Doing the climate-change two-step in Alaska

 

If only speeches could stop global warming …

FRISCO — Secretary of State John Kerry probably expressed what many people feel about climate change when he took to the podium at the GLACIER conference in Alaska Monday, describing the helplessness that can take hold when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem.

“I have struggled for years, as I’m sure many of you have, with how you adequately take an issue of this magnitude, this kind of challenge, and put it in terms that average folks can really grab onto, where it isn’t so intimidating,” Kerry said.

But that can’t be an excuse to do nothing, Kerry continued, describing the Alaska conference as an important stepping stone on the way to critical climate talk in Paris coming up in December.

“Everywhere I travel, leaders and average folks talk to me about the impacts of climate change and what they feel and see is happening to their lives in one particular part of the world or another. And the Arctic is so important for us to visit and understand because the Arctic is in many ways a thermostat … and yet we already see is having a profound impact on the rest of the planet,” he said.

Kerry also referred to concerns about melting permafrost, which could release heat-trapping gases in such great volumes that it could trigger runaway global warming far beyond and scenario currently represented in climate models.

“The bottom line is that climate is not a distant threat for our children and their children to worry about. It is now. It is happening now. And I think anybody running for any high office in any nation in the word should come to Alaska or to any other place where it is happening and inform themselves about this. It is a seismic challenge that is affecting millions of people today,” Kerry said, describing how Alaska is a poster child for those challenges.

“And unless the global community comes together to address this challenge, the dramatic climate impacts that we’re seeing in this part of the world will be a harbinger for every part of the world,” he said.

 

Environment: Conservation activists call on President Obama to create Alaska marine preserves

 That was certainly not the case on June 17, 2013, the date that the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this rare, nearly cloud-free view of the state. The absence of clouds exposed a striking tapestry of water, ice, land, forests, and even wildfires.


On June 17, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this rare, nearly cloud-free view of Alaska. The absence of clouds exposed a striking tapestry of water, ice, land, forests, and even wildfires. Click here to visit the NASA Earth Observatory page for more info.

‘Fragile and unraveling’ ecosystems need protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — With President Barack Obama highlighting climate change during a visit to Alaska, conservation activists are renewing their call for the designation of Marine National Monuments in Alaskan waters.

Far from being a frigid wasteland, the region’s ocean and coastal ecosystems are among the most productive in the world. But marine mammal, seabird, and fish populations are in decline, including some that have become threatened or endangered species. And threats from climate change overfishing, pollution, increased shipping, and offshore oil drilling. are growing. Continue reading

Climate: Another warning on permafrost ‘tipping point’

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Melting permafrost could trigger a massive surge in global greenhouse gas emissions.

‘The real and imminent threat posed by permafrost thawing must be communicated clearly and broadly to the general public and the policy community’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Policy makers should pay more attention to the potential to the potential for greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, a team of researchers warned in a special bulletin, released as President Obama prepares to attend an international conference on the Arctic.

Arctic permafrost – ground that has been frozen for many thousands of years – is thawing, and the results could be disastrous and irreversible, potentially triggering a spiral of global warming far beyond any of the scenarios currently envisioned, a team of scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center wrote in a policy brief. Continue reading

Climate: Planning for the polar meltdown

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Melting Arctic sea ice has spurred plans for a global Polar Prediction Project. @bberwyn photo.

Can the world find a realistic way to deal with changing conditions at the ends of the Earth?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate scientists and policy makers from around the world last month agreed on an international action plan to help minimize the risks — and identify opportunities — associated with rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic environments.

The agreement came at a mid-July conference, when stakeholders from around the world finalized plans for the Polar Prediction Project, which aims to accelerate and consolidate research, observing, modelling, verification and educational activities.

With the Arctic warming about twice as fast as the rest of the world, there  is growing interest in the polar regions, where changes will affect the rest of the world. Continue reading

Report: Little doubt that global warming will eradicate the world’s glaciers and ice sheets

‘The big picture across the world and over the long run is clear — carbon dioxide is making the ice melt’

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A Greenland glacier shows signs of wear and tear during the peak of the summer melt season. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just like today, there were regional nuances in the Earth’s climate at the end of the last ice age — like solar radiation and ocean currents — that were factors in the meltdown of ice sheets and glaciers.

But the single biggest overriding cause was a global rise in temperatures caused by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a team of researchers said in a new study that measured isotopes in boulders that were uncovered during the global meltdown 11,000 years ago. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice dwindles to second-lowest extent ever

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Arctic sea ice now at it’s second-lowest extent on record. @bberwyn photo.

Antarctic sea ice extent below average for the first time in four years

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a mid-month update, researchers with the National Snow and Ice Data Center said that Arctic sea ice has dwindled to the second-lowest extent on record, with an above-average melt rate during the first half of August. The only time there was less sea ice was in 2012, which set the record for the lowest extent.

The NSIDC also reported that Antarctic sea ice extent is below the 1981 to 2010 average for the first time in nearly four years. Antarctic sea ice expanded by just 96,500 square miles between August 1 and August 17, and retreated around the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Ross Sea, and around the coast of Wilkes Land. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice melt speeds up in July

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Melting Arctic sea ice off the coast of Greenland in early August 2015. @bberwyn photo.

Satellite data show potential for rapid melt of thicker, multiyear ice

Staff Report

FRISCO — After an average start to the Arctic sea ice melt season, the pace of melting picked up in July. By the end of the month, the sea ice extent was within 212,000 square miles of the extent recorded on the same date in 2012, and is now tracking below 2013 and 2014, federal ice trackers with the National Snow & Ice Data Center said in their latest monthly update.

The main reason the sea ice extent remained higher than in 2012 — the lowest year on record — was because of solid ice cover in Baffin and Hudson bays. In the Beaufort Sea, by contrast, the ice has now thinned considerably, with many large broken ice floes surrounded by open water. Continue reading

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