Climate: Arctic sea ice extent peaks at record low level

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The polar ice cap is smaller than ever. bberwyn photo.

Loopy jet stream keeps much of Arctic warm

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal ice researchers say this year’s maximum Arctic sea ice extent, reached Feb. 25, is the lowest on record during the satellite era, about 50,000 square miles smaller than the previous record set in 2011. While a shift in wind patterns could result in some additional growth, it’s unlikely the sea ice will expand past the extent reached on that date. Continue reading

How will Arctic sea ice meltdown affect marine mammals?

‘These animals require sea ice …’

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A polar bear on Alaska’s North Slope. Photo via Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Enacting more endangered species regulations isn’t enough to reduce global warming threats to ice-dependent marine mammals in the Arctic, scientists say.

In a new report published in the journal Conservation Biology, a research team called for better monitoring, increased cooperation and more study of how increasing human activity in the Arctic will affect ecosystems.

The report assesses the status of all circumpolar species and sub-populations of Arctic marine mammals, including seals, whales and polar bears and underscores the precarious state of those mammals.

“These species are not only icons of climate change, but they are indicators of ecosystem health, and key resources for humans,” said lead author Kristin Laidre, a polar scientist with the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic sea ice meltdown weakens summer storms, leading to longer, hotter heatwaves

‘The risk of high-impact heat waves is likely to increase’

Colorado weather lightning

Monsoonal summer thunderstorms help regulate heatwaves. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Summer heatwaves, already getting longer and hotter because of human-caused global warming, are set to get even worse, as the overall climate-warming trend disrupts atmospheric circulations that bring relief from long spells of hot weather.

A recent study by scientists with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research one measurement of accumulated summer storm energy has already declined by 10 percent since 1979. The researchers linked the findings to changes in the Arctic caused by man-made global warming. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice has thinned by 65 percent in 37 years

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A NASA satellite image shows swirls of sea ice near Greenland.

New study includes data from the pre-satellite era

Staff Report

FRISCO — After analyzing data from multiple sources, scientists say Arctic sea ice is thinning much faster than they thought, and the meltdown is not slowing down.

Between 1975 and 2012, ice in the central Arctic thinned by 65 percent on average, and by 85 percent in September, when the ice cover is at a minimum, according to a new study published in The Cryosphere.

“The ice is thinning dramatically,” said lead author Ron Lindsay, a climatologist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “We knew the ice was thinning, but we now have additional confirmation on how fast, and we can see that it’s not slowing down.” Continue reading

Climate study says Arctic sea ice meltdown could pause for years due to natural variability

Researchers are trying to identify the consequences of dwindling sea ice. Photo courtesy University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Researchers are trying to identify the consequences of dwindling sea ice. Photo courtesy University of Alaska Fairbanks.

‘It is quite conceivable that the current period of near zero sea-ice trend could extend for a decade or more …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even with a strong human-caused global warming signal in the Arctic, natural climate variability will be a big factor in the pace of the sea ice meltdown in the next few decades.

A new modeling study that included scientists with the CU-Boulder Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences shows that sea ice could remain relatively stable for 10 years or more due to natural factors. Continue reading

Climate: Arctic meltdown to shake up fish diversity

Arctic sea ice receded to the second-lowest extent on record this year. MAP COURTESY NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER.

Open water in the Arctic will shake up the species mix in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Changes ahead, outcome uncertain

Staff Report

FRISCO — Melting Arctic sea ice is breaking down the natural barrier between Pacific and Atlantic fish species, with as-yet unknown consequences for ocean ecosystems, scientists said this week in a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

The last time the environmental conditions allowed such large-scale transfer to occur was nearly three million years ago during the opening of the Bering Strait, which facilitated the spread of mostly Pacific marine species toward the Atlantic. Continue reading

Climate: ‘It’s time to start getting angry’

Climate researchers call for action at Breck conference

By Adam Spencer

BRECKENRIDGE — For nearly 70 years, Americans breathed poisonous exhaust from leaded gasoline while a team of oil and auto industry-funded scientists maintained that millions of cars burning lead — a potent neurotoxin — was safe.  When federal regulators finally started to phase out leaded gasoline in the 1970s, levels of the toxin found in Americans’ blood plummeted by 77 percent.

“The use of leaded gasoline very much mirrors the fight over climate change,” said Dr. Jim White, director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and a geology and environmental science professor at the University of Colorado.

White argued, at the annual Glen Gerberg Weather and Climate Summit held in Breckenridge this week, that big oil’s arguments against the early warnings of lead’s health impacts (spills at the plants that produced the petroleum additive in the 1920s killed some workers and made others crazy) are very similar to the arguments used today to discredit human-caused climate change. Continue reading

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