August 28, 2019

Russia discovers five islands as climate change melts Arctic ice
A Russian naval expedition has discovered five Arctic islands as climate change melts glaciers and reveals landforms previously hidden under ice. Ranging in size from 900 to 54,500 square metres, the five tiny islands are located in the cove of Vize off the northeastern shore of Novaya Zemlya, which divides the Barents and Kara seas in the Arctic ocean, a defence ministry statement said. Rather than planting the proverbial flag in the sand, members of the expedition built a cairn on one of the islands containing a note about their discovery, a compact disc with their photographs and a pennant commemorating the 100th anniversary of the northern fleet's hydrographic service.  Then-student Marina Migunova first spotted the islands in 2016 while analysing satellite imagery for her final coursework at a naval university. But new geographic points are added to maps and other navigational documents only after specialists visit them and perform a topographic survey, the defence ministry said. The islands were previously concealed under the Nansen glacier, also known as the Vylka, which is part of Europe's largest ice cap covering much of Novaya Zemlya's northern island. Location of newly discovered Russian islands The retreat of Arctic ice amid rising air and ocean temperatures has been unveiling unknown landforms. In 2015-18, the hydrographic service observed more than 30 islands, capes and bays near Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land for the first time through satellite monitoring. More are expected to be found.  A US study last year concluded that the ice loss by glaciers on Franz Josef Land had doubled between 2011 and 2015. Melting ice has increasingly stranded polar bears on land, contributing to incidents like the “polar bear invasion” of a military town on Novaya Zemlya this year. Coastal erosion is also speeding up as permafrost soil thaws and summertime wave action increases.  President Vladimir Putin said at an Arctic conference in April that Russian data showed the region was warming not two but four times faster than the rest of the world.  In response, his country has been expanding its presence in the Arctic, opening military bases and building nuclear icebreakers to promote shipping along the northern sea route.  Last week, Russia's new floating nuclear power plant began a voyage across the Arctic Ocean to provide heat and electricity to a gold-mining town in the remote Chukotka region. Russia's floating nuclear power plant, the Academic Lomonosov, stands in port during a visit by The Telegraph last month Credit: Alec Luhn/For The Telegraph State concern Rosatom hopes to export this technology to other countries despite the safety concerns of activists, who have dubbed the plant “Chernobyl on ice”.  A top-secret nuclear submarine caught fire in the Arctic Ocean in July, killing 14, and this month a blast at a missile testing site killed at least five and caused a radiation spike in the northern Arkhangelsk region. The defence ministry said a “liquid-fuelled reaction engine” had exploded, but foreign experts have said the fallout suggested that a nuclear reactor had blown up. Following the routes of early explorers, the expedition to Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land is also collecting data for scientific research, raising Russian flags over historic sites and visiting Soviet military infrastructure, including a meteorological station destroyed by a Nazi U-boat in 1943. Much of the archipelago was mapped by Florence Nightingale's cousin Benjamin Leigh Smith, whose shipwreck in Franz Josef Land was reached by divers last year.
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