Climate: New ice core data help show long-term rainfall record for parts of Australia

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A recent weather satellite image of Australia, via NASA.

‘The Millennium Drought was far from an exceptional event for eastern Australia during the past thousand years …’

FRISCO — Even without the added factor of global warming, eastern Australia is susceptible to climate extremes, including long-lasting droughts that could put a huge strain on water storage and delivery systems.

Researchers say a 1,000-year ice core record from Antarctica shows the recent “Millennium Drought” actually wasn’t all that unusual in the context of Australia’s long-term climate history. Continue reading

Sonar study finds blue whale ‘hotspots’ in Southern Ocean

Whale populations around Antarctica still rebounding from industrial whaling era

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New sonar techniques could help pinpoint blue whale numbers in the Southern Ocean and identify important habitat. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a century of relentless industrial whaling, blue whales were nearly extirpated from the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, The giant marine mammal is now making a comeback, and resurgent whale numbers could affect other parts of the ecosystem.

Other recent research has shown blue whale numbers rebounding off the coast of California, and biologists with the British Antarctic Survey recently reported that satellite technology could also help count whales.

But for the Southern Ocean, scientists don’t have a good grasp of population numbers. Between 1978 and 2010 blue whale surveys recorded only 216 visual encounters, so new research by Australian scientists may help identify important habitat areas and pinpoint numbers, which helps inform conservation strategies, with several large marine protected areas in the works for Antarctica. 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

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

Climate: Scientists studying old satellite photos to understand current Antarctic sea ice trends

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Icebergs in the Antarctic Sound. bberwyn photo.

Warm October weather leads to rapid melting in Ross Sea region

Staff Report

FRISCO — Persistent warm winds from the north have eaten away at the record sea ice extent around Antarctica the past few weeks.

After reaching a new record in September, the ice extent is now back to the levels of about a year ago, according to the National Snow and Ice Data center’s monthly update.

Along Antarctica’s Pacific coast, including around the Ross Ice Shelf and northern West Antarctic Ice Sheet, air temperatures in October ran 7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Temperatures were also warmer than average in the eastern Weddell Sea south of Africa. Continue reading

Russia, China block Antarctica conservation plans

Proposals for vast marine preserves fail for the fourth time

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Plans to protect the Antarctic environment are still on hold. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Russia and China have once again showed their unwillingness to participate in global efforts to protect the environment in Antarctica by blocking a plan to create new marine reserves off the shore of eastern Antarctica and in the Ross Sea.

Both countries are more interested in exploiting natural resources in the region than in establishing a collaborative framework for sustainable management of the fish and krill. Russia voted for the fourth time to block the proposal for new marine protected areas, while China opposed the plans for the first time. Continue reading

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