Global warming: Satellite images show dramatic, rapid thinning and acceleration of Svalbard ice cap

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Ice in the Greenland Sea, via NASA Earth Observatory.

Austfonna ice field has thinned by more than 150 feet in just 3 years

Staff Report

FRISCO — If sudden changes on a small island in the Svalbard Archipelago are any indication, then the Greenland Ice Sheet could be in big trouble as the Arctic warms up.

Satellite images show that the Austfonna ice cap has thinned by more than 50 metres since 2012 — about one sixth of its original thickness — and that the ice is flowing 25 times faster than just a few years ago.

Scientists analyzing the data said they’re not exactly sure why the ice cap has changed so suddenly, but noted that the island is smack in the middle of one of the fastest-warming areas on the planet. Continue reading

Study: California’s biggest, oldest trees fading fast

Oaks, stands of dense, small trees becoming dominant

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Redwood trees in California. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Hand-written notes from old forest surveys have helped scientists track long-term changes in California forests, including a decline of large trees of up to 50 percent in the Sierra Nevada highlands, the south and central coast ranges and Northern California.

The research team  from the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey compared unique forest surveys collected by UC Berkeley alumnus Albert Wieslander in the 1920s and ’30s with recent U.S. Forest Service data to show that the decline of large trees and increase in the density of smaller trees is not unique to the state’s mountains. Continue reading

Climate: Is the Great Barrier Reef doomed?

New study projects staggering coral losses as oceans warm

Coral Gardens: A school of surgeonfish cruise coral reefs near Palmyra Atoll.

A school of surgeonfish cruise coral reefs in the Pacific. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice reporting on coral reefs

FRISCO —Even under a moderate climate change scenario, with just 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warming, the Great Barrier Reef may be doomed to become just a shadow of itself within a few decades, researcher said this week, warning of the cumulative impacts of warmer water, acidification, pollution and over-fishing.

In the short term, the combined effects of those impacts enable seaweed to over-run corals, in effect suffocating them. In the longer term, interactions among reef organisms would lead to dominance by other groups, including sponges and soft corals known as gorgonians. Continue reading

Scientists probe Antarctic ice sheet for climate clues

New data to help inform projections of sea-level rise

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Researchers are exploring Antarctic ice sheets. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Drilling deep into Antarctic ice this month, researchers were able for the first time to take a close look at the grounding zone of an ice sheet, where Antarctic ice, land and sea all converge.

Sediment samples from the half-mile bore hole will provide clues about the mechanics of ice sheets and their potential effects on sea-level rise, but the drilling also revealed an unsuspected population of fish and invertebrates living beneath the ice sheet, the farthest south that fish have ever been found. Continue reading

Study explores Greenland Ice Sheet plumbing

A meltwater lake on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Now researchers are tracking where that water goes, and how it may affect ice sheet movement. Photo courtesy Thomas Nylen, NSF.

A meltwater lake on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Now researchers are tracking where that water goes, and how it may affect ice sheet movement. Photo courtesy Thomas Nylen, National Science Foundation.

Surface meltwater feeds subglacial lakes

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists who recently took a close look at the “plumbing” of the Greenland Ice Sheet say that meltwater from the surface is building up lakes beneath the ice and transporting heat to the bottom of the ice sheet.

The research, led by Cornell University Earth and Atmospheric Sciences researcher Michael Willis, includes groundbreaking findings that give new information about atmospheric warming and its affect on the critical zone at the base of the ice. The warmth provided by the water could make the ice sheet move faster and alter how it responds to the changing climate. The research is detailed in a new paper published online by the journal Nature on Jan. 21. Continue reading

Cameroon chimps face serious climate change threat

"Ngambe " is a chimpanzee rescued from illegal animal trafficking who now lives at the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon. view more Credit: Paul Sesink Clee

“Ngambe ” is a chimpanzee rescued from illegal animal trafficking who now lives at the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon. By Paul Sesink Clee.

Rare subspecies could lose nearly all its habitat by 2020

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some of the most endangered chimpanzees in the world could see most of their habitat disappear by 2020 because of global warming, scientists warned this week. Climate and habitat models show the drastic decline based on impacts to sensitive savanna-woodland habitat in central Cameroon. Continue reading

Climate: Melting glaciers adding dissolved carbon to world’s oceans

Scientists eye impacts to high-latitude marine ecosystems

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Melting glaciers, like the Dachstein in Austria, may be a big source of dissolved carbon with the potential to affect downstream ecosystems. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As if rising sea levels aren’t enough to worry about, U.S. Geological Survey scientists say melting glaciers may also adding significant amounts of carbon to the oceans, where it’s readily available to microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain.

By 2050, that carbon could total as much as 17 million tons, equal to about half of the annual flux of dissolved organic carbon from the Amazon River, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, cautioning that their calculations are subject to revision.

The study aimed to better understand the role glaciers play in the global carbon cycle, especially as climate warming continues to reduce glacier ice stores and release ice-locked organic carbon into downstream freshwater and marine ecosystems. Continue reading

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