Mapping ice in the Norwegian Arctic – on the edge between science and policy

Ingrid Bay-Larsen, T. G. Bjørndal, E. A. T. Hermansen
2020 Landscape Research  
In the Norwegian Arctic, petroleum exploration is prohibited north of the ice edge (the zone between solid sea ice and open ocean); the mapping and definition of the ice edge becomes the boundary for petroleum exploration. However, no evidence-based scientifically 'correct' position of the ice edge exists. Defining the ice edge-and its geographic positioning-is the result of co-production processes involving multiple actors and practices. We explore how the use of a new dataset for determining
more » ... he geographical position of the ice edge became the centre of a proxy debate over how far north petroleum exploration should be allowed. The analysis reveals how maps serve as visual discourses in debate, and a strong correlation between different definitions of the ice edge and political commitment to petroleum activities. We challenge and discuss the performativity of maps and how mismatches between expectations to knowledge-based management, including maps, may have democratic implications. KEYWORDS Ice edge; critical cartography; STS; maps Co-producing the ice edge On 20 January 2015 two events took place: The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy announced the 23rd licencing round for oil exploration on the Norwegian Shelf and the Ministry of Climate and Environment announced that it would update the source data generated to map the ice edge in the Barents Sea. Is the fact that these events took place on the same day a matter of coincidence? Hardly, because they are connected. More specifically, they both relate to the geographical positioning of the ice edge. In the months that followed, politicians from both the right-wing and left-wing parties and numerous environmental NGOs participated in a heated public debate over the geographical location of the ice edge, as if the issue of defining the ice edge were a political decision of national significance rather than an objective scientific description of 'what is' (Bay-Larsen & Hermansen, 2015) . The ice edge-or marginal ice zone-is the zone that demarcates open water from sea ice. Based on a scientific quest for truth and definition(s) of a given phenomenon, researchers can produce definitions of the ice edge and its geographical position. Oceanography, meteorology and remote sensing make it possible to observe the location of the ice edge at any given time. In the integrated management plans for the Barents Sea and Lofoten area, these observations are shown as a line on a map or, more precisely, as multiple lines on multiple maps. Two scientific papers have already provided valuable analyses of how the ice edge debate can reflect fundamental structures of environmental decision-making. In their paper from 2018, Veland and Lynch (2017) describe how multiple knowledge systems are-or are not-integrated into and narrated in the debate, and how this can be perceived as a desire for ontological security by the actors involved. In their paper on the CONTACT Ingrid Bay-Larsen
doi:10.1080/01426397.2020.1740664 fatcat:qrra6hyonfe5peffihluuluxum