Category: Environment

Global sea ice at record low in November

Arctic sea ice declined in mid-November

Researchers are starting to understand how shifting wind patterns are driving changes in Antarctic sea ice extent. Bob Berwyn photo.
Researchers are starting to understand how shifting wind patterns are driving changes in Antarctic sea ice extent. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Arctic sea ice extent set a new record low this near, heightening concerns that the pace of the Arctic meltdown is speeding up. Antarctic sea ice extent also declined to a record low for the month, with sea ice cover worldwide dropping to an exceptionally low level, according the scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Specifically, the blanket of ice around the North Pole averaged 3.51 million square miles for the month, the lowest November in the satellite record, and 309,000 square miles below the record set in November 2006. Through 2016, the linear rate of decline for November is 21,400 square miles per year, or 5.0 percent per decade. Continue reading “Global sea ice at record low in November”

Around the world with Summit Voice

Links to our climate and international news reporting …

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How much longer will the cryosphere last? @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

Not as much content as usual on Summit Voice this week, but that’s because we were busy reporting elsewhere, with a few noteworthy stories. For example, Austria is holding a presidential election tomorrow (Sunday, Dec. 4) and the election of Donald Trump became an issue in the last few weeks of the campaign. I co-reported a story on the election with the European bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor, including an interview with an American expat involved in the campaign.

Also published did a couple of pieces for Pacific Standard, including a photo essay on the Earth’s vanishing cryosphere, and an in-depth story about how the incoming Trump administration could undermine the integrity of science-based decision making in government agencies. Another article from a couple of weeks ago in Pacific Standard took a look at whether the world can still achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement if the U.S. withdraws.

And at InsideClimate News, I reported on potential climate change links to the devastating wildfires in the Southeast, as well as on a new study suggesting that heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution is shifting the track of Atlantic hurricanes to the north, where they are more likely to hit the Northeast coast.

I also took a close look at Germany’s ambitious new climate action plan, which aims to decarbonize the country’s economy by 2050. Absent U.S. leadership on climate policy, other major western industrial countries will have to lead by example.

Satellite mapping could help avert whale-ship crashes

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.
A new satellite mapping program could help avert collisions between whales and ships . Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘No ship captain or shipping company wants to strike a whale’

Staff Report

Satellite data about whale movements and ocean conditions have helped scientists create monthly whale hotspot maps that could help avert collisions between ships and marine mammals.

Developed by researchers with NOAA Fisheries, Oregon State University and the University of Maryland, the WhaleWhatch program alerts ships where there may be an increased risk of encountering these endangered whales.  NASA helped fund the project, which draws on ocean observations from NASA and NOAA satellites. Continue reading “Satellite mapping could help avert whale-ship crashes”

Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching

Northern section hammered by warm ocean temperatures

This NASA photo shows southern portion of the reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast
This NASA photo shows a southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast.

Staff Report

Australian researchers this week released results of their latest Great Barrier Reef surveys, concluding that huge swaths of coral died in the past year under the onslaught of an ocean heatwave that led to widespread coral bleaching.

In the hardest-hit area along a 700-kilometer section of the northern reef, an of 67 percent of shallow-water corals died in the last six to nine months. Farther south, over the vast central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the scientists were relieved to find a much lower death toll. Continue reading “Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching”

NASA study shows link between Deepwater Horizon spill and coastal wetlands erosion

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.
A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

‘Dramatic, widespread shoreline loss …’

Staff Report

Oil washed toward shore after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster is a big factor in coastal erosion rates, according to scientists with NASA and the U.S. Geologicial Survey who tracked the changes along the Gulf of Mexico. Their research shows a pattern of dramatic, widespread shoreline loss” along  the Louisiana’s coast in Barataria Bay, located on the western side of the Mississippi River Delta.

The study compared images of the shoreline  taken a year before the oil spill with images taken during a 2.5 year span after the spill. Scientists also compared shoreline losses from storm-induced erosion with losses linked to shoreline oiling. Storm-induced erosion occurred at isolated shoreline sections, but the pre-spill shoreline from 2009 to 2010 was largely stable. Continue reading “NASA study shows link between Deepwater Horizon spill and coastal wetlands erosion”

How do Arctic sea ice changes affect whales?

Study tracks belugas in global warming era

 Adult beluga whales are migrating through fractured sea ice in the Alaskan Arctic.

Beluga whales migrating through fractured sea ice in the Alaskan Arctic. Photo by Vicki Beaver/NOAA.

Staff Report

The relationship between Arctic whales and sea ice is still largely a mystery, but there is increasing concern over how these species will adapt to climate related changes in sea ice. In a new study, researchers found the drastic sea ice changes under way in the Arctic could lead to more predation of beluga whales — and that could have “implications for population viability, ecosystem structure and the subsistence cultures that rely on them,” said Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe, a scientist with Florida Atlantic University. Continue reading “How do Arctic sea ice changes affect whales?”

Massive forest death continues in California

Latest survey tallies more than 100 milion dead trees

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A stand of pine-beetle killed lodgepole pines on the White River National Forest. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

California’s long-term drought has claimed another 36 million trees, the U.S. Forest Service said this week, announcing the results of a new aerial survey. Since 2010, more than 100 million trees have died across 7.7 million acres, the agency said.

The die-off intensified in 2016, after four years of drought,  with mortality increasing 100 percent. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years. Forest Service leaders once again emphasized that their ability to address safety issues linked with dead trees has been severely hampered by climate change and limited resources.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a broken budget for the Forest Service sees an increasing amount of resources going to firefighting while less is invested in restoration and forest health.  Continue reading “Massive forest death continues in California”