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Category — Antarctic

Speed of Arctic changes defies scientists

Alex Kirby

Speed of Arctic changes defies scientists

An iceberg caught in pack ice off Alaska: The Arctic is now in uncharted waters. Image: Rear Admiral Harley D Nygren, NOAA Corps (ret)

The Arctic climate is changing so quickly that science can barely keep track of what is happening and predict the global consequences, the UN says.

In an unusually stark warning a leading international scientific body says the Arctic climate is changing so fast that researchers are struggling to keep up. The changes happening there, it says, are affecting the weather worldwide.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says: Dramatic and unprecedented warming in the Arctic is driving sea level rise, affecting weather patterns around the world and may trigger even more changes in the climate system.

The rate of change is challenging the current scientific capacity to monitor and predict what is becoming a journey into uncharted territory. 

The WMO is the United Nations’ main agency responsible for weather, climate and water.    

Its president, David Grimes, said: The Arctic is a principal, global driver of the climate system and is undergoing an unprecedented rate of change with consequences far beyond its boundaries.

Arctic collaboration

The changes in the Arctic are serving as a global indicator – like a canary in the coal mine – and are happening at a much faster rate than we would have expected. [Read more →]

October 6, 2016   No Comments

Antarctic warming could accelerate sea level rise

Alex Kirby

Rising concern: warming would cause more Antarctic ice to break off and melt. Image: PIK (R.Winkelmann)

Rising concern: warming would cause more Antarctic ice to break off and melt. Image: PIK (R.Winkelmann)

An international study says warming is affecting not only the Arctic but also the Antarctic – and that could significantly raise global sea levels much faster than previously predicted.

The effect of climate change on the world’s two polar regions looks like a stark contrast: the Arctic is warming faster than most of the rest of the Earth, while most of Antarctica appears to remain reassuringly locked in a frigid embrace.

But an international scientific team says the reality is quite different. The Antarctic is warming too, it says, and the southern ice could become the main cause of global sea level rise during this century − far sooner than previously thought.

The study, led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, found that ice discharge from Antarctica could contribute up to 37 centimetres to global sea levels by 2100. [Read more →]

August 20, 2014   No Comments

James Lovelock: A Rough Ride to the Future

The YouTube uploader states:

“James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Hypothesis, has written a new book: “ A Rough Ride to the Future“. Talking on this theme with Rosie Boycott at the Hay Festival on 31 May 2014, Lovelock appeared to be staking a claim for a new role as poster boy for the Global Warming Policy Obfuscation Foundation.”

Lovelock, an advocate of nuclear energy, has now also amended his earlier predictions about Anthropogenic Global Warming.

As Brian Clegg sums up on Goodreads: “Rather that trying to somehow get it back to an imaginary utopian state, he argues we should be looking at new ways to live that will enable us to manage despite what the climate throws at us. He points out, for instance, that in our fears of the impact of 2 to 6 degrees of warming we miss that Singapore manages perfectly well in an environment that is 12.5 degrees above the global average. Of course, you might argue that we couldn’t sustain that way of life for 7 billion people – and Lovelock is sanguine about this. He doesn’t expect humans to carry on at that kind of population level, as part of the adaptation.”

Some of Lovelock’s new ideas were challenged during Q&A.  

July 17, 2014   No Comments

Penguins feel climate change’s impacts

Tim Radford


Adélie penguin chicks chase an adult in the hope of finding food. Image: Liam Quinn from Canada via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists have identified climate change as the direct cause of rising mortality among penguin chicks hatched in Argentina.

Climate change is bad for penguin chicks. If rain doesn’t soak their feathers and kill them with cold, then extremes of heat could finish them off with hyperthermia.

Over a 27-year research project in the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins, on the arid Argentine coast, researchers have seen a greater number of deaths directly attributable to climate change.

“We’re going to see years where almost no chicks survive if climate change makes storms bigger and more frequent during vulnerable times of the breeding season”, says Ginger Rebstock, who, with Dee Boersma, reports on the state of penguin survival in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One.

The two scientists, biologists from the University of Washington, Seattle in the US, believe starvation and weather are going to make life harder for the offspring of the 200,000 pairs of penguins that breed each year at Punta Tombo, on Argentina’s Atlantic coast.

