Category: Arctic

Glacial retreat affects river flows and aquifers

Study tracks underground flows of water from melting ice

Alaska’s Susitna Glacier revealed some of its long, grinding journey when the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite passed overhead on Aug. 27, 2009. Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

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Glaciers are not only important sources of surface water, they also help recharge  aquifers as they melt. That role in replenishing underground water reservoirs has been quantified in a new study published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The research was done in Alaska, where both scientists and residents are reporting increased river discharges in summer and winter. The changes in flowes have implications on river travel throughout the year and impact sea ice growth and nutrient exports to Arctic Ocean coastal waters. Continue reading “Glacial retreat affects river flows and aquifers”

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Mercury pollution worsens in remote Arctic realms

A USGS study will try to determine how global warming will affect polar bear populations.

Coal power plants still to blame for emitting most of the toxic mercury pollution

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Mercury continues to build up in Arctic ecosystems at levels that threaten the health and well-being of people, wildlife and waterways in the region.

A new study that looks at the sources of the toxic metal shows that airborne mercury is gathering in the Arctic tundra, where it gets deposited in the soil and ultimately runs off into waters. Scientists have long reported high levels of mercury pollution in the Arctic. The new research identifies gaseous mercury as its major source and sheds light on how the element gets there. Continue reading “Mercury pollution worsens in remote Arctic realms”

Gradual CO2 buildup can trigger sudden climate tipping points

A new study links rising CO2 concentrations with disruptions to key climate-controlling currents during ice age climate shifts.

Ice age ocean current disruptions linked with greenhouse gas changes

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Scientists say they’ve discovered another huge climate warning sign in the Arctic. Past increases in CO2 levels in the air drove ocean currents to a tipping point had a big impact on hemispheric weather patterns.

Within the span of just a few decades, rising CO2 concentrations drove temperatures in Greenland up by 10 degrees Celsius, according to a new study led by researchers with the Alfred Wegener Institute and the University of Cardiff. Continue reading “Gradual CO2 buildup can trigger sudden climate tipping points”

U.S. Supreme Court rejects fossil fuel industry effort to remove protection for threatened polar bears

Polar bears will keep their endangered species status. Photo by Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Global warming seen as main threat to Arctic predators

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Endangered Species Act protection for polar bears will remain in place following a U.S. Supreme Court decision late last week to reject an attempt by the fossil fuel industry to overturn the 2010 listing.

At issue was a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s to designate more than 120 million acres as critical habitat in Alaska for imperiled polar bears. The Supreme Court decision came just days after President Trump issued an executive order that attempts to rescind a ban on new offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. Continue reading “U.S. Supreme Court rejects fossil fuel industry effort to remove protection for threatened polar bears”

Sunday set: Global change

Travel a little, learn a lot

This set includes illustrations for some of my most recent stories in various environmental and climate news publications and if you’re a regular Summit Voice reader who is not on Twitter or Instagram, I’m providing a few links here.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how some of Greenlands coastal glaciers already passed passed a climate change tipping point about 20 years ago. Because of the physical processes of snowmelt and runoff, these glaciers are going to disappear even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero immediately. You can read the story here.

For Pacific Standard, I put together an environmental photo essay on bumblebees, some of the most important pollinators of wildflowers, especially in mountain regions and also in the far north. Bumblebees are important because they are cold-tolerant, so they’re out and about visiting early blooms while other pollinators are dormant. They’ll also fly long distances to visit a single flower. Without them, some species would go extinct. Check out the photo essay here.

You might have seen the recent Summit Voice story on beach erosion and how it’s going to wash away some world famous surf spots along the California coast, and in other areas where coastal strands are ringed by mountains, but if you missed it, you can see it here.

I also wrote about the annual Austrian glacier report for Deutsche Welle, a great global news organization that really does in-depth environmental and climate reporting. You can visit the DW website here, or follow them on Twitter for a daily feed. And my story on the dwindling glaciers is here.

Finally, in a critical story for Colorado and the rest of the West, I reported on how we are losing the war on wildfires and how we need to change our way of thinking about forests and fires in an era of rapid climate change. The story is online at Pacific Standard.

Alaska’s senators want more offshore drilling in Arctic waters

GOP assault on the environment continues

Alaska’s GOP senators say drill, baby drill in waters off their state’s north coast.

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Environmental protections are under attack on every front and the far North is no exception. Alaska’s senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, appear willing to risk fragile ocean environments for a few more petrodollars, so they’ve opportunistically introduced a bill that would expand oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and Cook Inlet, where a recent gas leak persisted for several months, according to InsideClimate News.

Senate Bill 883 seeks to reverse protections established by President Obama in Dec. 2016 and force the Department of the Interior to quickly approve new oil and gas leasing.

“It’s not possible to drill safely in the Arctic, as we just saw from the leaking oil and gas well on the North Slope,” said Miyoko Sakashita, ocean programs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This legislation’s nothing more than a giveaway to oil companies. It’ll hurt Alaska’s healthy habitat and endangered wildlife.” Continue reading “Alaska’s senators want more offshore drilling in Arctic waters”

Atlantic Ocean warmth melts sea ice from below

Mixing waters may hasten arrival of ice-free Arctic Ocean summers

Arctic sea ice
Arctic sea ice is being melted by intrusions of warmer Atlantic Ocean water. @bberwyn photo.

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In yet another sign that the balance of Earth’s climate system is being perturbed by global warming, scientists are documenting how a steady intrusion of water from the Atlantic is undermining sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The research, led by Igor Polyakov, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center, shows that the relatively warm  Atlantic Ocean water is a surprisingly powerful contributor to Arctic sea ice decline. Continue reading “Atlantic Ocean warmth melts sea ice from below”