BAS breaks ground on energy-efficient Discovery Building to study climate change in Antarctica

February 26, 2020 by  
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To establish Britain as a world leader in the fight against climate change, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has broken ground on the new Discovery Building at Rothera Research Station, its largest facility for ongoing climate-related research in Antarctica. Designed by Hugh Broughton Architects (HBA) as part of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Partnership, the new operations building and ongoing modernization efforts will follow a bespoke BREEAM accreditation and assessment system to ensure that the upgraded facility meets the highest environmental standards. Located on a rocky promontory at the southern extremity of Adelaide Island, the Rothera Research Station has operated year-round since its opening in 1975 and serves as a major logistics center for all BAS operations on the continent. The new cutting-edge facility — named The Discovery Building to commemorate the discovery of Antarctica in 1820 by the British naval officer Edward Bransfield — will consolidate the existing facility by replacing a series of scattered buildings that are too outdated or costly to maintain. Spanning an area of 4,500 square meters, the two-story building will comprise preparation areas for field expeditions, a central store, medical facility, offices, recreational spaces, workshops and areas for plant. Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature To minimize environmental impact, The Discovery Building will feature an energy-efficient, aerodynamic design oriented into the prevailing wind. A snow and wind deflector — the largest of its kind in Antarctica — will channel air at higher speeds down the leeward face to minimize snow accumulation. The exterior composite insulated metal panels will be tinted a pale blue in reference to the Antarctic sky and to minimize impacts of degradation from high levels of UV. Triple glazing will let in natural light while ensuring an airtight envelope. Health and wellness for field staff is also considered in the design. Vibrant colors, transparent glazed screens between spaces and access to natural light will help mitigate the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the long, dark Antarctic winters. Open-plan workspaces and break-out areas will help foster collaboration. The Discovery Building is expected to finish construction in 2023. The project was designed with BAM Nuttall Ltd and its team, design consultants Sweco, Hugh Broughton Architects as well as with Ramboll acting as BAS’s Technical Advisers and with its team Norr and Turner & Townsend. + Hugh Broughton Architects Images via Hugh Broughton Architects

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BAS breaks ground on energy-efficient Discovery Building to study climate change in Antarctica

January 2020 was the hottest January on record

February 14, 2020 by  
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Citing 141 years of records, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has called last month the hottest January of all, to date. Meanwhile, the 10 warmest January temperatures all took place this century, since 2002, highlighting the accelerated climate crisis . Typically, the first month of the year is the coldest. But recent recordings reveal significantly warmer average temperatures. As NOAA reported, “January 2020 marked the 44th consecutive January and the 421st consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average.” Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature NOAA also found that “The January global land and ocean surface temperature was the highest on record at 2.05 degrees F (1.14 degrees C) above the 20th-century average. This surpassed the record set in January 2016 by 0.04 of a degree F (0.02 of a degree C).” Last month registered 2.70 degrees F above average for the Northern Hemisphere, while the Southern Hemisphere docked at 1.40 degrees F above average. This was closely tied to a considerable lack of snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet another worrisome trend is that both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice coverage were significantly diminished. According to NASA, 97% of publishing climate scientists recognize human activity as the culprit in the alarming uptick of global temperatures — specifically the burning of fossil fuels , the misuse of land by logging and animal husbandry for the meat industry — all of which increase concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. These runaway global temperatures have had far-reaching repercussions, such as creating climate extremes, unpredictable precipitation, retreating glaciers, sea level rise , ecosystem imbalances and endangerment of many flora and fauna. If left unmitigated, the climate crisis will start to adversely affect humans further by disrupting food supplies, causing property damage, burdening economies, inciting population displacement and compounding the magnitude of public health issues. + NOAA + NASA Image via Angie Agostino

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January 2020 was the hottest January on record

