Guilt Trip: Ein Film über Skifahren und Schuldgefühle

Ein Skitrip für die Wissenschaft


Salomon TV (vormals Freeski TV) begibt sich in der jüngsten Ausgabe nach Grönland. Neben der Filmcrew und den Teamfahrern ist auch Glaziologe Alun Hubbard mit von der Partie. Die Pros haben nämlich ein schlechtes Gewissen, weil sie mit ihren vielen Flugreisen an exotische Ziele die Umwelt belasten und hoffen, dass sich das Gewissen beruhigen lässt, wenn sie einem Wissenschaftler bei der Arbeit helfen. Sinnvolle Forschung? Oder doch eher eine Showeinlage? Und wie war der Schnee so? Wir haben Professor Hubbard und Salomon Pro Chris Rubens einige Fragen zum Film gestellt.

Salomon TV (vormals Freeski TV) begibt sich in der jüngsten Ausgabe nach Grönland. Neben der Filmcrew und den Teamfahrern ist auch Glaziologe Alun Hubbard mit von der Partie. Die Pros haben nämlich ein schlechtes Gewissen, weil sie mit ihren vielen Flugreisen an exotische Ziele die Umwelt belasten und hoffen, dass sich das Gewissen beruhigen lässt, wenn sie einem Wissenschaftler bei der Arbeit helfen. Sinnvolle Forschung? Oder doch eher eine Showeinlage? Und wie war der Schnee so? Wir haben Professor Hubbard und Salomon Pro Chris Rubens einige Fragen zum Film gestellt.

Der Film

Das Team reist nach Grönland und schaut sich ein wenig um, bevor es per Hubschrauber aufs Eisschild geht. Ziel ist das Gebiet um den Mount Forel, den zweithöchsten Berg Grönlands. Wegen eines Problems mit dem Hubschrauber wird das Team weiter unten auf dem Eis abgesetzt als eigentlich geplant und erlebt dort schneetechnisch eine unerwartet frühlingshafte Situation (der Dreh fand während einer Phase mit ungewöhnlich hohen Temperaturen statt). Außerdem droht das Küchenzelt in eine Spalte zu fallen. Das Camp wird schließlich doch noch zum Mount Forel verlegt, damit dieser erklommen und Hubbard seine Messungen machen kann.

Der Skifahrer

Chris Rubens, viel gereister Salomon Athlet und häufiger Protagonist bei Salomon TV über Guilt Trip:

PG: The movie is called Guilt Trip. Please explain what exactly you feel guilty about.

CR: As a pro skier I lead an interesting life of contradiction. I make a living off of travelling the world, showing off its beauty through the medium of skiing. In doing so we are creating a huge carbon footprint. Which in turn is harming the very environment that we love to showcase and cherish.

PG: The idea was that bringing a scientist would help ease the guilty feeling. Did it?

CR: Yeah that was definitely the idea to make the trip more justified. I don't think any of us had an illusion that just because we brought a scientist along it would make us green. Having along someone with so much experience in glaciology, climate change and just life in general made for some great discussions in camp with lots of varied ideas and opinions. Climate change is something that we all know and talk about, so I think bringing Alun along was partly selfish so that we could further understand this problem.

PG: Can you tell us a little about how this project came to be? Whose idea was it? What made you decide against just doing a normal ski movie about a trip to Greenland?

CR: This project is definitely Anthony Bonello's baby, he has been talking about it for a while. Most of Salomon TV's films have a strong story theme to them. This was certainly a more ambitious project than most episodes, but after Eclipse last year there was a desire to keep the momentum going.

PG: How did you find Alun? What made you approach Alun, rather than, say, scientists located in Greenland?

CR: Anthony was looking for a scientist that had worked with media before and could convey science in layman terms to the public. When telling the climate change story it is important to try and avoid the doom and gloom of it. You don't want people to feel too criticized or down on themselves, because that won't help anyone. Anthony is a great judge of character and I think that as soon as he got in touch with Alun, he knew we found the right guy. When you are stuck on a glacier for two weeks it is pretty important to be with the right people.

PG: In your words, what was the science that Alun did and why is it important? What were his results?

CR: Basically he conveyed to us that any information coming from the accumulation zone would be helpful as there is relatively little data from that part of the ice cap. His idea was to take ice core samples up in the accumulation zone. These were melted down and sent off to a lab in Europe to be analyzed for isotopes and particulate matter. Basically looking to see if there is an increase in particles causing the ice cap to discolour and melt faster.

Bruno Long

Alun's more personal hypothesis was that the record warm summers we have been having are creating thick layers of ice on the ice cap. The significance of this is that when snow melts, it turns to runoff instead of getting absorbed into the snow. It trickles down, hits the ice layer and then runs off. This accelerates the loss of mass to the ice sheet.  Previously people thought these ice-layers only existed at lower elevations  and that they were not an issue high on the ice cap. The discovery of these ice layers proved his hypothesis right, in this location anyway.

