Posts Tagged ‘arctic ocean’
Arctic ice half of what it was 30 years ago. Now affecting weather patterns
Heading for +4C and catastrophe – CBD
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 20 2012 (IPS)
The melt of Arctic sea ice has reached its lowest point this year, shrinking 18 percent from last year’s near-record low.
Summer ice this year is half what it was 30 years ago and is now affecting weather patterns. The massive declines in ice in recent summers have shocked scientists and Arctic experts. Some predict that in just a few years we will witness an event that hasn’t happened in millions of years: the complete loss of summer ice.
“We are now in uncharted territory,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado.
“Few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur” as a result of the burning fossil fuels that are warming the planet, said Serreze.
“We could see an essentially ice-free Arctic ocean in late summer by the year 2030,” he told IPS.
Not long ago experts thought the soonest the Arctic would be ice-free was 2070. Now it’s anywhere from four to 18 years away.
The impacts are already being felt across the entire northern hemisphere. The loss of sea ice in recent years has been affecting weather patterns, recent research has shown. The all-important jet stream – the west-to-east winds that are the boundary between the cold Arctic and the warm mid-latitudes – is slowing down, moving north and become more erratic.
“Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic,” said James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States.
“In future, cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception” in these regions, Overland told IPS in Oslo in 2010.
The summer’s record loss of Arctic sea ice may mean a cold winter for the UK and northern Europe, Jennifer Francis, a researcher at Rutgers University, told the Guardian last week.
The region has been prone to bad winters after summers with very low sea ice, such as 2011 and 2007, Francis said. Read the rest of this entry »
“There’s a synergistic effect between increased ocean acidity and natural light”
“It’s clear we are conducting a giant experiment on the planet and we don’t know what we are doing.”
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 8, 2012 (IPS)
Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, sunlight will kill an unknown number of ocean phytoplankton, the planet’s most important organism, a new study reports this week.
Not only are phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, a vital component in the ocean’s food chain, they generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe.
In the not so distant future, sunlight, the very source of life for phytoplankton, will likely begin to kill them because of the ocean’s increasing acidity, researchers from China and Germany have learned.
“There’s a synergistic effect between increased ocean acidity and natural light,” says Ulf Riebesell of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.
Riebesell added that it was also possible “phytoplankton could adapt”.
Researchers were surprised to discover that diatoms, one of the most important and abundant types of phytoplankton, fared very badly during shipboard experiments conducted by co-author Kunshan Gao, from the State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science at Xiamen University, Xiamen China.
Previous experiments in labs like Riebesell’s found that diatoms actually did better in high-acid seawater, unlike most other shell- forming plankton. Burning fossil fuels has made the oceans about 30 percent more acidic researchers discovered less than 10 years ago. Oceans absorb one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from using fossil fuels.
The good news is this has slowed the rate of global warming. The bad news is oceans are now more acidic and it will get worse as more CO2 is emitted. This is basic, well-understood ocean chemistry. Read the rest of this entry »
Oceans home to 80% of all life — plankton provide 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe
By Stephen Leahy
DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 3 (IPS)
The world’s oceans are becoming hot, sour and breathless – threatening a vital source of food for a billion people mainly in the developing world experts warned today at a special Oceans Day event at the UN climate negotiation.
Oceans are home 80 percent of all life on the planet and emissions from fossil fuels are turning them increasingly acidic, raising water temperatures and reducing the amount of oxygen in some regions said oceanographer Carol Turley from Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK.
“We don’t know what all the consequences will be. We suspect the combination of all three will be far worse than one alone,” Turley told IPS in an interview on the sidelines of climate treaty negotiations known as COP 17.
It was only a few years ago that researchers realised that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) was making the surface waters of oceans more acidic. The oceans naturally absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and have now absorbed about a third of all human emissions. That has kept the climate from warming faster but the additional carbon is altering the oceans’ chemistry making them 30 percent more acidic.
One documented impact is that shell-forming creatures like plankton produce thinner shells in more acidic ocean waters. These species are often very important parts of the marine food chain. As emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere increase the more the ocean sours.
In less than ten years at least 10 per cent of the Arctic Ocean surface waters will be too acid for shell-forming species like plankton. By 2040 most of the Arctic Ocean will be too acidic as will significant areas of the Antarctic Ocean said Turley.
“But there will also be strange impacts. New research is showing changes in growth, behaviour and reproduction in a variety of non-shell forming species.”
Estuaries and ocean upwelling zones that are often important fishing grounds are also regions where acidification is fastest. Those areas are also subject to low oxygen levels and increasing temperatures creating new conditions in the oceans that no marine species has ever had to cope with.
Oceans are also absorbing most of the extra heat trapped by the additional CO2 in the atmosphere. Again, without this land temperatures would far higher and extreme weather events far worse.
“There is some evidence that some crab species cannot tolerate higher temperatures when ocean is more acidic,” she said.
2 degrees C of warming could spark runaway global warming
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 20, 2010 (IPS)
The carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have melted the Arctic sea ice to its lowest volume since before the rise of human civilisation, dangerously upsetting the energy balance of the entire planet, climate scientists are reporting.
“The Arctic sea ice has reached its four lowest summer extents (area covered) in the last four years,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado.
The volume – extent and thickness – of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month, Serreze told IPS.
“I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It’s not going to recover,” he said.
Last year’s cold and snowy winter directly connected to warmer Arctic new research reveals
By Stephen Leahy
OSLO, 15 June 2010 (IPS)
Last winter’s big snowfall and cold temperatures in the eastern United States and Europe were likely caused by the loss of Arctic sea ice, researchers concluded at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference in Norway in June.
Climate change has warmed the entire Arctic region, melting 2.5 million square kilometres of sea ice, and that, paradoxically, is producing colder and snowier winters for Europe, Asia and parts of North America.
“The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010 in Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic,” said James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States.
“In future, cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception” in these regions, Overland told IPS.
[[UPDATE Dec 29 2010 - Winter of 2010-11 appears to follow same pattern, see new post with northern hemisphere temp map for 20 Dec: Arctic Hothouse Turns Europe into an Icebox]]
Scientists have been surprised by the rapid warming of the Arctic, where annual temperatures have increased two to three times faster than the global average. In one part of the Arctic, over the Barents and Karas Seas north of Scandinavia, average annual temperatures are now 10 degrees C higher than they were in 1990.
Overland explains the warming of the Arctic as the result of a combination of climate change, natural variability, loss of sea ice reflectivity, ocean heat storage and changing wind patterns, which has disrupted the stability of the Arctic climate system. In just 30 years, all that extra heat has shrunk the Arctic’s thick blanket of ice by 2.5 million square kilometres – an area equivalent to more than one quarter the size of the continental U.S.
The changes in the Arctic are now irreversible, he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Arctic Leaking Methane a Super-Potent Global Warming Gas — Reaching Feared Tipping Point? –“The way we’re going right now, I’m not optimistic that we will avoid some kind of tipping point.“
Arctic Ice Gone in 5 Years – First Time in One Million Years -- “We’re going to see huge changes in the Arctic ecosystem”
Things Happen Much Faster in the Arctic — “Things are happening much faster in the Arctic. I think it will be summer ice-free by 2015,” said David Barber, an Arctic climatologist at the University of Manitoba.
Arctic Is the Canary in the Coalmine — The Arctic is “ground zero” for climate change, with temperatures rising far faster than anywhere else on the planet.
Arctic Oil and Gas Rush Alarms Scientists – As greenhouse gas pollution destroys Arctic ecosystems, countries like Canada are spending millions not to halt the destruction but to exploit it.
Oh yeah, and about those polar bears:
Polar Bears Go Hungry as Icy Habitat Melts Away – The iconic animal of the frozen north, the polar bear, is starving to death because climate change is melting the Arctic Ocean sea ice.
Oil vs Polar Bears in Alaska – A coalition of environmental groups sued the George W. Bush administration Monday for delaying a decision to protect polar bears threatened with extinction
Polar Bears’ Future Bleak in Melting Arctic — “Without taking serious and urgent action to stabilize the climate, there is no future for polar bears” says Andrew Derocher, Chair of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Polar Bear Specialist Group.
By Stephen Leahy
Oct 2 (IPS) – As global warming melts the Arctic, the United States’s biggest banks are investing billions of dollars in as many as 150 new coal-fired power plants around the country.
The obvious climatic and fiscal stupidity of such investments is staggering, say environmentalists.
“What are they (the banks) thinking?” asked Leslie Lowe, energy and environment programme director at the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility.
Carbon regulations are coming, and profiting from the destruction of nature and communities is immoral in any case, Lowe told IPS at a press conference. Carbon regulations are coming, and profiting from the destruction of nature and communities is immoral in any case, Lowe told IPS at a press conference.
“It is folly to build new coal-fired plants,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »