Coal power plants still to blame for emitting most of the toxic mercury pollution
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”→
Study documents rising amount of sea-bottom debris
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.
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”→
Between 2005 to 2015, surface melt off ice caps and glaciers of the Queen Elizabeth Islands grew from an average of three gigatons to 30 gigatons
The Greenland Ice Sheet isn’t the only place melting under a thickening blanket of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. A new study shows that Canada’s Arctic glaciers are also shedding ice at a rapidly increasing rate, making them a big factor in global sea level rise.
In a new study, glaciologists with the University of California, Irvine said that, between 2005 to 2015, surface melt off ice caps and glaciers of the Queen Elizabeth Islands grew by 900 percent, from an average of three gigatons to 30 gigatons per year, according to findings published last week in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Continue reading “Arctic warmup speeds Canada glacier meltdown”→
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”→
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.
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.
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”→