A ‘mass invasion’ of polar bears is terrorizing an island town. Climate change is to blame.

A ‘mass invasion’ of polar bears is terrorizing an island town. Climate change is to blame.

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: February 11, 2019 SNIP: Polar bears are typically born on land but live mostly on sea ice, where they hunt and feed on seals. But as Arctic ice thins, an occurrence linked to the acceleration of climate change, the animals move ashore, ravenous. They scavenge, sometimes coming into contact with human populations. Novaya Zemlya is a Russian archipelago stretching into the Arctic Ocean. Officials in the Arkhangelsk region, where the archipelago lies, declared a state of emergency Saturday because of the marauding mammals. At least 52 bears were massed near Belushya Guba, the main settlement on the island territory. Now, they could be selectively slaughtered if Russian authorities can’t figure out another way to keep them from menacing the residents of the remote island outpost, where they began to collect in December 2018. Warning of the “mass invasion of polar bears in residential areas,” local officials vowed action in response to “numerous oral and written complaints demanding to ensure safety in the settlement.” Officials also said the situation was unprecedented. “I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there have never been so many polar bears in the vicinity,” said Zhigansha Musin, a local administrative head, according to TASS, Russia’s state news agency. So far, Russia’s environmental watchdog has withheld licenses for shooting the troublesome animals. Instead, a team of experts is being sent to the remote island community to try to protect residents. “However, provided that those measures do not help solve the situation, a cull will remain the only and forced answer,” TASS reported, suggesting that killing the animals as a means...
Are we headed toward the worst-case climate change scenario?

Are we headed toward the worst-case climate change scenario?

SOURCE: Pacific Standard and New York Times DATE: January 25, 2019 SNIP: This week, researchers warned that Greenland’s ice sheet has reached a tipping point. Looking at more than a decade’s worth of ice loss, an international team of scientists found that the rate of Greenland’s ice loss in early 2013 was four times higher than in 2003. [I]n this new study, Michael Bevis, a professor at Ohio State University, and his colleagues were surprised to see that most of the ice loss occurred in the southwest corner of Greenland, a region with very few glaciers. In other words, most of the ice loss was in the form of meltwater runoff, draining from land-based ice sheets into the sea. What Bevis and his colleagues found was that the melting was being controlled by something called the North Atlantic Oscillation—an irregular fluctuation in atmospheric pressure over the Atlantic Ocean that influences the weather on several continents. “Global warming brought summertime temperatures just shy of the critical temperature at which massive melting would occur, and the NAO pushed it over this critical threshold,” he says. It means that the ice sheet is now sensitive to small fluctuations in summer temperatures, and if global temperatures continue to rise as predicted, soon Greenland’s summers will be warm enough to cause massive melting regardless of the NAO’s phase. The new research dovetails with other recent papers on the accelerating melting. Last month a team of researchers published a paper in Nature that used satellite observations, analysis of ice cores and models to show that losses from the Greenland ice sheet have reached their fastest...
A landscape unseen in over 40,000 years

A landscape unseen in over 40,000 years

SOURCE: Phys.org DATE: January 25, 2019 SNIP: Glacial retreat in the Canadian Arctic has uncovered landscapes that haven’t been ice-free in more than 40,000 years and the region may be experiencing its warmest century in 115,000 years, new University of Colorado Boulder research finds. The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, uses radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of plants collected at the edges of 30 ice caps on Baffin Island, west of Greenland. The island has experienced significant summertime warming in recent decades. In August, the researchers collected 48 plant samples from 30 different Baffin ice caps, encompassing a range of elevations and exposures. They also sampled quartz from each site in order to further establish the age and ice cover history of the landscape. Once the samples were processed and radiocarbon dated back in labs at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at CU Boulder and the University of California Irvine, the researchers found that these ancient plants at all 30 ice caps have likely been continuously covered by ice for at least the past 40,000...
Greenland ice melting rapidly

Greenland ice melting rapidly

SOURCE: Ohio State News and National Geographic DATE: January 21, 2019 SNIP: Greenland is melting faster than scientists previously thought—and will likely lead to faster sea level rise—thanks to the continued, accelerating warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, a new study has found. Scientists concerned about sea level rise have long focused on Greenland’s southeast and northwest regions, where large glaciers stream iceberg-sized chunks of ice into the Atlantic Ocean. Those chunks float away, eventually melting. But a new study published Jan. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the largest sustained ice loss from early 2003 to mid-2013 came from Greenland’s southwest region, which is mostly devoid of large glaciers. “Whatever this was, it couldn’t be explained by glaciers, because there aren’t many there,” said Michael Bevis, lead author of the paper, Ohio Eminent Scholar and a professor of geodynamics at The Ohio State University. “It had to be the surface mass—the ice was melting inland from the coastline.” That melting, which Bevis and his co-authors believe is largely caused by global warming, means that in the southwestern part of Greenland, growing rivers of water are streaming into the ocean during summer. The key finding from their study: Southwest Greenland, which previously had not been considered a serious threat, will likely become a major future contributor to sea level rise. “We knew we had one big problem with increasing rates of ice discharge by some large outlet glaciers,” he said. “But now we recognize a second serious problem: Increasingly, large amounts of ice mass are going to leave as meltwater, as rivers that flow...
Melting ice sheets release tons of methane into the atmosphere

Melting ice sheets release tons of methane into the atmosphere

SOURCE: Phys.org DATE: January 3, 2019 SNIP: The Greenland Ice Sheet emits tons of methane according to a new study, showing that subglacial biological activity impacts the atmosphere far more than previously thought. An international team of researchers led by the University of Bristol camped for three months next to the Greenland Ice Sheet, sampling the meltwater that runs off a large catchment (> 600 km2) of the Ice Sheet during the summer months. As reported in Nature, using novel sensors to measure methane in meltwater runoff in real time, they observed that methane was continuously exported from beneath the ice. They calculated that at least six tons of methane was transported to their measuring site from this portion of the Ice Sheet alone. Professor Jemma Wadham, Director of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, who led the investigation, said: “A key finding is that much of the methane produced beneath the ice likely escapes the Greenland Ice Sheet in large, fast flowing rivers before it can be oxidized to CO2, a typical fate for methane gas which normally reduces its greenhouse warming...