Moss springs back to life after 1,500 years in deep freeze

New study offers snapshot of changing world

It may look like grass, but it's not — it's moss.

It may look like grass, but it’s not — it’s moss. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some hardy species of moss may be able to regenerate after surviving for thousands of years buried deep beneath polar ice. Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Reading University said their study for the first time shows that some plants have the ability to survive century to millennial scale ice ages.

The research may help scientists better project how polar regions will change in coming decades as ice sheets retreat. The study is the first to show that mosses can survive century to millennial scale ice ages. Continue reading

Report: Ecosystem disruptions expected in Ross Sea

‘Portions of the food web that depend on ice in their life cycles will be negatively impacted, leading to severe ecological disruptions’

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How will changes in the Antarctic food chain affect aquatic mammals? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate change will fundamentally change The Ross Sea, one of Antarctica’s productive biological regions, but exactly how those changes will play out is hard to predict, scientists said after running computer models combining sea-ice, ocean, atmosphere and ice-shelf interactions.

The region is likely to experience ‘severe ecological disruptions,” a group of scientists wrote in their new study, explaining that rising temperatures and changing wind patterns will create longer periods of ice-free open water, affecting the life cycles of both predators and prey. Continue reading

Climate: Freshwater cap around Antarctica inhibiting natural upwelling of warmer water

Findings may help explain recent expansion of Antarctic sea ice

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Study shows impacts of increased precipitation over Southern Ocean. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Enhanced rainfall over the Southern Ocean may be blocking the release of relatively warm waters from the depths, researchers said this week in a study published in Nature Climate Change.

The research shows that salinity at the surface of the Southern Ocean has steadily decreased since the 1950s. This lid of fresh water on top of the ocean prevents mixing with the warm waters underneath. As a result, the deep ocean heat has been unable to get out and melt back the wintertime Antarctic ice pack. Continue reading

Study projects major decline of Antarctic sea ice

Meltdown likely to have serious impacts on marine life

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How long will Antarctic sea ice persist? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

*Adapted from a Virginia Institute of Marine Science press release. More Summit Voice stories on sea ice here.

FRISCO — While global warming deniers try to divert attention from the building climate crisis by pointing at record-high Antarctic sea ice extent, a new study suggests much of that ice will soon melt away.

Plugging projected increases in Antarctic air temperatures into finely scaled models, the scientists said the Ross Sea could lose more than half its summer ice by 2050 and more than 75 percent by 2100. Continue reading

Climate: Antarctica study traces history of Pine Island Glacier melt

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How fast will Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier melt?

Findings suggest the West Antarctica glacier is very sensitive to environmental change

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier is likely to remain a significant factor in global sea level rise for decades to come, as a warming ocean melts the ice from beneath.

Geologists from the UK, USA and Germany used highly sensitive dating techniques, pioneered by one of the team, to track the thinning of the glacier through time, and to show that past thinning has lasted for several decades.

Rocks exposed by retreating or thinning glaciers provide evidence of past ice sheet change, which helps scientists to predict possible future change. The research results were published this week in Science. Continue reading

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

Climate: Adélie penguins face uncertain future

Collapsing icebergs could disrupt breeding and feeding

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An Adélie penguin on Paulet Island. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate change, and the the increasing frequency of unpredictable, extreme weather event, are making it difficult to project trends in penguin populations, French researchers said in a new study published this week in PLOS ONE.

The authors suggest that penguins are able to respond to changes in sea ice concentrations under “normal” environmental conditions, but not as much in the face of extreme events, like the presence of giant icebergs.

“Our work shows that Adélie penguins could cope with less sea ice around their summer breeding grounds,” said Amélie Lescroël, with the Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive. “However, we also showed that extreme environmental events, such as the calving of giant icebergs, can dramatically modify the relationship between Adélie penguins and sea ice. 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

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