Global Warming Is Pushing Arctic Toward ‘Unprecedented State,’ Research Shows

Global Warming Is Pushing Arctic Toward ‘Unprecedented State,’ Research Shows

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: April 8, 2019 SNIP: Global warming is transforming the Arctic, and the changes have rippled so widely that the entire biophysical system is shifting toward an “unprecedented state,” an international team of researchers concludes in a new analysis of nearly 50 years of temperature readings and changes across the ecosystems. Arctic forests are turning into bogs as permafrost melts beneath their roots. The icy surface that reflects the sun’s radiation back into space is darkening and sea ice cover is declining. Warmth and moisture trapped by greenhouse gases are pumping up the water cycle, swelling rivers that carry more sediment and nutrients to the sea, which can change ocean chemistry and affect the coastal marine food chain. And those are just a few of the changes. The researchers describe how warming in the Arctic, which is heating up 2.4 times faster than the Northern Hemisphere average, is triggering a cascade of changes in everything from when plants flower to where fish and other animal populations can be found. Together, the changes documented in the study suggest the effects on the region are more profound than previously understood. Read the whole article for more on the myriad ways the Arctic is changing...
The Transpolar Drift is faltering – and sea ice is now melting before it can leave the nursery

The Transpolar Drift is faltering – and sea ice is now melting before it can leave the nursery

SOURCE: AWI DATE: April 2, 2019 SNIP: The shallow Russian shelf or marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean are broadly considered to be the ‘nursery’ of Arctic sea ice: in winter, the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea constantly produce new sea ice. This is due to extremely low air temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius, and a strong offshore wind that drives the young ice out to the open sea. In the course of the winter, the sea ice is eventually caught up in the Transpolar Drift, one of the two main currents in the Arctic Ocean. In two to three years’ time, it transports the ice floes from the Siberian part of the Arctic Ocean, across the Central Arctic, and into the Fram Strait, where it finally melts. Two decades ago, roughly half the ice from Russia’s shelf seas made this transarctic journey. Today only 20 percent does; the other 80 percent of the young ice melts before it can become a year old and reach the Central Arctic. The ice now leaving the Arctic through the Fram Strait is, on average, 30 percent thinner than it was 15 years ago. The reasons: on the one hand, rising winter temperatures in the Arctic and a melting season that now begins much earlier; on the other, this ice is no longer formed in the shelf seas, but much farther north. As a result, it has far less time to drift through the Arctic and grow into thicker pack...
Arctic warming contributes to drought

Arctic warming contributes to drought

SOURCE: Science Daily DATE: March 27, 2019 SNIP: When the Arctic warmed after the ice age 10,000 years ago, it created perfect conditions for drought. According to new research led by a University of Wyoming scientist, similar changes could be in store today because a warming Arctic weakens the temperature difference between the tropics and the poles. This, in turn, results in less precipitation, weaker cyclones and weaker mid-latitude westerly wind flow — a recipe for prolonged drought. The temperature difference between the tropics and the poles drives a lot of weather. When those opposite temperatures are wider, the result is more precipitation, stronger cyclones and more robust wind flow. However, due to the Arctic ice melting and warming up the poles, those disparate temperatures are becoming closer. “Our analysis shows that, when the Arctic is warmer, the jet stream and other wind patterns tend to be weaker,” says Bryan Shuman, a UW professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. “The temperature difference in the Arctic and the tropics is less steep. The change brings less precipitation to the mid-latitudes.” “The Nature paper takes a global approach and relates the history of severe dry periods of temperature changes. Importantly, when temperatures have changed in similar ways to today (warming of the Arctic), the mid-latitudes — particularly places like Wyoming and other parts of central North America — dried out,” Shuman explains. “Climate models anticipate similar changes in the future.” Currently, the northern high latitudes are warming at rates that are double the global average. This will decrease the equator-to-pole temperature gradient to values comparable with the early to...
See Russia’s massive new gas plant on the Arctic coast

See Russia’s massive new gas plant on the Arctic coast

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: March 22, 2019 SNIP: While most of the world is watching the rapidly melting Arctic with increasing alarm and placing the blame squarely on fossil fuels, Russia and its partners in France and China are seeing ruble signs. Billions of them, in fact, to be made selling Arctic fossil fuels to the rest of the world. Late last year, the Russian energy giant Novatek finished building the northernmost industrial facility on the globe: Yamal LNG, a $27-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant sitting at 71.2 degrees north at Sabetta, on the bank of the Ob River. The facility and its new port cling to the eastern shore of the gas-rich Yamal Peninsula, which sticks up like a frostbitten thumb into the Kara Sea—that is, in the middle of frozen nowhere. Some 15 ice-breaking LNG tankers are on order, along with a new rail line and two more LNG facilities across the Ob River estuary. The Russians expect all the plants to produce a combined 60 million tons of LNG each year by 2030. The prospect of relatively cheap gas along the shortcut between Asia and Europe drew a few investors anxious for a toehold in the Arctic, which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates may hold a fifth of the remaining oil and gas reserves on Earth. Total, the French oil major, owns a 20 percent stake of the Yamal LNG plant, as does CNPC, China’s national gas company. The Chinese government’s Silk Road Fund owns ten percent. The plant is just now beginning to operate at full capacity, but last year it shipped 7.5 million...
Rain may be causing a worrying amount of ice to melt in Greenland

Rain may be causing a worrying amount of ice to melt in Greenland

SOURCE: New Scientist DATE: March 7, 2019 DATE: Rain is becoming more common across Greenland’s ice sheet and it may be playing an important role in rising sea levels. Greenland’s 660,000-square mile ice sheet contains enough fresh water to flood coastal cities around the world. Warm air over the sheet is causing it to melt, but new work reveals that rainfall is also causing more melting than previously thought. An analysis of satellite and weather station records suggests that around 300 melt events in Greenland between 1979 and 2012 were linked to rainfall. Over this time, rain-associated melting became twice as frequent in summer, and three times as frequent in winter. Rain now appears to account for 28 per cent of the ice sheet’s melt. When precipitation falls as rain, it causes some of Greenland’s ice sheet to be covered in ice rather than snow. Come the summer, this ice reflects less of the sun’s energy, exacerbating summer melting. Historically, Greenland’s melt season has run between May and August, but rainfall means melting is now happening in winter too. “The rain events are extremely important because they are one of the only triggers for melting in winter,” says Marco Tedesco, of Columbia University in New York, who was involved in the...