Tag: British Antarctic Survey

Antarctic sea ice meltdown likely in a warming world

New study offers climate clues from most recent interglacial warm period

Antarctic sea ice
Antarctic sea ice is likely to decline dramatically in coming decades, which could lead to amplification of global warming in the southern hemisphere. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

The last time the Earth was as warm as today was about 128,000 years ago — and Antarctic sea ice extent was 65 percent smaller than it is now, according to British scientists who tracked past climate change in the region by studying ice core samples from that era.

That means Antarctic sea ice is on course to shrink dramatically in the decades and centuries ahead, said British Antarctic Survey scientist Max Holloway, who with a team of researchers analyzed oxygen isotopes in ice and air bubbles trapped for 128,000 years in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Continue reading “Antarctic sea ice meltdown likely in a warming world”

Study helps pinpoint Antarctic ice-shelf thinning

Larsen C Ice Shelf has dwindled by 4 meters in 15 years

sdg
Melting ice shelves in Antarctica will speed the rate of sea level rise. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of Antarctica’s giant ice shelves has thinned by more than 12 feet in the past 15 years and could collapse within the next 100 years — or possibly sooner and without much warning, according to scientists with the British Antarctic Survey.

The new study was focused on trying to determine why the Larsen C Ice Shelf is melting away. The ice shelf is along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the fastest warming regions on Earth, with a temperature rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius during the last 50 years. Continue reading “Study helps pinpoint Antarctic ice-shelf thinning”

Antarctic sea urchins can handle some global warming

fish8917
Antarctic sea urchins may be able to adapt to global warming. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Lab testing measures response to rising temps, increasing acidification

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sea urchins around the Antarctic Peninsula are able to adapt to  warmer and more acidic seawater conditions expected by the end of the century, at least in a laboratory setting.

The study, led by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and Bangor University, involved collecting 288 sea urchins and and transporting them to the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. Continue reading “Antarctic sea urchins can handle some global warming”

Climate change drives Antarctic fur seal decline

Fur seals on Half Moon Island, in the South Shetland chain, off the Antarctic Peninsula. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.
Fur seals on Half Moon Island, in the South Shetland chain, off the Antarctic Peninsula. bberwyn photo.

Survival of the fittest?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After studying fur seals around Antarctica for decades, researchers with the British Antarctic Survey say they’re seeing distinct genetic changes related to a changing climate and food availability. But despite a shift  towards individuals more suited to changing environmental conditions, this fitness is not passing down through generations, leaving the fur seal population on South Georgia Island in decline. Continue reading “Climate change drives Antarctic fur seal decline”

Can emperor penguins adapt to global warming?

Emperor penguin colonies show up as dark splotches against the white ice near Halley Bay. PHOTO COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.
Emperor penguin colonies show up as dark splotches against the white ice near Halley Bay. PHOTO COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Recent satellite observations show birds adapting to changes in sea ice

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Emperor penguins living at the edge of their range may be able to find new breeding grounds as their sea-ice breeding habitat dwindles in coming decades.

Recent satellite monitoring shows that the Antarctic birds moved from their traditional sea-ice breeding grounds during years when the thin layer of ice (sea ice) formed later than usual to the much thicker floating ice shelves that surround the continent.

“When they turn up to breed, there needs to be a solid blanket of sea ice,” said British Antarctic Survey researcher Peter Frewell, lead author of the paper published this week in the online journal, PLOS ONE. The research team also included scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego in California. Continue reading “Can emperor penguins adapt to global warming?”

Oceans: Drake Passage seen as mixing ground

f
Strong storms help push water through the Drake Passage, and beneath the surface, the surging currents help mix the ocean from top to bottom. bberwyn photo.

Underwater mountains help churn up the ocean, fueling the carbon cycle

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Drake Passage, between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula, is well known for wild storms and big swell, but it turns out that turbulence isn’t just at the surface.

Far beneath the breaking whitecaps, the area is a crucial ocean mixing ground, where surface water is exchanged with deep water as currents rush over undersea mountains. Those mixing of water layers are crucial to regulating the Earth’s climate and ocean currents, according to researchers who recently traced how that mixing happens. Continue reading “Oceans: Drake Passage seen as mixing ground”

Antarctica: Life beneath the ice

Core samples from subglacial lake sediments show surprising biological diversity

sdg
Retreating ice on the Antarctic Peninsula has given scientists an opportunity to search for life in subglacial environments. bberwyn photo

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Burrowing 10 feet down into the primal muck at the edge of a receding ice sheet in Antarctica, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey found what they had long been looking for — traces of microbial life dating back nearly a hundred thousand years, including strands of DNA associated with previously unknown bacteria.

For decades, researchers speculated that so-called extremophiles might exist in the cold and dark lakes hidden deep beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Organisms living in subglacial lakes could hold clues for how life might survive  on other planets.

“This is the first time microbes have been identified living in the sediments of a subglacial Antarctic lake and indicates that life can exist and potentially thrive in environments we would consider too extreme,” said lead author David Pearce, who was with the British Antarctic Survey and is now at the University of Northumbria. Continue reading “Antarctica: Life beneath the ice”