PG: Did this trip change your perspective on skiing, climate change, travel, or anything else?

CR: The skiing was super crazy on this trip. It was a real challenge to find something to ski. I haven't spent a lot of time around ice so it was really fun to swing some tools and get scared. We were also using ropes almost all the time so it was great for the rope skills. It was really cool to see the culture in Greenland, watching people with old traditions and beliefs.

As for climate change, when you travel somewhere for the first time it is hard to know what it is supposed to look like. You are just having your own experience there. I find that my view on climate change is more formulated from my experiences at home, where I know what it is supposed to look like or how much something has changed.

I wouldn't say that the trip has particularly changed my view, I already knew that climate change was happening. The last month of touring the movie around and talking to people has really changed my view and perception. A lot of people have really enjoyed the movie but the hardliners wanted to know more, they want to see how it affected us, how we are going to change our lives and what they can do to make a difference. It has been a really interesting month and I can confidently say that this whole experience will really change my life.

PG: Should we all stop travelling because of climate change?

CR: It's a really tough question. On a theoretical level, yes, air travel is very carbon heavy. But that is coming from someone that has done a huge amount of travelling and owes a huge amount of what I know to travelling. The things I have learned from traveling have been invaluable in how I view the world, so it is hard to tell someone not to travel. Everyone around the world lives their lives a little differently and I think that it is very good for people to see this.

My hope is that with environmental awareness we will start pushing for greener ways to do things and make traveling less carbon heavy. I think this is totally attainable. I have also realized that it's time for myself to cut down on my traveling. I have done some amazing trips around the world but it does have a huge impact. For me travelling less is an easy way to cut down on my carbon footprint. Am I going to cut travelling out completely? Most likely not, my job depends on it, but cutting down is a start.

PG: How can the hedonism of skiing be justified? Do we need to justify it?

CR: I think this is a personal question and would be different for everyone. I would be miserable without skiing or going outside and enjoying the outdoors. If I'm a miserable person I won't be contributing positively to society. Skiing and being in the outdoors makes me appreciate nature, inspires me and helps me realize how important it is to help save it. I think we can also do a much better job of making skiing a more sustainable activity. The mountain community that is built around skiing and the outdoors is one of the most progressive, open minded and in touch groups of people in the world. Taking playing in the outdoors away from them would have a negative effect.

PG: How will skiing change in the next 30 years?

CR: Well, hopefully there will still be snow. As morbid as that sounds, I feel like if it warms as much as it has in my lifetime (32 years), in the next 30, that might be a real question. That being said, I have faith that we are going to tackle this problem and hopefully slow the rate. I think that the ski industry will look for greener, more sustainable solutions in product development and in how we run ski hills. The trend into ski touring isn't going anywhere. People love moving through the mountains under their own power, it makes the skiing that much better.

PG: Who has a higher carbon footprint, you or Alun?

CR: I would imagine that most of the time it is probably comparable. These days though he is a professor so he probably doesn't travel as much for field work. When he is traveling for field work his footprint is similar to mine. He isn't afraid to travel and spread the message, he also accepts the fact we are living in a fossil fuel based society, so you can go hide under a rock and reduce your footprint, but at the end of the day that isn't really going to help the bigger picture.

Bruno Long

Der Eisschild Grönlands

Ein Eisschild ist ein sehr großer Gletscher (mindestens 50 000 km2), der das Relief der darunter liegenden Landmasse großteils überdeckt. Derzeit existieren zwei Eisschilde – das Antarktische Inlandeis und der Eisschild in Grönland (Fläche: 1 710 000 km2). Die Eisschilde sind – wie der Rest der Kryosphäre – aus verschiedenen Gründen wichtig für unser Klima. Ein in der Forschung viel diskutiertes Thema ist der Beitrag schmelzender Eisschilde zum Meeresspiegelanstieg. Es herrscht Einigkeit, dass dieser Beitrag hoch ist – etwa verglichen mit jenem der Gebirgsgletscher – aber nicht alle relevanten Prozesse lassen sich exakt quantifizieren und so gibt es immer wieder neue Ansätze für die Berechnung des möglichen Antiegs. Die Ergebnisse unterscheiden sich dann zwar nicht in der allgemeinen Aussage (Meeresspiegel steigt), aber doch in den konkreten Zahlen.

