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Tag Archive: arctic

  1. Climate Change Altering the Arctic Faster Than Expected

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    By Brian Kahn Published: April 25th, 2017 full article here

    Evidence continues to mount that climate change has pushed the Arctic into a new state. Skyrocketing temperatures are altering the essence of the region, melting ice on land and sea, driving more intense wildfires, altering ocean circulation and dissolving permafrost.

    A new report chronicles all these changes and warns that even if the world manages to keep global warming below the targeted 2°C threshold, some of the shifts could be permanent. Among the most harrowing are the disappearance of sea ice by the 2030s and more land ice melt than previously thought, pushing seas to more extreme heights.

    The findings, released Monday in the Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment, come after a winter of extreme discontent for the region. Sea ice receded a bit in November, a rare occurrence, and hit a record-low maximum for the third year in a row. Temperatures averaged 11°F above normal, driven by sustained mild weather that was punctured by periods of almost unheard of heat when temperatures reached up to 50°F above normal.

    This past winter is just the latest in a string of bizarre years and the report, authored by 90 Arctic experts, is the latest in a long line of increasingly dire warnings for the fastest-warming region on the planet. If carbon pollution isn’t slowed, parts of the Arctic could warm a whopping 16°F by the 2050s….

    The new analysis shows that the average number of days with sea ice cover has dropped by 10-20 days per decade since 1979….

    The massive rush of freshwater into the Arctic Ocean is also reshaping ocean circulation and the ecology of the region. Researchers have seen a marked slowdown in North Atlantic circulation as cold, fresh water off Greenland’s southern tip has acted as a roadblock to the currents that steer water through the region. That has the potential to mess with ocean circulation as well as weather patterns, particularly in Europe.

    The changes in the Arctic are a harbinger of what’s in store for the planet if we continue to emit carbon pollution. Some of these changes are likely irreversible. But the report does note that if the world sticks to its goal in the Paris Agreement, the region could reach an equilibrium that while different from its present state, is still less radical than the fate it faces if we keep going down the current carbon path.

  2. Huge permafrost thaw can be limited by ambitious climate targets

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    Huge permafrost thaw can be limited by ambitious climate targets

    Posted: 10 Apr 2017 09:40 AM PDT

    Nearly 4 million square kilometers of frozen soil — an area larger than India — could be lost for every additional degree of global warming experienced, warn scientists. Global warming will thaw about 20% more permafrost than previously thought, they add – potentially releasing significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. But these investigators also suggest that the huge permafrost losses could be averted if ambitious global climate targets are met.

    …Permafrost is frozen soil that has been at a temperature of below 0ºC for at least two years. Large quantities of carbon are stored in organic matter trapped in the icy permafrost soils. When permafrost thaws the organic matter starts to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which increase global temperatures.

    It is estimated that there is more carbon contained in the frozen permafrost than is currently in the atmosphere. Thawing permafrost has potentially damaging consequences, not just for greenhouse gas emissions, but also the stability of buildings located in high-latitude cities.

    Roughly 35 million people live in the permafrost zone, with three cities built on continuous permafrost along with many smaller communities. A widespread thaw could cause the ground to become unstable, putting roads and buildings at risk of collapse. Recent studies have shown that the Arctic is warming at around twice the rate as the rest of the world, with permafrost already starting to thaw across large areas.

    The study suggests that permafrost is more susceptible to global warming that previously thought, as stabilising the climate at 2ºC above pre-industrial levels would lead to thawing of more than 40% of today’s permafrost areas.

    ..Co-author Dr Eleanor Burke, from the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: “The advantage of our approach is that permafrost loss can be estimated for any policy-relevant global warming scenario. “The ability to more accurately assess permafrost loss can hopefully feed into a greater understanding of the impact of global warming and potentially inform global warming policy.”

    S. E. Chadburn, E. J. Burke, P. M. Cox, P. Friedlingstein, G. Hugelius, S. Westermann. An observation-based constraint on permafrost loss as a function of global warming. Nature Climate Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3262

  3. Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

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    Posted: 22 Mar 2017 11:31 AM PDT see full ScienceDaily article here

    The Arctic sea ice maximum extent and Antarctic minimum extent are both record lows this year. Combined, sea ice numbers are at their lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979.…”There’s a lot of year-to-year variability in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, but overall, until last year, the trends in the Antarctic for every single month were toward more sea ice,” said Claire Parkinson, a senior sea ice researcher at Goddard. “Last year was stunningly different, with prominent sea ice decreases in the Antarctic. To think that now the Antarctic sea ice extent is actually reaching a record minimum, that’s definitely of interest


    Arctic sea ice hit a record low wintertime maximum extent in 2017. At 5.57 million square miles, it is the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record, and 455,600 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average maximum extent.
    Credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/L. Perkins

     

  4. Arctic in crisis- temperatures 50 F above normal?

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    By Brian Kahn February 6th, 2017  ClimateCentral See full story here

    Weird. Strange. Extreme. Unprecedented.

    These are some of the words that describe what’s been happening in the Arctic over the past year as surge after surge of warm air have stalled, and at times reversed, sea ice pack growth. And the unfortunate string of superlatives is set to continue this week.

    Arctic sea ice is already sitting at a record low for this time of year and a powerful North Atlantic storm is expected to open the flood gates and send more warmth pouring into the region from the lower latitudes. By Thursday, it could reach up to 50°F above normal. In absolute temperature, that’s near the freezing point and could further spur a decline in sea ice….

    …A massive storm is swirling toward Europe. It’s a weather maker in itself, churning up waves as high as 46 feet and pressure dropping as low as is typical for a Category 4 hurricane as of Monday. The storm is to the southeast of Greenland and its massive comma shape has made for stunning satellite imagery. The storm is expected to weaken as it approaches Europe, but it will conspire with a high pressure system over the continent to send a stream of warm air into the Arctic through the Greenland Sea.

    Temperatures are forecast to reach the melting point in Svalbard, Norway, an island between the Greenland and Karas Seas. The North Pole could also approach the melting point on Thursday.

    It’s just the latest signal that the Arctic is in the middle of a profound change. Sea ice extent has dropped precipitously as has the amount of old ice, which is less prone to breakup. Beyond sea ice, Greenland’s ice sheet is also melting away and pushing sea levels higher, large fires are much more common and intense in boreal forests and other ecosystem changes are causing the earth to hyperventilate.

    Together, these all indicate that the Arctic is in crisis. It’s the most dramatic example of how carbon pollution is reshaping the planet and scientists are racing to understand what comes next.

  5. Climate change has mixed effects on migratory geese

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    Posted: 05 Jan 2017 05:27 AM PST Science Daily see full article here

    Climate change improves the breeding chances of migratory geese in the Arctic — but puts mother geese at more risk of death, according to a new study.  Warmer conditions at breeding grounds in north-east Canada help light-bellied Brent geese produce more young… But in years when productivity is highest, the death rate among mothers also increases. The researchers believe this happens because mothers use extra energy laying eggs and face more risk from predators while sitting on their nests, which they make on the ground…..in warmer years mothers breed more successfully — so more of them remain sitting on nests or waiting on the ground until their offspring are ready to fly.

    Light-bellied Brent geese are shown. Credit: Kendrew Colhoun
    We tend to think of climate change as being all one way, but here we’ve got a population being affected in conflicting ways,” said Dr Ian Cleasby, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.”This population is sensitive to changes in adult survival, so the increased breeding may not be enough to offset the loss of more adult females….we have to understand how animal populations will respond to the changing climate if we want to make decisions about protecting biodiversity.“…

    Ian R. Cleasby, Thomas W. Bodey, Freydis Vigfusdottir, Jenni L. McDonald, Graham McElwaine, Kerry Mackie, Kendrew Colhoun, Stuart Bearhop. Climatic conditions produce contrasting influences on demographic traits in a long distance Arctic migrant. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12623

  6. 10 Most Important Climate Stories of 2016

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    By Brian Kahn Climate Central December 28th, 2016  see full article here

    This year is likely to remembered as a turning point for climate change…Here are the 10 most important climate milestones of the year:

    1. It was the hottest year on record. Again…
    2. The Paris Agreement got real…
    3. Carbon dioxide hit 400 ppm. Permanently…
    4. The world breached the 1.5°C climate threshold…
    5. The Great Barrier Reef was decimated by warm waters…
    6. Divestment and clean energy investments each hit a record…
    7. Arctic sea ice got weird. Really weird..
    8. July was the hottest month ever recorded. Then August tied it…
    9. An extremely potent greenhouse gas is also on its way out (hydrofluorocarbons)…
    10. The world struck an airline carbon pollution deal…
  7. The Arctic is showing stunning winter warmth, and these scientists think they know why

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    December 23, 2016  Wash Post    see full article here

    Last month, temperatures in the high Arctic spiked dramatically, some 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal — a move that corresponded with record low levels of Arctic sea ice during a time of year when this ice is supposed to be expanding during the freezing polar night. And now this week, as you can see above, we’re seeing another huge burst of Arctic warmth. A buoy close to the North Pole just reported temperatures close to the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius), which is 10s of degrees warmer than normal for this time of year….

    …But these bursts of Arctic warmth don’t stand alone — last month, extremely warm North Pole temperatures corresponded with extremely cold temperatures over Siberia. This week, meanwhile, there are large bursts of un-seasonally cold air over Alaska and Siberia once again.

    It is all looking rather consistent with an outlook that has been dubbed “Warm Arctic, Cold Continents” — a notion that remains scientifically contentious but, if accurate, is deeply consequential for how climate change could unfold in the Northern Hemisphere winter....

    …“What I think is happening is that it’s been very warm in the Arctic all year long and this has helped favor a very wavy jet stream, which is what we’ve been seeing,” she continued, “and that has helped to pump a lot of extra heat and moisture up into the Arctic.”…

  8. He created a beloved blog about the melting Arctic. But it got harder and harder to write

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    November 30 at 2:08 PM

    In 2007, Neven Curlin, a Dutch citizen now living in Austria who works as a translator, was stunned by the state of the Arctic, and particularly the floating ice that covers its ocean. It had shrunken to what was then the lowest extent yet observed by humans, just 1.61 million square miles in September at the end of summer. The dwindling of the planet’s icy cap, long predicted by scientists, was happening at a stunning pace.

    Curlin, who had long been worried by global warming, began to follow the condition of sea ice closely and by 2010, started his own blog about it, unassumingly titled “Arctic Sea Ice Blog: Interesting News and Data.” “For years I’ve been missing a central place where the situation in the Arctic can be discussed. I always had to glean information and explanation from little corners of the comment sections of blog articles, so let’s see if the Arctic deserves its own blog,” he wrote in his first entry….

  9. Global Warming Alters Arctic Food Chain, Scientists Say, With Unforeseeable Result

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    The Arctic Ocean may seem remote and forbidding, but to birds, whales and other animals, it’s a top-notch dining destination. “It’s a great place to get food in the summertime, so animals are flying or swimming thousands of miles to get there,” said Kevin R. Arrigo, a biological oceanographer at Stanford University.

    But the menu is changing. Confirming earlier research, scientists reported Wednesday that global warming is altering the ecology of the Arctic Ocean on a huge scale. The annual production of algae, the base of the food web, increased an estimated 47 percent between 1997 and 2015, and the ocean is greening up much earlier each year.

    These changes are likely to have a profound impact for animals further up the food chain, such as birds, seals, polar bears and whales. But scientists still don’t know enough about the biology of the Arctic Ocean to predict what the ecosystem will look like in decades to come.

    While global warming has affected the whole planet in recent decades, nowhere has been hit harder than the Arctic. This month, temperatures in the high Arctic have been as much as 36 degrees above average, according to records kept by the Danish Meteorological Institute…

  10. Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level

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    Scientists warn increasingly rapid melting could trigger polar ‘tipping points’ with catastrophic consequences felt as far away as the Indian Ocean

    Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

    The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

    Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

    “The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. “[These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”

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    Climate tipping points occur when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, undergoes sudden or overwhelming change that has a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible….