Climate change and weather
(NASA/ Goddard Space Flight Center press release via Science Daily, 10 March 2013) -- Vegetation growth at Earth's northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of land surface and newly improved satellite data sets. An international team of university and NASA scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982. "Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more," said Ranga Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth and Environment. ... Myneni and colleagues used satellite data to quantify vegetation changes at different latitudes from 1982 to 2011. Data used in this study came from NOAA's Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometers (AVHRR) onboard a series of polar-orbiting satellites and NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites. The study was published on March 10, in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Posted 10 March 2013; 7:13:14 PM. Permalink
(Maxim Shemetov/Reuters, 18 February 2013) -- Oymyakon valley, Russia - One loses all bearings when faced with the shroud of white that obscures all things mid January in the Siberian city of Yakutsk. Only the traffic lights and gas pipelines overhanging the roads help you to find your way. Wrapped in frosty fog the city life seems frozen in a sleepy half-light. It is -48 C (-54 degrees Fahrenheit) outside. Before venturing out, I put on two layers of thermal underwear, trousers, two-sweaters, pants winterized up to my waist, and huge low-temperature boots. I pull close the hood of my down jacket and fasten it so that only my eyes are exposed. Lastly, I slip on two pairs of gloves and head for the entrance hall – the airlock. Now only the ice-bound door separates me from the cold. There is Space outside and I feel like an astronaut. However I do not have enough time to freeze today – the minibus is waiting for me at the corner and I pile in with my gear. Our routes lies along a Stalin-era road that is officially called “Kolyma Federal Highway”. Locals call it “the road on bones” after the thousands of Gulag prisoners who built it in the middle of the 20th century perished. ... After two days on the road, we finally arrive in the Oymyakon valley – the Pole of the Cold. This is the coldest known place in the Northern hemisphere. Thermometers registered a record chill of -67.7 degrees Celsius (-88 degrees Fahrenheit) in 1933 – shortly after weather monitoring began here in the end of the 1920s. [Follow the title link for Shemetov's pictures from the trip.]
Posted 18 February 2013; 1:40:34 PM. Permalink
(The Economist, 9 February 2013) -- ON SEPTEMBER 16th 2012, at the height of the summer melt, the Arctic Ocean’s ice sheet had shrunk to an area of 3.41m square kilometres (1.32m square miles), half what it was in 1979. And its volume had shrunk faster still, .... The world’s average temperature in 2012 was nearly 0.5°C above the average for 1951-80. In the Arctic, it was up almost 2°C. This sudden warming is like the peeling back of a lid to reveal a new ocean underneath. That prospect is spreading alarm (among greens) and excitement (at the natural resources and other economic opportunities that could be unveiled). Though most of the excitement has been about oil and gas, and the opening of sea routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific, some people hope for a fishing bonanza .... But they may be disappointed. At the moment, the waters around the Arctic account for a fifth of the world’s catch. There are few fish, however, under the ice itself. A fishing bonanza would require big ecological change. Arctic Frontiers, a conference organised at the University of Tromso in January, looked at how warming will change the ecology, to estimate whether it will bring one about. The consensus was that it won’t—not because the Arctic will change too little, but because it will change too much. ... The most important reason, though, for thinking that global warming will not produce an Arctic feeding frenzy is that it may increase ocean stratification. This is the tendency of seawater to separate into layers, because fresh water is lighter than salt and cold water heavier than warm. The more stratified water is, the less nutrients in it move around. ... A warming Arctic will not, in other words, be full of fish. It will simply be an ice-free version of the desert it already is.
Posted 11 February 2013; 4:44:10 PM. Permalink
(Tim Lister/CNN, 7 December 2012) -- In mid-July this year, a roar echoed around one of the most remote inlets of northern Greenland -- and an island was born. No ordinary island, but a huge chunk of ice, roughly twice the size of Manhattan, that had broken from the Petermann Glacier. Scientists gave it the romantic name of PII-2012 and watched it begin to drift slowly into the Nares Strait, which separates Greenland from Canada. Then it began to break up, spawning several smaller ice islands. The birth of PII-2012 was no isolated event. The Petermann Glacier had lost a much larger chunk in 2010. It also broke into fragments, though that may not be the right word. One of them alone was estimated to weigh 3.5 billion tonnes, or metric tons (3.86 billion short tons), according to E. Julie Halliday, a researcher at Memorial University in Canada. ... Halliday noted in a paper presented at the Arctic Technology Conference in Houston last week that while "management of a 3.5 billion-tonne ice island away from offshore structures may theoretically be possible, putting it into practice would be logistically very challenging." ... Scientists are only now beginning to research these ice islands and the rate at which they melt and divide, especially as the Arctic waters warm and the restraining effect of sea ice disappears. ... The same warmer temperatures that are encouraging the collapse of ice shelves are melting icebergs and ice islands before they reach the north Atlantic, according to the International Ice Patrol, a program led by the U.S. Coast Guard to protect shipping from the sort of disaster that befell the Titanic. ... The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in its annual Arctic Report Card, published this week, said dramatic melting of the Greenland ice sheet had occurred in July, "covering about 97 percent of the ice sheet on a single day." ... All the evidence says that what in effect is the world's source of air conditioning is getting weaker, with consequences that will be felt far below the 48th parallel.
Posted 10 December 2012; 11:07:58 AM. Permalink
(CBC News, 5 November 2012) -- The spring snow pack in the Arctic is disappearing at a much faster rate than anticipated even by climate change models, says a new study by Environment Canada researchers. That has implications for wildlife, vegetation and ground temperatures, say the scientists, who looked at four decades of snow data for the Canadian Arctic and beyond. Combined with recent news that the Arctic sea ice retreated to an all-time low this summer, it suggests climate change may be happening much faster than expected, said Dr. Chris Derksen, a research scientist for Environment Canada and one of the study's authors. "What we discovered was that there is a significant reduction in the amount of snow cover, particularly in May and June… and the rate of that decline is actually slightly faster than the loss of summer sea ice," Derksen said in an interview. They studied 40 years of data from across the Arctic from April to June, and found the decline in spring snow cover was actually slightly faster than the decline in sea ice that made headlines around the world.
Posted 5 November 2012; 2:35:43 PM. Permalink
(Asle Rønning/ScienceNordic, 6 October 2012) -- Norway’s Arctic Archipelago Svalbard gets some unseasonal rains now and then in winter. When it rains enough to soak through the snow and freeze against the topsoil, grass and other vegetation becomes hard for herbivores to reach. Two very different species are significantly affected by these rainfalls in the winter: the Svalbard reindeer and the sibling vole, which is Svalbard’s only rodent and only other mammalian land herbivore. The common factor impacting both stocks is winter rain, or the lack of it, according to a new study published in Biology Letters by scientists in Norway and Scotland. As the planet heats up, so far most in the polar regions, the Arctic is expected to get more rain in the season when powder snow would be expected. The study indicates that climate changes can have massive consequences on the entire Arctic ecosystem. This year with much more rain than average, calves of the Svalbard reindeer have a significantly smaller chance of survival and stocks of the sibling vole (Microtus kuis) are expected to plunge. On the Norwegian mainland in Finnmark County, well north of the Polar Circle, wet winter precipitation that freezes and locks vegetation under a sheet of ice is also known to aggravate reindeer browsing. “The Sami who maintain reindeer herds are familiar with this problem. What’s special about Svalbard is that this greatly impacts the voles. So it’s affecting large and small alike,” says one of the researchers behind the study, Audun Stien at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). Stien says that last winter, which wasn’t included in the study, was yet another with lots of winter rain. “Permafrost is what’s special about Svalbard. When the rain soaks down through the snow it freezes against frozen soil,” he says. Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) is a subspecies of reindeer found only on Svalbard.
Posted 12 October 2012; 4:13:30 PM. Permalink
(Planetsave, 21 September 2012) -- The complete collapse of Arctic sea ice during the summer months may happen within four years, according to one of the world’s leading sea ice researchers. In an email to the Guardian, Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University says: "Climate change is no longer something we can aim to do something about in a few decades' time, and that we must not only urgently reduce CO2 emissions but must urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geoengineering ideas that have been put forward." Some of those geo-engineering ideas could have unintended effects worse than climate change itself, though — they remain a heavily-debated solution. The most prominent current ideas include: reflecting the sun’s light back into space with aerosols or mirrors; turning clouds a whiter color; and seeding the ocean with minerals in order to encourage massive plankton blooms that, theoretically, could sequester more CO2. Professor Wadhams has spent “many years collecting ice thickness data from submarines passing below the arctic ocean. He predicted the imminent break-up of sea ice in summer months in 2007, when the previous lowest extent of 4.17 million square kilometres was set. This year, it has unexpectedly plunged a further 500,000 sq km to less than 3.5m sq km.” “I have been predicting [the collapse of sea ice in summer months] for many years. The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer,” Dr Wadhams said. “At first this didn’t [get] noticed; the summer ice limits slowly shrank back, at a rate which suggested that the ice would last another 50 years or so. But in the end the summer melt overtook the winter growth such that the entire ice sheet melts or breaks up during the summer months. “This collapse, I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates”.
Posted 22 September 2012; 10:56:24 AM. Permalink
(Peter Fednysky/Voice of America, 21 September 2012) -- NEW YORK - The extent of Arctic sea ice this week shrunk to a new low in the era of satellite record-keeping that began in 1979. The increased expanse of water near the top of the world could have implications for global shipping, wildlife and even international diplomacy. Polar bears hunt seals from sea ice, but could drown if forced to swim long distances in open water. Satellite photos released by America’s space agency, NASA, illustrate the daunting threat to such bears. An image shows the amount of Arctic Sea ice in 1979. Another shows the record minimum set this year on September 16. The shrinkage is equivalent to an area greater than Texas, an impossible distance for even the mightiest polar bear to swim. Scientists say fossil fuels are increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere. This not only warms the oceans, but threatens biodiversity in cold and warm waters alike. “As we increase the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a high proportion, about 40 percent of that, goes back into the ocean, and so it’s increasing the acid content of the ocean and that’s threatening coral reefs,” said Ben Orlove, a Columbia University climate research scientist.
Posted 22 September 2012; 10:49:55 AM. Permalink
(Reuters, 21 September 2012) -- Weather data collected by NASA suggests that this summer's record Arctic ice melt may have been partially due to a powerful cyclone that scientists say ''wreaked havoc'' on ice cover during the month of August. Rob Muir reports.
Posted 22 September 2012; 10:48:31 AM. Permalink
(Nunatsiaq News, 6 September 2012) -- Following the new record low Arctic sea ice extent recorded Aug. 26, ice coverage has continued to drop and has now shrunk to less than four million square kilometres — smaller than the previous low extent of 2007. Compared to September conditions in the 1980s and 1990s, the Arctic sea ice extent has dropped by 45 per cent, the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center said Sept. 5. And that skimpy sea ice cover is likely to get lower yet, because at least one more week remains in the melt season.
Posted 6 September 2012; 3:41:45 PM. Permalink
(Collin West/Bloomberg Businessweek, 12 July 2010) -- This blog will capture my personal experience as our team of four attempts “one of the last great firsts.” If successful, our crossing will be the first rowing expedition to travel from continent to continent for a total of 1,300 miles. What will we learn about ourselves and the Arctic along the way? Visit this blog regularly to find out as we explore this question in real time. But today, the Arctic Row expedition finally starts. I am sitting on the first of four flights as we make our way to Inuvik, a tiny town that sits 2 degrees north of the Arctic Circle. Our first stop is Edmonton, Canada. My excitement builds as the towns get progressively smaller. While in Inuvik, we will make final preparations on our boat, including packing our supplies and film gear for our documentary Into Thin Ice. Then we will drop our boat in the MacKenzie River about 70 miles north of the Arctic Ocean and commence our record-breaking attempt.
Posted 17 July 2012; 5:02:27 PM. Permalink
(OurAmazingPlanet Staff/LiveScience.com via Yahoo! News, 7 May 2012) -- Arctic sea ice has persistently dwindled over the last three decades, yet sea ice set record highs in waters around Alaska this past winter. Ice in the Bering Sea not only covered more area than usual, it also stuck around longer, bucking the downward trend in sea ice cover observed since 1979, when satellite records for the region began. The Arctic as a whole had below-average sea ice cover during the 2011 to 2012 winter season. At its maximum, reached in mid-March, sea ice covered 5.88 million square miles (15.24 million square kilometers), the ninth lowest in the satellite record. Yet Alaskan waters were choked with ice. Sea ice cover in the Bering Sea was well above normal for much of the season, and reached a record-high extent in March 2012. In addition, ice surrounded the Pribilof Islands, tiny volcanic islands in the middle of the Bering Sea, for a record number of days this winter. On May 3, ice had surrounded St. Paul Island for 103 days, up from the record of 100 days, set in 2010. The record ice numbers were fueled by two main factors: low temperatures and strong winds from the north. Persistent winds pushed ice from the Arctic Ocean down toward the Bering Strait, which acted as a temporary dam, trapping the sea ice in a bottleneck. The sea ice continued to pile up, and the icy barrier eventually collapsed, allowing the trapped ice to surge southward into the Bering Sea. Alaska's mainland spent this last winter in the grip of bone-chilling low temperatures and record-high snowfalls, the result of cyclical climate conditions that kept much of the lower 48 states at record high temperatures, while plunging Alaska into a deep freeze that helped keep the ice frozen.
