Scientists probe Antarctic ice sheet for climate clues

New data to help inform projections of sea-level rise


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

Report: Ecosystem disruptions expected in Ross Sea

‘Portions of the food web that depend on ice in their life cycles will be negatively impacted, leading to severe ecological disruptions’


How will changes in the Antarctic food chain affect aquatic mammals? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate change will fundamentally change The Ross Sea, one of Antarctica’s productive biological regions, but exactly how those changes will play out is hard to predict, scientists said after running computer models combining sea-ice, ocean, atmosphere and ice-shelf interactions.

The region is likely to experience ‘severe ecological disruptions,” a group of scientists wrote in their new study, explaining that rising temperatures and changing wind patterns will create longer periods of ice-free open water, affecting the life cycles of both predators and prey. Continue reading

Study projects major decline of Antarctic sea ice

Meltdown likely to have serious impacts on marine life


How long will Antarctic sea ice persist? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

*Adapted from a Virginia Institute of Marine Science press release. More Summit Voice stories on sea ice here.

FRISCO — While global warming deniers try to divert attention from the building climate crisis by pointing at record-high Antarctic sea ice extent, a new study suggests much of that ice will soon melt away.

Plugging projected increases in Antarctic air temperatures into finely scaled models, the scientists said the Ross Sea could lose more than half its summer ice by 2050 and more than 75 percent by 2100. Continue reading

Morning photo: Antarctica wildlife

Plans to protect Antarctic marine biodiversity falter


Fur, elephant and Weddell seals are share this beach on Dundee Island.

FRISCO — For all its reputation as an icy wasteland, Antarctica actually teams with life, which makes it all the more disappointing that an international conservation commission once again failed to finalize plans for long-sought marine protected areas in the Ross Sea and off the coast of East Antarctica. The finger is being pointed at Russia, acting as a rogue nation to block those conservation plans, but in reality, it’s up the rest of the world community to encourage Russia to come back to the table in October in good faith at the next scheduled CCAMLR meeting.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures showing what’s at stake. Read more Summit Voice Antarctica stories here. Continue reading

Crucial Antarctica conservation talks start next week

International commission to reconsider proposals for new marine protected areas in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica


An orca surfaces for air near the coast of Antarctica. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For only the second time in its 32-year history, an international Antarctic conservation commission will meet outside its regularly scheduled session, and stakes are huge, as delegates from around the world will decide whether to protect the seas around Antarctica from unsustainable fishing.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will meet in Bremerhaven, Germany starting July 15 specifically to continue discussions on two proposals for the establishment of marine protected areas: One for the Ross Sea region, submitted by New Zealand and the United States, and the second for waters off East Antarctica, submitted by Australia, France and the European Union. The two proposals would establish marine protections across about 1.2 million square miles of the Southern Ocean, totaling an area about the size of India.

The proposed reserve in the pristine Ross sea, would be the size of Alaska, nearly doubling the documented 849,000 square miles of fully protected ocean worldwide. The rules would ban fishing and other extractive activities to protect biodiversity and preserve the area’s value as a reference area against which to measure global warming changes and other impacts. Continue reading

Climate: Some penguins expanding range as ice melts

Adélie penguins breed in ice-free areas


An Adélie penguin on Paulet Island. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While populations of ice-loving chinstrap and emperor penguins in Antarctica may be squeezed by global warming, Adélie penguins may actually benefit from warmer  temperatures, according to University of Minnesota Polar Geospatial Center researchers.

Scientists from the United States and New Zealand studied a combination of aerial photography beginning in 1958 and modern satellite imagery from the 2000s, finding that the population size of an Adélie penguin colony on Antarctica’s Beaufort Island near the southern Ross Sea increased 84 percent (from 35,000 breeding pairs to 64,000 breeding pairs) as the ice fields retreated between 1958-2010. The biggest changes came in the last three decades, as average summer temperature in that area increased about .5 degrees Celsius.

The study showed that available habitat for Adélie penguins on the main portion of the Beaufort colony, on the south coast, increased 71 percent since 1958, with a 20 percent increase from 1983-2010. The extent of the snow and ice field to the north of the main colony did not change from 1958-1983, but then retreated 543 meters from 1983-2010. Continue reading

Antarctica conservation group fails to reach deal

Proposals for Ross Sea, East Antarctica marine preserves falter at annual CCAMLR meeting; special session set for next summer in Germany

New preserves would protect biodiversity. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Proposals to create vast new marine preserves in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica floundered during the final stages of an international meeting in Hobart, Tasmania this week, as several major stakeholders couldn’t get completely comfortable with the procedural steps required to create those protected areas.

Despite the fact that there was no formal agreement, conservation advocates said there were some significant steps forward during the talks, according to Paul Gamblin, marine protected area manager for the WWF. Gamblin said several countries participating in the talks also needed a bit more time to understand the scientific basis for the far-reaching conservation proposals.

“As far as East Antarctica, it’s not that there was opposition to the idea … but some concerns about the detail and process, what fishing could happen where … there was some discomfort with the process around that,” Gamblin said. “Fishing is one of the issues on which countries want to be in a position where they want to be comfortable with the advice from scientists,” he said. Continue reading


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