2014 Arctic report card documents ongoing global warming impacts

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A NASA Blue Marble view of Earth, with Greenland parts of the Arctic visible top-center.

Arctic warming twice as fast as rest of the planet

Staff Report

FRISCO — Parts of the Arctic Ocean are warming by nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit every decade, and overall, Arctic temperatures are rising twice as fast the global average, climate scientists said today as they released results of an annual Arctic Report Card.

The report documents increasing air and sea surface temperatures, declining reflectivity at the surface of the Greenland ice sheet, which reached a new record low last summer. And there is ongoing shrinkage of  spring snow cover on land and summer ice on the ocean.

The warming Arctic atmosphere was strongly connected to lower latitudes in early 2014 causing cold air outbreaks into the eastern USA and warm air intrusions into Alaska and northern Europe. Continue reading

Is melting Arctic sea ice shifting the jet stream?

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Is melting sea ice shifting the jet stream?

Study finds robust link between Arctic ice decline and severe Eurasian winter weather

Staff Report

FRISCO — If you feel like you’ve been on a weather roller coaster, maybe it’s because the jet stream has been behaving like one more and more often in recent years.

Instead of flowing around the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere with a few ripples, some years, the high-altitude river of air has been more like a writhing, out-of-control fire hose, snaking and looping, carrying huge surges of warm air north and cold. polar air south. At times, the jet stream has been getting stuck in that pattern for longer stretches. Continue reading

Global Warming: Is the Greenland Ice Sheet melting faster than we think?

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How fast will the Greenland ice sheet melt?

243 gigatons of ice per year …

Staff Report

FRISCO — The most detailed look yet at the dynamics of the Greenland ice sheet suggests that current climate models may not be capturing the full extent of melting.

A team of scientists tracking the behavior of the ice sheet said they found unexpected shrinking in southeastern Greenland, and other signs suggesting that current models may underestimate ice loss in the near future. Continue reading

Climate: Can ringed seals survive the Arctic meltdown?

Ringed seals face an uncertain future in the rapidly warming Arctic. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Ringed seals face an uncertain future in the rapidly warming Arctic. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Feds propose 226 million acres of critical habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the largest-ever critical habitat proposals won’t do anything to slow the decline of Arctic sea ice or halt the buildup of greenhouse gases, but it may give ice-dependent ringed seals a fighting chance to survive the Arctic meltdown.

Ringed seals were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2012 in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity. This week, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed designating 226 million acres (350,000 square miles) of critical habitat in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Read more about the proposed protections. Continue reading

Global warming: Many polar bear populations likely to be in serious trouble by the end of the century

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Can polar bears survive the century?

Ongoing loss of sea ice threatens huge areas of habitat in Canada’s Arctic

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is reshaping the Arctic so fast that a quarter of the world’s polar bear population is likely to be in serious trouble by the end of the century.

Vanishing sea ice and longer ice-free periods will put many of the predators at risk of starvation and reproductive failure, according to a new study led by the University of Alberta’s Stephen Hamilton.

The findings, published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, used sea ice projections for the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from 2006-2100 and metrics developed from polar bear energetics modeling to gain insight into the conservation challenges for polar bears facing habitat loss. Continue reading

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

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

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