(Click to enlarge) The part of the icberg which lies underwater can be scouring the seafloor. (Credit: AWeith/Wikicommons) On Monday, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft warned that environmental response organizations are not prepared to address a large oil spill in the Arctic. (From The Marine Executive) --- He drew on his experience [...]
The remote Arctic tundra may seem like the last place on Earth human pollution should be causing a problem — yet it’s filled with mercury contamination. That mercury leaks from the soil into rivers and ultimately the Arctic Ocean, contaminating the fish and other sea life that native communities rely on for survival.
Ross Edwards wasn’t sure what he’d gotten himself into when he arrived in Kangerlussuaq this past May to begin a month-long traverse of the Greenland ice sheet. His four teammates were busy assembling the strange vehicle they would use to cross the barren ice – a train of wooden sleds pulled by a giant kite. But Edwards, an earth scientist at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, worried that it wasn’t up to the task. “Man, this looks like a futon,” he thought.
In the winter of 2015, New York City’s Hudson River froze—a rare occurrence. Prior to the 2000s, the record shows that the Hudson froze in 1720, 1780, and 1821—a period that overlaps with the so-called Little Ice Age, when the Northern Hemisphere was cooler overall. But since the turn of the century, the lower Hudson has frozen not once, but twice: in 2015 and 2003.
Scientists have for the first time tracked soot from Canadian wildfires all the way to the Greenland ice sheet, where they found that the dark, sunlight-absorbing particles landed on the ice and had the potential to significantly enhance its melting — pointing to a possible new driver of sea level rise. It’s the first end-to-end documentation of a process that, it’s feared, could hasten Greenland’s melting in the future — and since the ice sheet could contribute over 20 feet of eventual sea level rise, any such process is one that scientists weigh carefully.
Ocean territories surrounding the United States cover 3.4 million square nautical miles – more than the entire land area of all 50 states. The Department of the Interior (DOI) has the literally enormous responsibility of “support[ing] stewardship and collaborative conservation and management” of these ocean, Great Lakes, and coastal resources. DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke defended the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 at a series of hearings this week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and the House Natural Resources Committee.
Toxic Mercury Levels Are Actually Declining In Alaskan Polar Bears—But That’s Not As Great As It Sounds
Imagine: vast expanses of frozen sea, stretching from the northern coast of Alaska into the Arctic horizon. Welcome to the Southern Beaufort Sea—or at least, the Southern Beaufort Sea as it used to be. This icy Arctic ecosystem is dominated by the majestic polar bear, but warmer temperatures are changing both the landscape and its inhabitants. In a recent study in Polar Research, scientists at the University of Connecticut and the United States Geological Survey found that mercury levels measured in Southern Beaufort polar bears' hair have actually declined significantly in recent years, particularly in male polar bears. Surprisingly, despite worries about increasing pollution, mercury levels dropped by about 13 percent per year in samples collected from 2004 to 2011. The decrease was insignificant in female bears (4.4 percent), but much higher in male bears (15 percent). “We see this very substantial drop in polar bear mercury concentration over a relatively short period of time,” says Melissa McKinney, first author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Connecticut.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Rapid global warming has sped up the movement of sea ice off Alaska’s coasts, and already at-risk polar bears are paying a price, a new U.S. study says. Most sea ice moves throughout the year and the iconic white bears are on a perpetual walk to stay within their preferred habitat, said U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist George Durner, lead author of the study. He compares it to living on a treadmill that has picked up speed because ice is thinner, more brittle and moving faster because of wind and ocean currents.
While most people acknowledge climate change as a significant issue, many do not realize the looming threat it poses to our national security. For many military experts, it’s a risk as pressing as nuclear weapons or terrorism, dramatically altering “the very geostrategic landscape in which the U.S. military operates” (Military Expert Panel Center for Climate and Security Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission). The Department of Defense (DOD) considers climate change a “threat multiplier,” amplifying instability by worsening stressors like food and water scarcity, poverty, and social tensions, which can drive political upheaval and threaten global stability, creating a security threat at home and abroad.
The Arctic Ocean was once a gigantic freshwater lake. Only after the land bridge between Greenland and Scotland had submerged far enough did vast quantities of salt water pour in from the Atlantic. With the help of a climate model, researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute have demonstrated how this process took place, allowing us for the first time to understand more accurately how Atlantic circulation, as we know it today came about. The results of the study have now been published in the journal Nature Communications.
When Karin Andreassen set out for the Barents Sea, she knew she would find a lot of methane. The cold, shallow body of water just north of where Norway meets Russia is home to oil and gas fields, and methane—the main component of natural gas—naturally seeps out of the seafloor here. Andreassen, a marine geologist at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, also knew from surveys in the 90s that she’d find some underwater craters. But she did not expect to find so many craters (hundreds!) and so many huge ones (half a mile wide).
“U.S. presence in the Arctic is necessary for more than just power projection; it's a matter of national security,” Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2) proclaimed during a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, Homeland Security Subcommittee. If only doing were as easy as saying – even accessing the remote region requires a heavy icebreaker that can ram through at least 20 feet of ice.