DIY sweet treats for Valentines Day

February 14, 2020 by  
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From pesticide residue on cut flowers to the questionable ingredients in conversation hearts, standard-issue Valentine romance won’t cut it for your earth-conscious sweetie. But don’t worry, you can make DIY treats that are delicious, personalized and easier on the environment than conventional Valentine’s Day candy. Fair-trade ingredients The best Valentine’s Day candy starts with fair-trade ingredients. Cocoa is one of the most important fair-trade items, as 90% of the global cocoa supply comes from small family farms in tropical places. The 6 million farmers earning their living through growing and selling cocoa beans are vulnerable to pressures that drive the market price down. If you buy chocolate bars and chips that are Fair-Trade certified, you know that the farmers are being fairly paid for their work. Since 1998, this program has invested about $14 million into cocoa-producing communities in places like Peru, Ecuador, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Many other ingredients besides cocoa are covered by the fair-trade certification system. Some of these items that you might use in Valentine’s Day recipes include sugar, coffee, honey, tea and fruits like bananas . Simple Valentine’s Day treats Does the intricacy of the treat reflect your love for your partner? Not necessarily. Even if you’re challenged by lack of time and/or kitchen skills, you can still produce a thoughtful and tasty Valentine’s Day gift. Related: 14 vegan and vegetarian Valentine’s Day dinner ideas Three-ingredient vegan chocolate pots contain only chocolate, dates and almond milk. You melt unsweetened chocolate in a microwave, throw it in a blender with the dates and almond milk, then refrigerate until it solidifies. The trickiest thing is remembering that you’ll need to refrigerate it for at least four hours, so plan ahead. Get the full recipe here . Another option for those who have trouble juggling multiple ingredients, this three-ingredient velvety chocolate fruit dip combines coconut cream, cacao powder and maple syrup. Just add a fourth ingredient — some fruit — and you’ll be ready for Valentine’s Day. Try bananas, mango slices or chunks of pineapple for best results. Does your darling love ice cream? The simplest vegan ice cream consists of two ingredients: cocoa powder and bananas, both of which you can get fair-trade certified. You just need a blender or food processor and a freezer. Want to jazz it up? Add coconut, berries or nuts. Prefer to be even more minimalist? Make a one-ingredient ice cream of bananas only. Chocolate delicacies For a more traditional Valentine’s Day candy gift — but still vegan and fair-trade — make your own vegan chocolate salted caramels . You can get really romantic by shaping them into hearts. What if your love is not only vegan, but a gluten-free raw foodie? A vegan chocolate almond cheesecake with a gluten-free crust is an excellent solution to this Valentine’s Day gift-giving challenge. This recipe tops the cheesecake with cocoa nibs and extra almonds. Perhaps cookies are your loved one’s favorite treat. These heart-shaped chocolate sugar cookies are vegan and gluten-free. You’ll need heart-shaped cookie cutters and a rolling pin for this recipe. Fancy and fruity desserts It’s hard to fathom, but not everybody rates chocolate as their favorite. Some people don’t like it at all and would even prefer fruit ! If your partner values berries over cocoa, whip up a raw strawberry cashew cream tart . The crust is made of dates, coconuts and almonds, and the filling is strawberry cashew cream. Remember that strawberries usually top the dirty dozen list of produce that you should buy organic, so shop accordingly. No pesticides for your valentine! Strawberry donuts with jam frosting make for a sweet Valentine’s Day breakfast. If you like decorating, you can heap on the pink frosting and arrange freeze-dried strawberry bits or candy sprinkles. Related: 9 ways to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day Few vegan desserts involve dusting off your blowtorch. But this vegan crème brûlée recipe made with coconut milk will awe and impress your partner, especially when they see you welding that blowtorch in the name of love. Flowers for those who don’t like sweets What if your partner doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth? Cut flowers are a Valentine’s Day staple, but they are notoriously pesticide-ridden, and many flower farms don’t treat workers or the environment well. If you’re concerned about sustainable practices in the floral industry, the internet provides a few tools. For California-grown flowers, you can look at Bloomcheck , which measures wildlife protection, air and soil quality and impact on workers and community. Rainforest Alliance monitors South America , with more than 1.3 million farms using Rainforest Alliance methods to protect local ecosystems and workers. Veriflora vets farms in the whole western hemisphere. A low-key Valentine’s Day Sometimes Valentine’s Day is the worst time to go out to dinner or to dessert shops. The stress of making reservations and battling a sea of lovers can put a damper on romance. Instead, consider celebrating at home with a simple, homemade dinner followed by DIY treats. Whipping up dinner together is a good way to show your love and is much more personal than making a reservation. Images via Shutterstock

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How hobbyists are saving endangered killifish from extinction

