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

Climate: Genetic study shows polar bears chasing ice

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The Arctic is changing, and nobody is sure if polar bears will be able to survive the impending meltdown. Photo courtesy USGS.

Arctic predators looking for areas with reliable ice

Staff Report

FRISCO — Polar bears are heading farther north as Arctic sea ice dwindles, scientists said this week, publishing the results of a new study that took a close look at the genetics of the 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears.

The research found that those 19 populations can be clustered into four genetically-similar groups, corresponding to ecological and oceanographic factors. These four clusters are the Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago, and Southern Canada.

The study showed that the gene flow in the most recent generations of polar bears is toward the Canadian Archipelago, where sea ice is expected to persist longer than in other parts of the Arctic. Continue reading

Climate: Satellite measurements show how Arctic is absorbing more energy as sea ice dwindles

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Temperatures in the Arctic are rising dramatically.

Data starts to confirm climate feedback loop

Staff Report

FRISCO — NASA scientists say that, during the summer, Arctic is absorbing 5 percent more of the sun’s incoming energy than just 15 years ago. The trend coincides with the steady decrease in Arctic sea ice during the same period.

The extra energy is equal to an additional 10-watt light bulb shining continuously over every 10.76 square feet of Arctic Ocean for the entire summer.

The change in the region’s energy balance is happening because ocean water is darker than sea ice and absorbs the sun’s energy at a higher rate. The decline in the region’s reflectivity has been a key concern among scientists since the summer Arctic sea ice cover began shrinking in recent decades. Continue reading

Climate: Can ringed seals survive the Arctic meltdown?

Ringed seals face an uncertain future in the rapidly warming Arctic. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Ringed seals face an uncertain future in the rapidly warming Arctic. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Feds propose 226 million acres of critical habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the largest-ever critical habitat proposals won’t do anything to slow the decline of Arctic sea ice or halt the buildup of greenhouse gases, but it may give ice-dependent ringed seals a fighting chance to survive the Arctic meltdown.

Ringed seals were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2012 in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity. This week, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed designating 226 million acres (350,000 square miles) of critical habitat in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Read more about the proposed protections. Continue reading

Climate: Polar paradox?

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September trend for Arctic sea ice extent is down, down, down. Courtesy NSIDC.

Arctic sea ice bottoms out; Antarctic sea ice hits new high

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even without remarkably warm weather patterns across the Arctic, summer sea ice dropped to the sixth-lowest extent on record this year, while at the other end of the Earth, sea ice around Antarctica swelled to a record extent.

Through 2014, Arctic sea ice has now been declining at a rate of 13.3 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average. The ten lowest September ice extents over the satellite record have all occurred in the last ten years. Continue reading

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