Temperatures leap 40 degrees above normal as the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet see record June melting

Temperatures leap 40 degrees above normal as the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet see record June melting

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: June 14, 2019 SNIP: Ice is melting in unprecedented ways as summer approaches in the Arctic. In recent days, observations have revealed a record-challenging melt event over the Greenland ice sheet, while the extent of ice over the Arctic Ocean has never been this low in mid-June during the age of weather satellites. Greenland saw temperatures soar up to 40 degrees above normal Wednesday, while open water exists in places north of Alaska where it seldom, if ever, has in recent times. It’s “another series of extreme events consistent with the long-term trend of a warming, changing Arctic,” said Zachary Labe, a climate researcher at the University of California at Irvine. And the abnormal warmth and melting of ice in the Arctic may be messing with our weather. Weather satellites have monitored sea ice in the Arctic since 1979, and the current ice coverage is the lowest on record for mid-June. The ice extent has been especially depleted in the part of the Arctic Ocean adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. “It’s pretty remarkable how much open water is in that area,” Labe said. Labe explained high pressure over the Arctic has helped to pull sea ice way from the northern Alaska coast. Sea ice loss over the Chukchi and Beaufort seas along Alaska’s northern coast has been “unprecedented” according to Rick Thoman, a climatologist based in Fairbanks. Labe said there’s sufficient open water that you could sail all the way from the Bering Strait into a narrow opening just north of Utqiagvik, Alaska’s northernmost city, clear into the Beaufort Sea. “It’s very unusual for open...
Scientists investigate after 60 dead seals wash up on coast of Alaska

Scientists investigate after 60 dead seals wash up on coast of Alaska

SOURCE: INews UK DATE: June 14, 2019 SNIP: Scientists are investigating the cause of death of at least 60 seals after the mammals washed up along the coast of Alaska, an animal welfare agency said on Wednesday. The bearded, spotted and ringed seals were found dead on Monday at sites including the southern edge of the Bering Strait region and the Chukchi coastline above the Arctic Circel, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Fisheries department said. The cause of the seals’ death is not known. A number of the seals also washed up hairless, which has concerned researchers that the moulting could be due to a crisis in the population. The ringed and bearded seals are currently on Alaska’s Endangered Species Act, listed as threatened. Along with the spotted seals, the three species are part of Alaska’s ice seal species, which rely on the sea ice as for food foraging, resting, and for raising their young. But the ice in the Chukchi and Bering seas has been in shorter supply than usual, while the sea-surface temperatures have been far higher than average. Sea surface temperatures along the coastlines of the two seas were recorded as high as 4.5 degrees Celsius above average last month and have not yet returned to normal. Ringed seals are the smallest and most numerous of Alaska’s ice seals and the main prey of another threatened species, polar bears. Ringed seals thrive in completely ice-covered Arctic waters because they maintain breathing holes with thick claws. After snow covers breathing holes, females excavate snow caves on sea ice. Inside those lairs, they give birth to...
Climate crisis: Alaska is melting and it’s likely to accelerate global heating

Climate crisis: Alaska is melting and it’s likely to accelerate global heating

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 14, 2019 SNIP: A city in western Alaska has lost a huge stretch of riverbank to erosion that may turn it into an island, amid renewed warnings from scientists over the havoc triggered by the accelerating melting of the state’s ice and permafrost. Residents of the small city of Akiak were alarmed to find the Kuskokwim River suddenly much closer to housing after about 75-100ft of riverbank disappeared over the course of just a few hours. The erosion, which occurred late last month, stripped away the riverbank for the entire length of Akiak, which has a population of around 340. “The changes are really accelerating in Alaska,” said Susan Natali, a scientist and Arctic expert at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. “It’s pretty likely this riverbank in Akiak was lost because of thawing permafrost, given where it’s situated and the warm winter and spring they’ve had. It’s not a problem that’s going to go away.” Alaska has just experienced its warmest spring on record, breaking a record only set in 2016. Since the 1970s, springtime in the state has heated up by around 2.2C (4F), double the global temperature rise of the past century. Scientists recently found [thawing permafrost] could trigger a dangerous acceleration of global heating that would cause tens of trillions of dollars in climate-related damage. A separate study found that parts of the Canadian Arctic are experiencing a rate of permafrost thaw six times the long-term...
The end of the Arctic as we know it

The end of the Arctic as we know it

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 7, 2019 SNIP: The demise of an entire ocean is almost too enormous to grasp, but as the expedition sails deeper into the Arctic, the colossal processes of breakdown are increasingly evident. The natural thaw that starts with spring’s warm weather is being amplified by manmade global heating. The Arctic has heated up by 2C above pre-industrial levels, twice the global average. Some hotspots, including parts of the Fram strait, have warmed by 4C. There are variations from year to year, but the trend is clear and accelerating. Sea ice is melting earlier in the spring and freezing later in the autumn. Each summer it thins more and recedes further, leaving greater expanses of the ocean exposed to 24-hour sunlight. This is driving back the frontiers of ice and fragmenting one of the planet’s most important climate regulators. It is also creating a series of feedbacks that are accelerating the Arctic melt. Several are only partially understood. Since the start of the satellite era in 1979, the summer Arctic has lost 40% of its extent and up to 70% of its volume. Other scientists calculate the rate of decline at 10,000 tonnes a second. Much of the multiyear ice is now gone. Most of what is left is the younger, thinner layer from the previous winter, which is easier for the sun to melt and the wind to push around. [Scientists] expect ice-free summers in 20 to 40 years, which would allow ships to cruise all the way to the north pole. If the Arctic were a patient, doctors would be alarmed by its...
‘It’s already begun’: Feedback loops will make climate change even worse, scientists say

‘It’s already begun’: Feedback loops will make climate change even worse, scientists say

SOURCE: Yahoo! Finance DATE: April 22, 2019 SNIP: When the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its dire report in October warning of humanity’s fast-approaching reckoning with global warming, one factor adding to the urgency was a new estimate about how much additional carbon dioxide was being added to the atmosphere as a result of the warming of Arctic permafrost. With rising Arctic temperatures setting free a vast amount of carbon previously locked beneath permafrost, the additional greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere would speed up warming, the report concluded — and that, in turn, would further melt the permafrost. It is “feedback loops” like that one that make climate change unpredictable and represent a threat of global warming spiraling out of control. “It’s already begun,” Thomas Crowther, professor in the Department of Environmental Systems Science of ETH Zurich, told Yahoo News. “The feedback is in process.” Crowther estimates that carbon dioxide and methane emissions from thawing soils are “accelerating climate change about 12 to 15 percent at the moment,” and said past IPCC reports that left out the feedback “were way more optimistic than they should have been.” Almost every scientist studying the effects of climate change is worried about the extent to which feedback loops will hasten global warming. One of the most serious concerns is the “albedo effect,” the amount of the sun’s radiation the planet reflects back into space, mostly from the polar ice sheets. The warming that has already occurred has begun melting the ice caps, leaving the relatively dark ocean and land exposed to absorb solar radiation — further warming...