By Summit Voice
One of the ideas that has surfaced most often is adding certain types of nutrients to the oceans to stimulate algae production in the hopes of reducing CO2. But new research shows that the law of unintended consequences always applies, perhaps even more so when experimenting with climate on a global scale.
The new study on the feeding habits of ocean microbes shows that the idea could backfire by disturbing the natural balance of ocean chemistry. After carefully studying diatoms, one type of plankton, the scientists determined that it is uses more iron that it needs for photosynthesis and storing the extra in its silica skeletons and shells. This reduces the amount of iron left over to support the carbon-eating plankton.
Researchers establish longest regional climate record using sediment cores from an Arctic Lake that’s been undisturbed for 3.6 million years
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Sediment cores from a crater lake in Siberia are helping scientists understand how varying concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide affect the Arctic climate.
The sediment cores help establish the longest continuous climate record from the region, showing that the Arctic was a very warm place during a period about 3.5 to 2 million years ago, when CO2 levels were similar to today’s.
The research leads to the conclusion that even small fluctuations in CO2 can result in big changes in the Arctic, according to Julie Brigham-Grette, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Findings could lead to better understanding of earthquake dynamics
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — While the observation-based scientific understanding of plate tectonics is well advanced, researchers have long debated the exact mechanics that drive the movement of the Earth’s crust.
Costs of aging infrastructure, outdated management procedures cut into science funding
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal science officials say they’ve outlined a plan for streamlining U.S. research efforts in Antarctica, including the use of robotics for some logistical tasks, as well as additional use of renewable sources for some energy needs at the three research bases.
The 2012 budget included about $350 million dollars for invaluable climate and atmospheric research that can’t really be done anywhere else. About 3,500 people (including logistical support roles) work with the Antarctic program each year, supporting about 800 scientists working to understand the Antarctic and its associated ecosystems and to understand the region’s effects on, and responses to, global processes such as climate.
The U.S. maintains three Antarctic research bases: McMurdo Station, on the Ross Sea, which is the largest facility and acts as a gateway for most of the research activity; Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, focusing primarily on astronomy and astrophysics, and Palmer Station, in the Antarctic Peninsula region, where the emphasis is on marine biology, oceanography, and geophysics.
This past week, the National Science Foundation responded to the findings of a special panel convened to look for ways to operate the Antarctic Research Program more efficiently. The NSF acknowledged the issues raised by the panel and said it has already started working on implementing some of the recommendations.
The Blue Ribbon Panel report, released in July 2012, found that, “U.S. activities in Antarctica are very well managed but suffer from an aging infrastructure, lack of a capital budget, and the effects of operating in an extremely unforgiving environment.”
The panel concluded that the lack of a capital budget is the main challenge, and that making changes to the logistics support system would help realize long-term savings, but will require front-end investments that could be supported with additional funding, temporary reductions in research, or both.
The panel spelled out a laundry list of problems, including: “A warehouse where some areas are avoided because the forklifts fall through the floor; kitchens with no grease traps; outdoor storage of supplies that can only be found by digging through deep piles of snow; gaps so large under doors that the wind blows snow into the buildings; late 1950s International Geophysical Year- era vehicles; antiquated communications; an almost total absence of modern inventory management systems (including the use of bar codes in many cases); indoor storage inefficiently dispersed in more than 20 buildings at McMurdo Station; some 350,000 pounds of scrap lumber awaiting return to the U.S. for disposal.
“The status quo is simply not an option; sooner or later the atrophying logistics infrastructure will need to be upgraded or replaced. Failure to do so will simply increase logistics costs until they altogether squeeze out funding for science. A ten percent increase in the cost of logistics will consume 40 percent of the remaining science budget,” the panel found.
Arctic meltdown may have consequences besides raising sea level
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Melting Greenland glaciers may have an unforeseen side effect on ocean biology, as the surging runoff adds iron to the water, potentially fueling more plankton growth.
Glaciers have just recently been identified as a significant source of iron in a study by biogeochemists and glaciologists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The findings suggest that the influx of iron could increase as melting of the Greenland ice sheet escalates under a warming climate.
It’s long been known wind-blown dust and river runoff are source of iron, but meltwater runoff from glaciers and ice sheets was considered too dilute to carry much iron, although previous research has shown a strong correlation between the plankton blooms and the runoff from Greenland ice sheet. Continue reading “Greenland runoff may be a big source of iron”→
The two researchers, Jackie Grebmeier and Lee Cooper, have been visiting the area north of Alaska for nearly 30 years, reporting that the biggest changes have come in just the past few years. Last summer marked a record-low for Arctic sea ice extent, and eight of the last ten years have seen the lowest ice coverage on record. Continue reading “Climate: Tracking Arctic ecosystem changes”→