Mysterious Microbes Turning Polar Ice Pink, Speeding Up Melt

Mysterious Microbes Turning Polar Ice Pink, Speeding Up Melt

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: September 14, 2018 SNIP: A surprisingly happy and healthy ecosystem of algae is not only turning parts of the Greenland ice sheet pinkish-red, it’s contributing more than a little to the melting of one of the biggest frozen bodies of water in the world. The discolored snow isn’t just an Arctic phenomenon. “It’s actually a global occurrence,” says Alexandre Anesio, a biogeochemist from the University of Bristol. “In order for them to form visible blooms and increase the melting of the snow and ice, they just need the right conditions, which at a minimum involve basic nutrients and melting,” says Anesio. “As the climate gets warmer, the availability of liquid water from snow and ice becomes higher, favoring the growth of snow and ice algae.” “I think that this is increasingly becoming a problem in Arctic, Alpine, and Himalayan glaciers,” Anesio says. Blooms of red snow and brown ice are turning up in Antarctica, too. And experts are not accounting for the effect in their projections of global sea level rise, despite increasing evidence of what darkening snow is doing to the world’s glaciers. The darker surface [from the algae growth] lowers the “albedo,” or the ability of the ice to reflect the sunlight back into space, and that results in more light absorbed and more melting. As algae spreads over larger areas of the ice sheet, the effect will be compounded, leading to even more melting. A recent study found that algal blooms can contribute as much as 13 percent more ice melt over a season. So far, the blooms have not been taken...
Acid is dribbling out of the melting permafrost in the Arctic

Acid is dribbling out of the melting permafrost in the Arctic

SOURCE: New Scientist ($$), Skeptical Science DATE: September 14, 2018 SNIP: Some patches of Arctic permafrost are bleeding acid as they melt. The dribble of acid is destroying rocks and releasing more carbon dioxide into the air – but it’s not clear how much. Permafrost is soil and sand that is permanently frozen. Climatologists have warned for years that Arctic permafrost is thawing due to climate change. This will transform the landscape, and release carbon that is locked away in the permafrost in the form of carbon dioxide and methane – adding to the greenhouse effect. However, most climatologists think the extra warming will be minor compared to that directly caused by our emissions. Now it seems that some regions of the Arctic might release more carbon dioxide than...
As Greenland Warms, Nature’s Seasonal Clock Is Thrown Off-Kilter

As Greenland Warms, Nature’s Seasonal Clock Is Thrown Off-Kilter

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: September 13, 2018 SNIP: From their perch on a rocky ridge in southwestern Greenland, graduate students Rebecca Walker and Conor Higgins peer through binoculars, looking for caribou. It’s a cool, June day and the tundra is ablaze with tiny magenta, pink, and yellow wildflowers. Crystalline lakes dot the glacially carved valleys, and from the round-topped mountains you can catch the glint of the massive Greenland Ice Sheet to the east. Below, the Watson River tumbles toward Kangerlussuaq Fjord, 12 miles to the west. It’s quiet, save for bird song, the rush of the wind, and the frequent crash of ice shearing off nearby Russell Glacier. Two decades ago, Walker and Higgins would have seen hundreds of caribou from the top of this same hill, set amid an ancestral caribou calving grounds. But these days the herds are a fraction of their former size, and Walker and Higgins spot only a handful of females and two calves a mile away. The ecologist supervising the students — Eric Post of the University of California, Davis — says the decline is very likely linked to a rapidly warming climate that is driving the schedules of caribou and the tundra plants they eat seriously out of balance. Post first came to the area 25 years ago to study calving in large herds of caribou. But around the early 2000s, he began noticing a major change. “As it got warmer and warmer and the growth season started earlier and earlier, the caribou calving season wasn’t starting earlier to the same extent,” Post says. The advancing plant growth was being triggered...
Scientists Urge Immediate, Decisive Action to Tackle Deoxygenation in Oceans

Scientists Urge Immediate, Decisive Action to Tackle Deoxygenation in Oceans

SOURCE: IISD DATE: September 13, 2018 SNIP: According to UNESCO-IOC, oxygen has decreased by two percent in the world’s oceans over the past 50 years, and the volume of oxygen-depleted water has grown fourfold. The reasons for this deoxygenation include increasing global warming and over-fertilization of the oceans, which leads to algae blooms and increased depletion of oxygen through biomass degradation. These changes are further expected to change feedbacks in the atmosphere as greenhouse gases (GHGs), including methane and nitrous oxide, form in the oxygen-free water. Over 300 scientists from 33 countries issued a declaration calling for more marine and climate protection in order to urgently tackle the decline of oxygen in the world’s oceans. The scientists urge increased international efforts to enhance global awareness of oxygen depletion, immediate and decisive action to limit marine pollution and decisive climate change mitigation actions to limit global warming. The ‘Kiel Declaration’ states that oxygen in the ocean “supports the largest ecosystems on the planet,” and expresses alarm that the ocean is losing oxygen, primarily as a result of GHG emissions and pollution by nutrients and organic waste. The Declaration recognizes that both the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “demand conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, seas and marine resources,” but stresses that these aims are “severely threatened by ocean...
‘A single piece of plastic’ can kill sea turtles, says study

‘A single piece of plastic’ can kill sea turtles, says study

SOURCE: BBC DATE: September 13, 2018 SNIP: A new study suggests that ingesting even a single piece of plastic can be deadly for sea turtles. Researchers found there was a one in five chance of death for a turtle who consumed just one item – rising to 50% for 14 pieces. The team found that younger turtles are at a higher risk of dying from exposure to plastic than adults. The authors say their research raises concerns over the long term survival of some turtle species. The never ending surge of plastic into the world’s oceans is taking an increasing toll on iconic marine species. The authors of this study estimate that around half of all the sea turtles on the planet have ingested plastic – this rises to 90% among juvenile green sea turtles off the coast of Brazil. While sea turtles can live until they are about 80 and reproduce for decades, researchers are concerned for the longer term impact of so many juveniles consuming so much plastic. “We know that disproportionately finding it more in younger animals who won’t make it to the reproductive state will have long term consequences for the survival of the species,” said Dr Hardesty. “It’s very...