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...
Russia’s new Arctic super-tanker brings Norwegian LNG to Asia

Russia’s new Arctic super-tanker brings Norwegian LNG to Asia

SOURCE: Arctic Now DATE: Aug 1, 2017 SNIP: Loaded with liquefied gas from Norway’s Snøhvit field, the ice-breaking LNG tanker Christophe de Margerie is making an unescorted voyage across the Northern Sea Route to South Korea. It is the first commercial voyage of the unique vessel, originally built for company Novatek and its grand Yamal LNG project. The Christophe de Margerie loaded LNG at Statoil’s Melkøya gas terminal on the Norwegian Barents Sea coast in late July and set a course east. It is the first in a fleet of 15 tankers of the kind built to serve the Yamal LNG. The ships can carry shiploads up to 172,600 cubic tons of liquefied natural gas. Only once before has a tanker brought LNG from Norway to the Asian market through the Northern Sea Route. In late 2012, the tanker Ob River successfully sailed the route and delivered LNG to a terminal in...
Loss of Arctic sea ice impacting Atlantic Ocean water circulation system

Loss of Arctic sea ice impacting Atlantic Ocean water circulation system

SOURCE: Yale News DATE: July 31, 2017 SNIP: Arctic sea ice is not merely a passive responder to the climate changes occurring around the world, according to new research. Scientists at Yale University and the University of Southampton say the ongoing Arctic ice loss can play an active role in altering one of the planet’s largest water circulation systems: the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). AMOC has a lower limb of dense, cold water that flows south from the north Atlantic, and an upper limb of warm, salty water that flows north from the south Atlantic as part of the Gulf Stream. AMOC plays a major role in regional and global climate, affecting the Atlantic rim countries — particularly those in Europe — and far beyond. Earlier this year, a different Yale-led study cautioned that the AMOC system was not as stable as previously thought. That study said the possibility of a collapsed AMOC under global warming conditions is being significantly underestimated. “We’ve now found this new connection between sea ice and AMOC,” Liu [Wei Liu, a Yale postdoctoral associate] said. “Sea ice loss is clearly important among the mechanisms that could potentially contribute to AMOC collapse.” “In our experiments we saw a potential loss of 30% to 50% of AMOC’s strength due to Arctic sea ice loss. That is a significant amount, and it would accelerate the collapse of AMOC if it were to occur,” Fedorov [Alexey Fedorov, climate scientist at the Yale Department of Geology and Geophysics]...
Forget That Big Iceberg–A Smaller One in the Arctic Is More Troubling

Forget That Big Iceberg–A Smaller One in the Arctic Is More Troubling

SOURCE: Scientific American DATE: July 31, 2017 SNIP: The world saw headlines about one of the largest icebergs ever calved a few weeks ago. But a smaller one on the other end of the globe might have bigger consequences. The chunk of ice, which broke free in the Arctic last week, is more worrisome to climate scientists who are watching one of Earth’s largest glaciers shed pieces in a way that stands to raise sea levels. Movement of the Petermann Glacier has sped up in recent years, dumping land-based ice into the ocean at a faster rate and drawing more ice down from the center of Greenland, said Laurence Dyke, a researcher at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Meanwhile, the ice shelf that braces it and slows the rate of flow is disintegrating as climate change transforms the region. “You could call it the canary in the coal mine. If that big glacier there is changing quickly, and it is, it’s a worrying sign for what’s happening in the rest of Greenland,” he...