Arctic sea ice dwindles to second-lowest extent ever

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Arctic sea ice now at it’s second-lowest extent on record. @bberwyn photo.

Antarctic sea ice extent below average for the first time in four years

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a mid-month update, researchers with the National Snow and Ice Data Center said that Arctic sea ice has dwindled to the second-lowest extent on record, with an above-average melt rate during the first half of August. The only time there was less sea ice was in 2012, which set the record for the lowest extent.

The NSIDC also reported that Antarctic sea ice extent is below the 1981 to 2010 average for the first time in nearly four years. Antarctic sea ice expanded by just 96,500 square miles between August 1 and August 17, and retreated around the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Ross Sea, and around the coast of Wilkes Land. 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

Climate: Study assesses impacts of warmer water, ocean acidification on Antarctic fish

Reserarchers see changes in embryo development

sdfg Report on the deep-sea fishes collected by H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-1876 Günther, Albert C. L. G. (Albert Carl Ludwig Gotthilf), 1830-1914

A drawing of an Antarctic dragonfish from a report on the deep-sea fishes collected by H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-1876.  Günther, Albert C. L. G. (Albert Carl Ludwig Gotthilf).

Staff Report

FRISCO — In another clue as to how warmer and more acidic waters will affect ocean life, scientists with the University of California Davis and San Francisco State University have found that the combination speeds up the development of dragonfish larvae.

The researchers studied the fish in part because their embryos are slow to form, which could make them more susceptible to changed conditions. The findings suggest that higher levels of CO2 and warmer waters have a big impact on the survival and development of the Antarctic dragonfish. The research article was published in the journal Conservation Physiology. 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

Morning photo: What next for Antarctica?

Big changes ahead for the frozen continent


FRISCO —I often write about the environmental changes expected in Antarctica as the world heats up under its man-made blanket of heat-trapping greenhouse gases because those changes will have huge implications for the rest of the planet. It’s not just the melting ice and rising sea level. When — and to be clear, it’s when, not if — the big meltdown begins, it will affect ocean currents worldwide and weather patterns in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Hard to say at this point what the consequences will be for places like Australia and South America. Click this link to read about how the Antarctic affects global climate.

But Antarctica is so vast, so distant and so unimaginably different from the rest of the planet that it’s sometimes hard to get your head around it without seeing it for yourself. Enjoy the gallery and check our archive of Antarctica environment stories to learn more.

Satellite data helps pinpoint Antarctic ice loss

Study says 92 billion tons of ice melting each year

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The ice sheets of West Antarctica are losing about 240 billion tons of ice each year, and the rate of loss has doubled in the past 10 years. @bberwyn photo.

Princeton University researchers "weighed" Antarctica's ice sheet using gravitational satellite data and found that from 2003 to 2014, the ice sheet lost 92 billion tons of ice per year. Image by Christopher Harig, Department of Geosciences, Princeton.

Princeton University researchers “weighed” Antarctica’s ice sheet using gravitational satellite data and found that from 2003 to 2014, the ice sheet lost 92 billion tons of ice per year. Image by Christopher Harig, Department of Geosciences, Princeton.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sparse data make it tough to track continental-scale climatic changes across the vast reaches of Antarctica. But a new study that analyzed gravitational readings from satellites is helping scientists understand what’s happening to the region’s massive ice fields, and in a new study, they say that, overall, the southern continent’s ice cap is melting ever faster.

The study covers a 10-year span, from 2003 to 2014, when an average of 92 billion tons of ice melted away into the sea each year, with obvious implications for sea level rise. Reporting in the  journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, the Princeton researchers said that, if all that ice were piled on Manhattan it would be more than a mile high, five times the height of the Empire State Building. Continue reading

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