Scientists probe Antarctic ice sheet for climate clues

New data to help inform projections of sea-level rise

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Researchers are exploring Antarctic ice sheets. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Drilling deep into Antarctic ice this month, researchers were able for the first time to take a close look at the grounding zone of an ice sheet, where Antarctic ice, land and sea all converge.

Sediment samples from the half-mile bore hole will provide clues about the mechanics of ice sheets and their potential effects on sea-level rise, but the drilling also revealed an unsuspected population of fish and invertebrates living beneath the ice sheet, the farthest south that fish have ever been found. Continue reading

Climate: ‘It’s time to start getting angry’

Climate researchers call for action at Breck conference

By Adam Spencer

BRECKENRIDGE — For nearly 70 years, Americans breathed poisonous exhaust from leaded gasoline while a team of oil and auto industry-funded scientists maintained that millions of cars burning lead — a potent neurotoxin — was safe.  When federal regulators finally started to phase out leaded gasoline in the 1970s, levels of the toxin found in Americans’ blood plummeted by 77 percent.

“The use of leaded gasoline very much mirrors the fight over climate change,” said Dr. Jim White, director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and a geology and environmental science professor at the University of Colorado.

White argued, at the annual Glen Gerberg Weather and Climate Summit held in Breckenridge this week, that big oil’s arguments against the early warnings of lead’s health impacts (spills at the plants that produced the petroleum additive in the 1920s killed some workers and made others crazy) are very similar to the arguments used today to discredit human-caused climate change. Continue reading

Antarctic sea urchins can handle some global warming

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Antarctic sea urchins may be able to adapt to global warming. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Lab testing measures response to rising temps, increasing acidification

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sea urchins around the Antarctic Peninsula are able to adapt to  warmer and more acidic seawater conditions expected by the end of the century, at least in a laboratory setting.

The study, led by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and Bangor University, involved collecting 288 sea urchins and and transporting them to the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. Continue reading

2014 in review: Ice anemones & climate hacking

Summit Voice environmental coverage in January 2014

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Glowing sea anemones cling to the bottom of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Photo courtesy Frank Rack, ANDRILL Science Management Office, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

FRISCO — We started 2014 by reporting on some recent research in Antarctica, where scientists recently found colonies of cold-tolerant sea anemones literally hanging from the bottom of the sea ice with food-gathering tentacles dangling beneath — a “mind-blowing” discovery, according some of the researchers involved. Above all, it shows how much more remains to be discovered in some of the most remote reaches of our fragile blue marble. Read the full story here: ‘Mind-blowing’ anemones found beneath Antarctic ice. Continue reading

Climate: More signs of an irreversible Antarctic meltdown

It's not clear when the waters around Antarctica will no longer be able to support production of phytoplankton.

New research shows signs of a major meltdown in Antarctica. bberwyn photo.

Ocean temperatures increasing steadily near West Antarctica

Staff Report

FRISCO — Warming seawater around parts of Antarctica is speeding the melting and sliding of glaciers, and that there is no indication that this trend will reverse, according to researchers with  the University of East Anglia.

The study, published in the journal Science, tracked ocean temperatures in the shallow shelf seas of West Antarctica for the last 50 years. The findings also suggest the areas of warmer seawater are spreading, and that other Antarctic areas, which have not yet started to melt, could experience melting for the first time, which would increase the pace of global sea level rise. Continue reading

Climate: Robotic gliders probe secrets of Southern Ocean

Detailed measurements to help pinpoint rate of ice shelf melt

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Melting Antarctica ice shelves are raising global sea level. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Southern Ocean, surrounding Antarctica, is mostly separated from the rest of the world’s oceans by a sharp temperature boundary and swift currents. But the border between the different masses of water is regularly blurred by giant swirls of water that may be transporting warmer water to the edge of the frozen continent.

Knowing how that process works could help scientists understand how fast Antarctic ice shelves will melt and raise global sea level, according to Caltech scientists who used robotic gliders to track the movement of water in the region. Continue reading

Climate: Scientists studying old satellite photos to understand current Antarctic sea ice trends

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Icebergs in the Antarctic Sound. bberwyn photo.

Warm October weather leads to rapid melting in Ross Sea region

Staff Report

FRISCO — Persistent warm winds from the north have eaten away at the record sea ice extent around Antarctica the past few weeks.

After reaching a new record in September, the ice extent is now back to the levels of about a year ago, according to the National Snow and Ice Data center’s monthly update.

Along Antarctica’s Pacific coast, including around the Ross Ice Shelf and northern West Antarctic Ice Sheet, air temperatures in October ran 7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Temperatures were also warmer than average in the eastern Weddell Sea south of Africa. Continue reading

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