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

Climate: More melting ahead for East Antarctica glaciers

Seafloor channels sluicing warm ocean water toward base of East Antarctica’s Totten Glacier

Increasing concentrations of CO2 could turn this Antarctic beach into a tropical zone. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

Are Antarctica’s ice sheets near a global warming tipping point? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say they’re a step closer to understanding the extreme thinning of East Antarctica’s largest glacier, which contains enough ice to raise global sea level by about 11 feet.

Ocean gateways are sluicing warm water toward the base of the Totten Glacier near the shoreline, undercutting the icy anchors that slow the advance of the ice toward the sea, according to researchers with the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics, who outline their findings in the March 16 edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

Similar findings from the region were reported by Australian scientists just a few weeks ago, and another study showed widespread thinning of ice in East Antarctica. Continue reading

Climate: Warmest winter ever for northern hemisphere

February 2015 ends up as 2d-warmest for planet Earth

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Only a few areas where cooler than average during February 2015.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A decades-long run of above average temperatures around the globe continues unabated, with last month’s average reading coming in at 1.48 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. According to the new monthly State of the Climate Report from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, it was the second-warmest February on record, after 1998.

The winter as a whole (December-February) was the warmest on record for Earth, at 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit above average, and 0.05 degrees above the previous record set in 2007. Read the full NCDC report here. 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

How do Antarctica snowfall rates affect sea level rise?

New ice core analysis shows less of an ‘offset’ than most models currently project

Antarctica permafrost

Increasing snowfall in Antarctica will moderate the rate of global sea level rise — but not as much as previously thought. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Detailed ice core records from Antarctica show that snowfall over the frozen continent increased about 5 percent for each degree (Celsius) of warming as Earth emerged from the last ice age.

The findings confirm that the increased snowfall will slightly offset sea level rise, as suggested by other research — but not as much as previously thought. That means that some computer models may be underestimating the amount and rate of future sea level rise if they’re based on inaccurate assumptions. 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

Climate: Many Arctic ponds are drying up

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Some of Canada’s subarctic lakes, seen here from a passenger jet, are drying up in a sign of abrupt climate change. bberwyn photo.

Dessication across the nation …

Staff report

FRISCO — Scientists taking a close look at satellite images and historical photos dating back to the 1940 have found that ponds in the Arctic tundra are shrinking and slowly disappearing. The researchers concluded that warming temperatures and encroaching plants are key factors in the changes. As temperatures rise, nutrient-rich permafrost — a frozen layer of soil — thaws, releasing nutrients into ponds and enhancing plant growth.

“Plants are taking over shallow ponds because they’re becoming warm and nutrient-rich,” said Christian Andresen, a University of Texas at El Paso researcher who led the study. “Before you know it, boom, the pond is gone.” Continue reading

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