About these ads

Arctic: Satellite images help track polar bears

Data will help assess global warming impacts to Arctic wildlife

sdfg

Polar bears near a U.S. Navy submarine.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The latest generation of high-resolution satellite images may help scientists gain a better understanding of Arctic polar bear populations. Dwindling Arctic sea ice is seen a huge threat to the predators, but difficult field conditions make it challenging to get a clear picture of polar bear population dynamics.

Satellite images have also been used recently to track emperor penguins in Antarctica, and researchers are starting to rely on satellite images more and more. In a new study, U.S. Geological Survey biologists matched satellite surveys with ground-truthed counts. Continue reading

About these ads

Climate: Arctic sea ice third-lowest on record for May

Antarctic sea ice at record high; northern hemisphere snow cover shows rapid spring decline

afdg

Low spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Arctic sea ice extent in May was about a quarter of a million square miles below the 1981-2010 average, ending up as the third-lowest on record for the month, according to the latest update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

By contrast, sea ice extent around Antarctica is at a record high, almost half a million square miles above the 1981-2010 baseline, marking the highest May Antarctic sea ice extent on record. Read the full NSIDC report here. Continue reading

Environment: Invasive species concern rise in the Arctic

sgh

Commercial shipping in the Arctic likely to boost invasive species threats.

Commercial shipping likely to bring unwanted visitors to region

Staff Report

FRISCO — The opening of transarctic shipping routes will increase the risk of invasive species spreading between the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans, scientists warned this week, calling on stakeholders to develop preventive strategies early in the game.

As Arctic sea ice melts away in a warming world, the two oceans will be directly connected for the first time in about 2 million years. Cargo ships often carry invasive species, biologists with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center wrote in a commentary published May 28 in Nature Climate Change. Continue reading

Is the Greenland glacier meltdown partly caused by natural climate variability?

A new study of the Greenland snowpack reached surprising conclusions about concentrations of carbon monoxide.

Warming temps around Greenland may be partly due to natural climate variability.

New study shows link between Pacific Ocean hotspot and North Atlantic weather patterns

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate researchers and glaciologists have long been tracking the meltdown of Greenland’s glaciers. The region has been warming at the astounding rate of about 1 degree Celsius per decade — several times the global average — but part of that may be due to natural variability, according to a new study led by University of Washington scientists.

The research suggests up to half the recent warming in the area may be linked with climate patterns born in the tropical western Pacific rather than with the overall warming of the planet. Continue reading

Report: U.S. ill equipped to handle Arctic oil spill

Shell Oil's Arctic drill rig, Kulluk, stranded near Kodiak Island, Alaska

A runaway oil drill rig hinted at the extreme challenges facing oil companies in the Arctic. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard.

More resources needed to FRISCO — A new report from the National Research Council suggests that there aren’t nearly enough resources in place to respond to an oil spill in the Arctic. The absence of adequate infrastructure is a significant liability in the event of a large oil spill, the study found, suggesting that an expanded U.S. Coast Guard presence and pre-positioning of key equipment would bolster an effective response.

The study comes as global warming makes the Arctic more accessible to commercial activities like shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism, raising concerns about the increase potential for oil spills. The Arctic poses several challenges to oil spill response, including extreme weather and environmental settings, limited operations and communications infrastructure, a vast geographic area, and vulnerable species, ecosystems, and cultures.  Continue reading

Study assesses likelihood of Arctic ozone hole

This year's ozone hole over Antarctica was the second-smallest in 20 years, according to NASA.

Last year’s ozone hole over Antarctica was the second-smallest in 20 years, according to NASA.

CFC ban showing signs of success

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say it’s unlikely that the Arctic will see ozone depletion on the scale of the Antarctic ozone hole, thanks mainly to international efforts to limit ozone-killing chemicals.

“While there is certainly some depletion of Arctic ozone, the extremes of Antarctica so far are very different from what we find in the Arctic, even in the coldest years,” said MIT atmospheric scientists Susan Solomon.

“It’s really a success story of science and policy, where the right things were done just in time to avoid broader environmental damage,” said Solomon, who made some of the first measurements in Antarctica that pointed toward CFCs as the primary cause of the ozone hole. Continue reading

Was the Titanic just unlucky?

Study says iceberg conditions not unusually severe in 1912

fg

Bergs, baby!

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Titanic’s fateful encounter with a North Atlantic iceberg wasn’t a result of spring tides, and there weren’t an exceptionally high number of bergs in the North Atlantic in 1912, UK researchers said this week.

With the April 15 anniversary of the ocean liner’s sinking at hand, the University of Sheffield geographers say that, by scrutinizing historic iceberg data, they can dispel the theory that the Titanic was unlucky for sailing in a year with an exceptional number of icebergs. The risk of encountering a berg is actually much greater now, due to global warming. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice peaks for the year

ih

Arctic sea ice extent is declining at 2.6 percent each decade.

March surge boosts extent late in the season

Staff Report

FRISCO — Arctic sea ice grew to its maximum extent for the year on March 21, reaching 5.70 million square miles. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, it was the fifth-lowest maximum extent in the satellite monitoring era, starting in 1978. The lowest maximum extent occurred in 2011, at 5.65 million square miles.

The average date for maximum sea ice extent is March 9, just a couple of weeks after the spring equinox, but the date varies from year to year. The latest maximum on record was in 2011, when sea ice extent expanded through March 31. Through 2014, the linear rate of decline for March ice extent is 2.6 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average. Continue reading

Climate: Clear signs of Arctic sea ice meltdown

kj

Melt pond on Arctic sea ice. Photo courtesy Polarstern.

Polar ice cap losing ground to global warming

Staff Report

FRISCO — While the Earth still sports an impressive mid-winter polar ice cap, more and more research suggests that global warming is eating away at the ice from the edges and from beneath, as warmer ocean temperatures delay the onset of sea ice formation.

On a geological scale, the pace is astounding. The length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, and an earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation. In some areas that heat is enough to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness, according to a new study by National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA researchers.

Continue reading

Climate: Permafrost thaw doubles carbon losses

Study says greening tundra won’t offset permafrost meltdown

h

Study says new plant growth won’t compensate for carbon emissions from melting tundra in the Arctic. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Permafrost could dwindle by 30 to 70 percent by the end of the century, and more vegetation in the Arctic won’t be enough to offset the carbon emissions from thawing organic soils.

Scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center reached their conclusions after a series of field tests designed to measure net gains or losses in carbon emissions. The study is published in the journal Ecology.

“Our results show that while permafrost degradation increased carbon uptake during the growing season, in line with decadal trends of ‘greening’ tundra, warming and permafrost thaw also enhanced winter respiration, which doubled annual carbon losses,” said WHRC assistant scientist Sue Natali. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,253 other followers