Alun Hubbard hat viel in Grönland geforscht und auch darüber publiziert. In einem aktuellen Paper (Mikkelsen et al., 2016) an dem er mitgeschrieben hat, geht es um den möglichen Einfluss von flächigen Eislinsen im Firngebiet auf das Abfließen von Schmelzwasser. Der Eisschild hat – wie ein Gebirgsgletscher – ein Ablationsgebiet (Zehrgebiet) und ein Akkumulationsgebiet (Nährgebiet). Bislang wurde angenommen, dass Schmelzwasser im Sommer in den Firn des Akkumulationsgebiets einsickern kann und dort gespeichert wird, anstatt ins Meer abzufließen. Im oben erwähnten Paper stellen die Autoren die Hypothese auf, dass sich in sehr warmen Sommern im Firngebiet massive Eislinsen bilden, durch die das Schmelzwasser in den folgenden Jahren nicht mehr durch kommt. Anstatt in der Schneedecke zu verschwinden, fließt es also ab. Dieser Prozess wäre eine mögliche Erklärung dafür, dass es im Jahr 2012 deutlich mehr Abfluss gab als 2010, obwohl beide Jahre ähnlich warm waren. 2010 könnte sich eine solche Eislinse gebildet haben, die 2012 dann für größere Abflussmengen gesorgt hat. Wird weniger Wasser im Firngebiet gespeichert als angenommen, müssen auch die Berechnungen zum Meeresspiegelanstieg angepasst werden. 

Der Wissenschaftler

Alun Hubbard ist derzeit Professor an der Fakultät für Geowissenschaften der Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø. Abgesehen von seinen vielen wissenschaftlichen Fachpublikationen hat er immer wieder auch an populärwissenschaftlichen Medienprojekten mitgearbeitet, beispielsweise an der BBC Serie 'Frozen Planet'. Während dem Trip mit Salomon TV hat Hubbard mit Unterstützung der anderen Bohrkerne aus dem Firngebiet entnommen. Darin finden sich massive Eislinsen, genau wie an den Standorten im Westen Grönlands, die im oben erwähnten Paper besprochen werden.

Die Bohrkerne wurden nach der ersten Analyse vor Ort geschmolzen und mitgenommen, um später im Labor die genaue Zusammensetzung zu untersuchen. In den letzten Jahrzehnten hat sich die Eisoberfläche des Eisschilds verdunkelt. Das verändert die Albedo und beeinflusst die Schmelzrate (man kennt das vom Saharastaub auf Alpenschnee). Der Grund für die Änderung der Farbe ist nicht vollständig geklärt und die Partikel im Wasser der Bohrkerne können Aufschluss darüber geben, ob Ruß oder anderes Material aufs Eis geweht wird.

Video der Bohrkernentnahme:

Bohrkern aus dem Firngebiet. add_circle
Bruno Long
Bohrkern aus dem Firngebiet.

Alun Hubbard über das 'Guilt Trip' Projekt:

PG: Who is more fun to hang out in tents with, skiers or scientists?

AH: As I said in the film - I used to dream of trips like this to far flung mountains - hence it was a pleasure to work in such a stunning location with talented yet laid-back people - something about Canadians? They knew what they were about with little to prove and were happy to drag me along for the ride without laying it on or any bull. That's refreshing and welcome relief from the usual 'big science' fieldwork campaigns to Greenland or Antarctica that can be rewarding in different ways but are often quite fraught because of the logistics and stakes involved. Senior academics also tend to be quite serious and pompous individuals, who are intensely competitive (don't necessarily exclude myself here) - making it a bit of a chore even when you're in these sublime locations doing amazing things. Its a bit sad really, hence it was just great to have been on this trip with the Salomon crew who certainly knew how to work and play hard.

PG: How accurate was the representation of what you were trying to do science-wise in the film?

AH: It was spot on - it unfolded just as the film reveals. It was a hell of a grunt getting up there to drill into the firn zone of the ice sheet and when we did - I had no idea what we'd find. Yes, the science story was somewhat simplified and cut to render it accessible to all. But it's not easy to convey the full complexity of processes going on up in the firn zone. Hence, it gets reduced to a few sound-bites but they were not far off the mark in terms of what we were doing and why.

PG: How do you launch your drones when there are no pro skiers available?

AH: Okay - so that sequence was a tad contrived. We actually had a few successful UAV (Anm. d. Red.: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) missions - where the drone was hand-launched and was landed just fine (mostly - it had one very hard landing but survived after repairs). So when it didn't return from the mission over Mt Forel - I was genuinely disappointed. When it headed off on that sortie, I knew its chances were slim but it did make for an entertaining section of the film.

PG: In your previous work you and your coauthors have outlined how ice layers in the accumulation zone may affect runoff. The point of taking the cores shown in the film was to confirm that ice layers are present in an area other than what was discussed in that paper, correct? In what year did the ice layers in those cores form? Were they more recent?