February 12, 2020 by  
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Killifish biology has long intrigued fish enthusiasts and scientists. But human encroachment, habitat loss and climate change are dwindling killifish populations in the wild. Thankfully, collection efforts by conservationists are saving these creatures. The conservationists distribute specimens and their eggs to academic and hobbyist circles for captive breeding and stewardship. To date, at least 1,270 killifish species are known worldwide, according to Portland State University’s Podrabsky Laboratory . Every continent, save Antarctica and Australia, has killifish. Related: San Diego Tropical Fish Society’s Annual Show celebrates natural, eco-minded aquascaping The BBC and Smithsonian Magazine rank killifish among Earth’s “most extreme” fish. They live in small bodies of water that dry up quickly. Through evolution, they’ve adapted to grow and develop rapidly before their watery homes evaporate. Some killifish species even mature in just a couple weeks. To illustrate, the arrival of rain spurs the tiny fish embryos, dormant in the sediment, to rapidly develop and hatch. The fry next attain sexual maturity, complete the mating cycle, and deposit new batches of embryos — all before the puddle evaporates, sometimes within 14 days. Other adaptations, described by Science magazine, are that killifish can handle intense pollution , fluctuating salinity and unpredictable pH. Superfast maturation, highly evolved versatility and extreme coping strategies toward harsh water conditions have inspired many scientific studies on killifish to determine their secrets on aging and adaptability. Moreover, some species’ embryos, reported by Ecology Journal of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), are hardy enough to survive birds’ digestive tracts. In other words, these killifish embryos hatch even after ingestion by waterfowl. Birds can consume these resilient floating embryos from one body of water then deposit them in a different body of water, miles away, therefore ensuring species dispersion to counteract inbreeding risks. Inhabitat caught up with David Huie and John Pitcairn, avid killifish hobbyists who helped found the San Diego Killifish Group (SDKG) , a Southern California satellite of the American Killifish Association (AKA) . From 1980 to the early 2000s, both Huie and Pitcairn participated in several conservationist collection teams, traveling to Mexico to save endemic killifish. Inhabitat: What anecdotes can you share that show how killifish have become endangered? Huie: There was a time — the early ‘90s — when a professor and his grad students collected desert killifish to breed in the laboratory but lost them. They returned to collect more in the wild, but the fish were eradicated. Sometime before year 2000, the Mexican government, to grow more corn in the desert, pumped the water down 70 meters, drying up streams. Almost everywhere we collected were signs fish weren’t going to be there much longer. Many have gone extinct . But some species are just extirpated in the wild. You can’t find them out there anymore. But we have them in the hobby, the Cyprinodon alvarezi , for example. Ceciliae — they were named after the researcher’s daughter — they went extinct before we got there. I think veronicae was extirpated, but might still be in the hobby, and one type of fontinalis is still in the hobby. The hobby’s the only thing keeping them from extinction. Pitcairn: Actually, there’s still new killifish being found all the time, even during collections. In a way, we stop them from going extinct before they’re discovered [scientifically recognized and named]. Inhabitat: What fascinates you about killifish? Pitcairn: They’re neat fish because they aren’t common in stores. Lately, I’m getting into nothobranchius . There are fewer and fewer people who have nothos , making them hard to get. So somebody needs to start breeding them to keep them around. Inhabitat: Killifish can be tough to breed. That can make them rare in pet stores, making them highly prized. Huie: If you really want a variety of killifish, you just won’t see them unless you’re in the hobby, for no store will carry them by choice, since few customers buy them. Pitcairn: I went by a local fish store the other day and, surprisingly, they had a half-dozen pair of gardneri . Usually you don’t even see those. Killifish aren’t often in stores, mainly because they’re not easy to mass produce. Something like swordtails, you throw half a dozen pairs in a pond — you can go back and harvest a couple hundred fish. Huie: Same with cichlids — you spawn a pair, you’ll get a thousand. To get a thousand killifish, you’d have to work at it. You’ll maybe get just 20 to 30 per spawn. Pitcairn: Depends. With nothos , you can get 50, but then you can also get three, which is frustrating. It’s not so much difficult [to breed killifish] as it is labor-intensive. Inhabitat: How else are hobbyists protecting killifish species from extinction? Pitcairn: It’s more important to try and keep the species we’ve got, so hybridizing is frowned upon. Huie: Before 1960s, European killifish hobbyists crossbred killifish — it wasn’t about making a better-looking killifish — but just to find out which ones were related, by getting viable fry. In fact, a lot of books then were full of hybrids. But in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when they started finding different types of killifish, it became a real problem because you wanted to have the killifish name — hybrids just muddled that. So from the ‘70s to ‘80s, it became anathema to have hybrids. Inhabitat: What can you share about the hobby’s history in the U.S.? Huie: The reason the AKA started, and killifish became a hobby, was because at that time it was expensive to get killifish, but relatively economical to send eggs. For peat spawners, you’ve a couple of months where you can send eggs through the mail without a problem. Then for egg-layers, you’ve about a week or two where you can just mail eggs. That’s so much cheaper and easier than sending fish — it’s a smaller package, without worrying about water . Plus, eggs are more temperature-tolerant. The best eco tourism spots in San Diego The first time I really saw killifish as a group was when our friend Monty Lehmann became active as a killifish breeder. He contacted killifish people all over because, generally, there were only a few species available in pet stores back in the ‘70s. Even now, depending on availability, there’s not that many. So in the late ‘70s, I made Monty’s acquaintance, and he tried to get our group going in San Diego . That was a baby brother group to this group [SDKG]. That group kind of dissipated when Monty moved. Inhabitat: How did the current SDKG group start? Huie: We had board game meetings on Fridays and Saturdays. While we played Risk, we’d talk about fish. So our original name was San Diego Fish & Game. Pitcairn: San Diego Killifish and Games — that’s how we got San Diego Killifish Group now, because of the same initials, SDKG. Huie: Our group realized if we wanted to see killifish we didn’t have, we needed to host a show. To get the fish and egg listings, the group had to be part of the AKA. The AKA still supports the show because they run a Killifish Hobbyist of the Year award, where you receive points for entering fish in different sanctioned shows. It’s great for the hobby and killifish as a whole because you’re sending fish across the U.S. + San Diego Killifish Group Photography by Mariecor Agravante / Inhabitat

