Climate: Planning for the polar meltdown

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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

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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

Climate: Is this the Antarctic tipping point?

Study shows widespread, simultaneous ice shelf melting

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Satellite data shows sudden shift in ice shelf dynamics along the southern Antarctic Peninsula. @berwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with studies showing dramatic changes in individual ice shelves in Antarctica, new research shows widespread changes in the region since 2009. Up until then, the Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change.

But suddenly, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse, measuring some 750km in length, suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean at a nearly constant rate of 60 cubic kilometers, or about 55 trillion liters of water, each year. This makes the region the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica and the ice loss shows no sign of waning. Continue reading

NASA study tracks crumbling Antarctic ice shelf

Scientists say disintegration of Larsen B remnant will speed glaciers, raise sea level

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 Icebergs floating along the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — There’s more meltdown news from Antarctica. Despite a trend of expanding sea ice in the past few years, the all-important coastal ice shelves, which regulate the flow of continental ice to the sea, are in trouble.

Last week, researchers with the British Antarctic Survey said they measured incredibly fast thinning of the Larsen C Ice Shelf, warning that the massive sheet of floating ice could crumble suddenly and without much warning. Those findings reflect the more widespread trend of ice shelf thinning around the continent, tracked in another comprehensive NASA-led study.

And in the same region, along the eastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, a new NASA study suggests that remnants of the previously collapsed Larsen B Ice Shelf probably won’t last much longer. Continue reading

Study helps pinpoint Antarctic ice-shelf thinning

Larsen C Ice Shelf has dwindled by 4 meters in 15 years

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Melting ice shelves in Antarctica will speed the rate of sea level rise. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of Antarctica’s giant ice shelves has thinned by more than 12 feet in the past 15 years and could collapse within the next 100 years — or possibly sooner and without much warning, according to scientists with the British Antarctic Survey.

The new study was focused on trying to determine why the Larsen C Ice Shelf is melting away. The ice shelf is along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the fastest warming regions on Earth, with a temperature rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius during the last 50 years. Continue reading

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