Morning photo: Iceberg dreams

Frozen …

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Remnant bergs on the shore of Dundee Island, Antarctica.

FRISCO — Lately I’ve had a few dreams about melting icebergs. I think it’s all the climate reporting I’ve been doing; every new study that comes out makes it more clear that we’ve already pumped so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that we’ve irrevocably changed our world, including the fantastic landscapes of ice around Antarctica. While parts of the glaciers and the massive ice sheets will persist for quite some time — many centuries, in fact — it’s also pretty clear that there will be massive changes around the frozen continent. Check out our Antarctica reporting at this Summit Voice link, and visit our online Fine Art America gallery for more landscape and nature photography. Click on the images to see them full size.

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Climate: Loss of snow cover may be key factor in disintegration of Antarctic ice shelves

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A study shows loss of snow cover leads to the disintegration of ice shelves around Antarctica. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Shrinking snow cover in Antarctica could result in the collapse of giant floating ice shelves, which would increase the discharge of ice into the oceans and increase the rate of sea-level rises.

But a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions could slow global warming and save at least some of the ice shelves, researchers at Utrecht University and the British Antarctic Survey said in a new paper published today in the Journal of Glaciology.

Scientists have been tracking the fate of the ice shelves closely at least since 1995, when part of the Larsen ice shelf collapsed. Continue reading

Study shows links between Atlantic Ocean warming and changing climate in Antarctica

Findings may help explain changes in Antarctic sea ice patterns

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The Antarctic Peninsula is warming twice as fast as most other regions.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A team of New York University scientists say they’ve found potential links between gradual warming of the North and Tropical Atlantic Ocean and climate changes in Antarctica.

The researchers reached their findings after carefully analyzing 30 years of data, helping to show how distant regional conditions are contributing to Antarctic climate change and redistribution of Antarctic sea ice.

“Our findings reveal a previously unknown, and surprisingm force behind climate change that is occurring deep in our southern hemisphere: the Atlantic Ocean,” said Xichen Li, a doctoral student in NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and the study’s lead author. “Moreover, the study offers further confirmation that warming in one region can have far-reaching effects in another.” Continue reading

‘Mind-blowing’ anemones found beneath Antarctic ice

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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.

‘This goes to show how much more we have to learn about the Antarctic and how life there has adapted … ‘

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A team of scientists looking for climate clues in Antarctic got more than they bargained for when they deployed robotic camera beneath the Ross Ice Shelf Along with data on ocean currents, they discovered colonies of sea anemones clinging to the ice, with tentacles dangling into the frigid water below.

The researchers, with the Antarctic Geological Drilling Program, were working at the Ross Ice Shelf, extending more than 600 miles northward into the Ross Sea from the grounding zone of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The camera was deployed via a hole drilled all the way through the ice, some 885-feet thick.

“The pictures blew my mind,” said Marymegan Daly of Ohio State University, who studied the specimens retrieved by ANDRILL team members in Antarctica. The new species, discovered in late December 2010, was publicly identified for the first time in a recent article in the journal PLoS ONE. Continue reading

Can emperor penguins adapt to global warming?

Emperor penguin colonies show up as dark splotches against the white ice near Halley Bay. PHOTO COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Emperor penguin colonies show up as dark splotches against the white ice near Halley Bay. PHOTO COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Recent satellite observations show birds adapting to changes in sea ice

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Emperor penguins living at the edge of their range may be able to find new breeding grounds as their sea-ice breeding habitat dwindles in coming decades.

Recent satellite monitoring shows that the Antarctic birds moved from their traditional sea-ice breeding grounds during years when the thin layer of ice (sea ice) formed later than usual to the much thicker floating ice shelves that surround the continent.

“When they turn up to breed, there needs to be a solid blanket of sea ice,” said British Antarctic Survey researcher Peter Frewell, lead author of the paper published this week in the online journal, PLOS ONE. The research team also included scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego in California. Continue reading

‘Heatwave’ at South Pole sets records

More record-warm Antarctica temperatures recorded in September

Global weirding? Antarctic sea ice hits record highs and South Pole sees record high temps. bberwyn photo.

Global weirding? Antarctic sea ice hits record highs and South Pole sees record high temps. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While scientists recently pinpointed areas with all-time record low temperatures in Antarctica, the South Pole is not immune to global warming — scientists based at the bottom of the world say the past winter was the warmest since record-keeping started in 1957.

In August, for example, the average temperature for the month was more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit above average, at minus 63.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

The trend continued into the Austral spring, with September 2013 also ending up as an all-time record warm month, including four daily maximum temperature records, according to the Antarctic Sun.

That’s not to say the weather was balmy — the average annual temperature at the South Pole is about minus 56.9 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest reading on record was minus 117 degrees Fahrenheit, set June 23, 1982, while the warmest temperature recorded since 1957 was just a few years ago, Christmas Day, 2011, when the official high was 9.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue reading

Climate: Protecting the cryosphere

International groups seeks immediate cuts in black carbon, methane, HFCs to protect world’s snow and ice regions

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Antarctic glaciers may last a little longer with immediate cuts to short-lived climate pollutants. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Along with the larger battle to reduce emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases, policy makers should also consider how they can cut short-lived climate pollutants in order to protect the world’s snow and ice.

A study released earlier this month shows that immediate cuts to short-lived pollutants could could prevent as much as a full degree Celsius of additional warming in the Arctic by 2050, preventing up to 40 percent of projected summer sea ice loss and 25 percent of springtime snow cover loss compared to business as usual emissions.

The report from the World Bank and the International Climate Cryosphere Initiative also spells out how immediate action could save millions of lives and protect critical ecosystems. Read the cryosphere action plan here.

“Reductions in emissions from diesel engines, open field and forest burning, and wood stoves will have a significant impact on the Arctic, while reducing emissions from the burning of biomass and coal for residential cooking and heating will have the largest impact on the Himalayas,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

“If you cut these using existing technology right now, you can cut the rate of climate-change in half. This is a no-brainer. It saves lives, crops, and it’s not going to shut down anybody’s life,” Zaelke said. “This is a piece we can get started on right now, a damn big piece, the only thing we can do to produce results in the next 50 years …  A lot of these changes can be done quickly, elegantly … with existing technology,” he said. Continue reading

Climate: Study eyes speed of Antarctic glaciers

Findings may help fine-tune sea level rise projections

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Melting Antarctic glaciers are contributing to sea level rise. bberwyn photo.

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A NASA map shows Antarctica’s major glaciers.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Calculating the speed of glaciers in Antarctica is a key piece of information for climate scientists trying to project sea level rise, but until recently, they haven’t been able to include information about what’s happening beneath the ice, where the glaciers meet the ground.

It turns out there are narrow strips of dirt and rock creating friction zones that slow the flow, according to scientists with Princeton University and the British Antarctic Survey, who used mathematical models, ground-penetrating radar and other instruments to try and determine the lay of the land. Continue reading

Climate: Winds driving Antarctic sea ice growth

Global warming likely to reverse trend in coming decades

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Antarctic sea ice extent has been growing the past few decades, bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate scientists have long suspected that increasing winds around Antarctica have been the main cause of growing sea ice extent in the southern hemisphere, and new research from the University of Washington shows how and why that might be happening — even as overall global temperatures warm.

Global warming deniers have tried to use the growth of Antarctic sea as a weapon in their battle against science, but climate researchers point out that the loss of Arctic sea ice far outweighs the small increase in the southern hemisphere. And the new research suggests that, as global temperatures continue to increase, Antarctic sea ice is all but certain to start shrinking.

Overall, Antarctic sea ice has been increasing by about 1 percent annually, which has led to record sea ice extent in the region the past few years. As of September 16, Antarctic sea ice extent reached about 7.51 million square miles, a record for the date and about 3.9 percent above the 30 year average. By contrast, this year’s Arctic summer minimum ice extent is approximately 30 percent below the 30-year average. Continue reading

Oceans: Drake Passage seen as mixing ground

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Strong storms help push water through the Drake Passage, and beneath the surface, the surging currents help mix the ocean from top to bottom. bberwyn photo.

Underwater mountains help churn up the ocean, fueling the carbon cycle

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Drake Passage, between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula, is well known for wild storms and big swell, but it turns out that turbulence isn’t just at the surface.

Far beneath the breaking whitecaps, the area is a crucial ocean mixing ground, where surface water is exchanged with deep water as currents rush over undersea mountains. Those mixing of water layers are crucial to regulating the Earth’s climate and ocean currents, according to researchers who recently traced how that mixing happens. Continue reading

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