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How hobbyists are saving endangered killifish from extinction

Antarctica reaches record high temperature

February 11, 2020 by  
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The frozen continent recently logged its warmest temperature to date, a whopping 65 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s quite a leap from its previous record of about 63 degrees Fahrenheit, set five years ago in 2015. The reading was documented at the Argentine research base of Esperanza and will soon be verified by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “Everything we have seen thus far indicates a likely legitimate record. But we will, of course, begin a formal evaluation of the record, once we have full data from SMN and on the meteorological conditions surrounding the event. The record appears to be likely associated (in the short term) with what we call a regional ‘foehn’ event over the area: a rapid warming of air coming down a slope or mountain,” Randall Cerveny, the WMO’s Weather and Climate Extremes rapporteur, shared. Related:  NASA finds cavity the size of Manhattan underneath Antarctic glacier Scientists advise that unless global warming is reined in, the South Pole’s ice and snow will disintegrate and cause sea levels to rise drastically. Currently, Vice reports that Antarctica sloughs off 127 gigatonnes of ice mass annually, equivalent to roughly 20,000 Great Pyramids of Giza! The warmer temperatures of the Antarctic are taking its toll on some of the continent’s well-known denizens. Frida Bengtsson, part of a Greenpeace expedition, told Time magazine in an email, “We’ve been in the Antarctic for the last month, documenting the dramatic changes this part of the world is undergoing as our planet warms. In the last month, we’ve seen penguin colonies sharply declining under the impacts of climate change in this supposedly pristine  environment .” Certain areas of the frozen continent have become the fastest-warming regions on Earth. The WMO has even cited Antarctic temperatures to have risen almost 3 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years. Meanwhile, the UN has been advising nations that global temperatures should not increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius. The WMO website further explained, Antarctica  measures nearly twice the size of Australia and generally measures annual temperatures ranging “from about -10 degrees Celsius on the Antarctic coast to -60 degrees Celsius at the highest parts of the interior. Its immense ice sheet is up to 4.8 kilometers thick and contains 90% of the world’s freshwater, enough to raise sea level by around 60 meters were it all to melt.” + World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Via Vice , CNET and Time Images via Pixabay

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Odd.Bot, the weed-pulling robot that could eliminate herbicides

February 11, 2020 by  
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The aging adage, “there’s an app for that,” is evolving into, “there’s a robot for that.” More and more automation is finding its way to the market for household chores like cleaning floors, and now that innovation is in farmer’s fields with Odd.Bot, an automatic weeding robot. Odd.Bot made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month with an informational booth and the weed-plucking device on display. Martijn Lukaart, Founder and CEO, explains that Odd.Bot is currently intended for use in organic farming fields to make the weed-pulling process easier for large farms who currently do all the work by hand. Many large-scale farmers have already invested in a platform that allows workers to lay face down on a bed as they are propelled through the rows of crops. This provides workers a quicker and more comfortable way to pull weeds manually. However, Odd.Bot’s goal is to work the fields ahead of humans with many advantages for the  crops , farmers and workers. Related: California man files lawsuit against Monsanto for allegedly hiding dangers of glyphosate Firstly, Odd.Bot can improve crop yield by tackling weeds early on and continuously. This gives crops more room to grow without competition from weeds, and thus a larger yield. Additionally, Odd.Bot is 100% organic by achieving the task without any chemicals or harm to the plants . Using the robot provides farmers an alternative to the struggles of finding and keeping as many employees. Plus, it makes the job much easier for those workers who are on staff. Odd.Bot works by autonomously roving along rows of crops, propelled on heavy-duty tires. A mechanism in the center of the robot then extends down to extract weeds as it moves. Cameras and sensors keep the robot on task and away from growing crops, regardless of row width. The robots can be rented to clear fields for a jumpstart to the growing season or as helpful “hand” as crops mature. In addition to reducing the manual workload and minimizing the need for gas-guzzling tractors that pollute the environment, Odd.Bot also hopes to move into the traditional farming market where they can influence a diversion from traditional herbicide usage. On the company website, they state, “With our Weed Whacker we aim to save more than 170.000 liters of chemical herbicides in the next seven years.” By making organic farming more profitable, Odd.Bot also hopes to directly or indirectly contribute to providing healthy food at reasonable costs. + Odd.Bot Images via Odd.Bot

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Odd.Bot, the weed-pulling robot that could eliminate herbicides

NASA finds cavity the size of Manhattan underneath Antarctic glacier

February 7, 2019 by  
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NASA just made a disturbing discovering underneath the Antarctic ice. A team led by the space agency found a huge cavity — around 1,000 feet high — under a glacier in Antarctica, and it is steadily expanding in size. Experts have predicted they would a large cavity somewhere underneath the Thwaites Glacier, which is located in West Antarctica, but they did not expect such a large one between the ice sheet and bedrock. NASA scientists discovered the expansive chamber using a mix of radar and satellite imagery techniques. The cavity has been forming over the past three years as higher global temperatures have steadily melted the ice. The cavity, which is close to the size of Manhattan, is large enough to have housed around 14 billion tons of ice at one time. “[The size of] a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting,” Pietro Milillo, who works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), explained. “As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster.” Related: Oceans warming 40 percent faster than previously thought NASA believes the cavity illustrates a need for more Antarctic studies in the near future, especially as global temperatures continue to rise. Keeping tabs on how fast these glacier’s are melting will also give us better insight on rising sea levels and climate change around the world. The space agency hopes that additional studies will help better predict how much oceans will rise — which has a direct impact on coastal populations. Being similar in size to Florida, the Thwaites Glacier has contributed to a four percent increase in sea level over the past few years. NASA discovered the Antarctic glacier has enough mass to raise sea levels around the world by around two feet. Even more concerning, melting glaciers affect nearby bodies of ice, which leads to additional runoff. Scientists previously found that sea levels are rising faster than they have over the past 2,800 years. Experts also anticipate that oceans might double their current pace over the next 100 years. The vast majority of the rise in sea levels is due to melting Antarctic glaciers. These massive chunks of ice contribute an astounding 14,000 tons of water per second into surrounding oceans . Via Fortune Image via NASA

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Dutch couple to drive a solar-powered, 3D-printed vehicle to the South Pole

October 30, 2018 by  
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In a bid to promote zero-waste lifestyles, Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde of Clean2Antarctica will soon embark on a thrilling adventure to one of the coldest places on Earth — Antarctica. The Dutch couple will drive from their base camp on the southernmost continent to the South Pole in a solar-powered vehicle — called the Solar Voyager — built from upcycled, 3D-printed plastic components. The expedition is expected to take 30 days and will kick off in less than a month on Nov. 28, 2018. Weighing in at 1,485 kilograms with a length of 16 meters, the Solar Voyager was mainly built from specially engineered,  3D-printed hexagonal blocks, called HexCores, made from industrially recycled PET filament that lock together into a honeycomb-like structure. Forty 3D printers were used to transform approximately 200 kilograms of plastic into the chassis of the Solar Voyager, which is held together with 3D-printed knobs that can withstand below freezing temperatures. The vehicle consists of a cab large enough for two people and two trailers on eight netted tires. Mounted on the trailers are 10 bifacial solar panels with 325-Watt peak for powering the Solar Voyager’s engine. Each panel measures nearly 19 square feet and weighs about 25 kilograms. In case of emergencies, the vehicle will be equipped with two 60-kilogram batteries with a total power of 10 kWh. The couple has also included infrared windows for absorbing sunlight and vacuum solar tubes that melt snow. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica “If driving to the South Pole on solar power was our ultimate goal, we would still be proud of our mission because no one has ever done it before and the technology we developed can become a prototype for Antarctic research drones,” the couple said. “However, it’s not about technology but about starting experiments and discovering what’s possible with waste. To reach a circular society, we need to start doing things differently. Our expedition is an example how far you can get when you simply start doing things differently instead of talking about abstract solutions.” The expedition is expected to begin November 28 starting from Union Glacier, Antarctica. The Solar Voyager will be followed by a support group of three people for filming purposes. + Clean2Antarctica Images via Clean2Antarctica

