Climate: ‘We are headed for a seasonally ice-free ocean’


Sparse ice along the east coast of Greenland during the peak of the summer melt season. @bberwyn photo.

Arctic once again loses thick multiyear ice

Staff Report

At the end of its melt season, the Arctic’s ice cover fell to the fourth lowest extent in the satellite record, both in the daily and monthly average, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Sea ice extent hit 4.41 million square kilometers (1.70 million square miles) on September 11 and averaged 4.63 million square kilometers (1.79 million square miles) for the month of September.

This year edged out 2008 as the fourth lowest extent since satellites started regularly monitoring sea ice in 1979. The lowest Arctic extent on record occurred in 2012, when sea ice measured 3.62 million square kilometers (1.40 million square miles). Continue reading

Global warming: Dust in the wind …


Dirty snow and ice at the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet. @bberwyn photo.

Study takes close look at organic debris in Arctic ice cores

Staff Report

Organic biomarkers, in the form of tiny soil and plant particles, have helped ice core scientists track climate shifts linked to changes in the Arctic Oscillation. The research suggests that global warming will lead to more dust in the Arctic, which could speed up the meltdown of sea ice and Greenland glaciers.

The study by scientists with the University of Birmingham examined organic dust  transported from Asia and deposited in the Arctic over the last 450 years. During warmer phases of the Arctic Oscillation, more dust was being deposited in the Arctic, according to the findings published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

The scientists studyied two ice-cores collected from ice-caps more than 6000 kilometers apart, one from Greenland, the other from Kamchatka, in eastern Russia.Deposits can be dated very accurately by studying the annual layers within the cores — similar to tree rings — which allow scientists to examine deposits going back many years. Continue reading

Shell shuts down Arctic drilling program

Regulatory hurdles cited as part of the reason for decision


Shell Oil is giving up on drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

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

One of Shell’s Arctic mishaps came in 2012, when a drilling rig escaped its tow ships and ran aground. Photo via U.S. Coast Guard.

By Bob Berwyn

Shell Oil’s hotly contested Arctic oil-drilling operation will shut down for the foreseeable future, the multinational fossil fuel company announced today, drawing sighs of relief from environmental advocates who had described the exploration efforts in apocalyptic terms.

The company’s efforts have been stop-and-go for a long time. In 2013, for example, Shell announced a temporary pause in the program after a string of incidents, including failed tests of oil spill containment gear, runaway ships and notices for violations of environmental regulations. Continue reading

Study: First signs of global warming felt in the 1960s


As early as the 1960s, temperature records from the tropics were signalling the global warming trend.

Parts of U.S. still defying worldwide trend — but not for long

Staff Report

Taking a careful look at the temperature records of the past few decades has enabled climate scientists to show that the first signs of global warming were detectable as early as the 1960s in the tropics.

The new research published in Environmental Research Letters gives an insight into the global impacts that have already been felt, even at this very early stage, and where those impacts are likely to intensify in the coming years. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice extent hits 4th-lowest minimum on record


Scattered Arctic sea ice off the coast of Greenland in July 2015. @bberwyn photo.

Sea ice decline has accelerated since 1996

Staff Report

As projected a couple of weeks ago, Arctic sea ice bottomed out at the fourth-lowest extent on record, according to NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

This summer’s ice extent was about 394,000 square miles above the all-time minimum set in 2012, but ice researchers said that doesn’t mean there’s any sort of recovery, as sometimes erroneously claimed by climate science deniers.

The minimum extent was well below (699,000 square miles) the 1981-2010 average, and all nine of the lowest extents have been measured in the past nine years — a clear sign that the Arctic meltdown continues.

Continue reading

Global warming to boost Arctic mosquitoes


Global warming likely to boost Arctic mosquito populations.

Impacts likely to ripple through Arctic ecosystem

Staff Report

LINZ — Global warming is likely to lead to bigger and badder Arctic mosquito swarms, according to a new Dartmouth College study. Already, warming temperatures are causing Arctic mosquitoes to grow faster and hatch earlier, significantly boosting their population and threatening caribou.

The study predicts the mosquitoes’ probability of surviving and emerging as adults will increase by more than 50 percent if Arctic temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius. Changes in the timing and intensity of mosquito emergence will have a ripple effect on other parts of Arctic ecosystems, including Arctic and migratory birds.

Continue reading

Will this year’s El Niño be a climate wildcard?

‘This is a new planet’


El Niño still strengthening in the Pacific.

Staff Report

LINZ — This year’s strong El Niño may be a climate wildcard, according to experts with the World Meteorological Organization, who said changes in the northern hemisphere’s climate may interact with El Niño in as-yet unknown ways.

“The last big El Niño was 1997-1998. The planet has changed a lot in 15 years,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme. “We have had years of record Arctic sea ice minimum. We have lost a massive area of northern hemisphere snow cover, probably by more than 1 million square kilometers in the past 15 years. We are working on a different planet and we fully do not understand the new patterns emerging.”

He said the 2015 El Niño is unique because of the unprecedented combination of the Equatorial influence of El Niño, and the Arctic influence of low sea ice and snow cover in place at the same time.

“This is a new planet,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme. The 2015 El Niño is the first to take place since the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice and snow cover, Carlson said. Continue reading


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