Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks

Summer is over in the northern hemisphere, but it’s been another chilling season for researchers who study Arctic sea ice.

“It’s definitely a bad report. We did pick up little bit from last year, but this is over 30 percent below what used to be normal,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

This past summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled to its second lowest level. Arctic sea ice is usually 1 to 3 meters, or as much as 9 feet thick. It grows during autumn and winter and shrinks in the spring and summer.

Scientists have monitored sea ice conditions for about 50 years with the help of satellites. Changes in the past decade have been alarming to climate researchers and oceanographers.

“It is the second lowest on record. … If anything, it is reinforcing the long-term trend. We are still losing the ice cover at a rate of 10 percent per decade now, and that is quite an increase from five years ago,” Meier said. “We are still heading toward an ice cover that is going to melt completely in the summertime in the Arctic.”

Arctic ice helps regulate and temper the climate in many other parts of the world. The less ice there is, the more dramatic the impact. Huge sheets of ice reflect solar radiation, keeping our planet cool. When that ice melts, huge expanses of darker, open ocean water absorb the heat instead, warming things up.

Although few humans live in the Arctic, the disappearance of this ice cover can have effects far beyond the few residents and the wildlife of this harsh region. Ice cover loss can influence winds and precipitation on other continents, possibly leading to less rain in the western United States and creating more in Europe.

“That warming is going to spread to the lower latitudes, to the United States, and it’s going to affect storm systems and storm tracks, the jet stream; that’s going to affect crops and all sorts of things,” Meier predicted.

So, just how much ice is disappearing?

Less than 30 years ago, there would still be 7 million square kilometers or 2.5 million square miles of ice left at the end of an Arctic summer. That’s now dropped by almost 40 percent.

“Seven million square kilometers roughly corresponds to an area of the lower 48 United States. So back in the early 1980s, the lower 48 states would be covered in sea ice in the summer,” Meier said. “Now we’ve essentially lost sea ice east of the Mississippi River and even beyond. So that’s a significant amount of area.”

“The Arctic sea ice melt is a disaster for the polar bears,” according to Kassie Siegel, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “They are dependent on the Arctic sea ice for all of their essential behaviors, and as the ice melts and global warming transforms the Arctic, polar bears are starving, drowning, even resorting to cannibalism because they don’t have access to their usual food sources.”

Scientists have noticed increasing reports of starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another in recent years. In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female’s den and killed her.

In May, the U.S. Department of Interior listed the polar bear as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act. In a news release, U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne stated, “loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.”

What is the future for Arctic sea ice? Some scientists believe that in just five years, the Arctic may be ice-free during the summer.

“The Arctic is kind of the early warning system of the climate,” Meier said. “It is the canary in the coal mine, and the canary is definitely in trouble.”

NASA data show some African drought linked to warmer Indian Ocean

A new study, co-funded by NASA, has identified a link between a warming Indian Ocean and less rainfall in eastern and southern Africa. Computer models and observations show a decline in rainfall, with implications for the region’s food security.

Rainfall in eastern Africa during the rainy season, which runs from March through May, has declined about 15 percent since the 1980s, according to records from ground stations and satellites. Statistical analyses show that this decline is due to irregularities in the transport of moisture between the ocean and land, brought about by rising Indian Ocean temperatures, according to research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This interdisciplinary study was organized to support U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

“The last 10 to 15 years have seen particularly dangerous declines in rainfall in sensitive ecosystems in East Africa, such as Somalia and eastern Ethiopia,” said Molly Brown of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., a co-author of the study. “We wanted to know if the trend would continue or if it would start getting wetter.”

To find out, the team analyzed historical seasonal rainfall data over the Indian Ocean and the eastern seaboard of Africa from 1950 to 2005. The NASA Global Precipitation Climatology Project’s rainfall dataset provided a series of data covering both the land and the oceans. They found that declines in rainfall in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe were linked to increases in rainfall over the ocean.

The team used computer models that describe the atmosphere and historical climate data to identify and validate the source of this link. Lead author Chris Funk of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues showed that the movement of moisture onshore was disrupted by increased rainfall over the ocean.

Funk and colleagues used a computer model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research to confirm their findings. The combination of evidence from models and historical data strongly suggest that human-caused warming of the Indian Ocean leads to an increase of rainfall over the ocean, which in turn adds energy to the atmosphere. Models showed that indeed, the added energy could create a weather pattern that reduces the flow of moisture onshore and bring dry air down over the African continent, reducing rainfall.

Next, the team investigated whether or not the decline in rainfall over eastern Africa would continue. Under guidance from researchers at USGS, which co-funded the study, the team looked at 11 climate models to simulate rainfall changes in the future. Ten of the 11 models agreed that though 2050, rainfall over the Indian Ocean would continue to increase – depriving Africa’s eastern seaboard of rainfall.

“We can be quite certain that the decline in rainfall has been substantial and will continue to be,” Funk said. “This 15 percent decrease every 20-25 years is likely to continue.”

The trend toward dryer rainy seasons in eastern and southern Africa directly impacts agricultural productivity. To evaluate how potential future rainfall scenarios and shifts in agriculture could affect undernourishment, the team came up with a “food-balance indicator” model. The model considers factors such as growing-season rainfall, fertilizer, seed use, crop area and population to estimate the number of undernourished people a region can anticipate.

Continuing along a “business as usual” scenario – with current trends in declining rainfall and agricultural capacity continuing as it is currently to 2030, the team found that the number of undernourished people will increase by more than 50 percent in eastern Africa.

Still, the food-balance indicator also showed that in the face of a continuation of the current downward trend in rainfall, even modest increases in agricultural capacity could reduce the number of undernourished people by 40 percent.

“A strong commitment to agricultural development by both African nations and the international community could lead fairly quickly to a more food-secure Africa,” Funk said.

Interactive Global Warming Signs & Sources

What you need to know about Global Warming with Tom Brokaw is an interactive site where end users can choose key areas they wish to know more about.

http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/globalwarming/interactive/interactive.html

http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/globalwarming/globalwarming.html

Save your MONEY or your PLANET? HMMMMMMMMMMMM

Idiocy raises its ugly head again. There is a new bill on the docket and it is known as the Lieberman Bill. This bill is a move toward saving our planet. Which in my opinion; is the most important goal on our planet. I can tell by using my immediate surroundings as an example that the most idiotic people will oppose this bill. I say this with all due respect but you know your local surrounding better than anywhere else and if you listen to the debaters you will find that the people you have least respect for their knowledge automatically think about their wallet. they believe it is better to have man made money in their pockets than having a life supporting biosphere so they can LIVE. If you can not breathe and your planet turns into an autoclave, then what is money worth. Are these people victims of social programming or are they a direct result of our failing educational system? Either way it is common sense and I hope it passes.

Ominous Arctic Melt Worries Experts

arcticmelt.jpeg

An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.

Greenland’s ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer’s end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.

“The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government’s snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colo.

Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”

So scientists in recent days have been asking themselves these questions: Was the record melt seen all over the Arctic in 2007 a blip amid relentless and steady warming? Or has everything sped up to a new climate cycle that goes beyond the worst case scenarios presented by computer models?

“The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming,” said Zwally, who as a teenager hauled coal. “Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.”

It is the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels that produces carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, responsible for man-made global warming. For the past several days, government diplomats have been debating in Bali, Indonesia, the outlines of a new climate treaty calling for tougher limits on these gases.

What happens in the Arctic has implications for the rest of the world. Faster melting there means eventual sea level rise and more immediate changes in winter weather because of less sea ice.

Arctic summers ice-free ‘by 2013’

launjpg.gif

Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice.

Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.

Professor Wieslaw Maslowski told an American Geophysical Union meeting that previous projections had underestimated the processes now driving ice loss.

Summer melting this year reduced the ice cover to 4.13 million sq km, the smallest ever extent in modern times.

Remarkably, this stunning low point was not even incorporated into the model runs of Professor Maslowski and his team, which used data sets from 1979 to 2004 to constrain their future projections.

In the end, it will just melt away quite suddenly

Professor Peter Wadhams

“Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer is not accounting for the last two minima, in 2005 and 2007,” the researcher from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, explained to the BBC.

“So given that fact, you can argue that may be our projection of 2013 is already too conservative.”

Real world

Using supercomputers to crunch through possible future outcomes has become a standard part of climate science in recent years.

Professor Maslowski’s group, which includes co-workers at Nasa and the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences (PAS), is well known for producing modelled dates that are in advance of other teams.

These other teams have variously produced dates for an open summer ocean that, broadly speaking, go out from about 2040 to 2100.

