Global warming: New NOAA study eyes link between Arctic meltdown and extreme weather in mid-latitudes

A warming Arctic is changing the configuration of the jet stream, which affects mid-latitude weather. GRAPHIC COURTESY NOAA.

A warming Arctic is changing the configuration of the jet stream, which affects mid-latitude weather. GRAPHIC COURTESY NOAA.

‘Too soon to tell …’

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice stories on this subject are here

FRISCO — There’s been lots of speculation and some early research on a possible link between soaring temperatures in the Arctic and extreme weather in North America and Europe, but the jury is still out, according to scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA’s James Overland was part of an international team that took a close look at possible connections and concluded that more research is needed.

“We are in the pre-consensus stage of a theory that there are links between the rapid warming of the Arctic and some severe weather events since 2007,” said Overland, lead author of the new study, “The melting Arctic and Mid-latitude weather patterns: Are they connected?” Continue reading

Shell gets conditional OK for Arctic offshore drilling

Conservation groups say Arctic oil disaster nearly inevitable

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Is Shell Arctic-ready?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In a decision heralding all but certain disaster for Arctic ecosystems, the federal government today approved the basic outlines of Shell’s proposed multi-year offshore oil exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea.

Using two vessels, the giant oil company wants to drill up to six wells in an area known as the Burger Prospect, more than 140-feet deep, about  70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

The approval came just two years after the Department of Interior found that Shell tried to rush into its offshore drilling program without being “fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans.” Continue reading

April 2015 Arctic sea ice is second-lowest on record

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Arctic sea ice extent tracking low in April 2015.

New satellite data offers better info on ice thickness

Staff Report

FRISCO — After peaking at a record low extent last month, Arctic sea ice is melting away.

The average sea ice extent for the month of April was the second-lowest on record, behind 2007, about 313,000 square miles smaller than the 1981 to 2010 long-term average, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Read the full update here. Continue reading

Ocean whitening to fight global warming? Scratch that one off the list

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The Arctic is heating up fast, which will have big effects on the rest of the planet, but plans to slow the meltdown by whitening the ocean surface probably wouldn’t work.

Another geoengineering scheme found lacking

Staff Report

FRISCO — It works on teeth, so why not the Arctic? At least that’s what some engineers have said, proposing that artificially whitening parts of the far northern ocean could help solve Earth’s global warming woes.

Ideas include using enormous quantities of  floating grains or microbubbles that would reduce the absorption of the Sun’s rays. But it’s far from clear whether the Rube Goldberg schemes are feasible and whether or not they would have the desired environmental effect. Continue reading

Can massive plankton blooms speed global warming?

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Biological feedback loop may accelerate global warming.

‘The increase in Arctic phytoplankton warms the ocean surface layer through direct biological heating …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists already know that melting sea ice in the Arctic is speeding up global warming in the region because darker-colored water absorbs more heat than reflective ice.

But a new study says there’s another factor to consider. Increasing amounts of open water for longer periods of time means there’s more plankton, and that may amplify Arctic warming by another 20 percent. Continue reading

Carbon release from melting permafrost may gradual

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The average temperature of permafrost has increased by 11 degrees Fahrenheit in 30 years.

New study takes detailed look at dynamics of permafrost meltdown

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — One of the big uncertainties in the pace of global warming is how fast greenhouse gases will be released from thawing permafrost, which stores huge amounts of carbon.

A sudden meltdown and discharge could result in a spike in the concentration of heat-trapping gases and big surge in global temperatures, but a new study suggests that release of greenhouse gases from permafrost soils in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions will be more gradual and prolonged. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice extent lowest ever for March

Funky jet stream pattern blamed for western snow drought

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This map shows the rank of snow water equivalent measured at SNOTEL sites across the western U.S. A rank of 1 (black dots) corresponds to the lowest SWE in the SNOTEL record; a rank of 31 (magenta dots) is the highest. Credit: Andrew Slater, NSIDC

Staff Report

FRISCO — After peaking at a record-low extent in late February, Arctic sea ice extent wavered for a bit but stayed low. That resulted in the lowest average sea ice extent on record for March, at 5.56 million square miles, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

That’s about half a million square miles below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average and about 23,000 square miles below the previous record low, set in March 2006. Looking back several decades, March sea ice extent is declining at the rate of about 2.6 percent per decade. Continue reading

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