Posted 7 May 2012; 5:17:02 PM. Permalink
(Ed Struzik/Times Colonist, 6 May 2012) -- University of Alberta scientist Andrew Derocher was in the High Arctic in late April getting a rare, first-hand glimpse of what the future of the Arctic might look like right around the time 3,000 researchers, policy-makers and indigenous leaders were gathered in Montreal at the International Polar Year 2012 conference to try to imagine the same thing. Derocher was on the sea ice catching and tagging polar bears off the coast of Victoria Island when Inuvialuit hunter Pat Epakohak hunted and killed a female polar bear that had two very unusual-looking cubs with her. "One of the cubs was very grizzly-bear-like and the other looked more like a polar bear," Derocher wrote in an email after getting a chance to look at the carcasses of the animals. "I guess we can expect more of these hybrids as the population of grizzly bears continues to grow in this part of the world." Up until about 20 years ago, sightings of grizzlies in the High Arctic were extremely rare, a quirk of nature, many biologists thought, that may have occurred because the bear walked the wrong way or strayed too far following mainland caribou that sometimes cross the sea ice to Arctic islands. No one imagined that hybrids such as the one Derocher saw would be part of the land or seascape. But that thinking began to change in recent years as more brown bears and a succession of other animals, such as red fox, coyotes, white-tailed deer, Pacific salmon and killer whales, began showing up in areas traditionally occupied by Arctic fox, Arctic wolves, caribou, Arctic char and beluga whales. Some of these animals, we now know, are also producing hybrids.
Posted 7 May 2012; 4:28:33 PM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden via Eye on the Arctic, 16 April 2012) -- Swedish news agency TT reports that two thirds of the cranes that were observed earlier this month at Lake Hornborga in western Götaland in southern Sweden have finally moved on northwards. The sight of thousands of cranes at Lake Hornborga is usually a sign that spring has come. This year however, the lake was over-crowded with cranes, due to cold weather which prevented them from continuing on their journey north. Every April, birds and birdwatchers alike flock to the lake when migrating cranes returning north for the summer arrive on its shores. The cranes use the lake as a stop-over point where they rest and feed before flying on to northern Sweden and Finland.
Posted 16 April 2012; 10:21:05 AM. Permalink
(Eric Christopher Adams/Alaska Dispatch, 7 April 2012) -- An epic winter in Anchorage, became an historic one Saturday afternoon. With several inches of new snowfall, according to the National Weather Service, the city officially broke the all-time record of 132.6 inches of snow. That record snowfall came in the winter of 1954-55, before Alaska was even a state. As of 4 p.m., 133.6 inches of snow had fallen on Anchorage during the winter of 2011-12. Snow continued to fall into the evening. And while some celebrated, others lamented the unending snow. Some places in the South Anchorage Hillside neighborhood, which has a significantly higher elevation than the city proper, have recorded upwards of 200 inches of snow this winter. All that snow has caused thousands of dollars in home and commercial property damage. It became fodder for the city's mayoral election. It prompted fights and lawsuits between neighbors over snowberms. It left city "snow dumps" bulging beyond capacity while running up millions of dollars of street-clearing and other fees for city government. ... A meteorologist with Accuweather, a company providing weather data for news and TV stations across the country, recently warned that those sorts of temperatures would likely be the norm for Alaska this spring. April and May look to be chilly, wet months for Anchorage and much of Alaska, said Jack Boston of Accuweather. A weather phenomenon known as Arctic Oscillation has, in layman's terms, left a stubborn "dome" of cold air stuck over the 49th state that's blocking warm air from the Pacific Ocean from moving through. In other words, Anchorage might not just break the all-time snow record. With potential for another three or four weeks of damp weather hovering near freezing temperatures, this winter could be a once-in-a-lifetime snow season.
Posted 9 April 2012; 10:11:46 PM. Permalink
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 4 April 2012) -- After growing to one of the biggest polar packs seen during the past decade, sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean has officially maxed out for the winter and begun its slow, seasonal melt into another summer of retreat. “Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum extent on March 18, after reaching an initial peak early in the month and declining briefly,” according to the newest analysis posted by the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC). “Ice extent for the month as a whole was higher than in recent years, but still below average.” Driven by record-breaking floes in Alaska’s Bering Sea, and above average ice cover in Baffin Bay between Greenland and Canada, the ice cap averaged about 5.87 million square miles last month — the greatest March ice cover seen since 2008. The total was tempered by below-average ice cover in the Barents and Kara seas north of Europe and Russia (though the Kara rebounded somewhat in March), where temperatures remained 7 to 11 degrees F above normal. Only eight seasons have produced smaller March ice footprints in the Arctic during the 34 years of satellite coverage. [Follow title link to see] a chart making comparisons to several of those years, and another image showing the current status updated every day.
Posted 6 April 2012; 1:42:23 PM. Permalink
(aftenbladet.no, 23 March 2012) -- The 80 first days of 2012 were a lot warmer than normal on the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard. We have to go back to 30 December last year to find a day that was colder than normal temperatures of Longyearbyen, according to Svalbardposten. The year 2012 has so far offered a record heat, landslides, rain and ice-free fjords. The year so far has been over 11°C warmer than normal in Longyearbyen. "It is a sturdy Norwegian record," comments Norwegian weather expert Bernt Lie on his website. The highest temperature in Longyearbyen this year was on February 8th with summer temperature of 7°C. The coldest day was only a week later, on February 16th when it was measured minus 19.1°C at Svalbard Airport.
Posted 25 March 2012; 6:15:04 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 22 March 2012) -- North America's wonky winter forced its different bird populations to flock much farther afield this year as Arctic species moved south and southern watefowl showed up in ice-free Canada much earlier in the year. Snowy owls from the Arctic and tundra swans, which normally winter in the southern U.S., as far south as Florida, were among the birds reported in unusually high numbers in Canada during this year's annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Four times as many snowy owls and nearly 17 times more tundra swans were reported by Canadian participants this year than last year, said Bird Studies Canada this week. The group partners with the U.S.-based Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society of the U.S. to coordinate the annual count, which ran across Canada and the U.S. from Feb. 17 to 20. Scientists think the snowy owls moved further south than usual this winter due to a shortage of food such as lemmings. They were spotted in much greater number in the central U.S. plains and the Pacific Northwest as well. Meanwhile, the jump in waterfowl such as tundra swans, canvasbacks, redheads and sandhill cranes was likely due to the warm winter weather and lack of ice, Bird Studies Canada said. Many of these species migrate to the Arctic area for summer breeding but don't usually head there until much later in the year.
Posted 24 March 2012; 11:36:28 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 23 March 2012) -- The 80 first days of 2012 were a lot warmer than normal on the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard. The weather has been anything but normal on Svalbard this year. Since the beginning of the year the inhabitants of one of the world’s northernmost settlements have experienced record heat, avalanches, rain and ice-free fjords. The temperature has been 11°C above the normal since the beginning of the year, Svalbardposten writes. The warmest day so far this year was February 8, with +7°C. Longyearbyen has had 90 millimeters of precipitation so far this year, nearly twice the normal. But this is nothing compared to Ny-Ålesund, where 97 percent of the normal annual precipitation came during the first 80 days of the year.
Posted 23 March 2012; 10:47:16 AM. Permalink
(Iceland Review News, 21 March 2012) -- The plover in Hvalfjarðarsveit certainly brings tidings of spring if the weather forecast is anything to go by, predicting temperatures as high as 15°C (59 F°) in the northern and eastern parts of Iceland this weekend. "We can expect to see temperatures reach 8 to 10 °C in the south and western corner of the country, and 8 to 12 C° in northern and eastern parts of Iceland," Óli Þór Árnason, a meteorologist at the Icelandic Met Office told visir.is. Óli Þór predicts dry weather and bright skies in North and East Iceland, but informed residents in the south and west that they may have to settle for showers over the weekend. Temperatures will drop again on Monday but there is reason to be optimistic now that the plover has been sighted. The Golden Plover was spotted near Ytri Hólmur, a local farm in the area south of Akranes, and was photographed by a photographer for the local newspaper, Skessuhorn.
Posted 21 March 2012; 10:22:03 AM. Permalink
(Wildlife Conservation Society press release ᔥ redOrbit, 19 March 2012) -- A rapid increase in shipping in the formerly ice-choked waterways of the Arctic poses a significant increase in risk to the region’s marine mammals and the local communities that rely on them for food security and cultural identity, according to an Alaska Native groups and the Wildlife Conservation Society who convened at a recent workshop. The workshop—which ran from March 12-14—examined the potential impacts to the region’s wildlife and highlighted priorities for future management of shipping in the region. The meeting included participants from the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Eskimo Walrus Commission, Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, Ice Seal Committee, Indigenous People’s Council for Marine Mammals, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Other participants included the University of Alaska, government agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Arctic Research Commission, and the Marine Mammal Commission, and regional Alaska Native groups such as Kawerak Inc., North Slope Borough, Northwest Alaska Borough, and Association of Village Council Presidents. At issue is the effect of climate change on Arctic waters, which over the last few decades have become increasingly ice-free during the summer and fall. The lengthening of the open-water season has led to new industrial developments, including oil and gas activities and a rising number of large maritime vessels transiting either the Northern Sea Route over the Russian Arctic from Europe, or the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic from the Atlantic. Whichever route is being used, the only gateway to the Pacific is through the Bering Strait—an important migratory pathway for marine mammals.
Posted 19 March 2012; 10:27:08 PM. Permalink
(Carey Restino/The Arctic Sounder, 18 March 2012) -- A study released this month by Cambridge University indicates the advance of the treeline in the Arctic is moving slower than previously predicted. The study, which was released March 17 by Gareth Rees, a researcher with the university’s Scott Polar Research Institute, says the relationship between climate change and tree growth is more complicated than initially thought. “To generalize our results, the tree line is definitely moving north on average but we do not see any evidence for rates as big as 2 kilometers per year anywhere along the Arctic rim,” he said in a news release. “Where we have the most detailed information, our results suggest that a rate of around 100 meters per year is more realistic. In some places, the tree line is actually moving south. The predictions of a loss of 40 percent of the tundra by the end of the century is probably far too alarming.” According to the report, Earth’s surface temperature has risen an average of 1.3 degrees F, but the average is greater in the far north. Rees’ study coordinated experts from across various Arctic nations, primarily in northern Europe. But Canada, Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia also participated. “What we are saying is that when you take the step from a climate model to a vegetation model, we may be doing that in a way that exaggerates what is actually happening,” he said. “Furthermore, the response around the Arctic rim is by no means uniform.”
Posted 19 March 2012; 3:38:15 PM. Permalink
(Michelle Theriault Boots/Anchorage Daily News, 14 February 2012) -- With more than 100 inches [2.54 m] on the ground and more falling, Anchorage is running out of places to dump its snow. According to Marcel Warmilee, who owns a business hauling snow from condominium properties and business properties, six of the seven private dump sites he usually uses are full. The seventh is getting close. "You go to a condo, you pick up some snow and take it down (to a private snow disposal site) and realize the dump is closed," said Warmilee of Arctic Green LLC. "And maybe you have five or six dump trucks full of snow you don't know what to do with." In an unusual move, the city is responding by proposing an ordinance, scheduled to be introduced to the Assembly Tuesday, to streamline the permitting process so new temporary sites can quickly open. The idea is to create a "speedy permit process that might allow a few more sites to open if necessary," said municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler. New sites "are needed to keep driving on city and state roads, parking on private properties ... and other activities from becoming unduly problematic or even dangerous" to the general public, according to the text of the proposed ordinance. Part of the problem is huge amounts of snow, Wheeler said. Another problem is scarcity: As the city has grown, the number of vacant lots available for snow dumping has diminished. The city's own snow disposal sites for use by road crews are doing fine, says Alan Czajkowski, the head of the municipality's maintenance and operations department. "They're getting full but we still have plenty of capacity," Czajkowski said. "Unless we get a ton more snow we should be fine to the end of the year." It would take 30 to 40 inches [76 to 101 cm] more for the city-owned dumps to reach capacity, he said.
Posted 14 February 2012; 10:47:03 AM. Permalink
(Alex DeMarban/Alaska Dispatch, 10 February 2012) -- What's up with this winter? Fresh off the heels of record cold and snow, an Arctic heat wave is melting Alaska’s icebox while producing record warmth. The wild swing follows a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that contrasts Alaska's frigid January and the Lower 48's mild month. This week, Alaska weather forecasters on Facebook noted the state's suddenly see-sawing temperatures. Few locations have swung as widely as the Interior community of McGrath. On Thursday, the town of 350 set a Feb. 9 record high of 43 degrees, said Michael Lawson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. Just five days earlier, McGrath's temperature was 85 degrees lower, when the mercury dipped to minus-42. It was even colder during some January days, said Phil Graham, acting city clerk. The weather service says on Jan. 28 the low was minus-54. That's a 97-degree swing in a dozen days. "Anybody who's been here a while said no one has seen anything like it before," Graham said. The change is welcome in McGrath. Residents weren't wearing shorts on Thursday, but "they were walking around with smiles on their faces." Juneau also set a record high of 48 degrees yesterday, beating the old 1968 record by one degree, said Lawson.
Posted 12 February 2012; 9:09:08 PM. Permalink
(Anita Li/Toronto Star, 25 January 2012) -- An Arctic duck is at risk because polar bears have developed a newfound appetite for their eggs, scientists say. The eider populations in Nunavut and Nunavik, Que., are declining partly because the bears have been eating more of their eggs, which are laid on the southern coasts of Baffin Island and Southampton Island. “The bears were essentially eating every single egg on the island(s),” said Samuel Iverson, a field researcher with Environment Canada. “We are seeing just major nest depredation.” Over the past three decades, climate change has caused sea ice to disappear, making it more difficult for polar bears to hunt for seals, their primary prey. To compensate, the bears have been raiding eider nests for food. “These bears might be energy-deficient and more willing to consume resources, which before, weren’t very important to them, but now are piquing the bears’ interest in a way that they haven’t in the past,” he said. “The number of colonies where we saw this happening was much higher than anybody has ever recorded before.” But eating a diet of eggs isn’t enough to sustain the polar bear population in the long-term, Iverson added.
