Antarctica loses record amount of ice

July 3, 2019 by  
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A new study using satellite images of Antarctica reveals a remarkable spike in ice melt over the last five years. Although the extent of the ice was expanding since 1974, after 2014, Antarctica lost nearly 810,815 square miles of ice. Scientists aren’t ready to point their fingers at climate change as the culprit, but regardless of what is to blame, the loss in ice has an enormous impact on the South Pole’s ecosystem. “It went from its 40-year high in 2014, all the way down in 2017 to its 40-year low,” said the author of the study , climatologist Claire Parkinson. There was a similar massive retreat of ice in the 1970s, which is why researchers aren’t sure if this is due to global warming — and if it is permanent. Despite the overall loss in ice over the past five years, there was some growth in 2017; scientists are hopeful that this could be part of the relatively normal cycling of ice. Related: NASA finds cavity the size of Manhattan underneath Antarctic glacier Regardless of what caused it and whether or not it is gone forever, the loss in ice is bad news for local species and for global warming in the rest of the world. “Sea ice also affects the polar ecosystem, including penguins and whales and seals, petrels and albatrosses, krill, and a whole range of additional animals and marine plant life,” Parkinson said. In addition, ice reflects about 50 to 70 percent of the sun’s rays back out into space, which helps keep the Earth’s surface cool. By comparison, EcoWatch reported that the dark blue ocean absorbs 90 percent of light. “The plunge in the average annual extent means Antarctica lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34 years,” tweeted a concerned Greta Thunberg. Via EcoWatch Image via John B. Weller / The Pew Charitable Trusts / U.S. Department of State

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US stops Arctic Council joint statement over climate change language

May 8, 2019 by  
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On May 7, the Arctic Council released a statement of various priorities, but for the first time it could not publish a joint declaration, reportedly due to push-back from the U.S. over climate change language. The Arctic Council is comprised of indigenous leaders and eight nations, including the U.S., Canada, Finland, Russia, China, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. After meetings in Rovaniemi, Finland, the group released its disjointed statement, but it could not agree on a declaration of urgent challenges and strategies for the next two years. “A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience,” the chair of the meeting, Finnish Minister Timo Soini, said in the statement. Minister Soini refused to point fingers at which nations would not acknowledge climate change as a fundamental challenge. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report Indigenous leaders argue that climate change is indeed the most pressing issue in the Arctic and should be a primary focus. Scientists suggest that temperatures are rising twice as fast  fast in the Arctic region than in the rest of the world. Melting ice is contributing to sea level rise in low-lying countries, but it is also creating new shipping routes and opening access to undiscovered oil reserves. The Arctic contains 13 percent of the world’s untapped oil and 30 percent of natural gas reserves. This fossil fuel wealth makes it a controversial region, and development there is highly sought after, particularly by world powers like the U.S., China and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed too many versions of the declaration as the reason the Council could not reach an consensus, and spent most of his floor time pointing fingers at Russia and China for going against previous agreements and rendering them ineffective. + Arctic Council Via Reuters Image via  Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard / U.S. Geological Survey

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US stops Arctic Council joint statement over climate change language

How Climate Modeling Helps Us Understand Climate Change

February 19, 2019 by  
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This article is part of a series of Arctic ice … The post How Climate Modeling Helps Us Understand Climate Change appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How Climate Modeling Helps Us Understand Climate Change

How the Arctic Affects Your Family This Holiday Season (and Every Day)

November 26, 2018 by  
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This is the first of a series of Arctic ice … The post How the Arctic Affects Your Family This Holiday Season (and Every Day) appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How the Arctic Affects Your Family This Holiday Season (and Every Day)

Migratory barnacle geese threatened by rapidly rising Arctic temperatures

July 20, 2018 by  
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Migrating barnacle geese that lay their eggs in the Arctic zones of northern Russia are becoming confounded by earlier springs in their traditional nesting grounds, according to a study published in Current Biology . The rising temperatures in the Arctic circles caused by global warming are threatening the survival of this species, which travels more than 3,000 km, or 1,800 miles, to reach their nesting territory. The research , released in May 2018, noted that the geese habitually make the month-long journey from parts of northern Germany and the Netherlands based on a biologically coordinated schedule now jeopardized by human activity. Rapid environmental changes have caused the animals to speed up their flight plans. Related: Arctic shipping routes could threaten “unicorns of the sea” Bart Nolet, member of the research team from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and the University of Amsterdam, told NPR , “They actually depart from the wintering areas around the same date regardless of whether it’s early or late spring in the Arctic ,” because they “cannot predict what the weather is or what the season is up there from 3,000 kilometers distance.” This causes the geese to speed up their inherent migration pattern mid-flight, after they realize that the temperature is too warm. They complete the arduous expedition in only a week, leaving them exhausted. Originally, the birds used to arrive and lay their eggs just as the winter snow melted. By the time their goslings hatched, plants began to grow, resulting in a “food peak” for the animals. Now, both adult and baby barnacle geese must bear the hardships of malnourishment. Despite rushing their migration and flying “nearly nonstop from the wintering areas to their breeding grounds,” according to Nolet, the 10 days needed after migration to find food and recover from exhaustion still puts the birds behind schedule. The geese cannot lay their eggs straightaway. Instead, after their expedited journey, they must rest and forage for food to ensure their own survival and the vitality of their offspring — ultimately the determining factor in the continuance of their species. + Current Biology Via NPR Images via Gennady Alexandrov