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A breakup in the Arctic’s strongest sea ice is recorded for the first time ever

August 22, 2018 by  
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The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic zone north of Greenland is splitting in a never-before-seen event. The waters found there are so cold, they have been frozen for as long as records exist — even during summer months. For the second time this year, the frozen waters cracked open to reveal the sea beneath them in an event that scientists are calling “scary.” The ice found in the Arctic area north of Greenland is usually compact and unbreakable as a result of the Transpolar Drift Stream, which pushes ice from Siberia across the Arctic Sea, where it packs up on the coastline. The breaking sea ice is a result of a climate-change-driven heatwave that caused abnormal spikes in temperatures both this month and in February 2018. Related: Previously stable zones of Antarctica are now falling victim to climate change This phenomenon has never been recorded before and is said to be caused by warm winds striking the ice pileup on the Arctic coastline. “The ice there has nowhere else to go, so it piles up,” said Walt Meier from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center . “On average, it’s over four meters thick and can be piled up into ridges 20 meters thick or more. This thick, compacted ice is generally not easily moved around.” However, 2018 is seeing the lowest ever recorded sea ice volume since 1979, according to satellite data. “Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile.” Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute said. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here.” Related: Migratory barnacle geese threatened by rapidly rising Arctic temperatures The event is proving worrisome for climate scientists who explain that the longer the patches of water remain open, the easier it will be for the sea ice to be pushed away from the coast and melt. “The thinning is reaching even the coldest part of the Arctic with the thickest ice,” Meier said. “So it’s a pretty dramatic indication of the transformation of the Arctic sea ice and Arctic climate.” Via The Guardian Image via U.S. Geological Survey

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About 90% of world’s largest king penguin colony has mysteriously disappeared

July 31, 2018 by  
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Recent satellite images and a new study show that only 200,000 of the two million king penguins who lived on the French island of Île aux Cochons in 1982 still remain. The drastic disappearance of these penguins is a puzzling occurrence that scientists are still trying to piece together, but they are looking at climate change as the likely culprit. The remote Île aux Cochons lies halfway between the tip of Africa and Antarctica and is home to the largest colony of king penguins in the world. Henri Weimerskirch, ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize, France , first witnessed this colony in the early 1980s and plans to return to the island in early 2019 after three decades of satellite images revealed the population collapse. “It is completely unexpected, and particularly significant since this colony represented nearly one third of the king penguins in the world,” Weimerskirch said. Related: The world’s largest wildlife sanctuary proposed for Antarctica The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is still listing the conservation effort for these creatures under the “least concern” status despite the recent decline in numbers. As for what happened to hundreds of thousands of mated pairs of king penguins, there are several possibilities that Weimerskirch and his colleagues are juggling. The most likely causes are climate change and resulting El Niño weather events, competition for food and avian cholera. Scientists have not been able to examine the penguins for indications leading to a singular cause, but chances are that the factors are intermingled and aggravated by each other. Competition, which can be worsened by climate change, leads to a lack of food, resulting in struggles that are “amplified and can trigger an unprecedented rapid and drastic drop in numbers,” according to Weimerskirch. Another possible factor in the penguins’ decline could be an incident similar to the El Niño event that decimated the Emperor penguin population in Terre Adélie by 50 percent in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, avian cholera has impacted birds on nearby islands, and could be the problem on Île aux Cochons. The news is particularly daunting for the king penguins, because they only lay one egg at a time when nesting. The penguins carry the egg around on their feet, and the mates take turns every few weeks protecting and incubating the chick until it is hatched. This process takes over two months. Because the penguins do not nest year-round, and with food becoming scarcer and scarcer, a rapid rebound in population does not seem likely. + Antarctic Science Via The Guardian,   IUCN and Cool Antarctica Image via Liam Quinn

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