Tag: Arctic

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”

Climate roundup: The ill winds of global warming

Snow, ice, reindeers and forests …

Sunlit icebergs gleam on the horizon in the Antarctic Sound.
Sunlit icebergs gleam on the horizon in the Antarctic Sound. @bberwyn photo

By Bob Berwyn

2016 ended the way it began, with record warm temperatures and record-low sea ice in the Arctic. Federal scientists tracking the changes released a report detailing how the Arctic is unraveling. I covered it for InsideClimate News: The Arctic Is Unraveling,’ Scientists Conclude After Latest Climate Report.

Just before Christmas I wrote an enterprise piece on how the odds for a white Christmas have changed in different parts of the world. In many regions, the chances of seeing flakes on the holiday have decreased due to climate change, but a little counter-intuitively, they’ve also increased in other places: What Are Your Chances of a White Christmas? Probably Less Than They Used to Be.

In another Christmas-themed story, I reported on a Norwegian study that showed how widespread grazing by reindeer affects the reflectivity in northern tundra regions. It turns out that when the ungulates munch shrubs and brush, they make the world cooler: Save the Reindeer, Save the Arctic.

And with much of the West getting crushed by snowfall thanks to a subtropical weather connection, I explored a new study showing that such Pineapple Express storms are likely to become more frequent as the world warms: Global Warming Will Increase ‘Pineapple Express’ Storms in California.

Another sign that we may be near a climate tipping point is research from California showing that some severely burned forests just aren’t regenerating at all. The fires have become so big and so intense that all the seed stock trees are destroyed, leaving big cleared areas where there is no source for new growth — except for shrubs and brush that quickly grow to dominate the landscape and prevent new seedlings from taking root: California Forests Failing to Regrow After Intense Wildfires.

And some people think that they don’t have to worry about climate change because they heard global warming slowed down between 1998 and 2012. Not so, according to scientists who recalculated the rate of warming in the world’s oceans to show there was no hiatus: Already Debunked Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ Gets Another Dunking.

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”

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?”

Climate: Arctic sea ice melt slows slightly in July

Experts say record low now unlikely

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Summer sea ice off the east coast of Greenland. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Cool and stormy weather in the Arctic during July slowed the rate of sea ice loss to just below average for the month,  making it less likely sea ice extent will dwindle to a record low, according to the latest update from the National Ice and Snow Data Center. But it all depends on conditions the next few months.

For the month, sea ice extent averaged 2.14 million square miles, the third-lowest for July since satellite records started in 1979. It was only the second month of 2016 that didn’t end with a record-low extent, according to the NSIDC. The sea ice extent in July was 73,000 square miles above the previous record low 637,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average. Through 2016, the rate of decline for the month of July is 28,070 square miles per year, about 7.3 percent per decade. Continue reading “Climate: Arctic sea ice melt slows slightly in July”

Reaching Paris climate goals would help polar bears survive

New research suggests that capping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius would lower chances of big population decline by preserving critical sea ice

 Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Can these mighty Arctic predators survive the era of human-caused global warming?  Photo courtesy Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff Report

Now that the world has a clear target for limiting global warming, scientists say they show how how achieving the goal would protect at least some ecosystems and vulnerable species from impacts.

One newly updated study found that aggressively cutting greenhouse gas emissions would help ensure the survival of polar bears, listed as threatened because of Arctic sea ice declines. Polar bears depend on the ice as platforms for feeding around the biologically rich continental shelves of the Arctic Ocean. Continue reading “Reaching Paris climate goals would help polar bears survive”

Climate: Thawing Arctic lakes could boost greenhouse gases

Arctic lakes
Ice on Arctic lakes is thinning dramatically, leading to thawing permafrost beneath. @bberwyn photo.

New study measures permafrost changes with impacts to carbon cycle

Staff Report

Global warming is limiting the growth of seasonal ice on Arctic lakes, which could have implications for the global carbon cycle. new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, permafrost beneath shallow Arctic lakes is starting to thaw — another sign of the widespread Arctic meltdown due to climate change.

Another recent study found that Arctic lakes in Canada’s northern archipelago are drying at an unprecedented rate. The findings also support previous University of Waterloo research on Arctic lake ice.

The changes stem from warmer winter temperatures and increased snowfall during the past 30 years. Lakebed temperatures of Arctic lakes less than 1 meter (3 feet) deep have warmed by 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 degrees Fahrenheit) during the past three decades, and during five of the last seven years, the mean annual lakebed temperature has been above freezing, the study found. Continue reading “Climate: Thawing Arctic lakes could boost greenhouse gases”