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Climate change has transformed much of Alaska over the past three decades

June 4, 2018 by  
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Climate change disproportionately impacts the Arctic, where rising global temperatures wrought by the burning of fossil fuels have brought rapid, fundamental changes to places like Alaska. In a new study published in Global Change Biology , researchers conclude that 67,000 square miles of land in Alaska, 13 percent of the total land, have been affected over the past three decades. The land has been impacted by what the study calls ‘directional change,’ in which a location has experienced fundamental change in its ecology from historic levels. For example, some areas have become greener and wetter and others have dried out as glaciers shrink and wildfires rage across the state. Even trees have shifted, with treelines moving farther north to adjust to a warming Arctic. To study the drastic changes in Alaska , scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey used satellite and aerial imagery integrated with field data to create a mapping algorithm that assesses the level of change throughout the state. The study analyzed 540,000 square miles of land, noting the various kinds of changes in different Alaskan ecosystems. Near the tundra, the environment is becoming greener as trees and other plants spread beyond their traditional northern border. Meanwhile, interior forests are drying out, resulting in increased and more intense wildfires, which the researchers conclude is the greatest factor in Alaska’s ecological change. “What impressed me [was] how extensive and influential the fires were,” study co-author Bruce Wylie told Earther . Related: One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact Climate change has also disrupted the state’s historic water patterns. Melting permafrost has led to depressions, allowing wetlands to form in unusual places. This has also exacerbated erosion along the coasts, which are being tested by an ever-shorter season of sea ice. The comprehensive study of these varied changes may be helpful as scientists and policymakers plan for Alaska’s future. “Now with this study we have spatially explicit interpretations of the changes on the land, with specific drivers identified and attributed to the changes,” NASA carbon cycle scientist Peter Griffith told Earther . However, there is still so much more to learn. The study’s results, limited by available technology and resources, do not tell the whole story. + Global Change Biology Via Earther Images via Depositphotos and USGS

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Arctic sea ice is filled with record levels of microplastics

April 25, 2018 by  
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Even the Arctic can’t escape plastic pollution . Scientists gathered ice samples from five distinct regions in the Arctic Ocean , and some of those samples contained over 12,000 microplastic particles per liter of ice – a record-breaking amount. All told, they uncovered 17 different kinds of plastic , including paints and packaging. A team of 9 scientists at Alfred Wegener Institute recorded record levels of microplastics, or plastic fragments between a few micrometers to under five millimeters big, in sea ice collected in the Arctic. They gathered these samples aboard the research icebreaker Polarstern in 2014 and 2015. They utilized a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer to scrutinize the ice samples layer by layer to light up microparticles; particles reflect varying wavelengths depending on their ingredients so the scientists could determine their substances. Related: New study reveals plastic pollution in the Antarctic is 5x worse than expected Their methods helped them discover minuscule particles. Scientist Gunnar Gerdts, who runs the laboratory where the researchers carried out measurements, said in a statement , “In this way, we also discovered plastic particles that are tiny 11 microns in size. This is roughly a sixth of the diameter of human hair and was also the key reason why, with more than 12,000 particles per liter of sea ice, we were able to detect two to three times higher plastic concentrations than was the case in a previous study.” 67 percent of the particles in the ice samples fell in the 50 micrometers and below category: the smallest one. Biologist Ilka Peeken said, “We found out in our study that more than half of the microplastic particles trapped in the ice were smaller than one-twentieth of a millimeter and thus easily eaten by Arctic microorganisms such as crayfish, but also copepods.” This is concerning, she said, because “so far no one can say to what extent these tiny plastic particles harm the sea dwellers or end up even endangering humans.” The journal Nature Communications published the research this week. + Alfred Wegener Institute + Nature Communications Images via Tristan Vankaan , Mar Fernandez , and Stefan Hendricks

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The melting Arctic is already changing the ocean’s circulation

March 15, 2018 by  
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In the far North Atlantic , scientists have uncovered new evidence that an unusual infusion of freshwater into the ocean may already be affecting the ocean’s circulation. Mostly likely sourced from melting glaciers in Greenland or Arctic sea ice, the freshwater remains on the surface of the ocean for longer than denser saltwater. This could affect the ocean’s natural process known as convection, in which northbound surface water becomes denser and colder, thus sinking then traveling south at great depths. “Until now, models have predicted something for the future … but it was something that seemed very distant,” study lead author Marilena Oltmanns told the Washington Post . “But now we saw with these observations that there is actually freshwater and that it is already affecting convection, and it delays convection quite a lot in some years.” The research team gathered data on Irminger Sea to the southeast of Greenland , where they used ocean moorings to take measurements regarding the circulation of ocean water at key convection sites. While the study does not make any specific predictions regarding how convection may be affected, or how quickly it may change, the conclusion that freshwater from melting glaciers or sea ice may be already affecting convection is noteworthy. In 2010, 40 percent of melted freshwater remained on the surface through winter and into the next year. The staying power of the melted freshwater may suggest a positive feedback loop that could drive further mixing. Related: Pre-industrial carbon found in Canadian Arctic waters “It is possible that there is a threshold, that if there is a lot of freshwater that stays at the surface, and mixes with the new freshwater from the new summer, it suddenly doubles, or increases a lot, and the next winter , it’s a lot more difficult to break through,” said Oltmanns. It is already established that Atlantic circulation has been weaker than average since 2008, with scientists crediting climate change , cyclical patterns, or both. While the changes to convection may occur over time, the latest study indicates that change may occur more rapidly than expected. “There might be a threshold that is crossed, and it’s harder to get back to where we were before,” said Oltmanns. “It’s possible.” Via The Washington Post Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Deep freeze in the UK causes massive die-off of sea creatures

March 6, 2018 by  
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Scientists and conservationists in the United Kingdom have observed a mass die-off of invertebrate sea creatures as a result of recent frigid weather . “There was a 3C drop in sea temperature last week which will have caused animals to hunker down and reduce their activity levels,” Bex Lynam of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said in a statement . “This makes them vulnerable to rough seas – they became dislodged by large waves and washed ashore when the rough weather kicked in.” Tens of thousands of mostly dead animals covered the beaches of the Holderness coast in Yorkshire, as well as locations in Kent and Norfolk. The bizarre, tragic phenomenon is all the more unsettling in context; while Europe froze, the Arctic thawed in the dead of polar winter . Although most creatures washed ashore were dead, some lobsters survived the frost . Those lucky few are being gathered up and cared for before they will be releasing back into the wild. “This area is very important for shellfish and we work alongside fishermen to promote sustainable fisheries and protect reproductive stocks,” said Lynam. “It’s worth saving them so that they can be put back into the sea and continue to breed.” While some fish did perish, most of the dead were invertebrate species. “Larger animals such as dolphins are more mobile and can save themselves by swimming away when this sort of thing happens,” explained Lynam. Related: World’s first floating wind farm performing better than anticipated While a specific deep freeze cannot be blamed on climate change , climate scientists predict that these extreme weather events will become more frequent as the change accelerates. Beyond confronting climate change, there are steps that humans can take to protect marine life. “We can’t prevent natural disasters like this,” Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s senior living seas officer Dr. Lisa Bassey said in a statement . “But we can mitigate against declining marine life and the problems that humans cause by creating enough protected areas at sea and by ensuring that these sites are large enough and close enough to offer fish , crustaceans, dolphins and other marine life the protection they require to withstand natural events such as this.” Via The Guardian Images via Bex Lynham/Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

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Redesigned Flow Hive 2 snags whopping $13.6 million on Indiegogo

March 6, 2018 by  
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Record-smashing crowdfunding project Flow Hive offered honey on tap: a beehive that makes it easier for beekeepers to harvest honey. Over 50,000 Flow Hives have gone out to 130 countries around the world, and now the Australian father-son team behind the design are back. The pair redesigned their groundbreaking hive, drawing on customer feedback and adding brand new features, and took to Indiegogo again with the Flow Hive 2 for a campaign that was just 18,983 percent funded. Flow Hive 2’s design is simple: inside a body comprised of laser-cut sustainable Western red cedar rest Flow Frames, which Stuart Anderson and Cedar Anderson, father and son, describe as “the most revolutionary beekeeping invention since the Langstroth hive was designed in 1852.” The frames are partially built honeycomb: add bees to do their thing — covering the honeycomb in wax, completing the cells, filling them with honey, and capping with wax — and then, when it’s time to harvest the honey, beekeepers insert and turn a handle to allow channels to form inside. The honey flows down into a waiting jar with minimal disturbance to the bees, who “are left to be, still standing on their wax capping.” A few hours later the bees realize the honeycomb is empty and they get right back to work, busy as bees. Related: How a simple honey harvester demonstrates the sweet success of viral crowdfunding campaign The Flow Hive 2 features an adjustable hive stand making it easier to set up on uneven ground. A multi-functional tray helps beekeepers trap pests. Deeper handles, a ventilation control system, a harvesting shelf, and observation windows on both sides are among the other upgrades to the hive. Beekeepers can obtain around five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half-pounds of honey per frame. The Flow Hive 2 costs $932; earlybird backers snagged it for $699. The Indiegogo campaign is over, raising an incredible $13,662,173. But it seems Flow Hive’s journey is really just beginning. You can find out more on the campaign page or their website . + Flow Hive + Flow Hive 2 Indiegogo Image via Flow Hive

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Redesigned Flow Hive 2 snags whopping $13.6 million on Indiegogo

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