Climate: ‘We are headed for a seasonally ice-free ocean’


Sparse ice along the east coast of Greenland during the peak of the summer melt season. @bberwyn photo.

Arctic once again loses thick multiyear ice

Staff Report

At the end of its melt season, the Arctic’s ice cover fell to the fourth lowest extent in the satellite record, both in the daily and monthly average, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Sea ice extent hit 4.41 million square kilometers (1.70 million square miles) on September 11 and averaged 4.63 million square kilometers (1.79 million square miles) for the month of September.

This year edged out 2008 as the fourth lowest extent since satellites started regularly monitoring sea ice in 1979. The lowest Arctic extent on record occurred in 2012, when sea ice measured 3.62 million square kilometers (1.40 million square miles). Continue reading

Can caribou and goose eggs help polar bears survive global warming?

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

New study suggests land-based food sources may help polar bears stave off starvation as sea ice melts

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientific discussions over the fate of polar bears in the global warming may heat up as a new study found that some of the Arctic predators may be able to survive by eating caribou and snow geese instead of eggs.

Many previous studies have suggested that polar bears will be hard-pressed to survive extreme changes in their Arctic habitat, but the new research by scientists with the American Museum of Natural History, published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests the outlook may not be quite so grim. Continue reading

Climate: Planning for the polar meltdown


Melting Arctic sea ice has spurred plans for a global Polar Prediction Project. @bberwyn photo.

Can the world find a realistic way to deal with changing conditions at the ends of the Earth?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate scientists and policy makers from around the world last month agreed on an international action plan to help minimize the risks — and identify opportunities — associated with rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic environments.

The agreement came at a mid-July conference, when stakeholders from around the world finalized plans for the Polar Prediction Project, which aims to accelerate and consolidate research, observing, modelling, verification and educational activities.

With the Arctic warming about twice as fast as the rest of the world, there  is growing interest in the polar regions, where changes will affect the rest of the world. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice dwindles to second-lowest extent ever


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

June’s Arctic sea ice extent was 3d-lowest on record


The northern hemisphere June snow cover extent has been far below average for 11 straight years.

Late-season snow cover also shrinking dramatically in northern hemisphere

Staff Report

FRISCO — Warm June temperatures across much of the Arctic may have set the stage for a big sea ice meltdown during the next few weeks, federal ice trackers said as they released their latest monthly update last week.

The Arctic sea ice extent for June 2015 was the third lowest on record, and June snow cover was the second-lowest, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center report, which measured an average sea ice extent of about 4.24 million square miles for the month, which is 355,200 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average. Continue reading

Feds release draft polar bear recovery plan

Polar bears catch a bit of break, as sampling in one area shows a drop in levels of toxic PCBs. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

Polar bears will have a hard time surviving unless there are big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Photo courtesy USGS.

‘Polar bear conservation requires a global commitment to curb the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — The only thing that will save polar bears in the long run is a big cut in global greenhouse gas emissions, federal biologists said last week as the rolled out a draft recovery plan for the Arctic predators.

Polar bears were the first species to be listed as endangered because of the direct threat of global warming. As Arctic sea ice continues to shrink, bear populations will decline, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Continue reading

Climate change: New polar bear prognosis not good, as feds prepare to publish recovery plan

‘Addressing sea ice loss will require global policy solutions …’

polar bear map

An updated USGS study shows how global warming will affect polar bears.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Loss of Arctic sea ice caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases remains as the primary threat to polar bears, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said after updating their research models.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions drastically reduced, sea ice will continue to shrink for decades, leading to a significant loss of polar bear habitat in many parts of the Arctic. The Canadian Archipelago is a notable exception. That region may serve as a climate refuge for the bears and other ice-dependent species, the federal scientists said. Continue reading


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