Category: Arctic

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.

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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.

Staff Report

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.

Staff Report

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”

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”

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”