Antarctica meltdown likely to speed up soon

;o'j

Ice sheets of the Antarctic Peninsula. @bberwyn photo

Natural variability still the key driver for East Antarctica temps

Staff Report

FRISCO — A lack of widespread data from Antarctica means it’s still challenging to differentiate human-driven global warming from natural temperature variations in the region, German scientists said in a new study.

Climate researchers need to understand temperature trends in Antarctica to better predict how fast the ice will melt and raise global sea level. But the study concluded that the uncertainties in the temperature trends over Antarctica are larger than previously estimated. Continue reading

Environment: Are research stations polluting Antarctica?

Study finds that some Persistent Organic Pollutants are ‘pervasive’ in the environment around Antarctic base

The ice fields of Antarctica

The ice fields of Antarctica. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Antarctica is often described as one of the last pristine environments on Earth, but that may be changing as human activity increases.

Researchers with the Australian Antarctic Division recently said they tracked pollutants from common household sources dispersing from a research station into the surrounding environment. As a result, the scientists are rethinking how they store and dispose of materials that could be the source of pollutants. Continue reading

Global warming: Antarctic ice shelves have thinned 18 percent in the past two decades

Troubling signs of a major meltdown continue

It's not clear when the waters around Antarctica will no longer be able to support production of phytoplankton.

 Global warming is nibbling away at Antarctica’s ice sheets, which show declines of up to 18 percent in a new analysis of satellite data. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice stories on global warming changes in Antarctica.

FRISCO — In the dry language of science, researchers this week said that some of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves have thinned by as much as 18 percent in just a couple of decades — a finding that provides “new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to climate change.”

After analyzing 20 years of satellite data, the new NASA-supported study shows the ice volume decline is accelerating under a thickening blanket of greenhouse gases. Merging data from three overlapping missions, the study was able to show the trend over time rather than just offering a snapshot view of the ice.

“Eighteen percent over the course of 18 years is really a substantial change,” said Paolo. “Overall, we show not only the total ice shelf volume is decreasing, but we see an acceleration in the last decade.” said Scripps graduate student Fernando Paolo. Continue reading

Study tracks blue whales across Southern Ocean

New data will help shape conservation efforts in the waters around Antarctica

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Australian and New Zealand researchers have tracked blue whales across thousands of miles in the Southern Ocean to help inform conservation efforts. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As a keystone species in marine ecosystems, blue whales have a significant impact in the ocean around Antarctica, but the population dynamics of the species in the region are still a mystery as the marine mammals recover from the decimation of the whaling era.

That may change following the recent six-week Australia-New Zealand Antarctic Ecosystem Voyage voyage, as researchers tracked the world’s largest creatures across thousands of miles of ocean, detecting their songs from as far as 750 kilometers away. Continue reading

How do Antarctica snowfall rates affect sea level rise?

New ice core analysis shows less of an ‘offset’ than most models currently project

Antarctica permafrost

Increasing snowfall in Antarctica will moderate the rate of global sea level rise — but not as much as previously thought. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Detailed ice core records from Antarctica show that snowfall over the frozen continent increased about 5 percent for each degree (Celsius) of warming as Earth emerged from the last ice age.

The findings confirm that the increased snowfall will slightly offset sea level rise, as suggested by other research — but not as much as previously thought. That means that some computer models may be underestimating the amount and rate of future sea level rise if they’re based on inaccurate assumptions. Continue reading

Climate: Too cold for penguins?

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Genetic study tracks history of Antarctica’s emperor penguin populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — A genetic study shows that emperor penguins may have just barely survived the last ice age, with a few scattered populations  enduring centuries of bitter cold and ice.

The study covers about 30,000 years and suggests that only three populations survived, including a climate refuge of sorts in the Ross Sea, where emperors may have been able to breed around a relatively small area of open water. The emperor penguins in that region evolved to become genetically distinct from other populations, which may support arguments for creating a Ross Sea marine protected area. Continue reading

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

;ioh

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

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