Climate: Arctic sea ice extent peaks at record low level

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The polar ice cap is smaller than ever. bberwyn photo.

Loopy jet stream keeps much of Arctic warm

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal ice researchers say this year’s maximum Arctic sea ice extent, reached Feb. 25, is the lowest on record during the satellite era, about 50,000 square miles smaller than the previous record set in 2011. While a shift in wind patterns could result in some additional growth, it’s unlikely the sea ice will expand past the extent reached on that date. Continue reading

How will Arctic sea ice meltdown affect marine mammals?

‘These animals require sea ice …’

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A polar bear on Alaska’s North Slope. Photo via Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Enacting more endangered species regulations isn’t enough to reduce global warming threats to ice-dependent marine mammals in the Arctic, scientists say.

In a new report published in the journal Conservation Biology, a research team called for better monitoring, increased cooperation and more study of how increasing human activity in the Arctic will affect ecosystems.

The report assesses the status of all circumpolar species and sub-populations of Arctic marine mammals, including seals, whales and polar bears and underscores the precarious state of those mammals.

“These species are not only icons of climate change, but they are indicators of ecosystem health, and key resources for humans,” said lead author Kristin Laidre, a polar scientist with the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice meltdown weakens summer storms, leading to longer, hotter heatwaves

‘The risk of high-impact heat waves is likely to increase’

Colorado weather lightning

Monsoonal summer thunderstorms help regulate heatwaves. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Summer heatwaves, already getting longer and hotter because of human-caused global warming, are set to get even worse, as the overall climate-warming trend disrupts atmospheric circulations that bring relief from long spells of hot weather.

A recent study by scientists with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research one measurement of accumulated summer storm energy has already declined by 10 percent since 1979. The researchers linked the findings to changes in the Arctic caused by man-made global warming. Continue reading

Climate: Many Arctic ponds are drying up

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Some of Canada’s subarctic lakes, seen here from a passenger jet, are drying up in a sign of abrupt climate change. bberwyn photo.

Dessication across the nation …

Staff report

FRISCO — Scientists taking a close look at satellite images and historical photos dating back to the 1940 have found that ponds in the Arctic tundra are shrinking and slowly disappearing. The researchers concluded that warming temperatures and encroaching plants are key factors in the changes. As temperatures rise, nutrient-rich permafrost — a frozen layer of soil — thaws, releasing nutrients into ponds and enhancing plant growth.

“Plants are taking over shallow ponds because they’re becoming warm and nutrient-rich,” said Christian Andresen, a University of Texas at El Paso researcher who led the study. “Before you know it, boom, the pond is gone.” Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice near record low in February

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Northern hemisphere snow cover below average for the month

Staff Report

FRISCO — Arctic sea ice extent continued to hover near a record-low level in February, federal ice trackers said in their latest monthly update, adding that this year’s maximum extent, expected sometime in mid-March, may be the smallest on record.

Regionally, Arctic ice extent is especially low in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, but the bulletin from the National Snow and Ice Data Center explains that ice is “missing” all around the margins of the Arctic. The only area with above-average sea ice extent is around Newfoundland and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice has thinned by 65 percent in 37 years

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A NASA satellite image shows swirls of sea ice near Greenland.

New study includes data from the pre-satellite era

Staff Report

FRISCO — After analyzing data from multiple sources, scientists say Arctic sea ice is thinning much faster than they thought, and the meltdown is not slowing down.

Between 1975 and 2012, ice in the central Arctic thinned by 65 percent on average, and by 85 percent in September, when the ice cover is at a minimum, according to a new study published in The Cryosphere.

“The ice is thinning dramatically,” said lead author Ron Lindsay, a climatologist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “We knew the ice was thinning, but we now have additional confirmation on how fast, and we can see that it’s not slowing down.” Continue reading

Environment: Feds eye new Arctic drilling rules

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Feds are seeking public comment on new rules for Arctic Sea drilling.

Major spill would devastate Arctic ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Proposed new Arctic drilling rules would require fossil fuel companies to have a spare drilling rig available in case they lose control of the primary well. The new rule is aimed at ensuring that companies operating in the Arctic are full prepared for the region’s extreme conditions.

As released in late February, the rules  focus solely on offshore exploration drilling operations within the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea Planning Areas. The proposed rule is open for public comment through mid-April. Comment HERE. Continue reading

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