Posted 26 January 2012; 6:30:40 PM. Permalink
(Deborah Zabarenko/Reuters, 23 January 2012) -- The strongest geomagnetic storm in more than six years was forecast to hit Earth's magnetic field on Tuesday, and it could affect airline routes, power grids and satellites, the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center said. A coronal mass ejection — a big chunk of the Sun's atmosphere — was hurled toward Earth on Sunday, driving energized solar particles at about 5 million miles an hour (2,000 km per second), about five times faster than solar particles normally travel, the center's Terry Onsager said. "When it hits us, it's like a big battering ram that pushes into Earth's magnetic field," Onsager said from Boulder, Colorado. "That energy causes Earth's magnetic field to fluctuate." This energy can interfere with high frequency radio communications used by airlines to navigate close to the North Pole in flights between North America, Europe and Asia, so some routes may need to be shifted, Onsager said. It could also affect power grids and satellite operations, the center said in a statement. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station may be advised to shield themselves in specific parts of the spacecraft to avoid a heightened dose of solar radiation, Onsager said. The space weather center said the geomagnetic storm's intensity would probably be moderate or strong, levels two and three on a five-level scale, five being the most extreme.
Posted 23 January 2012; 10:41:28 PM. Permalink
(Rheana Murray / New York Daily News, 11 January 2012) -- Dwindling Arctic Sea ice is cutting off polar bears’ food supply, forcing the starving animals to devour their own kind. While cannibalism among polar bears isn’t unheard of, experts say the behavior is becoming increasingly common. “There are increasing numbers of observations of it occurring,” photojournalist Jenny Ross told BBC News. “Particularly on land where polar bears are trapped ashore, completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change.” Ross explained how the higher temperatures melt ice more quickly, leaving the bears less time to fuel up on ice-dependent seals, the animals’ main source of food. “Weights of adults are decreasing, litters are smaller, fewer young bears are surviving, and the overall population size is shrinking,” she said. Ross, whose research was published in the January 2012 edition of
Posted 12 January 2012; 10:17:24 AM. Permalink
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, January 6, 2012 (ENS) - This weekend, on its way to deliver more than a million gallons of emergency fuel to the town of Nome, Alaska, the Russian tanker Renda will move through an area used by wintering spectacled eiders, a federally threatened sea duck. To protect the ducks and their habitat, resource managers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and navigators from the U.S. Coast Guard are using satellite telemetry information from the U.S. Geological Survey to plot a route for the tanker that minimizes its impact. "Protecting America's fish and wildlife resources is a shared responsibility. It is satisfying to see agencies working together to protect threatened and endangered species, while meeting the needs of our communities," said Ellen Lance, the Endangered Species Branch chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Alaska Region. The arctic nesting sea ducks are now wintering south of St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea, where sea ice and abundant prey make their winter survival possible. But in Nome, a fuel shortage is creating an emergency. Fuel delivery to the town of 3,600, located on the edge of the Bering Sea on the southwest side of the Seward Peninsula, was delayed by what AccuWeather's Vickie Frantz calls the "snowicane" conditions that struck during the first week of November. A fuel barge carrying 1.6 million gallons of fuel was en route to Nome when the storm hit. The barge was delayed and was unable to reach the town before winter sea ice closed in. Nome is now surrounded by foot-thick ice. In early December, the Sitnasuak Native Corporation of Nome signed a contract with the Alaska company Vitus Marine to deliver more than a million gallons of diesel fuel and 400,000 gallons of gasoline to Nome via a double-hulled Ice Classed Russian tanker. The vessel is certified to travel through four feet of ice and recently traveled through five feet of ice for extended distances while delivering fuel to communities in the Russian Far East.
Posted 8 January 2012; 8:00:50 PM. Permalink
(Laine Welch/Anchorage Daily News, 7 January 2012) -- The Bering Sea snow crab fishery is picking up earlier than usual as the fleet scrambles to pull up the catch before encroaching sea ice shuts them down. About 25 boats are out so far, soon to be joined by 60 or so more, with a weather forecast calling for frigid weather and high winds.Although the fishery opens by regulation Oct. 15, most crabbers usually wait until mid-January to begin dropping pots. The snow crab catch quota was boosted 64 percent this season to nearly 80 million pounds. Boats left the dock without settling on a price, and the increased supply is depressing the market. "The problem we have in the snow crab market is that before the catch share program began in 2005, the fishery started on the 15th of January, so that is when the market formed, and negotiations were typically done about a week before. Although the fishery has been starting earlier and earlier, negotiations are still taking place at the traditional time period. "There's negotiations taking place between the packers and the Japanese and domestic buyers as we speak," said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, which represents a majority of the crab fleet. There also is quite a bit of Canadian snow crab in freezers that buyers are trying to sell before that fishery begins in April. Jacobsen said it all adds up to lower crab prices.
Posted 8 January 2012; 12:40:20 PM. Permalink
(Canadian Press via CTV, 4 January 2012) -- HALIFAX - A new scientific study suggests harp seals in the North Atlantic are dying at high rates because of warming waters and a steady decline of sea ice in their traditional breeding grounds. The research by scientists at Duke University in North Carolina tracked the decrease of sea ice due to global warming and the mortality of harp seals from 1992 to 2010. David Johnston, a marine scientist who co-wrote the report, said it's the first study to show that seasonal ice cover in the four seal breeding areas of North America has receded by as much as six per cent per decade. "There has been a string of light ice years recently and we're starting to be concerned that if ice continues to decline, this might have longer-term effects on the harp seal population," Johnston said from his office in Beaufort, N.C. "I'm concerned that these animals are in for a tough road with what we're seeing with climate change." The authors warned that they could see the disappearance of a year's entire seal pup herd due to a lack of ice, where females traditionally go to give birth every February and March. Pups usually drown if born in the water or on thin, unstable ice. The study was funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which has lobbied against the annual Canadian seal hunt. Johnston said the participation of the animal-rights group didn't affect the objectivity of the report, which was peer-reviewed.
Posted 5 January 2012; 11:23:32 AM. Permalink
(IceNews, 30 December 2011) -- Those in Iceland who say they cannot remember such a snowy December have been proven right by the Icelandic Met Office, which has released details of two records which have been broken in Reykjavík this month. Yesterday morning the depth of snow was 33 centimetres in Reykjavík and neighbouring municipalities; which is a record. Since records began being kept in 1921 there has never been a 24 hour period in December with more snowfall over the Icelandic capital. Intermittent snow showers continued throughout yesterday, but the Met Office predicts a change in the weather today; with initial snow, followed by sleet and eventually rain. The forecast is for a warming trend and temperatures above zero in all lowland areas of Iceland on New Year’s Day. Another record has also been set in the capital region, where snow has laid on the ground uninterrupted since the 26th November — the longest period of early winter snow cover since records began. It is by no means certain yet that the rise in temperatures will last long enough to stop the uninterrupted snow cover record carrying on into January.
Posted 2 January 2012; 1:12:07 PM. Permalink
(A. Rienstra/IceNews, 18 December 2011) -- Greenland’s bedrock rose significantly last year due to the loss of 100 billion tonnes of ice during the particularly warm summer. Researchers from Ohio State University found that during 2010, part of country’s landmass rose more than half a centimetre more than in recent years. The data were collected from GPS stations which usually record an average uplift of about a centimetre per year in the Arctic country. “But a temperature spike in 2010 lifted the bedrock a detectably higher amount over a short five-month period – as high as 20 mm in some locations,” Michael Bevis, an geologist from the POLENET research network told a conference of the American Geophysical Union this week. He added that the changes must be due to the increased ice loss. “Really, there is no other explanation. The uplift anomaly correlates with maps of the 2010 melting day anomaly. In locations where there were many extra days of melting in 2010, the uplift anomaly is highest,” Bevis said. For every 100 billion tonnes of loss from the Greenland ice sheet, global sea levels are thought to increase by around 0.25mm. “Pulses of extra melting and uplift imply that we’ll experience pulses of extra sea level rise. The process is not really a steady process,” Bevis said.
Posted 19 December 2011; 10:15:27 AM. Permalink
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 6 December 2011) -- After shrinking to one of the smallest summer extents of the past 30 years, the ice cap over the Arctic Ocean has been re-growing quickly as the dark polar winter tightens its grip. During November, plunging temperatures refroze an average of more than 30,000 square miles of ocean every day — growing enough pans and floes to cover an area almost the size of South Carolina every 24 hours. That’s faster growth than usual, according to records going back to the 1970s. And yet, despite weather patterns that plunged the ocean off Alaska's north coast into frigid conditions, the Arctic ice cap remained trapped close to record lows for the time of year, according to the latest sea ice analysis posted by the National Sea & Ice Data Center. Only 2006 and 2010 had a smaller area of sea ice this time of year, the NSIDC said here. By Nov. 30, the ice cap covered some 4.19 million square miles — about 241,000 square miles above the minimum record for that date set in 2006, but hundreds of thousands of square miles below the long-term average. Overall, November sea ice has been declining about 4.7 percent per year, compared to the 1979-to-2000 average, the NSIDC explained. That’s a loss of about 20,500 square miles of frozen habitat each year.
Posted 7 December 2011; 11:27:25 AM. Permalink
(Sami Radio Sweden via Eye on the Arctic, 5 December 2011) -- Mild weather continued throughout the fall in the traditional Sami territories in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and northwestern Russia. This has been the warmest fall since the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) began recording temperatures. SMHI meteorologist Sverker Hällström reports that this fall has had primarily southerly and westerly winds. Sameradion (Radio Sami) compared the temperatures of several locations in northern Sweden and Norway. In all locations, this fall's average temperature has been from three to eight degrees warmer than the normal average temperature. In Kiruna, Sweden's northernmost town, the average temperature in the first half of November was over 1 degree Celsius. November's average temperature is usually minus 6.5 degrees Celsius. "November as a month and this entire fall will be the warmest on record, and we've been measuring for over 100 years," says Sverker Hällström. The reason is a low pressure system over the Atlantic causing warm air to blow from the south or west, resulting in wind and rain with some snow in the mountains. And the warm weather will continue, according to meteorologist Sverker Hällström. "We still can't see a real cold air outbreak, so the temperature will remain on the milder side," says Sverker Hällström, adding that the climate is changing. "A mild fall like this fits right into the pattern: we're slowly but surely moving toward slightly warmer conditions," says Hällström.
Posted 5 December 2011; 4:00:19 PM. Permalink
(ENS, 1 December 2011) -- WASHINGTON, DC - The Arctic is entering a new state with warmer air and water temperatures, less summer sea ice and snow cover, and changed ocean chemistry, finds the annual Arctic Report Card. Less habitat for polar bears and walruses but increased access to feeding areas for whales characterizes the new Arctic pattern. The 2012 Arctic Report Card was prepared by an international team of scientists from 14 different countries and issued today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. "This report, by a team of 121 scientists from around the globe, concludes that the Arctic region continues to warm, with less sea ice and greater green vegetation," said Monica Medina, NOAA principal deputy under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. "With a greener and warmer Arctic, more development is likely," Medina said. "Reports like this one help us to prepare for increasing demands on Arctic resources so that better decisions can be made about how to manage and protect these more valuable and increasingly available resources." The Report Card tracks the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land, and Greenland. This year, new sections were added, including greenhouse gases, ozone and ultraviolet radiation, ocean acidification, Arctic Ocean primary productivity, and lake ice.
Posted 2 December 2011; 3:57:41 PM. Permalink
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 30 November 2011) -- The coming decades will thaw a growing expanse of permafrost in Alaska and across the Arctic. What will that mean? Any Alaskan who’s spent time in trekking over summer tundra knows part of the answer -- a ripe-smelling slurry of boot-sucking muck will deepen and liquefy. It will smell rotten in the summer sun, and for good reason. The sudden decay of organic matter deposited over centuries has the potential to dribble vast quantities of carbon dioxide and the super greenhouse gas methane into the air, boosting climate change and contributing to warmer temperatures throughout the region. But no one has ever been sure how much of the region’s stored carbon will be spewed as this process unfolds. Now, 41 permafrost specialists have taken a new stab at adding up the potential of this pending Arctic belch, and it’s much worse than anyone thought. The thawing of permafrost over the century will dump up to five times more carbon into the air than some previous estimates -- warming the Arctic by at least 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to a survey of international scientists working together as the Permafrost Carbon Network. Under the worst-case scenario, the scientists predicted that the Arctic region could heat up even faster, with increases in the average annual temperature of 4.5 degrees by 2040 and 13.5 degrees by 2100.
Posted 30 November 2011; 11:31:20 AM. Permalink
(Bob Weber/Globe and Mail, 23 November 2011) -- Research published in a top scientific journal says Arctic sea ice has declined more in the last half-century than it has any time over the last 1,450 years. The study, which gives the most detailed picture ever of the northern oceans over the previous millennium-and-a-half, also concludes the current decline has already lasted longer than any previous one in that period. “When we look at our reconstruction, we can see that the decline that has occurred in the last 50 years or so seems to be unprecedented for the last 1,450 years,” Christian Zdanowicz of the Geological Survey of Canada said Wednesday. “It's difficult not to come up with the conclusion that greenhouse gases must have something to do with this,” added Mr. Zdanowicz, one of the co-authors of the report in Nature. “We cannot account for this decline by processes that are ‘natural.’” Climate change is thought to be occurring faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth and sea ice is considered one of the main indicators. The ice is crucial in northern ecosystems because it provides habitat for everything from plankton to polar bears. Its gradual disappearance is also opening previously inaccessible areas to the possibility of resource development, as well as to commercial shipping. Mr. Zdanowicz and his team combined 69 different data sources to determine the extent of sea ice for every decade going back about 1,000 years and every 25 years beyond that.
Posted 23 November 2011; 11:27:54 PM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden, 15 November 2011) -- The small Lappland town of Arjeplog which takes in millions of dollars every winter from major car companies keen to test out their new vehicles in extreme conditions, is currently losing thousands of dollars every day because of the mild November. 3,000 engineers from companies such as BMW and Volkswagen come to Arjeplog between November and April as well as tourists from Russia and Germany, keen to test their private vehicles. The town's 3,000 inhabitants benefit from full hotel rooms and bed and breakfasts establishments, but the news agency TT reports that a lack of snow and ice this month has meant several companies have postponed testing.
