Category: Uncategorized

Fastest warming town on Earth

May 25, 2023

When I first interviewed Longyearbyen’s newly elected mayor, Arild Olsen, in late January 2016, jobs were an urgent issue. Seven years later, with Olsen still in charge, climate change has taken center stage instead. Here is Olsen’s view from the top of the world, in the fastest warming town on Earth.


Colorful homes and buildings line hillside above Longyearbyen harbor in July; Svalbard, Norway. © Randall Hyman

The Arctic After Dark

April 13, 2023

For these researchers, their mission is simple but profound: disappear. This new article in Nature documents efforts to study light-threatened species in the polar night.


Aurora borealis, aka northern lights, at Ny-Alesund science village in polar night of mid-January Kongsfjorden, Svalbard archipelago, Norway. © Randall Hyman

Fighting Climate Change, One Forest at a Time

December 7, 2022

Forests not only capture the atmosphere’s excess carbon dioxide, but also store vast quantities of it. Biologists and foresters from Tufts and Harvard universities  say that “proforestation”— retaining and protecting already-established mature forests — is more efficient and economical than reforestation. Conservationists in southern Illinois are proposing a new kind of national park, or “climate preserve,” that would help stanch climate change by protecting mature forests from logging.


John Wallace, conservation activist and co-founder of Shawnee Forest Defense, views logging site at Bean Ridge in Shawnee National Forest; Thebes, Illinois. © Randall Hyman

Connecting the dots

February 4, 2022

While climate change and environmental justice are key issues for northern Europe’s only Indigenous people, the Sámi, all Arctic peoples are in crisis. Temperatures are rising twice as fast in the High North as the rest of the globe, but climate change can be traced southward across Canada, Alaska, and the American Southwest, where remote Native peoples are feeling the heat as well. Read about how Navajo women are taking matters into their own hands across Arizona and New Mexico.


Arizona state representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, seven-months pregnant, poses in full traditional Navajo attire at her paternal grandmother's lands southeast of Red Mesa in Sweetwater, Arizona. (Randall Hyman)

Arizona state representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, seven-months pregnant, poses in full traditional Navajo attire at her paternal grandmother’s lands southeast of Red Mesa in Sweetwater, Arizona. © Randall Hyman



Once Upon a Time in Iceland

July 30, 2021

Few countries have leapt as dramatically from rural to urban as Iceland did in the latter half of the 20th century. The century that began with rural residents outnumbering urban nine to one, closed with 95 percent of the population concentrated in cities—nearly two-thirds in metro Reykjavík. This photo essay highlights a time of rapid change in the 1970s and early 1980s when I lived in Iceland, and many older Icelanders still hailed from farms or tiny coastal villages.That same decade, Iceland unplugged its last hand-operated farmhouse telephone switchboard and bridged the final gap in its ring road, forging a nation where all roads and communications led to the capital.


Family relaxes atop hay wagon after long day of work near Skalholt Iceland. © Randall Hyman

Fossil fuels and climate change

September 15, 2020

While temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the rest of the world, the greenhouse gases fueling this change come from much farther south in North America, Europe, and Asia. One of the highest concentrations of methane in the United States hovers over the remote Four Corners region of the American Southwest where oil and gas wells proliferate, encroaching on sacred Native lands and one national park. Debate rages there over whether to sacrifice timeless natural and cultural treasures for short-term financial gain.


Early morning light and clouds showcase Fajada Butte in late July at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico. (Randall Hyman)

Early morning light and clouds showcase Fajada Butte in late July at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico. © Randall Hyman

Sámi Voices video

September 6, 2019

In late winter, far above the Arctic Circle, Norway’s Finnmark region comes alive as reindeer prepare to migrate from snowy highlands to coastal lowlands to bear young and fatten up throughout summer. The Sámi people have followed this migration for millennia, but their culture is rapidly changing in the face of climate change and globalization. This video features Sámi individuals who are showcased in the traveling exhibit, Sámi Dreams.


With a soaring career touring the world, Elle Marja Eira borrows from her Sámi roots for songwriting and singing. © Randall Hyman

Sámi Dreams portfolio in SCANDINAVIAN REVIEW

June 15, 2019

With a front row seat on climate change, the Sámi have watched as rapid shifts in ecosystems north of the Arctic Circle increasingly threaten their way of life. At the same time, they have leapt from being second-class citizens forced into schools that banned their language, to a semi-autonomous people with their own parliaments in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Read about their lives in their own words in the Spring 2019 issue of Scandinavian Review magazine, and listen to them speak by pointing your smart phone at the QR codes below each person’s words.