But the Monterey researcher believes these models have seriously underestimated some key melting processes. In particular, Professor Maslowski is adamant that models need to incorporate more realistic representations of the way warm water is moving into the Arctic basin from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

 

“My claim is that the global climate models underestimate the amount of heat delivered to the sea ice by oceanic advection,” Professor Maslowski said.

“The reason is that their low spatial resolution actually limits them from seeing important detailed factors.

“We use a high-resolution regional model for the Arctic Ocean and sea ice forced with realistic atmospheric data. This way, we get much more realistic forcing, from above by the atmosphere and from the bottom by the ocean.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN-led body which assesses the state of the Earth’s climate system, uses an averaged group of models to forecast ice loss in the Arctic.

But it is has become apparent in recent years that the real, observed rate of summer ice melting is now starting to run well ahead of the models.

The minimum ice extent reached in September 2007 shattered the previous record for ice withdrawal set in 2005, of 5.32 million square km.

The long-term average minimum, based on data from 1979 to 2000, is 6.74 million square km. In comparison, 2007 was lower by 2.61 million square km, an area approximately equal to the size of Alaska and Texas combined, or the size of 10 United Kingdoms.

Diminishing returns

Professor Peter Wadhams from Cambridge University, UK, is an expert on Arctic ice. He has used sonar data collected by Royal Navy submarines to show that the volume loss is outstripping even area withdrawal, which is in agreement with the model result of Professor Maslowski.

“Some models have not been taking proper account of the physical processes that go on,” he commented.

“The ice is thinning faster than it is shrinking; and some modellers have been assuming the ice was a rather thick slab.

“Wieslaw’s model is more efficient because it works with data and it takes account of processes that happen internally in the ice.”

Polar bears (Keith Levesque)

Along the Northwest Passage

He cited the ice-albedo feedback effect in which open water receives more solar radiation, which in turn leads to additional warming and further melting.

Professor Wadhams said the Arctic was now being set up for further ice loss in the coming years.

“The implication is that this is not a cycle, not just a fluctuation. The loss this year will precondition the ice for the same thing to happen again next year, only worse.

“There will be even more opening up, even more absorption and even more melting.

“In the end, it will just melt away quite suddenly. It might not be as early as 2013 but it will be soon, much earlier than 2040.”

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) collects the observational data on the extent of Arctic sea ice, delivering regular status bulletins. Its research scientist Dr Mark Serreze was asked to give one of the main lectures here at this year’s AGU Fall Meeting.

Discussing the possibility for an open Arctic ocean in summer months, he told the meeting: “A few years ago, even I was thinking 2050, 2070, out beyond the year 2100, because that’s what our models were telling us. But as we’ve seen, the models aren’t fast enough right now; we are losing ice at a much more rapid rate.

“My thinking on this is that 2030 is not an unreasonable date to be thinking of.”

And later, to the BBC, Dr Serreze added: “I think Wieslaw is probably a little aggressive in his projections, simply because the luck of the draw means natural variability can kick in to give you a few years in which the ice loss is a little less than you’ve had in previous years. But Wieslaw is a smart guy and it would not surprise me if his projections came out.”

Former US Vice President Al Gore cited Professor Maslowski’s analysis on Monday in his acceptance speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.

Growth has already pushed Earth past tipping point, new study says

earth_large_fromapollo.gif

The final synthesis report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change will show that growing economies herald growing greenhouse gas emissions and the result has been a growing threat of global warming, says scientist and Australian of the Year conservationist Tim Flannery.

”We thought we’d be at that threshold within about a decade,” Flannery told ABC. ”We thought we had that much time, but the new data indicates that in about mid-2005, we crossed that threshold.”

Flannery’s comments came just days after Canada and the U.S. both advocated a voluntary approach to limit greenhouse gases instead of strict international agreements to curb emissions. Neither President Bush nor Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to cap emissions because they fear it would stifle economic growth.

They are right, of course, but that’s exactly what must happen.

As Flannery has observed: ”We’ve had growing economies everywhere. We’re still basing that economic activity on fossil fuels. You know, the metabolism of that economy is now on a collision course with our planet, clearly.”

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report (also known as the Fourth Assessment Report) will be released on November 7, 2007. The Report brings together the core information of the previous three volumes released earlier this year, to create “the most policy-relevant scientific document on climate change for the years to come.”

  • Calendar

    • August 2017
      M T W T F S S
      « Sep    
       123456
      78910111213
      14151617181920
      21222324252627
      28293031  
  • Search