Climate: Arctic sea ice extent lowest ever for March

Funky jet stream pattern blamed for western snow drought

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This map shows the rank of snow water equivalent measured at SNOTEL sites across the western U.S. A rank of 1 (black dots) corresponds to the lowest SWE in the SNOTEL record; a rank of 31 (magenta dots) is the highest. Credit: Andrew Slater, NSIDC

Staff Report

FRISCO — After peaking at a record-low extent in late February, Arctic sea ice extent wavered for a bit but stayed low. That resulted in the lowest average sea ice extent on record for March, at 5.56 million square miles, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

That’s about half a million square miles below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average and about 23,000 square miles below the previous record low, set in March 2006. Looking back several decades, March sea ice extent is declining at the rate of about 2.6 percent per decade. Continue reading

Study: Polar bears can’t survive on berries and bird eggs

Do polar bears hibernate? Read the latest edition of our bear blog to find out.

Can polar bears survive the Arctic meltdown? Photo courtesy USGS.

Arctic sea ice decline is bad news for apex predators

Staff Report

*Click here for more Summit Voice stories on polar bears and climate change

FRISCO — The idea that polar bears may somehow adapt to the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice by switching to land-based food sources isn’t supported by science, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Some polar bears are eating berries, birds and eggs as they’re forced ashore by the retreating sea ice. But the behavior isn’t widespread and probably can’t make up for the loss of the bears’ primary prey — fatty, protein-rich ice seals, according to new research led by U.S. Geological Survey scientists. Continue reading

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

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