Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California

Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times DATE: December 5, 2017 SNIP: California could be hit with significantly more dangerous and more frequent droughts in the near future as changes in weather patterns triggered by global warming block rainfall from reaching the state, according to new research led by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Using complex new modeling, the scientists have found that rapidly melting Arctic sea ice now threatens to diminish precipitation over California by as much as 15% within 20 to 30 years. Such a change would have profound economic impacts in a state where the most recent drought drained several billion dollars out of the economy, severely stressed infrastructure and highlighted how even the state most proactively confronting global warming is not prepared for its fallout. “As we learn more about the subtleties in the dynamics of climate change, we are learning that certain climate change impacts, like California drought, may be far worse than we had previously thought,” [Michael] Mann [director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University] wrote. “It also means that, when it comes to water resource issues in California, the impacts of climate change may exceed our adaptive capacity. That leaves only mitigation — doing something about climate change — as a viable strategy moving...
Polar bears crowd on Russian island in sign of Arctic change

Polar bears crowd on Russian island in sign of Arctic change

SOURCE: Channel News Asia DATE: November 23, 2017 SNIP: A boatload of tourists in the far eastern Russian Arctic thought they were seeing clumps of ice on the shore, before the jaw-dropping realisation that about 200 polar bears were roaming on the mountain slope. The bears had come to feast on the carcass of a bowhead whale that washed ashore, later resting around the food source. The crowd included many families, including two mothers trailed by a rare four cubs each, Gruzdev told AFP. Climate change means ice, where polar bears are most at home, is melting earlier in the year and so polar bears have to spend longer on land, scientists say. Studies have shown that, compared with 20 years ago, polar bears now spend on average a month longer on Wrangel Island because “ice is melting earlier and the ice-free period is longer”, said Eric Regehr, from the University of Washington, the lead American scientist on the US-Russian collaborative study of Wrangel Island polar bears. Changing ice conditions could also be responsible for the increasing number of bears flocking there, Regehr said. This autumn, the number of bears observed was 589, far exceeding previous estimates of 200-300, he said, calling it “anomalously...
Record low sea ice in Alaska waters in fall 2017

Record low sea ice in Alaska waters in fall 2017

SOURCE: Climate.gov DATE: November 21, 2017 SNIP: In the Bering and Chukchi Seas, where sea ice should be starting its winter expansion, thousands of square miles of open water stretch out from the state’s western coastline in late fall 2017. It’s the lowest ice extent on record for this time of year for the combined basins. Except for a few areas of nearshore ice, the entire Bering Sea is ice-free as are thousands of square miles of the Chukchi Sea to the north. [T]he ice conditions are unlikely to reverse course any time soon. Predicted storminess in the near-term means that waves and winds will be churning up the surface waters, breaking up and dispersing ice that does form and bringing more unseasonably warm air into the...
At 2017 minimum, scientists ask: Is Arctic entering the Thin Ice Age?

At 2017 minimum, scientists ask: Is Arctic entering the Thin Ice Age?

SOURCE: Mongabay DATE: September 25, 2017 SNIP: After 16 months of consecutive record and near-record lows in late 2016 and early 2017, sea ice extent in the Arctic held fast over the summer thanks to more moderate weather and cooler temperatures. As of September 13, sea ice covered some 4.64 million square kilometers (1.79 million square miles) at its minimum, roughly 1.25 million square kilometers (482,000 square miles) more than record-setting year 2012. Still, while 2017’s summer melt season didn’t break the record, it falls far below the 1981 to 2010 median extent by over 1.58 million square kilometers (610,000 square miles). Moreover, surface cover isn’t everything when it comes to the state of the Arctic — what experts say matters most is the total volume of ice — a combination of thickness and extent, and 2017 saw summer volumes among the lowest ever recorded. Some scientists are now saying colloquially that the Arctic Ocean has in recent decades entered the “Thin Ice Age.” Since 1980, the average ice thickness come July has decreased by an estimated 120 centimeters (47...
Walruses on packed Alaska beach may have died in a stampede

Walruses on packed Alaska beach may have died in a stampede

SOURCE: CBC News DATE: September 14, 2017 SNIP: Thousands of Pacific walrus are coming to Alaska’s northwest shore again in the absence of summer sea ice and not all are surviving. A survey Monday of a mile of coastline near the Inupiaq Eskimo village of Point Lay found 64 dead walruses, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told The Associated Press. Most of the animals were younger than a year old. The cause of death is not known, said agency spokeswoman Andrea Medeiros, but stampedes — set off when startled walruses rush to the sea, crushing smaller animals — are a likely suspect. Walrus dive hundreds of feet to eat clams on the ocean bottom, but unlike seals, they cannot swim indefinitely. Historically, sea ice has provided a platform for rest and safety far from predators for mothers and calves north of the Bering Strait. However, sea ice has receded much farther north in recent years because of global warming, beyond the shallow continental shelf, over water more than 3,050 metres deep. That’s far too deep for walruses to reach the ocean bottom. Instead of staying on sea ice over the deep water, walruses have gathered on shore to rest. The ultimate threat to walruses is the rapid loss of sea ice due to climate disruption, [Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity] said, adding that rollbacks of climate change protections by the Trump administration will further endanger the...