Posted 16 November 2011; 10:10:36 PM. Permalink
(Jill Burke/Alaska Dispatch via Eye on the Arctic, 14 November 2011) -- The jet stream feeding the wintery sea-spun tempest that sideswiped Alaska's western coast wasn't the only worldwide conveyer belt in motion this week. As howling winds whipped up and crashing waves pounded beaches, the people who live in the remote, isolated villages along the storm's path stayed connected via a web of global radio frequencies. When other communications failed, ham radio operators came to the rescue. Throughout the storm, they were the eyes for scientists in Fairbanks and Anchorage who otherwise would have been blind to weather conditions they could predict but not see. "They were providing critical observations. We don't have a lot of meteorological observations in the west. We don't have the instruments out there," Carven Scott, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said Thursday as messages sent via the amateur radio network zapped into his inbox. The messages were deceptively simple: how fast the wind was blowing and from what direction; sea level; wave height; whether it was snowing or raining; and the temperature. These seemingly small details from various villages made a big difference for the weather service -- enough so, Scott said, that a lead forecaster told him, "Whatever you do, don't cut it off because this stuff is really helping us."
Posted 14 November 2011; 1:55:26 PM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden, 13 November 2011) -- Strong winds and precipitation are expected in the northern mountains of Sweden during Sunday. And the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI) has gale force wind warnings out from the southern Bothnian sea north to the Gulf of Bothnia for Sunday evening. SMHI is warning for strong or very strong winds and rain or snow from the middle of the country all the way to northern Lapland. Winds are expected to reach 54 to 72 kilometers per hour. The SMHI warning for the northern mountains and sea are class 1, the lowest level on a three grade scale system. Class 1 means the weather can produce certain risks for the public and cause delays in civic functions.
Posted 13 November 2011; 11:38:05 AM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters via Chicago Tribune, 11 November 2011) -- Anchorage, AK - The worst was over on Thursday for an "epic" winter storm that pounded Alaska's west coast with wind and snow and left one man missing after a 10-foot surge of seawater into Nome, officials said. The storm, considered the strongest to hit western Alaska in several decades, has largely moved northwest toward the Russian Arctic, said Don Moore, a National Weather Service meteorologist. A second, smaller Bering Sea storm is now brewing, and will send additional surges into the coastal towns and villages during high tide later in the day, said Moore, who has been working at the state's emergency operations center. The surges will not be as dramatic as those from the first storm but could cause more flooding, he said. "If the water levels were not elevated from the storm that had just passed, this other storm would not be a major issue," he said. "Once this passes off, this is when we'll see conditions start returning to normal." One person was missing in the storm. Authorities in Teller, a small community north of Nome, were searching Thursday for 26-year-old Kyle Komok, said the Alaska State Troopers. Komok was last seen Wednesday evening driving a four-wheel vehicle toward a small local jetty, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said. At the time, waves eight to 10 feet high were hitting the local seawall, Peters said.
Posted 11 November 2011; 2:24:00 PM. Permalink
(Anchorage Daily News, 10 November 2011) -- A giant Bering Sea storm with hurricane-force winds roared up the Western Alaska coastline Wednesday, sending waves over storm barriers, knocking out electricity, flooding parts of some villages and leading to evacuations. But as of late Wednesday, officials had heard no reports of injuries nor massive damage.
Posted 10 November 2011; 10:07:04 AM. Permalink
(Nick Collins/Telegraph, 8 November 2011) -- Prof Peter Wadhams, of Cambridge University, said the ice that forms over the Arctic sea is shrinking so rapidly that it could vanish altogether in as little as four years' time. Although it would reappear again every winter, its absence during the peak of summer would rob polar bears of their summer hunting ground and threaten them with extinction. The mass of ice between northern Russia, Canada and Greenland waxes and wanes with the seasons, currently reaching a minimum size of about four million square kilometres. Most models, including the latest estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), track the decline in the area covered by ice in recent years to predict the rate at which it will deteriorate. But citing research compiled by Dr Wieslaw Maslowski, a researcher from the American Naval Postgraduate School, last year Prof Wadhams said such predictions failed to spot how quickly climate change is causing the ice to thin. While the IPCC suggests the ice will remain in place until the 2030s, Dr Maslowski's study also takes into account the rate at which it is thinning and calculates that it will vanish much more quickly. Dr Maslowski's model, along with his claim that the Arctic sea ice is in a "death spiral", were controversial but Prof Wadhams, a leading authority on the polar regions, said the calculations had him "pretty much persuaded." Prof Wadhams said: "His [model] is the most extreme but he is also the best modeller around. "It is really showing the fall-off in ice volume is so fast that it is going to bring us to zero very quickly. 2015 is a very serious prediction and I think I am pretty much persuaded that that's when it will happen."
Posted 9 November 2011; 11:49:51 AM. Permalink
(Kyle Hopkins, Casey Grove and Mike Dunham/Anchorage Daily News, 8 November 2011) -- Villages and towns across Alaska's western and northwest coasts braced Tuesday for a winter megastorm that the National Weather Service says could be among the worst on record. Forecasters warned of life-threatening surf, wind and snow clobbering villages along the Bering and Chukchi sea coasts Tuesday night and today. Some villagers moved to higher ground. Officials in Nome evacuated half of the city's Front Street, the famous finish line of the Iditarod Trail. "These things get named hurricanes down south and get a category. It's that magnitude," said Jeff Osiensky, regional warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The storm was expected to hit across hundreds of miles of coastline, with the worst expected from the Yukon River Delta all the way north to the Arctic Coast. The wind was forecast to reach 50 to 75 mph for much of the coast, with gusts of 90 to 100 mph in some areas, according to the Weather Service. A lack of protective, shore-fast sea ice worsened the high-water danger compared to a similarly powerful storm in 1974, forecasters said. Severe shoreline erosion was forecast, as was a storm surge of up to 9 feet that was expected to cause coastal flooding.
Posted 9 November 2011; 12:11:11 AM. Permalink
(IceNews, 7 November 2011) -- Remarkable scenes in eastern Iceland yesterday as a gust of wind so strong that it blew an entire shipping container off the dock and out to sea, was caught on film. A 40-foot freezer container is a common sight on the quays of coastal towns all around Iceland. The metal boxes are the size of small buildings — and just as hard to move without heavy machinery. But yesterday morning in the tiny East Fjords village of Stodvafjordur (on the shore of the fjord with the same name), the wind managed the seemingly impossible. Local resident Bjorgvin Valur Gudmundsson got the whole thing on a video which he quickly uploaded to the internet. It can be watched here. The viewer sees an undeniably blustery day, before a gust visibly comes in, almost looking like a sandstorm or a tidal wave. All the boats in the harbour move in unison, and so does their pontoon. And the unlucky shipping container does not stand a chance. The Coastguard was called upon for help and the brand new cruiser, Thor, was sent to the scene. By lucky coincidence, Thor was located in neighbouring Faskrudsfjordur following Saturday’s rescue of the rudderless freighter, Alma. It now appears that Thor’s first proper search and rescue mission in Iceland will be less dramatic and glamorous than perhaps some had imagined: to save a 40-foot shipping container. That is not yet certain, however; because no decision had been made at the time of writing as to whether or not the container would be brought aboard. In other news related to Saturday’s rescue, divers in Faskrudsfjordur yesterday discovered that Alma has completely lost her rudder, in its entirety. Details are expected early this week as to whether Alma will be repaired; where; when and how long it might take.
Posted 8 November 2011; 1:08:11 AM. Permalink
(FishUpdate, 4 November 2011) -- An early sign of wintry conditions has appeared on some of the Icelandic fishing grounds which may not bode well for supplies in the next few weeks. At the moment fewer than 100 of Iceland's vessels are at sea because of the weather. The trawler company HB Grandi has said it has suspended fishing for capelin – the season is currently in full swing – over the past several days because of some very difficult weather and plenty of sea ice in the Denmark Strait. ... So far supplies of cod and haddock to the Humber have not been affected and Grimsby has had some good supplies in recent days. But bad weather has a habit of blowing itself from the Denmark Strait towards the cod and haddock fishing grounds.
Posted 8 November 2011; 1:00:55 AM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden, 6 November 2011) -- Winter is late, even in the Swedish Arctic. The far northern city of Kiruna usually meets winter on the 10th of October, and the northern coastal city of Umeå usually has winter weather by the 4th of November. But instead of winter, fresh wild strawberries are still growing. Alexandra Ohlsson at the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI) says to news agency TT that winter will probably be at least another week away. As well as ripening strawberries, the mild temperatures in the northern part of Sweden are also good for pests like mosquitoes and ticks. Winter is officially defined as an average temperature of below zero for five days in a row. It usually reaches Stockholm by the 1st of December, Gothenburg by the 29th, and Malmö by the 7th of January.
Posted 8 November 2011; 12:35:57 AM. Permalink
(Carol Berry/Indian Country, 25 October 2011) -- An Inuk woman practicing a traditional craft finds the sealskin she’s working with doesn’t have the nice fur of times past and it has rotten patches that tear easily. Her husband finds that hunting seals is more difficult than in the past because the formerly stable edge of an ice-floe has broken off and fewer seals are there. He carries a gun as protection against increasing numbers of polar bears. They are among Native people in the circumpolar North who experience climate change in their everyday lives and for whom conventional science, despite its ability to describe the change, sometimes has been unhelpful. One Inuk hunter accuses wildlife biologists of “meddling [that] is causing problems” by putting radio collars on bears so they “can’t hunt properly” or using helicopters that destroy animals’ hearing. Carcasses of over-drugged bears have been found, he says, and wildlife policies “make our lives difficult” even though “we know our wildlife intimately.” His and others’ experiences are told in Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, the last film in the Eighth Annual Indigenous Film & Arts Festival, presented Oct. 12-16 by the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management (IIIRM), Denver. The festival’s theme was “Adaptation: Finding Balance in a Changing World.” Mervyn Tano, IIIRM president, said both ground-level science and science policy are needed to “cut through some of the conventional wisdom” to discern, for example, what the role should be of wildlife biologists crafting wildlife regulations. Government inflexibility in wildlife rules is difficult to change, one scientist found after doing research in the remote northwest interior of Alaska. Shannon McNeeley, with the Integrated Science Program, National Center for Atmospheric Research, conducted a post-film panel with Tano and talked about changes in moose behavior patterns with climate change. ... That change is indeed occurring is documented by the film’s co-director, Zacharias Kunuk, who interviewed elders on Baffin Island, located in the eastern part of Nunavut in the Canadian polar North. Environmental change “is dangerous to people worldwide—it affects both Inuit and Southerners,” said Mary Simon, Inuk, Canada’s first Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs. “These big money-makers in the world are all contributors to climate change.”
Posted 1 November 2011; 10:05:13 AM. Permalink
(NOAA Climate Services via RedOrbit,20 October 2011) -- This past spring, scientists observed the largest, most severe ozone destruction ever witnessed in the Arctic since records began in 1978. In part, it’s because CFCs stick around in the atmosphere for a very long time. But the maps above reveal the main reason this winter’s Arctic ozone loss was so much worse than it normally is: unusually persistent cold temperatures. From January through March 2011, monthly average temperatures in the Arctic stratosphere were colder than usual. Places where temperatures were up to 9 degrees Celsius warmer than the long-term average (1979-2009) are red, while places where temperatures were up to 16 degrees cooler than average are blue. Colder-than-usual temperatures dominated the stratosphere all three months, especially in March. What does the cold have to do with the ozone hole? Extreme cold allows clouds to form in the stratosphere, even though the air there is extremely dry. The clouds make rare chemical reactions possible. Normally, when CFCs break down, the chlorine they release gets incorporated into very stable molecules that don’t react with ozone. But on the surface of particles in these unusual ice clouds, the stable molecules are converted into forms of chlorine that are much more reactive. In general, the colder the stratosphere is over the winter, the more of the reactive, ozone-destroying chemicals that build up. The return of the Sun to the polar regions in the spring triggers the ozone-destroying reactions. However, once the temperatures begin to warm up, fewer stratospheric clouds form, and the creation of ozone-destroying forms of chlorine slows. The ozone loss bottoms out for the season, and the ozone layer gradually regenerates over the summer. (Ozone naturally forms when oxygen is exposed to ultraviolet light.)
Posted 21 October 2011; 1:07:38 PM. Permalink
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center press release via Science Daily, 6 October 2011) -- Last month the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean declined to the second-lowest extent on record. Satellite data from NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado in Boulder showed that the summertime sea ice cover narrowly avoided a new record low. The Arctic ice cap grows each winter as the sun sets for several months and shrinks each summer as the sun rises higher in the northern sky. Each year the Arctic sea ice reaches its annual minimum extent in September. It hit a record low in 2007. The near-record ice-melt followed higher-than-average summer temperatures, but without the unusual weather conditions that contributed to the extreme melt of 2007. "Atmospheric and oceanic conditions were not as conducive to ice loss this year, but the melt still neared 2007 levels," said NSIDC scientist Walt Meier. "This probably reflects loss of multiyear ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as well as other factors that are making the ice more vulnerable." ... While the sea ice extent did not dip below the 2007 record, the sea ice area as measured by the microwave radiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite did drop slightly lower than 2007 levels for about 10 days in early September, Comiso said. Sea ice "area" differs from extent in that it equals the actual surface area covered by ice, while extent includes any area where ice covers at least 15 percent of the ocean.
Posted 6 October 2011; 3:24:11 PM. Permalink
(John Vidal/The Guardian, 11 September 2011) -- Arctic sea ice has melted to a level not recorded since satellite observations started in 1972 – and almost certainly not experienced for at least 8,000 years, say polar scientists. Daily satellite sea-ice maps released by Bremen university physicists show that with a week's more melt expected this year, the floating ice in the Arctic covered an area of 4.24 million square kilometres on 8 September. The previous one-day minimum was 4.27m sq km on 17 September 2007. The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, which also tracks the extent of sea ice, has not posted data for a week but is expected to announce similar results in the next few days. The German researchers said the record melt was undoubtedly because of human-induced global warming. "The sea-ice retreat can no more be explained with the natural variability from one year to the next, caused by weather influence," said Georg Heygster, head of the Institute of Environmental Physics at Bremen.
Posted 27 September 2011; 2:57:06 PM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters, 14 September 2011) -- ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Sea-ice coverage across the Arctic Ocean has dwindled to its second-lowest level since satellite records started in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Areas of the Arctic with at least 15 percent sea-ice as of Saturday totaled 1.68 million square miles, slightly above the record-low of 1.61 million square miles recorded in 2007, the center said. Yet to be determined is whether the reported sea-ice cover will be the lowest for the year. Annual minimums are usually reached around mid-September. "We're getting close, but there's still the potential for further loss of ice," said Walt Meier, a research scientist at the Boulder, Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center. Ice coverage could diminish either through more melt or from winds or both, Meier said. However, some areas, including those near the North Pole, were showing signs of ice growth, he said. "Probably there's a little bit of both going on - there's melting and refreezing," he said. At least one other institution has reported that this year's Arctic ice coverage was the lowest on record. A report issued last week by the University of Bremen in Germany said sea-ice coverage on September 8 fell below the 2007 minimum. The University of Bremen researchers use finer-resolution measurements that can better distinguish smaller areas of ice and open water, Meier said. But that university's methodology also has some drawbacks, he said.
Posted 16 September 2011; 1:51:53 PM. Permalink
(Richard Black/BBC News, 25 August 2011) -- Two major Arctic shipping routes have opened as summer sea ice melts, European satellites have found. Data recorded by the European Space Agency's (Esa) Envisat shows both Canada's Northwest Passage and Russia's Northern Sea Route open simultaneously. This summer's melt could break the 2007 record for the smallest area of sea ice since the satellite era began in 1979. Shipping companies are already eyeing the benefits these routes may bring if they remain open regularly. The two lanes have been used by a number of small craft several times in recent years. But the Northern Sea Route has been free enough of ice this month for a succession of tankers carrying natural gas condensate from the northern port of Murmansk to sail along the Siberian coast en route for Thailand. "They're often open at the same time in the sense that with some ingenuity you can get through them," observed Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice expert from the University of Cambridge. "But this time they've really been open, with a proper Suez-size tanker going through the Northern Sea Route with a full cargo - that's a real step forward," he told BBC News. A number of major shipping companies are looking to the opening of these routes to shorten journey times and make their businesses more efficient. But environmental groups are concerned that the progressive ice loss will lead to increased exploration for oil and gas. This, they argue, presents major safety hazards in the often inclement Arctic, as well as strengthening the world's reliance on fossil fuels and so ensuring the progression of man-made global warming - and the disintegration of summer sea ice cover.
Posted 26 August 2011; 2:41:06 PM. Permalink
(John Vidal/The Guardian, 11 July 2011) -- Sea ice in the Arctic is melting at a record pace this year, suggesting warming at the north pole is speeding up and a largely ice-free Arctic can be expected in summer months within 30 years. The area of the Arctic ocean at least 15% covered in ice is this week about 8.5m sq kilometres – lower than the previous record low set in 2007 – according to satellite monitoring by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. In addition, new data from the University of Washington Polar Science Centre, shows that the thickness of Arctic ice this year is also the lowest on record. In the past 10 days, the Arctic ocean has been losing as much as 150,000 square kilometres of sea a day, said Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC. "The extent [of the ice cover] is going down, but it is also thinning. So a weather pattern that formerly would melt some ice, now gets rid of much more. There will be ups and downs, but we are on track to see an ice-free summer by 2030. It is an overall downward spiral." Global warming has been melting Arctic sea ice for the past 30 years at a rate of about 3% per decade on average. But the two new data sets suggest that, if current trends continue, a largely ice-free Arctic in summer months is likely within 30 years. That is up to 40 years earlier than was anticipated in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report.
Posted 13 July 2011; 11:08:26 AM. Permalink
(Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage via APRN, 6 May 2011) -- The United Nations Environment Project is looking at a report that suggests a short-term fix for climate warming – controlling black carbon and ozone. The report say that unlike controlling carbon dioxide, which appears to be politically difficult and would take years to make a difference, dealing with black carbon would have an immediate effect on climate warming.
(AP via Washington Post, 5 April 2011) -- STOCKHOLM - The ice of Greenland and the rest of the Arctic is melting faster than expected and could help raise global sea levels by as much as 5 feet this century, dramatically higher than earlier projections, an authoritative international assessment says. The findings “emphasize the need for greater urgency” in combating global warming, says the report of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), the scientific arm of the eight-nation Arctic Council. The warning of much higher seas comes as the world’s nations remain bogged down in their two-decade-long talks on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. ... The new report, whose executive summary was obtained by The Associated Press, is to be delivered to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and foreign ministers of the other seven member nations at an Arctic Council meeting next week in Greenland. It first will be discussed by some 400 international scientists at a conference this week in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Posted 5 May 2011; 11:54:35 AM. Permalink
(Associated Press, 4 May 2011) -- COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Scientists at a major conference on Arctic warming were told Wednesday to use plain language to explain the dramatic melt in the region to a world reluctant to take action against climate change. An authoritative report released at the meeting of nearly 400 scientists in Copenhagen showed melting ice in the Arctic could help raise global sea levels by as much as 5 feet this century, much higher than earlier projections. James White, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, told fellow researchers to use simple words and focus on the big picture when describing their research to a wider audience. Focusing too much on details could blur the basic science, he said: “If you put more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it will get warmer.” Prominent U.S. climate scientist Robert Corell said researchers must try to reach out to all parts of society to spread awareness of the global implications of the Arctic melt. “Stop speaking in code. Rather than ‘anthropogenic,’ you could say ‘human caused,’” Corell said. The Arctic has been warming twice as fast as the global average in recent decades, and the latest five-year period is the warmest since measurements began in the 19th century, according to the report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program — a scientific body set up by the eight Arctic rim countries. The report emphasized “the need for greater urgency” in combating global warming. But nations remain bogged down in their two-decade-long talks on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. The World Bank’s special envoy for climate change, Andrew Steer, said the new findings “are a cause for great concern.” The sea rise will affect millions in both rich and poor countries, but would particularly affect the poor, he said, because “they tend to live in the lowest lying land and have the fewest resources to adapt.”
Posted 5 May 2011; 12:38:52 AM. Permalink
(AFP via Vancouver Sun, 1 May 2011) -- Iceland saw its first May snowfall for almost a decade over the weekend, with more than 16 centimetres falling on the capital Reykjavik, meteorologists said Sunday. "We recorded 16.4 centimetres of snow in the Reykjavik area and the small town of Hvalfjoerdur (a few kilometres north of the capital) received 18 centimetres," Thorsteinn Jonsson from the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. "It's the first time since 1993 that it has snowed in May (in Reykjavik)," he said, adding that it was the second most significant May snowfall since 1987, when 18 centimetres fell on the capital. "We did not see it coming and we were as surprised as everyone else in Reykjavik," he added. The snow fell from Saturday evening through Sunday morning on Iceland's west coast, where "an air mass... brought temperatures below zero and turned the rain into snow," said Mr Jonsson, who said the spell looked to be over. "This afternoon and this evening it will return to rain, and perhaps we'll wake up to summer tomorrow with some sun," he added.
Posted 1 May 2011; 9:27:14 PM. Permalink
(BigPond News, 17 April 2011) -- Arctic coastlines are crumbling away and retreating at the rate of two metres or more a year due to the effects of climate change, a report says. In some locations, up to 30 metres of the shore has been vanishing every year. The rapid rate of coastal erosion poses a major threat to local communities and ecosystems, according to a new report by more than 30 scientists from ten countries. Two-thirds of Arctic coasts consist of frozen soil, or permafrost, rather than rock, and are highly sensitive to erosion by wind and waves. Rising temperatures are melting protective sea ice fringing the coastlines and leaving them more exposed to the elements, say the experts. The report, State of the Arctic Coast 2010, says ten-year average rates of coastal retreat are 'typically in the one to two metres per year range, but vary up to 10 to 30 metres per year in some locations'. Worst-hit areas include the Beaufort Sea, the East Siberian Sea and the Laptev Sea.
Posted 17 April 2011; 12:26:10 AM. Permalink
(Red Orbit, 6 April 2011) -- Oceanographers are monitoring a vast expanse of fresh water in the Arctic Ocean that could spill into the Atlantic, something that could result in unpredictable changes in the ocean currents that give Western Europe its moderate climate. The scientists said Tuesday that the unusual accumulation of fresh water resulted from the Siberian and Canadian rivers dumping more water into the Arctic, and from melting sea ice. "The volume of water discharged into the Arctic Ocean, largely from Canadian and Siberian rivers, is higher than usual due to warmer temperatures in the north causing ice to melt,” Laura De Steur of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research said in a statement. “Sea ice is also melting quickly – another new record low for ocean area covered was recently documented by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, adding even more freshwater to the relatively calm Arctic Ocean.” If it should spill into the Atlantic Ocean, the addition of so much fresh water could alter the ocean current that brings warmth from the tropics to European shores, she added. The Arctic Ocean’s fresh water content has risen 20 percent since the 1990s, or about 8,400 cubic kilometers -- the volume of all the water in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron combined, said German researcher Benjamin Rabe of the Alfred Wegener Institute. Increased runoff from the great northern rivers "could potentially impact the large scale ocean circulation in the Atlantic Ocean,” said De Steur. “This is important for us in Western Europe because our climate is pretty much dictated by the thermohaline ocean circulation," she said, referring to the system of deep ocean and wind-driven currents, such as the Gulf Stream, which carries warmth from the tropics.
Posted 6 April 2011; 3:25:32 PM. Permalink
(CNN, 6 April 2011) -- The depletion of the ozone layer over the Arctic region "has reached an unprecedented level," a loss of 40% from the beginning of the winter to late March, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday. The World Meteorological Organization blames the "record loss" on the "continuing presence of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere" and a "very cold winter in the stratosphere." The ozone layer is the "shield that protects life on Earth from harmful levels of ultraviolet rays," the organization said. "Even though this Arctic winter was warmer than average at ground level, it was colder in the stratosphere than for a normal Arctic winter," the agency said. "Although the degree of Arctic ozone destruction in 2011 is unprecedented, it is not unexpected. Ozone scientists have foreseen that significant Arctic ozone loss is possible in the case of a cold and stable Arctic stratospheric winter." The highest ozone losses previously recorded were about 30% over several winter seasons in the last two decades.
Posted 6 April 2011; 2:57:02 PM. Permalink
(Andrew C. Revkin/Dot Earth, New York Times, 10 March 2011) -- The Navy, which has long seen security issues intensifying in a warming world, commissioned a study by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to provide an independent assessment, and the results, focused on six areas for “naval leadership action,” are in. ... "In response to the measured and projected effects of climate change, U.S. naval forces should begin now to strengthen capabilities in the Arctic, prepare for more frequent humanitarian missions, and analyze potential vulnerabilities of seaside bases and facilities, says a new report by the National Research Council. Although the ultimate consequences of future climate change remain uncertain, many effects such as melting sea ice in the Arctic and rising sea levels are already under way and require U.S. naval monitoring and action."
Posted 31 March 2011; 3:16:35 PM. Permalink
(Iceland Review, 15 March 2011) -- The weather was stormy across Iceland yesterday, making roads impassible and causing blackouts in the Dalabyggd region in west Iceland and in the West Fjords. The weather forecast today is not much better; south and southwesterly winds of 15-23 meters per second. The stormiest weather is predicted for the far east and northwest. According to ruv.is, domestic flight schedules were disrupted this morning and the weather isn’t expected to calm until the evening. A fiber optic cable run by the telecom company Míla was cut between Vík and Kirkjubaejarklaustur in south Iceland yesterday, causing disturbances to telecom service and television and radio broadcasts, Morgunbladid reports. A truck blew over and landed on its side on the bridge across Borgarfjördur fjord by Borgarnes, west Iceland, yesterday morning. The driver was unharmed but the truck couldn’t be removed from the bridge until the storm calmed. Cranes had arrived to remove the truck when the newspaper hit the printers last night. ... Members of the search and rescue teams Húnar, Heidar, Strönd, Blanda, Brák and Ok worked well into the night to assist commuters in driving down from the mountain pass and seeking shelter in the district boarding school Reykjaskóli.
Posted 16 March 2011; 10:13:09 PM. Permalink
(YLE, 2 March 2011) -- Dangerously strong winds have partly closed ski resorts in northern Finland, much to the disappointment of holidaymakers. On Thursday 29 slopes out of 45 in the popular ski resort of Levi, in Kittilä, were closed. The unusually strong winds – over 30 m/s in places - could not come at a more inconvenient time for Lapland’s ski resorts. At peak holiday season most of the slopes at Levi were closed for a whole day on Thursday as it was not safe to operate all of the resort's gondola lifts. At Pyhä half of all lifts were not operating on Thursday. "Wind is rarely so strong that it swings our gondola lifts like today," says Tarja Nikkinen, Head of Marketing at Levi Ski Resort. Holidaymakers can only rue their bad luck as ski resorts do not refund unused lift passes due to weather conditions. The Meteorological Institute says conditions for skiing are expected to improve by Saturday as the winds ease off.
Posted 3 March 2011; 10:04:43 PM. Permalink
(YLE, 14 February 2011) -- This winter's coldest temperature of -37.9 degrees Celsius was recorded on Monday morning at Kevojärvi in Utsjoki, Lapland. Elsewhere in the far north, it was -37.5 degrees in Toholammi and -37.2 in Inari. The official reading on Monday at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport was -23.4 degrees Celsius, and temperatures fell to -32 in Kuopio in Savo, -31.7 in Jyväskylä, in Central Finland. This winter's previous low in Finland was recorded on January 15th at Kevojärvi when the thermometer showed -37 degrees. Temperatures of -35.5 and -34.5 have also been recorded in other parts of Lapland. The all-time low in Finland, according to measurements by the Meteorological Institute, was recorded on January 28, 1999 at Kittilä in Finnish Lapland when the mercury fell to -51.5 degrees.
Posted 14 February 2011; 4:35:42 PM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden, 15 January 2011) -- Heavy snow and extremely icy conditions are forecasted for parts of the north and west of Sweden during Saturday night. The national meteorological office (SMHI) has issued a series of warnings - including up to 25 centimeters of snow and snow drifts in northern inland areas from Darlarna up to the Lappland mountains. Heavy frost and ice has led to several traffic accidents around the country and travellers are advised to watch out for slippery road conditions in the west and part of the south, inluding Halland county. Meanwhile parts of Skåne, also in the south, are at risk of serious flooding from melting snow.
Posted 16 January 2011; 1:57:06 AM. Permalink
(Times of India, 8 January 2011) -- VLADIVOSTOK - Air temperatures of minus 61.2 degrees Celsius were reported last night in the settlement of Oimyakon in Russia's republic of Yakutia, known as the cold pole. Daytime temperatures here rose to minus 53.9 degree Celsius. An intense spell of cold weather will stay in Oimyakon with a population of 500 for several days more, according to weather forecasts. Heavy frosts were reported in neighbouring settlements as well. Air temperatures in the settlement of Ust-Nera, the Oimyakov district administrative centre, were minus 54.7 degrees Celsius. Ust-Nera's population is 8,500 people. The city of Yakutsk is "lucky" to have much "warmer" air temperatures of 35.7 degrees below zero. The record low air temperatures of minus 67.7 degrees Celsius were registered in Oimyakon in 1933. In the 21st century, the lowest temperature was 64.5 degrees below zero. It was registered in 2002.
Posted 14 January 2011; 3:03:35 AM. Permalink
(YLE, 5 January 2010) -- The exceptionally cold winter has made predicting weather a challenging undertaking. The margin of error for forecasts during the winter freeze can be up to ten degrees Celsius, says the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Unusually cold weather also made forecasting tricky last winter, according to meteorologist Hannu Valta of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Overcast skies quickly raise temperatures, and weather can vary greatly on a local basis. The newspaper Keskisuomalainen mentions that the institute’s forecast for the town of Äänekoski in central Finland was off by ten degrees Celsius – the forecast promised colder weather than what was actually experienced. Hannu Valta says such fluctuation is possible. Valta, however, recommends trusting forecasts made by meteorologists in spite of zigzagging temperatures. ”They are better than pure guesses,” he says. Soon, the meteorologists will get a respite from dealing with freezing cold weather. According to the institute, a weather front moving into Finland will warm temperatures by the end of the week to almost zero degrees Celsius. At least in southern Finland, the mercury may even creep to the melting point.
Posted 5 January 2011; 11:12:53 AM. Permalink
(Steve Connor/Herald, 24 December 2010) -- We may have to get used to the extreme weather after scientists established a link between cold snaps here and melting sea ice in the Arctic. They are now warning that long periods of freezing weather are likely to become more frequent. An analysis of the ice-free regions of the Arctic Ocean has found that the higher temperatures there caused by global warming, which have melted the sea ice in the summer months, have paradoxically increased the chances of colder winters in northern Europe. The findings are being assessed by climate scientists, who have been asked for advice on whether the past two cold winters are part of a wider pattern. Some believe the dramatic retreat of the Arctic sea ice over the past 30 years has begun to change the wind patterns over much of the northern hemisphere, causing cold, Arctic air to be funnelled over Ireland during winter. The study was carried out in 2009, before this year's harsh winter started to bite, and is all the more prescient because of its prediction that cold, snowy winters will be about three times more frequent. The researchers used computer models to assess the impact of the disappearing Arctic sea ice, particularly in the area of the Barents and Kara Seas north of Scandinavia and Russia, which have had unprecedented losses of sea ice during summer. Their models found that, as the ice cap over the ocean disappeared, this allowed the heat of the relatively warm seawater to escape into the much colder atmosphere above, creating an area of high pressure surrounded by clockwise-moving winds that sweep down from the polar region over Ireland.
Posted 28 December 2010; 1:17:51 PM. Permalink
(Mia Bennett/The Arctic: The World Affairs Blog Network, 21 December 2010) -- For those of you interested in the Arctic-like conditions making the
collective fingers and toes of Western Europe blue, there is an
interesting blog post on the Wunder Blog.
Some frozen individuals in London and New York decry global warming
when they have to turn up their thermostats in early December, but the
fact is that while Western Europe and the Eastern U.S. are cooling down,
the Arctic is warming up. This is part of the “Hot Arctic - Cold
Continents” pattern. All of the cool air that should be trapped in the
Arctic, helping to keep sea ice frozen, is spilling southward.
Meanwhile, more warm air goes north to replace the cold air flowing out,
resulting in temperatures in Greenland that are 10+ above normal, while
Heathrow is socked in by snow. Such reversals of meteorological
function are caused by alterations in the North Atlantic Oscillation.
When there is a small difference in air pressure between the “Icelandic
Low” and “Azores High,” the north and south poles of the oscillation,
respectively, the Arctic will warm, while the continents will freeze. [Click through to the original post for a graphic that explains what's going on. Wunder Blog also notes that 'the NOAA web page, Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts has a nice summary of the “Hot Arctic-Cold Continents” winter pattern.']
Posted 22 December 2010; 10:01:00 AM. Permalink
(The Local, 17 December 2010) -- Power outages, traffic accidents as well as train and flight delays have left Swedes reeling from Thursday’s snowstorm, which forecasters say isn’t over yet. “Slippery conditions will continue across the country. There is already a lot of snow on the roads,” SMHI’s Elin Torstensson told the TT news agency. She explained that Sweden has experienced more cold days and more snow than is normal for December. “There were a number of days in a row with below-freezing temperatures, so called ice days. And that we have that before Lucia (December 13th) hasn’t happened in more than 100 years,” she said. In Örnsköldsvik in eastern Sweden, 2,300 customers of the Vattenfall power company were without electricity for several hours overnight. As of 7am Friday morning, about 1,000 households remained in the dark. And an additional 1,000 homes lost power in Västerbotten in northern Sweden in the wake of the storm, which dumped a blanket of thick snow on much of the country. However, according to Vattenfall spokesperson Magnus Örvell, the outages were likely caused by the storm’s heavy winds.
Posted 18 December 2010; 11:23:14 AM. Permalink
(Marlowe Hood/Agence France-Presse, 6 December 2010) -- PARIS - Global warming is driving forest fires in northern latitudes to burn more frequently and fiercely, contributing to the threat of runaway climate change, according to a study released Sunday. Increased intensity of fires in Alaska’s vast interior over the last decade has changed the region from a sink to a source of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most responsible for heating up the planet, the study found. On balance, in other words, boreal forests in the northern hemisphere may now soak up less of the heat-trapping gas than they give off. The bulk of the released CO2 comes not from the burning trees, but from what is in the ground. "Most of what fuels a boreal fire is plant litter, moss and organic matter in surface soils," said Merritt Turetsky, a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and lead author of the study. The findings are worrisome, he said, because about half of the world’s soil carbon is trapped in northern permafrost and peatlands. "This is carbon that has accumulated in ecosystems a little bit at a time for thousands of years, but is being released very rapidly." While the study, published in Nature Geoscience, focused on Alaska’s 18.5 million hectares (45 million acres) of forests, its conclusions likely apply to huge expanses of wilderness in Canada, Siberia and northern Europe as well.
Posted 9 December 2010; 1:40:49 AM. Permalink
(Gustaf Klarin/SR Vetenskapsradion via Eye on the Arctic, 29 November 2010) -- It is not principally a warmer climate that is making the tree line creep upwards in many directions in the Swedish mountains. This is shown in a new study from the Torneträsk region in northern Sweden. There are several other factors that affect the spread of trees more than higher temperatures. It is mainly grazing reindeer, insect attacks, and several other factors that affect the spread of the mountainous forest, more than the changed temperature situation. "Tree line can go up, down or stay in the same position even during the same climatic period. That has not being showed before," says Terry Callaghan, director of the Abisko Scientific Research Station. Researchers were able to see that precisely reindeer grazing affects more than the temperature, since the tree line advanced furthest upward during the cold period that started in the late 1960s and continued through the 1970s, it was a time of fewer reindeer. A warmer climate has more of an indirect effect through, for example, there being more insects that can damage trees.
Posted 29 November 2010; 7:02:01 PM. Permalink
(Mary Beth Smetzer/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 28 November 2010) -- FAIRBANKS — For longtime Fairbanksans, it’s no surprise the recent rainy days set some local records for above freezing temperatures. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service did a little research and found that the Fairbanks International Airport recorded above-freezing temperatures from 10 a.m. Nov. 22 through 11 a.m. Nov. 24, a total of 49 hours, setting a record for above-freezing temperatures for the month of November. The warmest official temperature recorded at the airport was a high of 35 degrees on Nov. 23. “For the entire winter season (November through March), this is the second-longest period of above freezing temperatures,” said meteorologist Corey Bogel. The longest period of above freezing temperatures was recorded in December 1934, when weather bureau observations were taken on the Cushman Street Bridge.
Posted 29 November 2010; 6:57:05 PM. Permalink
(University of Delaware press release, 25 October 2010) -- As the ice-capped Arctic Ocean warms, ship traffic will increase at the top of the world. And if the sea ice continues to decline, a new route connecting international trading partners may emerge -- but not without significant repercussions to climate, according to a U.S. and Canadian research team that includes a University of Delaware scientist. Growing Arctic ship traffic will bring with it air pollution that has the potential to accelerate climate change in the world's northern reaches. And it's more than a greenhouse gas problem -- engine exhaust particles could increase warming by some 17-78 percent, the researchers say. James J. Corbett, professor of marine science and policy at UD, is a lead author of the first geospatial approach to evaluating the potential impacts of shipping on Arctic climate. The study, "Arctic Shipping Emissions Inventories and Future Scenarios," is published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Corbett's coauthors include D. A. Luck, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.; James J. Winebrake, of the Rochester Institute of Technology; Susie Harder of Transport Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia; Jordan A. Silberman of GIS Consulting in Unionville, Pa.; and Maya Gold of the Canadian Coast Guard in Ottawa, Ontario. "One of the most potent 'short-lived climate forcers' in diesel emissions is black carbon, or soot," says Corbett, who is on the faculty of UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. "Ships operating in or near the Arctic use advanced diesel engines that release black carbon into one of the most sensitive regions for climate change." Produced by ships from the incomplete burning of marine fuel, these tiny particles of carbon act like 'heaters' because they absorb sunlight -- both directly from the sun, and reflected from the surface of snow and ice. Other particles released by ship engines also rank high among important short-lived climate forcers, and this study estimates their combined global warming impact potential.
Posted 25 October 2010; 1:34:30 PM. Permalink
(YLE, 12 October 2010) -- The town of Kajaani in central Finland has seen a rush of people wanting to change over to winter tyres. Some drivers have been forced to wait until next week to book a time at a garage. The demand for the changeover to winter tyres first began at the end of last week. However the real rush got underway on Monday. Studded tyres remain the first choice for most drivers.
Posted 12 October 2010; 2:36:19 PM. Permalink
(YLE, 10 October 2010) -- The first snowfall of the autumn has covered northern parts of Finnish Lapland in white. In southern parts of the region, the ground could be white with snow by Tuesday morning. According to current forecasts, a cold front should bring snow to southern parts of the country later in the week. On Sunday night, snow could come down in the Kainuu and North Savo regions, after which a cold front could bring a temporary white cover to southernmost parts of the country. “The snow will not stay on the ground in the south, but in Lapland, it will stay at least for some time, and there could even be more snow falling there,” says meteorologist Hannu Valta of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The cooling trend in Finland is caused by a front coming into the area from the Arctic Ocean, which is set to bring temperatures in Finland down through the end of the week. In Finnish Lapland temperatures are expected to rise only slightly above the freezing point, and in parts of the south, daytime temperatures are expected to be in the low single digits in some places. Last year the first snow in Finnish Lapland came already on September 29, which is slightly earlier than usual. This year, the first snow was largely on schedule.
Posted 11 October 2010; 5:59:30 PM. Permalink
(The Local, 10 October 2010) -- Winter’s first snow has fallen in northern Sweden, although the rest of the country will likely remain flake-free for at least the next ten days. The mountains of Lappland and Tornedalen received their first snowfall overnight into Sunday. “It snowed last night and also today,” meteorology agency SMHI’s Lisa Frost told the TT news agency on Sunday. “You could probably say that this is the first now. There has been local snow at higher elevations, but now it’s down at the lower elevations. I’m guessing this snowfall will be measureable.” However, it’s not unusual for areas in northern Sweden to receive snowfall this time of year, according to SMHI. “It’s not that strange. We’ve had temperatures around freezing and that means snow can come,” said Frost. Frost wasn’t sure when residents in the rest of Sweden might expect to see flakes falling outside their windows. “It’s hard to say. Right now we conditions are very marked by high pressure and even if that continues, we won’t have much precipitation, but rather mostly clear skies,” said Frost. According to the latest SMHI forecasts, no snow is expected in the rest of the country in the next ten days. “If there is any precipitation, it will be rain showers. It more in the mountains where snow showers can continue,” said Frost.
