Study finds unexpected new Antarctic carbon sink

Global warming is just getting started in the Antarctic region.

Global warming is just getting started in the Antarctic region.

Increased seafloor life seen as negative global warming feedback

Staff Report

Shrinking sea ice around parts of Antarctica has spurred the growth of seafloor life that may help accumulating and bury carbon, researchers reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

“It was a surprise that life had been invisibly responding to climate change for more than a decade below one of the most obviously visible impacts of climate change: the ‘blueing’ poles,” said David Barnes, of the British Antarctic Survey. “We’ve found that a significant area of the planet, more than three million square kilometers, is a considerable carbon sink and, more importantly, a negative feedback on climate change.” Continue reading

Burning the rest of Earth’s fossil fuels would completely melt Antarctica

New study looks far into the climate future


Antarctic ice sheets are already melting, but — you ain’t seen nothing yet. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Using the rest of Earth’s fossil fuels is not an option — at least not if humankind wants to avoid 150 to 200 feet of sea level rise, a team of prominent scientists said after trying to project the fate of the world’s ice sheets over the next 10,000 years.

Burning the remaining stores of coal and oil would likely lead to a complete meltdown of Antarctica, which would, over the course of millenia, swamp most of the planets densely populated areas, and them some. Continue reading

Morning photo: Got ice?

Antarctica revisited

FRISCO — It’s been a few years, but I never get tired of revisiting these archived images of a journey around the fringes of Antarctica. And when I do, I fret, because it’s pretty certain now that all the greenhouse gases we’ve spewed into the atmosphere the past century or so are going to irrevocably going to change this place, and probably not for the better.

Already, there are clear signs that the ice sheets in West Antarctica are crumbling. That won’t just change the landscapes in the region; it will have far-reaching implications around the world by raising the seas to levels that humankind has not seen. Climate change also has serious implications for the abundant and diverse ecosystems around Antarctica. Invasive species from warmer regions are already starting to move in, and there have been marked shifts in penguin distributions. We may be able to limit some of the negative impacts if we act quickly to cut greenhouse gas pollution. Learn more about the Antarctic environment by checking out these Summit Voice stories.

Climate: Planning for the polar meltdown


Melting Arctic sea ice has spurred plans for a global Polar Prediction Project. @bberwyn photo.

Can the world find a realistic way to deal with changing conditions at the ends of the Earth?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate scientists and policy makers from around the world last month agreed on an international action plan to help minimize the risks — and identify opportunities — associated with rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic environments.

The agreement came at a mid-July conference, when stakeholders from around the world finalized plans for the Polar Prediction Project, which aims to accelerate and consolidate research, observing, modelling, verification and educational activities.

With the Arctic warming about twice as fast as the rest of the world, there  is growing interest in the polar regions, where changes will affect the rest of the world. Continue reading

Climate: Melting Antarctic glaciers may boost ocean food chain

Study explores Southern Ocean nutrient cycle


Between hunts, a leopard seal snoozes on an ice floe in a polynya near the Antarctic Peninsula. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Melting Antarctic glaciers are adding nutrients to the Southern Ocean, potentially boosting the entire food chain. The Southern Ocean could become a more productive ecosystem as a result of climate change, scientists suggested in a new study accepted for publication in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, an American Geophysical Union journal. Continue reading

Study eyes role of plankton in cloud formation

Southern Ocean research shows how plankton emissions brighten clouds

Clouds over Antarctica. @bberwyn photo.

Clouds over Antarctica. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Swarms of tiny plankton may play a bigger role in cloud formation than previously realized, scientists said after studying the Southern Ocean.

The new research shows that plankton produce airborne gases and organic matter to seed cloud droplets, which lead to brighter clouds that reflect more sunlight. Continue reading

Climate change decimating key plant species on Macquarie Island

Macquarie Island cushion plants

Cushion plants on Macquarie Island are dying so fast that scientists are growing them in irrigated tubes to preserve them until they can collect large quantities of seed. Photo courtesy Barend (Barry) Becker, Australian Antarctic Division.

‘Dieback of the cushion plants and mosses is rapid, progressive and widespread …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dramatic climate-driven ecosystem changes on Macquarie Island (about a third of the way between New Zealand and Antarctica) may foreshadow changes coming to Colorado’s alpine zone.

Researchers with the Australian Antarctic Division say old-growth cushion plants and mosses on the sub-Antarctic are drying out, to the detriment of other species that rely on the plants for habitat.

Even though the tiny island is on the opposite side of the world, the plants are similar to cushion plants in the Rocky Mountains that are an important part of the tundra ecosystem in places like Rocky Mountain National Park. Continue reading


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