Climate: Too cold for penguins?

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Genetic study tracks history of Antarctica’s emperor penguin populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — A genetic study shows that emperor penguins may have just barely survived the last ice age, with a few scattered populations  enduring centuries of bitter cold and ice.

The study covers about 30,000 years and suggests that only three populations survived, including a climate refuge of sorts in the Ross Sea, where emperors may have been able to breed around a relatively small area of open water. The emperor penguins in that region evolved to become genetically distinct from other populations, which may support arguments for creating a Ross Sea marine protected area. Continue reading

Climate: NASA study confirms global sea ice decline

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Antarctic sea ice has expanded in the past few years, but overall, the planet is still losing an area of ice the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined each year. bberwyn photo.

Growth in Antarctic ice extent doesn’t cancel out Arctic decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — NASA researchers who took a close look at both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice say that, overall, Earth has been losing ice at an average rate of about 13,500 square miles per year since 1979, equivalent to an area about the size of Maryland. Continue reading

East Antarctica ice sheets not immune to global warming

An international research team explores the geological history of the Gamburtsev Mountains, buried under two miles of ice in eastern Antarctica.

New research shows that even the frigid fringes of East Antarctica are melting away under warming seas.

Warming ocean melts ice from below

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s not just the West Antarctic ice sheets that are melting away as the surrounding ocean warms, Australian scientists reported after a six week voyage to the eastern side of the frozen continent.

A series of detailed measurements show that warm ocean water is melting the Totten Glacier — the largest in the region, with enough ice to raise sea level by several meters, according to the findings by the Australian Antarctic Division and partnering research organizations. Continue reading

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

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