Category: Arctic

Plastic pollution is increasing in the Arctic Ocean

Plastic debris is increasing in the Fram Strait, east of Greenland. @bberwyn photo.

Study documents rising amount of sea-bottom debris

Staff Report

There’s more direct evidence that plastic pollution is increasing rapidly in the remote Arctic Ocean, according to German scientists, who have tracking sea-bottom litter at two research stations since 2002. The Hausgarten deep-sea observatory network includes a total of 21 stations in the Fram Strait, between Greenland and Svalbard.

The Alfred Wegener Institute’s Mine Tekman,  lead author of a new study published in the scientific journal Deep-Sea Research I, said the long-term monitoring confirms that the amount of plastic litter has increased rapidly in the past 15 years.  Other scientists with the AWI have also documented evidence of a floating garbage patch starting to form in the Barents Sea region of the Arctic Ocean. Plastic has already been reported from stomachs of resident seabirds and Greenland sharks. Continue reading “Plastic pollution is increasing in the Arctic Ocean”

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Global heat wave continues with second-warmest February on record

No post El Niño cool down …

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The global average temperature for February 2017 was the second-warmest on record, with record heat across the Arctic and parts of North America. Credit: ECMWF, Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Staff Report

So far, there’s little sign of a post El Niño drop in global temperatures, according to the European Copernicus Climate Change Service, which has new data showing that last month was the second-warmest February on record for Earth. According to the report, February 2017 “extended the spell of exceptional global warmth that has now lasted since mid-2015.”

February had the highest departure from average for any month since April 2016, at 0.69 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average. That was just 0.18 degrees Celsius cooler than February 2016, which was the warmest February on record. Continue reading “Global heat wave continues with second-warmest February on record”

How will the melting Arctic affect European weather?

Study eyes impacts to North Atlantic Oscillation

How will the Arctic meltdown affect weather in the British Isles?
How will the Arctic meltdown affect weather in the British Isles? Photo courtesy UK Met Office.

Staff Report

The loss of Arctic sea ice may not lead directly to an increase in cold weather extremes in Europe, according to scientists who studied the links between Arctic changes and mid-latitude weather. In the study, scientists with the University of Exeter found that dwindling sea ice does affect the  North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) weather phenomenon, which affects winter weather conditions in Northern Europe, in places such as the UK, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Continue reading “How will the melting Arctic affect European weather?”

Ocean acidification spreading in the Arctic

Study eyes warm water incursions from the Pacific

Sea ice flows out of the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait
Sea ice flows out of the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait in this satellite picture from the NASA Earth Observatory program. In recent years, the strait has become a conduit for warmer water flowing into the Arctic, resulting in spreading ocean acidification.

Staff Report

In the past 20 years, acidified waters have expanded in the Arctic ocean, spreading northward from Alaska’s Chukchi Sea coastline to just below the North Pole. The pool of acidified water is also getting deeper, from 100 to 250 meters, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In a press release, the researchers said it’s the first time they’ve documented such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, “at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans,” according to University of Delaware professor Wei-Jun Cai.

The changes will impact different types of ocean life, including tiny marine snails known to be susceptible to ocean acidification, said NOAA scientist Richard Feely. Other  Arctic species potentially at risk from ocean acidification are fisheries of shrimp and varieties of salmon and crab — all important food sources for indigenous communities. Continue reading “Ocean acidification spreading in the Arctic”

Study says ice sheets can crumble quickly

Slight ocean warming enough to tip the system

Scientists working in Greenland have been stunned by the speed at which ice is retreating.
Retreating ice shows dramatic climate change is under way in the Anthropocene. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Just small increases in ocean temperatures during past geological epochs may have been enough to tip Northern Hemisphere ice sheets toward disintegration, even as air temperatures remained cold. That could spell trouble in the current era of climate warming, according to a new study led by University of Michigan researchers, who said their finding suggest that climate change could cause sea level to rise higher than most models predict. Continue reading “Study says ice sheets can crumble quickly”

Climate trackers say Jan. 2017 was the 2d-warmest on record

European Climate Change Service report highlights unusually warm Arctic

month_1_2017_plot_2_brandedWarmer than average temperatures prevailed around the globe in January 2017.

Staff Report

January 2017 will go down in the books as Earth’s second-warmest January on record, just 0.17 degrees cooler than last year, according to the monthly update from the European Climate Change Service. According to the bulletin, January was 0.55 degrees warmer than the 1981-2010 average, with hotspots especially across Southern Hemisphere continents, as well as the southeastern U.S.

In the Northern Hemisphere, Europe was about 1 degree Celsius cooler the 1981-2010 January average, similar to 2016. Other cooler-than-average areas included parts of the western USA and Canada, northern Greenland, North Africa, parts of Siberia, southern Africa, north-western Australia and much of the Antarctic plateau. Continue reading “Climate trackers say Jan. 2017 was the 2d-warmest on record”

Feds finalize polar bear conservation plan

Outlook not good as sea ice dwindles

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Can polar bears survive global warming? Photo courtesy Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Staff Report

A federal recovery plan for endangered polar bears won’t halt the threat of climate change, but it could help dwindling populations of the great Arctic predators persist in the small patches of habitat that will remain after global warming melts most of the polar sea ice.

The plan, released Jan. 9, calls for reducing human-bear conflicts, collaboratively managing subsistence harvest, protecting denning habitat, and minimizing the risk of contamination from oil spills. Most of these actions are already underway, in partnership with Alaska Native communities, nonprofit groups, and industry representatives who participated in the plan’s creation. The plan also calls for increased monitoring and research. Continue reading “Feds finalize polar bear conservation plan”