising number of polar tourists get to see something else, too: the monumental changes wrought by global warming. Polar holidaymakers see the ice shelves and soaring glaciers thaw before their eyes, making them important witnesses to a threatened landscape, activists and tour companies say. The Antarctic Peninsula and Arctic are considered global hotspots, warming at double the average rate for the planet. Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, one of the biggest single contributors to world sea-level rise, is melting irreversibly, scientists say.

The Arctic ice cap is melting faster than ever before, threatening to push so much fresh water into the North Atlantic that it could disrupt how the ocean regulates global temperatures, a prominent oceanographer has warned. On Norway’s Lofoten Islands north of the Arctic Circle, the warmer temperatures are noticeable. “To find yourself walking about in shorts with the temperature 25 degrees Celsius at the beginning of June in Svolvaer, when the average temperature for the previous 10 years was 12 degrees, that is completely unheard of,” said Margaux Maury, a French tourist who spent 10 days on the archipelago. “It really makes you realize that global warming has taken hold.” Such experiences could help sound the alarm about the impact of global warming at the poles, said French adventurer Nicolas Varnier. “People should go discover the polar zone, but of course not in any old way,” said Vanier, who has directed a number of films set in the Arctic.