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Climate studies probe growth of Antarctic sea ice

‘The planet as a whole is doing what was expected in terms of warming. Sea ice as a whole is decreasing as expected …’

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Sea ice is expanding around Antarctica, and scientists say wind, snow and melting land ice are key factors in the growth bberwyn photo.

The map at right shows Antarctic ice concentration on September 22, 2014, the date of the record high. Areas where the surface was less than 15% ice covered are deep blue; areas that were up to 100% ice covered are shades of light blue to white. The orange line shows the 1981-2010 median extent for September 22. (Median means in the middle: half of the years in the record had smaller ice extents than this, and half had larger extents.) The graph below the map shows daily Antarctic sea ice extent over the course of the year. The black line traces the 1981-2010 average, and the gray shading shows the range of variability (2 standard deviations from the mean). The previous record high extent (2013) is a dashed green line; the 2014 year to date is a light green line. NSIDC reported that the 2014 extent rose nearly 4 standard deviations above the 1981-2010 mean.

The map above shows Antarctic ice concentration on September 22, 2014, the date of the record high. Areas where the surface was less than 15% ice covered are deep blue; areas that were up to 100% ice covered are shades of light blue to white. The orange line shows the 1981-2010 median extent for September 22. (Median means in the middle: half of the years in the record had smaller ice extents than this, and half had larger extents.)
The graph below the map shows daily Antarctic sea ice extent over the course of the year. The black line traces the 1981-2010 average, and the gray shading shows the range of variability (2 standard deviations from the mean). The previous record high extent (2013) is a dashed green line; the 2014 year to date is a light green line. NSIDC reported that the 2014 extent rose nearly 4 standard deviations above the 1981-2010 mean. Courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with shifting wind patterns in the southern hemisphere, melting land ice may be contributing to recent record extents of floating sea ice around Antarctica. The melting ice and snow adds fresh water — which freezes morel easily — to the salty Southern Ocean, scientists said in a release this week, explaining the multi-year trend of expanding Antarctic sea ice.

But the increase doesn’t balance the loss of sea ice at the other end of the Earth. Arctic sea ice has declined by an average of 20,800 square miles per year; the Antarctic has gained ice at a rate of about a third of that, by an average of 7,300 square miles per year.

This week, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reported that Antarctic sea ice extent set a new record high for daily extent: 20.11 million square kilometers (7.76 million square miles), the highest since satellite observations started in the late 1970s.

In July, a European study called into question the recent measurements, citing inconsistencies in computer models.

Other studies suggest the growth is only temporary, and that Antarctic sea ice will ultimately decline dramatically in the decades ahead.

The ice trackers matched this year’s late season ice surge with strong southerly winds blew over the Weddell Sea. Without any nearby land masses to constrain growth, those winds tend to push the ice northward. Continue reading

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Climate: What if Arctic sea ice doesn’t form in winter?

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Arctic sea ice is on a downward spiral. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory website for information on this image.

New models look at year-round ice-free conditions to find parallels with Pliocene epoch

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide start to hover around 400 parts per million, climate scientists have been looking back about 3 to 5 million years, to the Pliocene Epoch — the last time heat-trapping greenhouse gases were at a similar level.

But temperatures during the Pliocene were about 3.5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today and the sea level was 65 to 80 feet higher. Until now, scientists have assumed that there’s a time lag between atmospheric CO2 levels and the subsequent temperature increases that melt ice and drive ocean levels up. Continue reading

Volcano study helps measure historic ice sheet thickness

UBC geologists examine pyroclastic deposits near summit of tephra cone on south side of Kima'Kho. Key attributes of these deposits established that they were deposited above the level of a surrounding englacial lake.

UBC geologists examine pyroclastic deposits near summit of tephra cone on south side of Kima’Kho. Key attributes of these deposits established that they were deposited above the level of a surrounding englacial lake. Photo courtesy UBC Science.

Ancient tuyas hold climate clues

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —In what must have been incredible displays of fire and ice, ancient volcanoes once erupted under massive glacial ice sheets, leaving deposits that could help paleoclimatologists unravel some ice age puzzles.

In a recent study, University of British Columbia researchers surveyed those deposits at the Kima’ Kho tuya, which erupted under an ice sheet about 1.8 million years ago. Their findings suggest that he ancient regional ice sheet through which the volcano erupted was twice as thick as previously estimated. Continue reading

Independent voters are wishy-washy on climate

Global warming attitudes can shift with the winds

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A new study suggests that many people still don’t understand the difference between daily weather and long-term climate.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite all the recent media coverage and public discussion of climate change issues, some people’s beliefs about global warming are still shaped by day-to-day weather, according to a new study by sociologists, geographers and climatologists. The study may illustrate one challenge facing climate scientists trying to differentiate between sensible weather and long-term climate shift.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those attitudes about climate change are also linked to political persuasion.

“We find that over 10 surveys, Republicans and Democrats remain far apart and firm in their beliefs about climate change. Independents fall in between these extremes, but their beliefs appear weakly held — literally blowing in the wind,” said Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology and senior fellow at the Carsey Institute, and New Hampshire state climatologist Mary Stampone, also an assistant professor of geography at UNH. Continue reading

Climate: Winters gettting warmer, wetter in Northeast

‘We’re losing the snow season’

Less snow, more rain predicted for northeastern U.S. Bob Berwyn photo.

Less snow, more rain predicted for northeastern U.S. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — On the heels of a major study showing potential global warming impacts to the ski industry, another team of climate scientists is offering additional research signalling bad news for skiers in the Northeast.

The high-resolution climate study suggests temperatures are going to be significantly warmer in all seasons in the next 30 years, especially in winter. Also, they project that winters will be wetter, with more rain likely than snow.

Overall, the University of Massachusetts Amherst climate researchers said the region is projected to warm about 2 to 3 degrees Celsius by mid century, with local changes approaching 3.5 degrees Celsius in winter. Precipitation will increase, particularly in winter, but not uniformly across the Northeast. Confidence in the precipitation change projections for spring, summer and autumn is lower, given smaller changes relative to natural weather variability. Continue reading

Climate research gets big funding boost

Numerous new studies aimed at trying to safeguard natural resources

The newest NASA global temperature graphic shows September 2012 anomalies compared to the 1951 to 1980 average. Warmer than average temps were widespread and especially noticeable across South America, North Africa, Australia and northern Eurasia, with a few cool pockets in the central U.S., South Africa and central eastern Asia.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Climate change may not be front and center in the current presidential campaign, but behind the scenes, the Obama administration has been forging ahead with several initiatives related to climate science and global warming.

Most recently, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced his department’s regional Climate Science Centers will award more than $10 million in funding to universities and other partners. The research will guide managers of parks, refuges and other resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

“Climate Science Centers are off and running to meet the needs of those who must safeguard our precious natural resources as the climate changes. These projects demonstrate the benefits of our national climate science strategy, which is focused on the needs of managers in each region,” said Secretary Salazar. Continue reading

Climate (theater of the absurd, part 2)

Sea level rise not a problem in North Carolina, where lawmakers wanted TO say, “No science, no worries”

Rising sea levels are already taking a bite, as erosion increases.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sea levels are rising steadily around the world, and many low-lying countries and regions are taking the threat very seriously, recognizing the potential threats to coastal resources.

But in North Carolina, home to a spectacular stretch of Atlantic coastline, Republican lawmakers wanted magically solved the problem with legislation by simply making it illegal to use the best available science when planning coastal development.

Ultimately, the state adopted a bill that basically says do nothing about rising sea levels until at least 2016, according to Rob Lamme, a lobbyist for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, who described the legislative process in detail in this blog post.

According to Lamme, the final version of the bill “prohibits state agencies from doing much of anything regarding sea level rise until 2016. The final bill does mandate a study but there are no prohibitions or restrictions on the data or science used in that study,” Lamme wrote.

The see-no-evil approach favored by real estate speculators eager to sell a few more parcels of beachfront property before the next major hurricane washes it away, but it’s a step in the wrong direction for a state that once had a reputation for being a leader in coastal ecosystem research. Continue reading

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