Aina Emilia Siri Bals, fifteen years old, sits in lavvu, or tipi, dreaming of a bright future, unfettered by her people’s painful past. © Randall Hyman

Sámi Dreams exhibit debut

May 1, 2019

The Sámi Dreams exhibit has officially opened and is debuting at Norway House in Minneapolis through June 9th!


As a member of Sami Parliament and a Sea Sami with deep roots along the wild northern coast, Silje Karine Muotka makes her people’s voices heard concerning climate change, marine pollution and indigenous rights. ©Randall Hyman


Secret Lives of Ice Algae in NATIONAL WILDLIFE

February 5, 2019

SEA-ICE ALGAE LEAD MYSTERIOUS LIVES. Some hang like slimy greenish-brown beards from the underside of ocean ice while others thrive in tiny brine channels that form when seawater freezes. Essential to the survival of creatures from tiny krill to penguins, seals, polar bears and blue whales, ice algae are also elusive. That’s why scientists sail to the ends of the Earth to study them, and why I found myself a few years ago peering over the side of the Norwegian research ship Lance, zigzagging toward the North Pole…


Diver from Norwegian Polar Institute research vessel RV Lance swims beneath pack ice with suction device in search of zooplankton samples at 82 degrees north latitude, far north of Svalbard, Norway. © Randall Hyman

Antarctic sea ice in SCIENCE

April 6, 2018

A new study of krill collected 15 years ago in Antarctica’s Scotia Sea suggests that seasonal sea ice plays an important role in both the Antarctic and Arctic food chains by hosting carbon-sequestering ice algae in early spring and creating calmer seas both before and after the late-spring melt. Calm seas create a more stratified water column that allows phytoplankton to hang near the surface and absorb more sunlight for maximum photosynthesis. Zooplankton like krill thrive on this rich diet and support a more robust food chain. Researchers tracked productivity with a recently discovered lipid marker that is produced only by ice algae. This vital role of sea ice will dramatically diminish as ice-free waters expand across polar seas.


Polar ice pack creates vast frozen landscape stretching to horizon across the Arctic Ocean near 83° north latitude in April 2015, far north of Svalbard, Norway. © Randall Hyman

Sami springtime

April 1, 2018

During a month of portraiture of modern Sami society, I am also photographing how the land and people transform as sunlight returns. The Sami call Norway’s northernmost region home and use springtime to celebrate confirmations and baptisms in resplendent, traditional attire.

It is also a time for music festivals,

reindeer racing…

and snowmobile motocross, even for the tiniest contenders!

Polar bears and icy greens in OCEANS DEEPLY

February 8, 2018

Two studies published in the last two weeks highlight how important sea ice is to polar bears– not just so they can hunt, but so they can eat their greens, too! My article today in OCEANS DEEPLY looks at a new world record for photosynthesis in the dark (ice algae blooming in near total darkness beneath six feet of snow and ice) and some stunning detective work using a chemical marker to show that polar bears are almost wholly dependent on that same algae. Polar bear moms don’t have to tell their cubs to eat their greens– it’s just naturally part of their diet in the seals they eat!


Polar bear cubs play in icy swimming hole at 82° north. © Randall Hyman

Oil in paradise essay in OCEANS DEEPLY

August 9, 2017

After Norwegian national elections next month, plans to drill for oil in waters along the country’s rugged northwest islands will likely resurface. In light of demonstrations in the Lofoten Islands last weekend, here’s a piece published today in OCEANS DEEPLY recalling a few magazine assignments I covered over the years as the region developed into a prime tourist destination.


A herring boat follows the channel from a harbor at Svolvaer, part of Norway’s Lofoten Islands, to the open Norwegian Sea. © Randall Hyman


Svalbard Russian tourism interview in ARCTIC DEEPLY

June 13, 2017

With the recent crash of coal prices, Norway has suspended most of its mining in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and turned instead to tourism and scientific research in the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen. Russia has not followed suit in Barentsburg, the only other town on Spitsbergen Island. There, Moscow continues to subsidize coal mining for strategic geopolitical reasons while fostering a fledgling tourism company, Arctic Travel Company Grumant, which depends heavily on the annual peak of tourists in March and April. My interview with Barentsburg’s tourism manager, Sergey Shirokiy, takes a look at the town’s tourism prospects and coal dependency.


Snowmobile tourists leave Russian coal mining town of Barentsburg amid snow and ice of April; Svalbard, Norway. © Randall Hyman