Posted 11 October 2010; 5:49:10 PM. Permalink
(Dan Bross/KUAC – Fairbanks via APRN, 5 October 2010) -- Alaska is likely in for colder than average winter. The climate phenomenon known as La Nina, the cool sister of El Nino has set up in the equatorial Pacific, and according to National Weather Service lead forecaster Rick Thoman in Fairbanks, it looks powerful. Thoman says that la Nina tends to keep the jet stream south of Alaska, making it colder here. Thoman and fellow Fairbanks meteorologist Corey Bogel recently went through National Weather Service records, which go accurately back 60 years, and found strong correlation between La Nina events and cooler than normal winters in Alaska. Thoman says the only exception to the cooler than normal La Nina trend is in southern southeast Alaska. Thoman says the state’s coastal areas tend to be drier in La Nina years, but there’s no strong correlation between la Nina and precipitation in the interior. The current la Nina is expected to last through next spring. The La Nina-El Nino cycle can take 3 to 5 years, or rapidly transition from one to the other.
(ENS, 14 September 2010) -- SAN FRANCISCO, California - From foxes to whales to walruses to plankton, Arctic species are being pushed toward extinction by rapid climate change, finds a new report by two conservation groups. In a report released Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity and Care for the Wild International document the situations of 17 Arctic animals trying to survive the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. "The polar bear is the best-known victim of rapid melting in the Arctic, but if we don't slash greenhouse pollution, many more creatures will follow it down the path to extinction," said Shaye Wolf, the Center's climate science director and lead author of the report, "Extinction: It's Not Just for Polar Bears." Most of the 17 imperiled species are mammals - the Arctic fox, polar bear, caribou or reindeer, muskox, and Pacific walrus, as well as four whales - gray, beluga, bowhead and narwhal. Four ice seals are also at risk — the ringed, bearded, harp and ribbon seals. The report names three seabirds in jeopardy — the Kittlitz's murrelet, spectacled eider and ivory gull; and also finds the sea butterfly, a species of plankton, to be at risk of extinction. The minimum extent of Arctic sea is is smaller than ever, satellite data shows. Arctic sea ice generally reaches its annual minimum extent in mid-September. On September 3, ice extent dropped below the seasonal minimum for 2009 to become the third lowest in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. This August, ice extent for the month was the second lowest in the satellite record, after 2007.
Posted 22 September 2010; 4:20:54 PM. Permalink
(Anchorage Daily News, 19 September 2010) -- FAIRBANKS - The projected warming of the planet could give Fairbanks
the same weather as midwest Canada, according to a University of Alaska
Fairbanks professor. Rich Boone, an ecosystem ecologist at the College of Natural Science and Mathematics, used the climate around Saskatoon, Canada, as an example of what might be in store for Alaska's Interior, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Fairbanks faces a roughly 11-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase by 2100 if moderate climate-change models are used, Boone said during a talk Wednesday. If that happens, the Interior no longer will be characterized by permafrost and boreal forests, he said. "That's very realistic," Boone said. "We'd be in a zone that would potentially be prairie." Models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict worldwide temperatures will increase by about 6 degrees Fahrenheit during the next century. Arctic regions have been warming at roughly twice the rate of other parts of the globe, Boone said. Based on indicators that include ice cores, tree rings and other data, Boone said the only other known period of such rapid change was the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago. ADVERTISEMENT Earth's climate has been remarkably stable during the past 1,000 years, he said, allowing humans to develop reliable agriculture and the civilization that accompanies it. Just after the ice age, "We were stone-age people, and there really wasn't a lot to lose," he said. Boone said some climate change forecasts oversimplify the problem as a basic issue of growing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Methane, cloud cover and sunspots also appear to be contributing to warming or cooling, he said. He believes the overall trend is toward a warming planet, and carbon dioxide appears to be the main culprit. "The fact is, the stuff we've pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is going to continue to have a warming effect for thousands of years," Boone said.
Posted 19 September 2010; 6:20:04 PM. Permalink
(Randy Boswell/Postmedia News, 8 September 2010) -- The ongoing disintegration of Arctic sea ice cover is posing a particular hazard for the narwhal — one of Canada's iconic polar species — according to a new U.S. study that details how the slow-moving whale with the spiralled tusk is increasingly threatened by the proliferation of giant ice floes and other changes to the Arctic seascape. The danger is being dramatically highlighted this year by a colossal, 70 kilometre-long "ice island" that broke away from a Greenland glacier and is now drifting toward Baffin Bay — the principal habitat for the world's estimated 80,000 narwhals. The study has calculated that narwhals must surface for air at least every 1.4 km, meaning that whole pods of whales could drown if they swim too far out beneath large ice floes like the 250-sq.-km Petermann Ice Island — the single biggest free-floating mass of ice in Arctic waters since the early 1960s. The U.S. study, published last week in the journal Marine Mammal Science, was co-authored by biologists Terrie Williams and Shawn Noren of the University of California and researcher Mike Glenn from Sea World of San Diego. "Rapid changes in sea ice cover associated with global warming are poised to have marked impacts on polar marine mammals," the U.S. researchers state. They note that several of the narwhal's physical traits — such as muscles built for long journeys rather than rapid swimming speeds — could place the air-breathing creatures at serious risk in their increasingly ice-choked Arctic habitats. "We found that extreme morphological and physiological adaptations enabling year-round Arctic residency by narwhals limit behavioural flexibility for responding to alternations in sea ice," the study states.
Posted 8 September 2010; 11:14:33 PM. Permalink
(Margaret Munro/Canwest News Service, 16 June 2010) -- An electromagnetic "bird" dispatched to the Arctic for the most detailed look yet at the thickness of the ice has turned up a reassuring picture. The meltdown has not been as dire as some would suggest, said geophysicist Christian Haas of the University of Alberta. His international team flew across the top of the planet last year for the 2,412-kilometre survey. They found large expanses of ice four to five metres thick, despite the record retreat in 2007. "This is a nice demonstration that there is still hope for the ice," said Haas. The survey, which demonstrated that the "bird" probe tethered to a plane can measure ice thickness over large areas, uncovered plenty of resilient "old" ice from Norway to the North Pole to Alaska in April 2009. The thickness had "changed little since 2007, and remained within the expected range of natural variability," the team reports in the Geophysical Research Letters. There is already speculation about how the ice will fare this summer, with some scientists predicting a record melt. Haas said he doesn't buy it. He said the ice is in some ways in better shape going into the melt season than it has been for a couple of years. "We have more thick ice going into the summer than we did in 2009 and 2008," he said. Much will depend on the intensity of the winds, and how the ice fractures and is blown around, he said. "But any talk about tipping points, a sudden drop and no recovery . . . I don't think it is going to happen."
Posted 21 June 2010; 9:51:52 PM. Permalink
(Tom Laskawy/Grist, 11 June 2010) — The political (or at least the Senatorial) tides are running strongly against a muscular policy response to climate change. Now a top NOAA scientist tells us that even the winds are blowing in the wrong direction — actual winds, mind you, not political. Via Science Daily: "A warmer Arctic climate is influencing the air pressure at the North Pole and shifting wind patterns on our planet. We can expect more cold and snowy winters in Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America. 'Cold and snowy winters will be the rule, rather than the exception,' says Dr. James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States. Dr. Overland is at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference (IPY-OSC) to chair a session on polar climate feedbacks, amplification and teleconnections, including impacts on mid-latitudes." ... This news represents more than just the irony that extreme warming at the top of the world is resulting in snowier winters in the media and governmental capitals of the developed world. A paper from last year by Patrick Egan and Megan Mullin demonstrated that it's not just our imagination: Public opinion on climate change does indeed move with the weather. For every three degrees of above average heat, there's a 1 percent increase in a "belief" in climate change, especially among so-called "low information" voters. Sadly, the reverse is also true — above-average cold causes support to drop. Climate skeptics will no doubt rejoice — and the rest of us will rue the fact — that any late-fall debate over climate legislation this year will likely involve senators making jokes about dodging snowplows on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Posted 13 June 2010; 3:30:11 PM. Permalink
(Randy Boswell/Canwest News Service via Canada.com, 13 June 2010) -- Arctic Ocean ice cover retreated faster last month than in any previous May since satellite monitoring began more than 30 years ago, the latest sign that the polar region could be headed for another record-setting meltdown by summer’s end. The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center had already warned earlier this spring that low ice volume — the result of repeated losses of thick, multi-year ice over the past decade — meant this past winter’s ice-extent recovery was superficial, due mainly to a fragile fringe of new ice that would be vulnerable to rapid deterioration once warmer temperatures set in. And, driven by unusually hot weather in recent weeks above the Arctic Circle, the polar ice is disappearing at an unprecedented rate, reducing overall ice extent to less than that recorded in May 2007 — the year when a record-setting retreat by mid-September alarmed climatologists and northern governments. The centre reported that across much of the Arctic, temperatures were two to five degrees Celsius above average last month. “In May, Arctic air temperatures remained above average, and sea ice extent declined at a rapid pace,” the Colorado-based centre said in its June 8 report. The centre pegged the retreat at an average of 68,000 square kilometres a day, noting that “this rate of loss is the highest for the month of May during the satellite record.”
Posted 13 June 2010; 1:04:37 PM. Permalink
(The Local, 21 May 2010) -- Sweden's meteorological agency SMHI has issued flood warnings in several areas across northern parts of Sweden as water levels rise with the spring floods. In Jämtland water levels are extremely high and there are fears that Hammerdal hydro-electric power station remains under threat from flooding despite some easing off during the night. "Water levels have dropped back 2.5 centimetre during the night. But we have been building barriers with sand bags around the station during the night and will continue," said Nicolas von Essen at the emergency services. Recent flooding has caused a number of road closures in Västerbotten and Norrbotten in the far north of Sweden with water levels suddenly climbing around half a metre as melting snow filtered down into rivers and tributaries. While the situation in the far north is starting to ease, the worst problems remain in Jämtland and around Hammerdal with several properties reported to be flooded. "We are waiting on a new forecast from SMHI at around 10am and will spend the day photographing all the rivers to check developments," von Essen said. SMHI expects water levels to rise for a couple more days but indicates that the peak has been reached in the far north.
Posted 21 May 2010; 2:43:30 PM. Permalink
(YLE, 18 May 2010) -- Frost damage to railway tracks following the harsh winter continues to slow down rail traffic in Finland. VR says damage to tracks will delay millions of train trips. The problems, which have been going on for weeks, are expected to last until mid-June. Trains across the country are forced to run at lower speeds due to the damaged tracks. Speed reductions are in force on a total of 550 kilometres of track. The problems are most pronounced on the main line between the towns of Kokkola and Oulu. VR says delays as long as 1.5 hours can be expected.
Posted 20 May 2010; 12:21:51 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 11 May 2010) -- Northern Norway should start preparing for a warmer, wilder and wetter climate, researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute say. A new report from the institute concludes that climate changes in the High North are proceeding quicker than previously anticipated and that they will be felt by “everybody in the region”. According to the report, which is part of the NorACIA project, temperatures at Svalbard will in the next 90 years increase 9 degrees, while the northern parts of the Norwegian mainland will see a 2–2,5 degree temperature increase. -Humans, animals and nature will feel the changes, and society planners should consider carefully where to build houses, Ellen Øseth, adviser at Polar Institute, told newspaper Aftenposten. -The only thing we are sure about is that the changes will be felt by everybody, she adds. The warmer water in the Arctic seas will attract new fish stocks to the region. While the cod over the next 100 years might have moved from Norwegian to Russian waters, the mackerel will increasingly like it in the region. Also industrial activities will seek towards the region as the ice contracts, the researchers say. The NorACIA report is based on findings from more than 100 Norwegian and international researchers. It is the last of five reports, which all are part of the Norwegian contribution in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). The Norwegian Polar Institute has had the secretariat for the international project, which has been going on since 2005.
Posted 12 May 2010; 3:10:31 PM. Permalink
Ljunggren/Reuters, 27 April 2010) -- OTTAWA - In what looks to be
another sign the Arctic is heating up quickly, British explorers in
Canada's Far North reported on Tuesday that they had been hit by a
three-minute rain shower over the weekend. The rain fell on the team's ice base off Ellef Rignes island, about 3,900 km (2,420 miles) north of the Canadian capital, Ottawa. "It's definitely a shocker ... the general feeling within the polar community is that rainfall in the high Canadian Arctic in April is a freak event," said Pen Hadow, the team's expedition director. "Scientists would tell us that we can expect increasingly to experience these sorts of outcomes as the climate warms," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from London. The Arctic is heating up three times more quickly than the rest of the Earth. Scientists link the higher temperatures to the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. Tyler Fish, a polar guide at the base, said the rain fell after temperatures had been rising for a couple of days. "I think we were disappointed. Rain isn't something you expect in the Arctic and a lot of us came up here to be away from that kind of weather," he said. "We worry that if it's too warm maybe some of the scientific samples will start to thaw ... or the food will get too warm and spoil," he told Reuters by satellite phone. Hadow said a Canadian scientific camp about 145 km west of the ice base had been hit by rain at the same time. The base off Elles Rignes is supplying a three-member team out on the ice another 1,100 km further north. The trio is studying the impact of increased carbon dioxide absorption by the sea, which could make the water more acidic.
Posted 27 April 2010; 3:28:41 PM. Permalink
(Siku News via IceNews, 25 Aprol 2010) -- The Arctic ice cap recovered slightly over the past winter, despite some of the worst melting on record. The American National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which publishes figures twice yearly on the Arctic sea ice, suggests that the ongoing summer low and winter high ice trends are evidence that global warming continues to worsen. The data released by the NSIDC for the winter period of 2009-2010 revealed that the ice shelf’s maximum extent was 15.25m sq km, recorded on March 31st. This figure was 650,000 sq km below average for March from 1979 to 2000, when winter measurements were taken. This represents a 2.6 percent rate of decline per decade according to the NSIDC. NSIDC stated that there had been a small recovery in the total amount of ice aged at least two years from last season’s record low. But although the ice spread is an improvement on recent years, it remains low when compared to previous decades. “I think it’s the sixth or seventh lowest maximum out of the previous 32 years,” said NSIDC’s research scientist Walt Meier in a report by Siku News. Meier added that this year’s summer data was likely to be similarly low. “I would say [it's going to be] low, perhaps one of the lowest, but not approaching 2007,” claimed Meier, in reference to the year when an area of ice the size of Alaska was lost. “Given the amount of thin ice, we know we’re going to be low, it’s just a matter of how low,” he added.
Posted 25 April 2010; 6:11:49 PM. Permalink
(Bob Weber/CP via Google, 10 April 2010) -- Inuit hunters are helping scientists understand an essential fact of Arctic climate change — the weather's not just getting warmer, it's getting weirder. A new study published in the journal Global Environmental Change has combined the observations of Inuit on the land with cold, hard data to conclude that Arctic weather is getting less predictable all the time. "The character of weather is changing," said lead author Betsy Weatherhead, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Colorado. "The kind of style that it has to it." Weatherhead's research began as an attempt to reconcile differences between what Inuit were saying about their weather and what scientists were recording. Hunters used to be able to count on stable weather, but were increasingly complaining that conditions were swinging wildly from day to day, making their traditional prediction skills less useful and endangering them on the land. And the anomalies weren't showing up in the long-range studies developed by researchers. "I've been hearing these reports from the Inuit probably since the late '90s," Weatherhead said. "My colleagues would give these presentations saying, 'The Inuit are saying this, and I don't see it. The data isn't showing it.'" At a conference, Weatherhead had an idea: "Ah, I think what they're talking about is persistence," she said. Persistence is the tendency of weather to remain stable for a few days at a time. "We know that things pass and there's a natural time spell to it," Weatherhead said. "We know that a cold spell doesn't last half a day, for instance." She decided to examine the weather in two Nunavut communities — Baker Lake and Clyde River — for short-term, day-to-day variability. Inuit told her that the greatest unpredictability was in June's spring weather, so that's where she focused her analysis. She and her fellow researchers combined weather information from detailed, lengthy hunter interviews together with hourly temperature logs dating back more than 40 years. The two information sources backed each other up. Likewise, a statistical analysis showed that in the 1960s, June weather persistence was about 80 per cent of the maximum rating. By the turn of the millennium, persistence had dropped as low as 20 per cent. The weather itself isn't necessarily outside the normal range, but the speed with which it changes is.
Posted 12 April 2010; 11:42:55 AM. Permalink
(RedOrbit, 8 April 2010) -- The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the extent of sea ice over the Arctic Ocean grew until the last day of March, which is the latest the annual melting season has begun in 31 years of satellite records. The center said in a statement on Wednesday that cold weather and winds from the north over the Bering Sea and Barents Sea meant the area of ocean covered by ice expanded through last month. That is two days later than in 1999, the previous latest start to a melting season since satellite monitoring began in 1979. Scientists highlighted declining Arctic sea ice as an indicator of global warming. The NSIDC said the Arctic Ocean could be largely ice-free during the summer by 2030. The group said that although this year's melting season has started late, it probably would not have an impact on the extent of ice in the summer. “The ice that formed late in the season is thin and will melt quickly when temperatures rise,” the NSIDC said. The Boulder, Colorado based center said the peak ice extent of 5.89 million square miles "approached" the average for the years 1979 to 2000. It was about 258,000 square miles over the record low ice peak of 2006. Melting started in March and then reversed during a cold snap, which delayed the annual freeze. The researchers said that Arctic sea ice shrank in September of 2009 to its third-lowest summer minimum on record, remaining "well outside the range of natural variability."
Posted 11 April 2010; 10:55:53 PM. Permalink
(Lynn Neary/WBUR, 2 April 2010) -- About five years ago, the writer Ian McEwan joined a group of artists and scientists on a weeklong trip to the Arctic. The trip was sponsored by a British-based project called Cape Farewell, and the idea was to inspire artists to think about climate change. In fact, the trip was partly responsible for inspiring McEwan's latest novel, Solar. In a BBC documentary, McEwan noted that once you get past the cold, the Arctic landscape is unlike any other, full of "extraordinary formations." It was something far less grand that sparked McEwan's first idea for Solar. Over dinner one night, he told his companions on the expedition that chaos had overtaken the room where all their gear was stowed. In the documentary, McEwan told his companions that the situation seemed to him a perfect metaphor for human frailty: an illustration of how even the best of intentions can go awry when in the hands of human beings. "All it needs is one mistake, and then there's a domino effect of someone saying, 'Well, dammit,' you know, 'I'll take those boots because someone took my boots.' And you actually have a social contract in total collapse. The boot room now is a scene of total lack of cooperation. Environmentalists who care about the planet can't even get their boots together." Before going to the Arctic, McEwan had been interested in the issue of climate change, but he couldn't figure out a way to write a novel that wouldn't sound preachy — until something about the disarray in the ship's boot room gave him an idea. "It seemed to strike a chord with a lot else that I'd understood about climate science, the politics of it and human institutions," McEwan says. "We're very good at making wide and sweeping statements of intent, but once we get down to it, often very little happens. And that, at least, gave me the first suspicion that maybe the route into this was through comedy, a comedy of human nature." See also, Sanjay Sipahimalani, "Book review: An over-heated character," DNAIndia.com, 3 April 2010.
Posted 4 April 2010; 6:56:43 PM. Permalink
(Canwest News Service via The Gazette, 10 March 2010) -- From the balmy Arctic and snowless Western fields to the open water of the St. Lawrence, this winter has been the warmest and driest in Canadian record books, Environment Canada says. Winter 2009/10 was 4C above normal, making it the warmest since nationwide records were first kept in 1948, Environment Canada scientists say. It was also the driest winter on the 63-year record, with precipitation 22% below normal nationally, and down 60% in parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. "It is truly a remarkable situation," David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, told Canwest News yesterday. Records have been shattered from "coast to coast to coast," he said. While much of Asia, Europe and the United States shivered through freak winter storms, Canada was left on the sidelines, Mr. Phillips said.
Posted 10 March 2010; 5:41:58 PM. Permalink
(Andrew Revkin/Dot Earth, New York Times, 5 March 2010) -- One of the great challenges in assessing the meaning of changes in Arctic climate and other environmental conditions is putting today’s observations in long-term context. This is as true for the bubbling emissions of methane from the frozen, but warming, sea bed as for sea ice around the North Pole. Two recent studies of methane emissions from frozen sea-bed sediments, including one published in Science and described in The Times today, found substantial bubbling flows of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, were reaching the atmosphere. In its news release, the National Science Foundation, which helped underwrite the research, described the emissions as taking place “ at an alarming rate.” But are these emissions new, or simply newly observed? Does this mean that the Arctic system is coming unglued, and that a great outpouring of this heat-trapping gas is about to upend the global climate system? Despite portentous headlines — including one on the news release from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, saying “ Arctic seabed methane stores destabilizing…” — there is no evidence (yet) that what is happening is fundamentally new or destabilizing, at least according to some of the scientists most closely tracking levels and sources of this gas from the poles to the tropics.
Posted 9 March 2010; 4:16:51 PM. Permalink
(Megan K. Stack/LA Times, 2 March 2010) -- Reporting from Moscow - The beasts had long lain extinct and forgotten, embedded deep in the frozen turf, bodies swaddled in Earth's layers for thousands of years before Christ. Now, the Russian permafrost is offering up the bones and tusks of the woolly mammoths that once lumbered over the tundra. They are shaped into picture frames, chess sets, pendants. They are gathered and piled, carved and whittled, bought and sold on the Internet. The once-obscure scientists who specialize in the wastelands of Siberia have opened lucrative sidelines as bone hunters, spending the summer months trawling the northern river banks and working networks of locals to gather stockpiles of bones. They speak of their work proudly, and a little mystically. "You need to have luck to find bones," said Fyodor Romanenko, a geologist at Moscow State University. "I don't look for bones. I find them. They find me. "Every find gives you a huge joy," he said. "It's a gift from nature, from the Arctic, from fate." The mammoth finds have been growing steadily over the last three decades as Russia's vast sea of permafrost slowly thaws. Russian scientists disagree over whether global warming is responsible. Some say yes, others are skeptical. But nobody argues that the permafrost is dwindling — and they're glad to have the bones and tusks, especially when the increased yields coincide with bans on elephant ivory. Hand-to-mouth reindeer herders on Russia's desolate tundra have coexisted with the traces of mammoths for generations. Romanenko claims that there are cases of long-frozen mammoth meat being thawed and cooked, or fed to the dogs. Now entire villages are surviving on the trade in mammoth bones. And a new verb has entered the vernacular: mamontit, or "to mammoth" -- meaning, to go out in search of bones. "People used to just come across bones and throw them aside or take them to the garbage, because they were not interested in them," said Gennady Tatarinov, who oversees a reindeer farm in Anyuisk, a frigid village 4,000 miles northeast of Moscow. "But now there's a big demand," Tatarinov said. "And of course there's a lot of competition, and people who make it their main trade." Many of the populated areas have been picked clean, driving scavengers deeper and deeper into the wilderness in the hunt for bones.
Posted 7 March 2010; 12:28:33 PM. Permalink
(Alissa de Carbonnel/AFP via Yahoo! News, 27 February 2010) -- LOVOZERO, Russia (AFP) – In a billowing cloud of white, Russia's Arctic herders drive thousands of panting and wild-eyed reindeer through the knee-deep snow to the first slaughter this year. But warm winters in recent years have forced herders here in the far northern Kola Peninsula to delay for months the rounding up of their reindeer from the vast tundra — at great economic cost. "We've had to move the slaughter forwards from December to February because the lakes haven't frozen over," said Vladimir Filippov, an ethnic Komi herder who heads the farm Tundra, the main employer in this remote village. These reindeer have lost roughly 20 percent of their weight during the extra months spent in the tundra while herders waited for the ice to thicken enough for the forced migration. "It's not a small but a huge problem for us and a constant worry," said Filippov. With meat sold at 4.34-6.01 dollars per kilogram (2.2 pounds), it can amount to a loss of up to 167,000 dollars per year. "That's a huge loss," Filippov sighed. Over the past decade average temperatures have risen by 0.7 degrees C (1.25 degrees F) and satellite images show melting ice cover on the Arctic pole, said Anatoly Semyonov of the regional Murmansk state climate monitoring agency. Even though 2010 has been relatively icy, herders who have faced more than a decade of mild winters dismiss the general scepticism amongst the Russian public over global warming. Climate changes has also disrupted the breeding cycle and made it tough for reindeer to feed on lichen beneath the snow as late thaws and freezing rain create an impervious ice coating, veterinarian Vasili Pidgayetsky said. At Tundra, global warming is forcing innovation. Last year, the farm entered a proposal to build freeze-storage sites powered by wind turbines near grazing grounds to avoid the need to cross the vast tundra for slaughter in a grant contest run by the World Bank. "We could kill the reindeer in situ in December and carry the meat back to the village by snowmobile," said Tundra's director Viktor Startsev. It is a radical idea that is not without opposition amid the indigenous Saami and Komi-Izhems herders clinging fast to age-old way of life on the peninsula. "Of course, the older generation says this isn't right," admitted Startsev.
Posted 28 February 2010; 12:15:54 AM. Permalink
(Irish Sun, 20 February 2010) -- Washington - New evidence has emerged which indicates that dust storms in the arctic, possibly caused by receding glaciers, may be making similar deposits in northern Europe and North America, thus affecting the health of the people in the countries there. Joseph Prospero from the University of Miami and colleagues found the evidence. "Our recent work in Iceland has shown that most of the dust events there are associated with dust emitted from glacial outwash deposits, which may be carried into the northern latitudes and into Europe by synoptic weather events," said Prospero. Satellite data have shown large dust plumes in the arctic, but persistent cloud cover has made finding the origins difficult. The glaciers have been retreating in Iceland for decades, and the trend is expected to continue with the changing climate. Prospero predicts that dust activity from the newly exposed glacial deposits will most likely increase in the future in Iceland and possibly from other glacial terrains in the Arctic. Prospero's lifelong work has been to measure the effects of airborne dust.
Posted 21 February 2010; 6:44:59 PM. Permalink
(Sermitsiaq, 10 February 2010) -- Southern Greenland is looking unseasonably green after an unprecedentedly warm January. A month of warm winds and a series of rain storms has southern Greenland thinking spring, even thought the calendar still reads February. The temperature in Narsaq on Tuesday was 14 C, and despite overcast skies, a sure sign of spring – green grass is already visible.
Posted 21 February 2010; 12:58:24 PM. Permalink
(Deborah Zabarenko, Environment/Reuters, 4 February 2010) -- Scant ice over the Arctic Sea this winter could mean a "double whammy" of powerful ice-melt next summer, a top U.S. climate scientist said on Thursday. "It's not that the ice keeps melting, it's just not growing very fast," said Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. In January, Arctic sea ice grew by about 13,000 square miles (34,000 sq km) a day, which is a bit more than one-third the pace of ice growth during the 1980s, and less than the average for the first decade of the 21st century. Arctic ice cover is important to the rest of the world because the Arctic is the globe's biggest weather-maker, sometimes dubbed Earth's air-conditioner for its ability to cool down the planet. More melting Arctic sea ice could affect this weather-making process.... If Arctic ice fails to build up sufficiently during the dark, cold winter months, it is likely to melt faster and earlier when spring comes, Serreze said by telephone from Colorado. "We've grown back ice in the winter, but that ice tends to be thin and that's the problem," he said. "You set yourself up for a world of hurt in summer. The ice that is there is also thinner than it was before and thinner ice simply takes less energy to melt out the next summer." With less of the Arctic sea covered in ice in winter, and with the existing ice thinner and more fragile than before, "you've got a double whammy going on," Serreze said.
Posted 5 February 2010; 7:04:59 PM. Permalink