Study IDs Gulf Coast ecosystems at risk

Sea turtles as most vulnerable species

Gulf Coast sunset.

Rising sea level and warming ocean temps are putting Gulf Coast ecosystems at risk, according to a new study. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Sea turtles breeding along the Gulf Coast are among the species deemed most vulnerable to climate change and rising sea level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in a new vulnerability assessment that looked at four Gulf ecosystems and 11 species dependent on them.

The ecosystems are mangrove, oyster reef, tidal emergent marsh and barrier islands. The species are roseate spoonbill, blue crab, clapper rail, mottled duck, spotted seatrout, eastern oyster, American oystercatcher, red drum, black skimmer, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and Wilson’s plover.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is thought to be the most vulnerable species across the Gulf Coast. The report identified the main threat as loss of nesting habitat to sea level rise, erosion, and urbanization. Continue reading

Pacific islands face extreme sea level changes

Study tracks El Niño shifts


How will climate change affect Pacific atolls? Photo via NASA.

Staff Report

Climate change will likely subject many low-lying Pacific island nations to more extreme fluctuations in sea level from year to year, in synch with more intense El Niño cycles. Some years, high sea level will lead to bigger floods, while in other years, big drops in sea level will leave coral reefs exposed, according to researchers based in Hawaii and Australia. Continue reading

Climate: 20 feet of sea level rise is inevitable

‘The ominous aspect to this is that CO2 levels are continuing to rise, so we are entering uncharted territory …’

This graph shows cumulative changes in sea level for the world’s oceans since 1880, based on a combination of long-term tide gauge measurements and recent satellite measurements. Graph courtesy EPA.

This graph shows cumulative changes in sea level for the world’s oceans since 1880, based on a combination of tide gauge measurements and satellite measurements. Graph courtesy EPA.


The Florida coastline is being swallowed by rising sea level despite efforts to bolster beaches. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — It doesn’t take much global warming to raise sea level by 20 feet or more, climate researchers said in a new review study finding that global sea levels have risen at least six meters, or about 20 feet, above present levels on multiple occasions over the past three million years.

An increase of just 1 to 2 degrees Celsius in global mean temperatures is enough trigger a big meltdown of Greenland and Antarctic ice, which means that the world’s coastal areas are going to be swamped in the global warming era — it’s just a question of whether it will take a few hundred, or a few thousand years.

“Studies have shown that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets contributed significantly to this sea level rise above modern levels,” said Anders Carlson, an Oregon State University glacial geologist and paleoclimatologist, who co-authored the new study appearing in Science. Continue reading

East Antarctica ice sheets not immune to global warming

An international research team explores the geological history of the Gamburtsev Mountains, buried under two miles of ice in eastern Antarctica.

New research shows that even the frigid fringes of East Antarctica are melting away under warming seas.

Warming ocean melts ice from below

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s not just the West Antarctic ice sheets that are melting away as the surrounding ocean warms, Australian scientists reported after a six week voyage to the eastern side of the frozen continent.

A series of detailed measurements show that warm ocean water is melting the Totten Glacier — the largest in the region, with enough ice to raise sea level by several meters, according to the findings by the Australian Antarctic Division and partnering research organizations. Continue reading

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

Climate: More signs of an irreversible Antarctic meltdown

It's not clear when the waters around Antarctica will no longer be able to support production of phytoplankton.

New research shows signs of a major meltdown in Antarctica. bberwyn photo.

Ocean temperatures increasing steadily near West Antarctica

Staff Report

FRISCO — Warming seawater around parts of Antarctica is speeding the melting and sliding of glaciers, and that there is no indication that this trend will reverse, according to researchers with  the University of East Anglia.

The study, published in the journal Science, tracked ocean temperatures in the shallow shelf seas of West Antarctica for the last 50 years. The findings also suggest the areas of warmer seawater are spreading, and that other Antarctic areas, which have not yet started to melt, could experience melting for the first time, which would increase the pace of global sea level rise. Continue reading

Climate: Southern Ocean layering could lead to big Antarctica meltdown along with surge in sea level rise

‘The big question is whether the ice sheet will react to these changing ocean conditions as rapidly as it did 14,000 years ago’

The ice fields of Antarctica

The ice fields of Antarctica. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A stratification of the ocean around Antarctica could lead to more rapid melting of ice sheets, triggering a sudden surge in sea level rise. That last time that happened was well before the global warming era, about 14,000 years ago, but scientists are now seeing signs of a similar pattern.

A new study found that in the past, when ocean temperatures around Antarctica became more layered, with a warm layer of water below a cold surface layer,  ice sheets and glaciers melted much faster than when the cool and warm layers mixed more easily. This defined layering of temperatures is exactly what is happening now around the Antarctic.

“The reason for the layering is that global warming in parts of Antarctica is causing land-based ice to melt, adding massive amounts of freshwater to the ocean surface,” said ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science researcher Prof Matthew England, an author of the paper, published in Nature Communications.

Continue reading


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