Global warming ups threat of invasive species in the Arctic

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Spitsbergen is the largest of the islands in the Svalbard Archipelago. It sits well inside the Arctic Circle, just south of 80 degrees north latitude. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for information on this image.

Warmer ocean temperatures, more ship traffic will open the door for new marine organisms

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Scientists are warning that warmer ocean temperatures in the far north will open the door for aquatic invaders that could devastate native marine ecosystems.

So far, cold water temperatures have prevented most harmful low latitude species from establishing themselves but the threat of invasive species will grow as the oceans warm and as ship traffic increases in the Arctic, said an international team of researchers led by PhD candidate Chris Ware from the University of Tromsø in Norway.

All in all, the researchers expect a much greater pressure on the marine ecosystems of the Arctic, where fishing is very important for the population in Norway and Greenland. Continue reading

Global warming: Tiniest plankton to thrive with increased CO2, upsetting ocean carbon cycle

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Evidence is growing that increasing levels of CO2 are going to have a fundamental impact on ocean plankton.

Changes likely to reduce oceans’ capacity to absorb carbon dioxide

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In the great global warming experiment there will be winners and losers, and it looks like some of the tiniest plankton species will be among the winners — probably at the expense of larger species higher up the food chain.

Research off the coast of Svalbard, Norway in 2010 showed that the smallest plankton groups thrive at elevated carbon dioxide levels.

This could cause an imbalance in the food web as well as a decrease ocean CO2 uptake, an important regulator of global climate. The results of the study have been published in Biogeosciences, a journal of the European Geosciences Union. Continue reading

Arctic sea ice near record low in January

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January sea ice extent has been dropping about 3 percent per decade, according to the NSIDC.

Northern hemisphere snow cover above average in December and January

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Arctic sea ice remained well below average during January, about 400,000 miles below the 1979 to 2000 average for the month and the sixth-lowest during the satellite record. The last ten years (2004 to 2013) have seen the ten lowest January extents in the satellite record.

According to the latest update from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, January sea ice extent has been decreasing at abou 3.2 percent per decade. The largest areas of open water were around the Barents Sea and near Svalbard, northeast of Greenland. Sea ice extent was also below average along the east coast of Greenland. Continue reading

Arctic rain-on-snow events tilt the ecological playing field

Caption: Arctic foxes in Svalbard will have more than enough food during rainy and icy winters because there will be many reindeer carcasses for them to eat. The next winter, however, the fox population size will be reduced because a robust and small reindeer population will mean many few deaths and hence, very little carrion.Credit: Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology

Arctic foxes in Svalbard will feel the effects of global warming, as rain-on-snow events change the abundance of prey animals. Photo by Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology.

Norwegian researchers document cascading environmental impacts

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Norwegian scientists say they’ve observed how climate-linked extreme weather events have affected not just single species, but an entire ecological community in the Arctic.

Rain-on-snow events caused synchronized population fluctuations among all vertebrate species in a relatively simple high arctic community, the scientists said after documenting how populations of three species crashed at the same time.

These findings, published in the Jan. 18 issue of Science, may be a bellwether of the radical changes in ecosystem stability that could result from anticipated future increases in extreme events.  Continue reading

Climate: Current warming in Arctic unprecedented

Is Svalbard ground zero for global warming?

August 2012 global temperatures anomalies.

Svalbard might be ground zero for global warming, with some research suggesting it may warm faster than any other spot on Earth. Photo courtesy, NASA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A group of researchers led by a Columbia University climate scientist William D’Andrea took direct aim at misleading information about historic climate records this week, releasing a study showing that temperatures in some parts of the Arctic are higher than they’ve been at any time during the past 1,800 years.Global warming deniers have used evidence of warmer temperatures during the so-called Medieval Warm Period to undermine the reality that heat-trapping greenhouse gases are inexorably warming the planet.

But the climate reconstruction from Svalbard casts new doubt on the reach of the Medieval Warm Period, and undercuts skeptics who argue that current warming is also natural. Since 1987, summers on Svalbard have been 2 degrees to 2.5 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 4.5 degrees fahrenheit) hotter than they were there during warmest parts of the Medieval Warm Period, according to the new study. Continue reading

Study says toxic levels of PCBs decreasing in polar bears

Polar bears catch a bit of break, as sampling in one area shows a drop in levels of toxic PCBs. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

Some good news for a species under pressure

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Norwegian researchers say efforts to reduce the use of toxic PCBs in various products is paying off for polar bears in Svalbard.

Recent tests found that blood levels of PCBs and related contaminants in polar bear cubs appear to have dropped by as much as 59 per cent between 1998 and 2008. At the same time, levels of these contaminants in their mothers were as much as 55 per cent lower over the same period.

The studies were conducted by  the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who looked at blood samples from mothers and cubs that were collected in 1997 and 1998 and 2008. All told, she had samples from 26 mother bears and 38 cubs from the different time periods. Continue reading

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