Bruno Long

AH: Yes - there's been a lot of work focussing on the western - Kangerlussuaq - sector of the ice sheet. I wanted to see if what we found there in terms of the impermeable, refrozen ice layers was happening elsewhere at high elevations across the ice sheet.

The biggest hurdle is that the accumulation zone is a very costly and difficult place to access (as we see in the film), so when Anthony offered me the place - it was a no brainer to propose a series of cores in the Mt Forel region. And yes, I did find very distinct, thick ice layers - likely from 2007, 2010 and 2012 in the core, and, now - after this last record warm summer - another extensive 2016 layer will have formed too. I'll know for sure when I get the geo-chemistry analyses back in the next month.

PG: Was there something else that you learned from the cores?

AH: Yes - they also tell us how much snow the ice sheet is receiving. The ice sheet is like a bank account - it receives mass input as snow deposits and spends it through melting and calving outputs. There are though very few measurements of precipitation across the accumulation zone. It's well established that overall, the Greenland ice sheet is now losing its mass at a mean rate contributing over 0.8 mm of global sea level rise a year (risen up to 1.2 mm in 2012) - but we're still uncertain about the spatial and temporal variability in the snow recharge - hence any real data (rather than modeling/re-analysis estimates) from the accumulation zone are crucial.

We're also analyzing the samples for dust and organic carbon; it'll tell us how much soot is being deposited onto the ice sheet from wildfires and combustion drifting from North America. This is an important issue since the ice surface has been darkening over the past decade - and that albedo reduction radically alters the amount of incoming sunlight that is absorbed and available for melting ice. We're still not exactly sure what's causing that darkening - whether it's material emerging from within the ice or being blown onto it or actually biological. Its probably a combination of all three but the core analysis will shed some light on that.

PG: Would you say that this Greenland trip was scientifically successful, in terms of publishable results? How important was getting some publicity for science and the climate change discussion?

AH: Definitely. I plan to publish one paper on the firn core stratigraphy and changes in density/refrozen ice layers therein and a second on the geo-chemistry/organic carbon analysis.

For me - none of it was about the climate change discussion; I've done much more targeted media stuff, for example in the BBC's Frozen Planet documentary and recently in a youtube short film. I'm weary of ramming climate change down people's throats and also try hard not to be too preachy - particularly to already converted audiences. To be honest - I didn't have a clue how the Salomon film was going to pan out - or that it was even called 'Guilt Trip' until a few weeks before it was released.

PG: Climate change guilt is a common theme in the skiing world. Do you feel guilty when you get on a plane to gather field data? How about when it's for a conference?

AH: Not really - I very much enjoy my existence on this lovely planet though do attempt to minimize my impact on it. It's why - of all fieldwork - I've most enjoyed operating in Greenland, Antarctica and elsewhere off a sailboat. As well as a lower footprint - it's also (mostly) more relaxed, enjoyable and effective than helicopters. Sadly though, a boat won't deliver personnel and kit to the interior of the ice sheet - so ultimately you can't escape the money and fuel burners if you're chasing the big science stories.

As for conferences - I tend to avoid them as much as I can - at least the big ones. Next week is the "AGU" (Anm. d. Red.: American Geosciences Union, weltgrößte Geowissenschaftskonferenz) - a massive conference with over 20,000 geoscientists all descending on San Francisco to inform the world how important their work is. I go every few years - to do my bit and remind myself what a circus it is. Perhaps, that's a little harsh - I went last year, gave a few talks and got lots out of it.  I'm happy to missing it this year though. I do really enjoy the low key, informal conferences with around 100 people. The International Glaciology Society holds its annual branch meetings each autumn - they are really good fun - you get to meet and talk to everyone - usually over a beer or two and that's always when the best plans are laid.


PG: Final question - who has a higher carbon footprint, you or Chris?

AH: Tough call... Chris lives the life but then I've done my fair share of JetA burning too. I've driven hovercraft, skidoos, speedboats and aircraft on and around the ice sheet. At home I drive a camper van and a dodgy Russian motorbike-sidecar outfit built in 1969 - not exactly efficient - maybe slightly better gas mileage than a Hagland or Humvee. I am though loving my new Salomon touring skis (courtesy of the trip)...  so will maybe be a little cleaner and greener this winter after all.

Literatur: Mikkelsen, A. B., Hubbard, A., MacFerrin, M., Box, J. E., Doyle, S. H., Fitzpatrick, A., Hasholt, B., Bailey, H. L., Lindbäck, K., and Pettersson, R.: Extraordinary runoff from the Greenland ice sheet in 2012 amplified by hypsometry and depleted firn retention, The Cryosphere, 10, 1147-1159, doi:10.5194/tc-10-1147-2016, 2016.

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