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

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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

Melting Arctic sea ice could ‘cool’ Europe

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Ocean circulation in the North Atlantic is already changing as a result of global warming.

Study tracks links between melting ice cap, Atlantic Ocean currents

Staff Report

FRISCO — The retreat of sea ice caused by global warming could lead to colder weather for parts of northwestern Europe, Canadian researchers said after studying changing ocean dynamics in the North Atlantic.

The new research reinforces previous findings that the shrinking Arctic ice cap is likely to change the delicate balance between the cold and dense water pouring out of the Arctic and the warm waters of the subtropical Atlantic, according to professor G.W.K. Moore, of the University of Toronto Mississauga. Continue reading

April 2015 Arctic sea ice is second-lowest on record

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Arctic sea ice extent tracking low in April 2015.

New satellite data offers better info on ice thickness

Staff Report

FRISCO — After peaking at a record low extent last month, Arctic sea ice is melting away.

The average sea ice extent for the month of April was the second-lowest on record, behind 2007, about 313,000 square miles smaller than the 1981 to 2010 long-term average, according to the latest monthly update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Read the full update here. Continue reading

Ocean whitening to fight global warming? Scratch that one off the list

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The Arctic is heating up fast, which will have big effects on the rest of the planet, but plans to slow the meltdown by whitening the ocean surface probably wouldn’t work.

Another geoengineering scheme found lacking

Staff Report

FRISCO — It works on teeth, so why not the Arctic? At least that’s what some engineers have said, proposing that artificially whitening parts of the far northern ocean could help solve Earth’s global warming woes.

Ideas include using enormous quantities of  floating grains or microbubbles that would reduce the absorption of the Sun’s rays. But it’s far from clear whether the Rube Goldberg schemes are feasible and whether or not they would have the desired environmental effect. Continue reading

Can massive plankton blooms speed global warming?

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Biological feedback loop may accelerate global warming.

‘The increase in Arctic phytoplankton warms the ocean surface layer through direct biological heating …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists already know that melting sea ice in the Arctic is speeding up global warming in the region because darker-colored water absorbs more heat than reflective ice.

But a new study says there’s another factor to consider. Increasing amounts of open water for longer periods of time means there’s more plankton, and that may amplify Arctic warming by another 20 percent. Continue reading

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

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