Arctic & Antarctic: Science and technology

Written by  //  March 21, 2015  //  Arctic and Antarctic, Science & Technology  //  1 Comment

TED Talk James Balog: Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss
Chasing Ice and Watch the the trailer

The Extent of Winter Sea Ice in the Arctic Hit a Record Low This Year
(VICE) The record low maximum extent was driven in part by warm water, due to climate change, and warm air in the region, say scientists and Arctic experts. Some places, like in the Barents Sea between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land, saw temperatures skyrocket 14, even 18, degrees Fahrenheit above average. Only two spots in the Arctic escaped below average ice levels: the Labrador Sea and the Davis Strait.
Diminishing sea ice is a quintessential example of a positive feedback loop. Less ice means more dark, open-ocean water that absorbs additional heat, melting yet more ice, and so on. Effects of the melt are many-faceted: previously-undrillable areas open up to oil and gas companies, ultimately amplifying the effects of global warming through the burning of more fossil fuels, residents of the area must alter long-held ways of life, and species like seals and polar bears fight harder for survival.
While there is significant seasonal variation, less sea ice hews closely to the long-term trend. One recent study found Arctic ice is 65 percent thinner than it was in 1975. The Arctic has lost an average of 20,800 square miles of ice per year since the late 1970s, according to NASA. And a late-2014 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report found that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.
Arctic winter-peak ice levels decline
Warmer temperatures are being blamed for Arctic sea ice to fall to the lowest peak levels since at least 1979. “This is further evidence that global warming and its impacts have not stopped despite the inaccurate and misleading claims of climate change ‘skeptics,’ ” says Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. Responding to Climate Change (U.K.) (3/20), BBC (3/19)

2014

This Is What a Holy Shit Moment for Global Warming Looks Like
(Mother Jones) According to two new studies, the collapse of much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may now be irreversible. That could ultimately mean 10 feet of sea level rise.
If you truly understand global warming, then you know it’s all about the ice. That’s what matters. Planet Earth has not always had great ice sheets at the poles, of the sort that currently exist atop Greenland and Antarctica. In other periods, much of that water has instead been in liquid form, in the oceans—and the oceans have been much higher.
How much? According to the National Academy of Sciences, the globe’s great ice sheets contain enough frozen water to raise sea levels worldwide by more than 60 meters. That’s about 200 feet. And it makes all the sea level rise that we’ve seen so far due to global warming appear piddly and insignificant.
That’s why scientists have long feared a day like this would come. Two new scientific papers, in the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters, report that major glaciers that are part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appear to have become irrevocably destabilized. The whole process may still play out on the scale of centuries, but due to the particular dynamics of this ice sheet, the collapse of these major glaciers now “appears unstoppable,” according to NASA (whose researchers are behind one of the two studies). (Planet Ark) West Antarctic glaciers in ‘irreversible’ thaw, raising seas: study
30 April
BP Well Sprays Crude Oil Mist Over 27 Acres Of Alaskan Tundra
A large pipe attached to a BP-owned well pad on Alaska’s North Slope has sprayed an oily mist of natural gas, crude oil, and water over an area of tundra larger than 20 football fields, state officials confirmed Wednesday.
The discovery at BP’s Prudhoe Bay oil field operation comes one week after federal scientists released a report warning that the United States is woefully unprepared to handle oil spills in the Arctic.
A statement provided by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said BP discovered the release on Monday during routine inspections, and that the spray was active for about two hours before it was contained. The pipe spewing the gas mixture was facing upwards while strong 30 mph winds blew, which ultimately caused the spray to spread over 27 acres.
It is unclear at this point how much of the mixture was released, the DEC statement said.
A spokesperson for BP did not immediately return ThinkProgress’ request for comment Wednesday about its cleanup effort, but spokesperson Dawn Patience told the Associated Press that it is “still assessing repairs.” Patience reportedly said it was too soon to determine long-term impacts from the release, but that no wildlife were impacted.
15 February

Arctic Biodiversity AssessmentThe report “Arctic Biodiversity Assessment ” was prepared by 253 scientists from 15 countries under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The printed 674 pages report weighs an impressive 2.9 kg!…

Arctic biodiversity under serious threat from climate change according to new report
Climate change caused by human activities is by far the worst threat to biodiversity in the Arctic
(Eureka) Unique and irreplaceable Arctic wildlife and landscapes are crucially at risk due to global warming caused by human activities according to the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA), a new report prepared by 253 scientists from 15 countries under the auspices of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council.
“An entire bio-climatic zone, the high Arctic, may disappear. Polar bears and the other highly adapted organisms cannot move further north, so they may go extinct. We risk losing several species forever,” says Hans Meltofte of Aarhus University, chief scientist of the report.
From the iconic polar bear and elusive narwhal to the tiny Arctic flowers and lichens that paint the tundra in the summer months, the Arctic is home to a diversity of highly adapted animal, plant, fungal and microbial species. All told, there are more than 21,000 species. ABA Report and synthesis

2013

Antarctica may have a new type of ice: diamonds
(Planet Ark) A kind of rock that often contains diamonds has been found in Antarctica for the first time, hinting at mineral riches in the vast, icy continent — where mining is banned.
No diamonds were found, but researchers said they were confident the gems were there.
“It would be very surprising if there weren’t diamonds in these kimberlites,” Greg Yaxley of the Australian National University in Canberra, who led the research, said in a telephone interview.
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, an Australian-led team reported finding the kimberlite deposits around Mount Meredith, in the Prince Charles Mountains in East Antarctica. Kimberlite is a rare rock where diamonds are often found; it is named after the South African town of Kimberley, the site of a late 19th-century diamond rush.
That does not mean Antarctica will soon see its own diamond rush. Antarctica is not only forbiddingly cold and remote but also protected by a treaty that preserves the continent for scientific research and wildlife, from penguins to seals. The 1991 environmental accord banned mining for at least 50 years.

2012

Platform-free oil in Arctic waters within striking distance
(Planet Ark) Lying at the bottom of a giant water-filled pit in western Norway, a thousand-ton gas compressor is humming along, going through grueling tests as engineers prepare it to change oil and gas production for good.
The compressor, a prototype for Royal Dutch Shell’s massive Ormen Lange natural gas field in the Norwegian Sea, will help make platform-free offshore production, the Holy Grail for oil firms, a reality within a decade.
The new technology will have particular meaning for places such as Alaska, where the grounding of Shell’s Kulluk rig on New Year’s Eve stirred opposition to rigs in environmentally delicate and technologically challenging places.
Oil companies have steadily moved offshore equipment to the bottom of the seabed, away from ice and storms, because it squeezes more out of fields, costs less to operate and eliminates much of the risk associated with rigs.

2012

2 November
Saving the Southern Ocean — China, Russia Block Plan to Protect Antarctic Waters
(Spiegel) Proposals to establish marine reserves in two critical areas of the Southern Ocean were stymied by Russia, China and Ukraine at the end of a two-week international summit in Australia on Thursday. Commercial fishing restrictions in the proposed sanctuaries proved to be the main sticking point.
2 August
Palm trees and forests? A new future for the Antarctic
Palm trees could grow in the Antarctic if climate change continues unabated, new research has shown – just as they did 55 million years ago.
(The Independent) A study has found that similar trees grew in the region during the early Eocene epoch, when the area had a near-tropical climate with frost-free winters, even in the polar darkness. Global levels of the principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, were nearly three times as high then as today.
It has long been known that the start of the Eocene was a “thermal maximum”, one of the hottest periods in Earth’s history, and that Antarctica as a continent would have been ice-free and much warmer than at present.
But the new findings, based on sediment cores taken from the Antarctic seabed and disclosed today in the journal Nature, have enabled the first-ever detailed reconstruction of its environment and thus its climate.
26 January
Snowy owls soar south from Arctic in rare mass migration
(Reuters) – Bird enthusiasts are reporting rising numbers of snowy owls from the Arctic winging into the lower 48 states this winter in a mass southern migration that a leading owl researcher called “unbelievable.”
… owl experts say the phenomenon is likely linked to lemmings, a rodent that accounts for 90 percent of the diet of snowy owls during breeding months that stretch from May into September. The largely nocturnal birds also prey on a host of other animals, from voles to geese.
An especially plentiful supply of lemmings last season likely led to a population boom among owls that resulted in each breeding pair hatching as many as seven offspring. (Reuters, 10 January) Snowy owls make rare southern journey into central U.S.

2011

3 November
Antarctic ice banksMajor iceberg forming in Antarctica
Scientists are monitoring a big rift in the Pine Island Glacier in western Antarctica that will eventually calve an iceberg the size of New York City.
(BBC) In recent years, satellite and airborne measurements have recorded a marked thinning of the PIG, which may be related to climate changes.
But the team working on Nasa’s Icebridge project say this latest birthing of a giant berg is part of a natural cycle seen every 10 years or so on the glacier.
3 October
Giant ozone hole found above Arctic
Scientists have discovered a hole five times the size of Germany in the ozone layer above the Arctic, allowing harmful ultraviolet radiation to hit northern Canada, Europe and Russia this spring.
The 2 million square kilometre Arctic hole is similar to the hole over the Antarctic, researchers write in the journal Nature, released yesterday.
They say 80 per cent of the ozone was lost about 20km (13 miles) above the Arctic and that a prolonged spell of cold weather – when chlorine chemicals which destroy ozone are at their most active – was to blame.
Gulf oil spill could provide clues to methane gas in Arctic
Studies of the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could shed light on the effects of the release of atmospheric-warming methane gas from Arctic sea waters as a result of climate change. Scientists are trying to determine how much methane would be processed in the water by methane-absorbing bacteria, and how much would escape into the atmosphere. BBC (1/6)
25 June 2010
Svalbard Diary: The unending light
The trip to Oslo is the first leg of a journey to the Svalbard archipelago, a set of islands north of Norway which boast the most northerly settlement in the eastern hemisphere: Ny Alesund. On the western shore of the island of Spitsbergen, this place is devoted more or less entirely to scientific research. Over the coming days it will host a symposium called “The changing Arctic and its global implications”, arranged by various Norwegian ministries and state-held companies, and attended by, among others, Crown Prince Haakon as well as Gro Harlem Brundtland.  More
24 June
BP Is Pursuing Alaska Drilling Some Call Risky
All other new projects in the Arctic have been halted by the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling, including more traditional projects like Shell Oil’s plans to drill three wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort.
But BP’s project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an “onshore” project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island — a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water — built by BP.
21 June
Yellow sub finds clues to Antarctic glacier’s thaw
(Reuters) – A yellow submarine has helped to solve a puzzle about one of Antarctica’s fastest-melting glaciers, adding to concerns about how climate change may push up world sea levels, scientists said Sunday.
18 May
BP spill spurs fears over Shell Oil’s Arctic plans
(Reuters) – Shell Oil (RDSa.L) says it plans to drill exploratory wells off Alaska this summer in a “safe and environmentally responsible” way, but the troubled BP (BP.L) operation in the Gulf of Mexico raises concerns about how such a cleanup would work in hostile Arctic conditions.
Report: Antarctic ice changes result from global warming
The Antarctic ice shelves appear to be thinning overall and, in a worst-case scenario, could raise global sea levels by 213 to 240 feet if they completely melt, according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey and the British Antarctic Survey. “The changes exhibited in the region are widely regarded as among the most profound and unambiguous examples of the effects of global warming yet seen on the planet,” said the report. USA TODAY/Science Fair blog (2/24)
15 December 2009
Copenhagen climate summit: Al Gore condemned over Arctic ice melting prediction
(Telegraph U.K.) Al Gore, the former US Vice-President, has become embroiled in a climate change spin row after claiming that the Arctic could be completely ice-free within five years.
Speaking at the Copenhagen climate change summit, Mr Gore said new computer modelling suggests there is a 75 per cent chance of the entire polar ice cap melting during the summertime by 2014. However, he faced embarrassment last night after Dr Wieslav Maslowski, the climatologist whose work the prediction was based on, refuted his claims.
29 October
Multiyear Arctic ice is effectively gone: expert
Vast sheets of impenetrable multiyear ice, which can reach up to 80 meters (260 feet) thick, have for centuries blocked the path of ships seeking a quick short cut through the fabled Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They also ruled out the idea of sailing across the top of the world. But David Barber, Canada’s Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, said the ice was melting at an extraordinarily fast rate.
15 October
Arctic to be ice-free in summer in 20 years: scientist

LONDON (Reuters) – Global warming will leave the Arctic Ocean ice-free during the summer within 20 years, raising sea levels and harming wildlife such as seals and polar bears, a leading British polar scientist said on Thursday. Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at the University of Cambridge, said much of the melting will take place within a decade, although the winter ice will stay for hundreds of years. The changes will mean the top of the Earth will appear blue rather than white when photographed from space and ships will have a new sea route north of Russia.
9 October
On Top of the World
(Newsweek) The crisis has been mapped out in precise detail in slide shows and research papers, with startling statistics. The past three summers have seen the lowest ice volume ever recorded, according to data released annually by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The sea-ice minimum in 2007 (1.6 million square miles) was the single lowest year, with nearly 40 percent less ice than the seasonal average recorded over the past three decades. And the problem is only expected to worsen. As the ice melts, it releases highly concentrated carbon and methane that is locked in the permafrost, creating an accelerating warming loop. An additional compounding factor is that dark oceans absorb more of the sun’s energy than light-colored ice, which reflects a large portion of it. That means that the more ice melts over the summer, the more open ocean there is, which leads to more absorbed energy and warmer oceans, which means that less ice forms the following winter, which leads to even more open ocean the following year.
14 September
Scientists find CO2 link to Antarctic ice cap origin

A team of scientists studying rock samples in Africa has shown a strong link between falling carbon dioxide levels and the formation of Antarctic ice sheets 34 million years ago.
The results are the first to make the link, underpinning computer climate models that predict both the creation of ice sheets when CO2 levels fall and the melting of ice caps when CO2 levels rise.
15 May
Melting ice could cause gravity shift

Northern hemisphere sea levels ‘will rise the most’ if Antarctic sheet disintegrates
The melting of one of the world’s largest ice sheets would alter the Earth’s field of gravity and even its rotation in space so much that it would cause sea levels along some coasts to rise faster than the global average, scientists said yesterday.
Record levels of CO2 concentration in the Arctic
Despite a downturn in the global economy that likely will curb the rate of increase in greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases are continuing to accumulate in record levels, according to research from a measuring station in the Arctic. The Guardian (London) (4/27)
11 April
Thar she blows: global warming
Chilling news: With the looming collapse of the 14,500-square-kilometre Wilkins Ice Shelf, attention is being focused on the Antarctic Peninsula – the region experiencing the most rapid climate change in the world.
GEORGE TOMBS, Freelance
Over the past 50 years, the average annual temperature there has risen a staggering 2.5 degrees C and the peninsula’s many ice shelves and glaciers are calving more icebergs than ever.
26 March
Vast Antarctic ice shelf on verge of collapse

(MSNBC) Latest sign of global warming’s impact shocks scientists
24 March
Twenty year later: Exxon Valdez Case Gives Arctic Oil Lessons
The Valdez ultimately spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaskan waters, fouling 1,300 miles of coastline and disrupting or killing marine wildlife. The clean-up cost more than $2 billion and is still proceeding. Exxon, now known as ExxonMobil, paid some $1 billion in damages, and state and federal governments are seeking $92 million more.
12 March
“Mad” Microplants Show Antarctic Climate Change
(Reuters Planet Ark) WASHINGTON – You just don’t want to make phytoplankton mad.
These microscopic sea plants are at the bottom of the food chain in the waters that surround the Antarctic peninsula. Phytoplankton are excellent markers for climate change because they respond quickly, sometimes in as little as a day, to varying environmental conditions, and because so much of the food chain relies on their survival. A new study published on Thursday in the journal Science indicates that some of these Antarctic phytoplankton have become increasingly grumpy over the last 30 years.
10 March
Scientists warn seas to rise faster than expected
The melting of polar ice sheets and glaciers are two big factors that will affect sea levels, they added.
Polar researchers find new evidence for global warming, Alps-like peaks in Antarctica
Research conducted for the International Polar Year finds new evidence that global climate is heating up and that ice and snow are receding at both of the poles. Launched in March 2007, the IPY includes 160 research projects assembled by scientists from more than 60 countries over a two-year span. A team of international experts studying Antarctica revealed the subglacial Guburtsev mountains feature high jagged peaks and valleys — comparable to the European Alps range — and that water exists below the ice there. ENN (2/25) , Reuters (2/24)
Ponds of melted ice water accelerating decline of Arctic ice sheet
Scientists have discovered that pooled, melted Arctic ice is responsible for the advanced rate at which the northern ice sheet is melting. Scientists had predicted an average loss of 2.5% per decade since 1952, but the ice sheet has disappeared at a rate of 7.8% per decade — an acceleration exacerbated by the melt ponds. The Guardian (London) (2/18)
14 February
(RCI) A new base has opened in Antarctica to show that alternative energy sources can work even in the world’s coldest climate. The polar station at Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth station in East Antarctica is built to rely only on wind and solar power. Alain Hubert, the station’s project director, says that such a station will answer critics who claim that alternative sources of energy are not reliable. Renewable energies are being used more frequently in Antarctica as engineers design installations to survive severe cold and winter darkness.
4 February
Science & technology are amazing, but so is the power of traditional knowledge.
Inuit are on the right track
Inuit trails are more than merely means to get from A to B. In reality, they represent a complex social network spanning the Canadian Arctic and are a distinctive aspect of the Inuit cultural identity. And what is remarkable is that the Inuit’s vast geographic knowledge has been passed through many generations by oral means, without the use of maps or any other written documentation.
19 January
Antarctic ice shelf set to collapse due to warming
WILKINS ICE SHELF, Antarctica (Reuters) – A huge Antarctic ice shelf is on the brink of collapse with just a sliver of ice holding it in place, the latest victim of global warming that is altering maps of the frozen continent.
“We’ve come to the Wilkins Ice Shelf to see its final death throes,” David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), told Reuters after the first — and probably last — plane landed near the narrowest part of the ice.
14 January
Antarctic mission runs into protest
NEW DELHI: An Indo-German expedition, currently sailing to Antarctica with 29 Indian researchers to conduct a two-month mega experiment to test a controversial technique that may help fight climate change has run into protests from environmental activists who want the experiment stopped.
Scientists leading the LOHAFEX expedition that involves sprinkling 20 tonnes of iron on a 300-sq-km area in the Southern Ocean, are particularly concerned about a signature campaign launched by NGO, ETC Group, aimed at pressuring the German government into calling off the research voyage.
The international team of 50 researchers set sail on January 7 from Cape Town, South Africa, and are on course to reach their experiment site at a stormy stretch in Scotia Sea between Argentina and the Antarctic peninsula.
The protesters say the experiment will flout international agreements. ETC Group has put out a news alert titled `Turn Around the Geo-engineering Ship’, that claimed LOHAFEX was breaching a global moratorium on ocean iron fertilization (OIF) — as the technique is called — agreed last May by 191 governments at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
2008
Scientists Doubt Ocean Iron Fertilization as Climate Change Strategy
(WRI) For the past 15 years, scientists have been exploring a novel new way to combat global climate change. The technique, known as ocean iron fertilization (OIF), uses iron to spur the growth of oceanic algal blooms, which, theoretically, could draw tons of carbon from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. After a decade of experimenting, however, many scientists remain concerned about the practicality, efficacy, and ecological safety of large-scale deployment.

One Comment on "Arctic & Antarctic: Science and technology"

  1. oil remover August 4, 2014 at 11:01 pm · Reply

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say excellent blog!

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