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Climate: Researchers track disruptive Arctic rain events

Warm spells affect permafrost and wildlife

Caption: Arctic foxes in Svalbard will have more than enough food during rainy and icy winters because there will be many reindeer carcasses for them to eat. The next winter, however, the fox population size will be reduced because a robust and small reindeer population will mean many few deaths and hence, very little carrion. Credit: Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology

Caption: Arctic foxes in Svalbard will have more than enough food during rainy and icy winters because there will be many reindeer carcasses for them to eat. The next winter, however, the fox population size will be reduced because a robust and small reindeer population will mean many few deaths and hence, very little carrion.
Credit: Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A closely studied 2012 rain-on-snow event in Svalbard, Norway gave researchers a chance to take a close look at how global warming may play out on the fringes of the Arctic, where humans eke out a delicate existence in balance with the elements.

The extreme weather event in January brought record warmth to the cluster of islands inside the Arctic Circle, with high temperatures climbing well above freezing at a time of year when average readings are well below freezing. Continue reading

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Study show drop in Beaufort Sea polar bear numbers

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

Is dwindling sea ice a factor?

Staff report

FRISCO — Polar bear populations in the southern Beaufort Sea  dropped 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, biologists say in a new study. The research suggests that survival of adult bears and cubs was especially low from 2004 to 2006, when most of the decline occurred.

“Of the 80 cubs observed in Alaska from 2004 to 2007, only 2 are known to have survived,” said Jeff Bromaghin, a U.S. Geological Survey research statistician and lead author of the study. Continue reading

Climate: Forecasters eye ‘super storm’ near Alaska

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Is a super storm winding up in the Bering Sea?

Big cyclone to affect weather across North America

Staff Report

FRISCO — Weather watchers are closely tracking what could become the strongest storm on record in the Gulf of Alaska.

What was once Typhoon Nuri is heading into the Bering Sea, west of Alaska, and some forecasters expect the storm’s central low pressure to drop below 930 millibars on Friday night — even lower than Hurricane Sandy’s. The current record stands at 925 millibars from a powerful storm that moved over the Bering Sea on Oct. 25, 1977. Continue reading

Climate studies probe growth of Antarctic sea ice

‘The planet as a whole is doing what was expected in terms of warming. Sea ice as a whole is decreasing as expected …’

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Sea ice is expanding around Antarctica, and scientists say wind, snow and melting land ice are key factors in the growth bberwyn photo.

The map at right shows Antarctic ice concentration on September 22, 2014, the date of the record high. Areas where the surface was less than 15% ice covered are deep blue; areas that were up to 100% ice covered are shades of light blue to white. The orange line shows the 1981-2010 median extent for September 22. (Median means in the middle: half of the years in the record had smaller ice extents than this, and half had larger extents.) The graph below the map shows daily Antarctic sea ice extent over the course of the year. The black line traces the 1981-2010 average, and the gray shading shows the range of variability (2 standard deviations from the mean). The previous record high extent (2013) is a dashed green line; the 2014 year to date is a light green line. NSIDC reported that the 2014 extent rose nearly 4 standard deviations above the 1981-2010 mean.

The map above shows Antarctic ice concentration on September 22, 2014, the date of the record high. Areas where the surface was less than 15% ice covered are deep blue; areas that were up to 100% ice covered are shades of light blue to white. The orange line shows the 1981-2010 median extent for September 22. (Median means in the middle: half of the years in the record had smaller ice extents than this, and half had larger extents.)
The graph below the map shows daily Antarctic sea ice extent over the course of the year. The black line traces the 1981-2010 average, and the gray shading shows the range of variability (2 standard deviations from the mean). The previous record high extent (2013) is a dashed green line; the 2014 year to date is a light green line. NSIDC reported that the 2014 extent rose nearly 4 standard deviations above the 1981-2010 mean. Courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with shifting wind patterns in the southern hemisphere, melting land ice may be contributing to recent record extents of floating sea ice around Antarctica. The melting ice and snow adds fresh water — which freezes morel easily — to the salty Southern Ocean, scientists said in a release this week, explaining the multi-year trend of expanding Antarctic sea ice.

But the increase doesn’t balance the loss of sea ice at the other end of the Earth. Arctic sea ice has declined by an average of 20,800 square miles per year; the Antarctic has gained ice at a rate of about a third of that, by an average of 7,300 square miles per year.

This week, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reported that Antarctic sea ice extent set a new record high for daily extent: 20.11 million square kilometers (7.76 million square miles), the highest since satellite observations started in the late 1970s.

In July, a European study called into question the recent measurements, citing inconsistencies in computer models.

Other studies suggest the growth is only temporary, and that Antarctic sea ice will ultimately decline dramatically in the decades ahead.

The ice trackers matched this year’s late season ice surge with strong southerly winds blew over the Weddell Sea. Without any nearby land masses to constrain growth, those winds tend to push the ice northward. Continue reading

Climate: Polar paradox?

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September trend for Arctic sea ice extent is down, down, down. Courtesy NSIDC.

Arctic sea ice bottoms out; Antarctic sea ice hits new high

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even without remarkably warm weather patterns across the Arctic, summer sea ice dropped to the sixth-lowest extent on record this year, while at the other end of the Earth, sea ice around Antarctica swelled to a record extent.

Through 2014, Arctic sea ice has now been declining at a rate of 13.3 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average. The ten lowest September ice extents over the satellite record have all occurred in the last ten years. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice swallows CO2

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Frost flowers forming atop early winter ice may play an important role in drawing CO2 from the atmosphere. bberwyn photo.

Frost flowers also play role in global carbon cycle

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with cooling the Earth by reflecting sunlight back into space, Arctic sea ice also helps directly remove heat-trapping CO2 from the atmosphere, Danish scientists reported this week.

As Arctic summers warm, there may be an acceleration of global warming, because reduced sea ice in the Arctic will remove less CO2 from the atmosphere.

“If our results are representative, then sea ice plays a greater role than expected, and we should take this into account in future global CO2 budgets”, said Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard, PhD Fellow, Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, University of Southern Denmark and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk. Continue reading

Global warming: New NASA aerial mission to explore impacts of Arctic sea ice loss

Arctic cloud formation still a climate wild card

Sun glint off a sea ice lead in an otherwise heavily ridged ice pack, Canada Basin (Arctic Ocean). Credit: NASA/Sinead Farrell

Sun glints off a sea ice lead in an otherwise heavily ridged ice pack, Canada Basin (Arctic Ocean). Credit: NASA/Sinead Farrell

STAFF REPORT

FRISCO — The ongoing loss of Arctic sea ice is probably already affecting weather and climate in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere. Researchers aren’t exactly sure of how, but there’s been plenty of speculation, mostly focused around changes in the jet stream.

Climate scientists may know a bit more in a few years after they study the results of a new NASA field campaign studying the effect of sea ice retreat on Arctic climate. The Arctic Radiation IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) will conduct research flights Aug. 28 through Oct. 1, covering the peak of summer sea ice melt. Continue reading

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