The number of storms during the first two weeks of December – when all the chicks are less than 25 days old and their downy coats are not yet waterproof – has increased between 1983 and 2010.

Every new chick is at hazard: over the span of study, the researchers calculate that 65% of chicks do not survive, 40% of them die by starvation. But climate change has begun to offer new dangers. [Read more →]

February 3, 2014   No Comments

Atlantic changes are warming Antarctic

Tim Radford


Ice covering the Bellingshausen Sea in Antarctica – and feeling the impact of changes in the Atlantic. Image: NASA/Michael Studinger via Wikimedia Commons

More evidence has emerged that changing climate in one region can have unpredictable effects many thousands of miles away.

The Antarctic Peninsula is now the strongest-warming region on the planet. Blame that on changes in the faraway North and tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Xichen Li of New York University in the US and colleagues matched sea surface temperature variations in the northern Atlantic over a three-decade period against long-term changes in the Antarctic. They found a clear correlation, they report in Nature.

They also observed that warming Atlantic waters were followed by changes in sea level pressure in the Antarctic’s Amundsen Sea, and these changes also preceded changes in sea ice between the Ross and Amundsen-Bellinghausen-Weddell Sea. Both stretches of water lie many thousands of miles south of the Atlantic.

Correlations are not causes, so the authors then followed up their observational data by experiments with computer models of the global atmosphere. When they simulated a warming of the North Atlantic, the model “changed” the climate in Antarctica.

That Pacific Ocean temperatures can affect Antarctica is no surprise: such things have been linked to the El Niño cycle, a periodic natural pulse of heat in the equatorial Pacific. [Read more →]

January 31, 2014   No Comments

West Antarctic ice loss speeds up

Tim Radford


CryoSat-2, keeping a weather eye open whatever the weather. Image: ESA

The rate of ice loss from the West Antarctic appears to have accelerated sharply in the last four years, European scientists say.

Ice is being lost over the West Antarctic ice sheet at a faster rate. The European Space Agency’s Cryosat – a satellite with a radar altimeter that can peer through the clouds and see in the dark – has confirmed  that 150 cubic kilometres of ice are drifting into the Southern Ocean each year: a much faster rate than the calculation for 2010.

After observations between 2005 and 2010, gathered by 10 different satellite missions, Antarctic scientists and oceanographers calculated that the melting of ice from the West Antarctic peninsula was causing global sea levels to rise by 0.28mm a year. The latest survey suggests this rate is 15% higher.

The figures were revealed at the autumn meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Most of the ice loss comes from glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea.

“We find that ice thinning continues to be most pronounced along fast-flowing ice streams of this sector and their tributaries, with thinning rates of between four to eight metres per year near the grounding lines – where the ice streams lift up off the land and begin to float out over the ocean – of the Pine Island, Thwaites and Smith glaciers”, said Malcolm McMillan of the University of Leeds in the UK. [Read more →]

December 20, 2013   No Comments

Antarctic fjord life puzzles science

Tim Radford


Giant bristle worm from Andvord Bay, Antarctica, a fjord hotspot for biodiversity. Image: Craig Smith. University of Hawaii at Mānoa

To the surprise of researchers, the warming waters of the fjords of the Antarctic Peninsula have an abundant and diverse population of marine life.

Arctic fjords are poor places, low in marine life and muddied by glacial meltwater. In the southern ocean, where everything is upside down, it’s a different story. Scientists from the University of Hawaii report that they found unexpected riches deep in the fjords of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet. On land, researchers have used 150 years of moss growth as a kind of archive of change, and recorded a warming of 0.56°C per decade since the 1960s.

But researchers who photographed the sea floor found an abundance of bristle worms, sea spiders, sea cucumbers, crustaceans, jellyfish and of krill, they report in the journal PLOS One.

This is precisely what they had not expected: on the evidence of the rapidly-warming Arctic waters, these Peninsula fjords should have been much less lively.

“There appears to be something special about these fjords that stimulates sea floor productivity”, says Laura Grange, of the UK National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton, who collaborated in the study. [Read more →]

December 14, 2013   No Comments