Study says 1980s saw major climate shift

Golden toads were discovered in Coata Rica in 1966. None have been seen since 1989, despite intensive surveys. They are presumed extinct. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

Golden toads were discovered in Costa Rica in 1966. None have been seen since 1989, despite intensive surveys. They are presumed extinct. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

‘The 1980s regime shift may be the beginning of the acceleration of the warming shown by the IPCC …’

Staff Report

By taking a big-picture look at the Earth’s various systems over time, researchers say they’ve been able to pinpoint a major global climate shift starting in the late 1980s, triggered by anthropogenic warming and the 1982 El Chichón volcanic eruption in Mexico.

The new study, published recently in Global Change Biology, documents a range of associated events caused by the shift, including a 60 percent increase in winter river flow into the Baltic Sea and a 400 percent increase in the average duration of wildfires in the Western United States. Continue reading

Climate: Small temperature changes have big impacts in Arctic Ocean ecosystems


A NASA Earth Observatory satellite image captures a 2010 plankton bloom off the coast of Greenland.

Long-term study tracks shifting currents in Fram Straight

Staff Report

Intensive monitoring along the Fram Straight, between Greenland Svalbard, shows that even a short-term influx of warm water into the Arctic Ocean would be likely to have long-lasting effects on regional ecosystems.

Even small changes in surface water temperatures could quickly spread to affect life in the depths of the Arctic Ocean, a team of scientists concluded in a new study published in the journal Ecological Indicators. Continue reading

Are Greenland glaciers on the verge of crumbling?


Some of Greenland’s biggest glaciers may be on the verge of crumbling into the sea, according to new satellite data. @bberwyn photo.

Study tracks rapid retreat of major ice streams

Staff Report

Scientists may not have to wait too much longer to observe firsthand the effects of global warming on Greenland’s ice sheets. One of the largest glaciers in Greenland entered “a phase of accelerated retreat in 2012,” and may be near a climate tipping point, according to new research published in the current issue of Science.

After studying the Zachariae Isstrom, scientists with the University of California, Irvine, said it’s starting to break up.

“North Greenland glaciers are changing rapidly,” said Jeremie Mouginot, an assistant researcher with UCI’s department of earth system science. “The shape and dynamics of Zachariae Isstrom have changed dramatically over the last few years. The glacier is now breaking up and calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.” Continue reading

Tundra wildfires can trigger widespread permafrost melt

Big fires can shift tundra ecology


Tundra wildfires reinforce a climate feedback loop by melting permafrost.

Staff Report

Wildfires in the Arctic tundra may trigger a classic climate feedback loop by melting large areas of permafrost. according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who took a close at a 2007 blaze on Alaska’s North Slope.

The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that permafrost thaw was detecting in about a third of the fire’s footprint, compared to less than 1 percent in undisturbed areas.

“Once you burn off that protective layer, what we observed is the effect isn’t immediate but takes a few years to really get going,” said Chris Arp, a study co-author and assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Water and Environmental Research Center. Continue reading

Climate: Permafrost meltdown triggers quick release of greenhouse gases to atmosphere

USGS researchers make ground-based permafrost measurements in Alaska.

USGS researchers make ground-based permafrost measurements in Alaska. Photo courtesy USGS.

Alaska study helps quantify climate impacts of melting permafrost

Staff Report

Much of the carbon stored in ancient Alaska soils could be released to the atmosphere shortly upon melting, according to a new study that aimed to help quantify how fast permafrost decomposes and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process.

The measurements are important because frozen organic soils are not part of the carbon cycle — but they will be as they thaw, potentially releasing huge amounts of heat-trapping gases. Continue reading

New Arctic Ocean garbage patch may be forming

The five major ocean gyres.

Is another garbage patch forming in the Arctic?

Science ship documents plastic debris near Greenland; northern Europe eyed as source

Staff Report

Scientists aboard a German research vessel say they’ve started documenting plastic debris on the surface of the Arctic Ocean, creating new problems for marine life in the environmentally sensitive region.

Plastic has already been reported from stomachs of resident seabirds and Greenland sharks. The plastic litter reported from the Fram Strait could be leaking from a new garbage patch forming in the Barents Sea, the researchers concluded in their study, published in the scientific journal Polar Biology. Continue reading

Arctic Ocean oil and gas lease auctions canceled


Arctic Ocean oil and gas drilling is off the table for now.

Feds also deny requests for extension of current leases

Staff Report

Drilling for oil and gas in the U.S. slice of the Arctic Ocean is a no-go for the foreseeable future, federal officials said this week, canceling plans for future lease sales and denying extension requests for existing leases.

Citing market conditions and low industry interest, the U.S. Department of the Interior said it’s canceling two potential Arctic offshore lease sales scheduled under the current five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program. The decision comes on the heals of Shell’s announcement to halt exploration in the Chukchi Sea. Continue reading


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