First Arctic Navigation in February


Alexander Ryumin/TASS

A tanker sailed through Arctic sea ice in February for the first time, the latest sign of how quickly the pace of climate change is accelerating in the Earth’s northernmost regions.

The Christophe de Margerie was accompanied by the nuclear-powered 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker as it sailed back to Russia this month after carrying liquified natural gas to China through the Northern Sea Route in January. Both trips broke navigation records…

The experimental voyage happened after a year of extraordinarily warm conditions in the Arctic that have sent shockwaves across the world, from the snowstorm that blanketed Spain in January to the blast of cold air that swept through Canada in mid-February, moving deep into the South as far as Texas.

If the Bloomberg link is acting up, try accessing through Flipboard to Bloomberg.

Looks like climate change feedback has arrived in the Arctic


Permafrost…melts into the Kolyma River outside Zyryanka, Russia
Michael Robinson Chavez/Washington POST

” The Arctic is undergoing a profound, rapid and unmitigated shift into a new climate state, one that is greener, features far less ice, and is a net source of greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, according to a major new federal assessment of the region released Tuesday.

The consequences of these climate shifts will be felt far outside the Arctic in the form of altered weather patterns, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and rising sea levels from the melting Greenland ice sheet and mountain glaciers.

” The findings are contained in the 2019 Arctic Report Card…Especially noteworthy is the report’s conclusion that the Arctic may have already turned into a net emitter of planet-warming carbon emissions due to thawing permafrost, which would only accelerate global warming. Permafrost is the carbon-rich frozen soil that covers 24% of Northern Hemisphere land area, encompassing vast stretches of territory across Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland…

” “These observations signify that the feedback to accelerating climate change may already be underway,” the report concludes.

“Each of the studies has some parts of the story. Together they really paint the picture of – we’ve turned this corner for Arctic carbon,” said Ted Schuur. “Together they complement each other nicely and really in my mind are a smoking gun for this change already taking place.”

RTFA. Read it and weep for the damage we have done…continue to do under the “leadership” of the League of Corporate Pimps in Washington, DC. Otherwise known as Congress, the White House and the Federal Government.

Trump’s flunky refuses to sign Arctic Climate Declaration


Mandel Ngan/Pool

❝ The United States has refused to sign an agreement on challenges in the Arctic due to discrepancies over climate change wording, diplomats said on Tuesday, jeopardizing cooperation in the polar region at the sharp edge of global warming.

❝ With Arctic temperatures rising at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, the melting ice is creating potential new shipping lanes and has opened much of the world’s last untapped reserves of oil and gas to commercial exploitation .

A meeting of eight nations bordering the Arctic in Rovaniemi in Finland on Tuesday was supposed to frame a two-year agenda to balance the challenge of global warming with sustainable development of mineral wealth.

❝ But sources with knowledge of the discussions said the United States balked at signing a final declaration as it disagreed with wording that climate change was a serious threat to the Arctic.

Our pantywaist president and his pimp, Pompeo, aren’t about to admit to science when they are committed to oil and other mineral profiteers ready to strip-mine the Arctic. The two of them – Pompeo and Trump – are in a fancy dress footrace to see who is the best imitation Mussolini to run the next two or more terms as fake president.

In the Melting Arctic, an Account from a Stranded Ship


Aground on a shoalDONGLAI GONG

❝ On the second day of a U.S. National Science Foundation-sponsored expedition to the Arctic, we were sitting in the presentation room of the 364-foot Russian cruise ship, Akademik Ioffe, about 45 miles north of the Inuit village of Kugaaruk…

As the briefing transitioned into ways of avoiding a dangerous polar bear encounter, the Akademik Ioffe suddenly grounded to a violent halt. I knew that we were in a very remote area of the Gulf of Boothia in Canada’s central Arctic, and I knew the danger we were in if the hull of the ship had been breached in a serious way.

❝ Rumors – spread quickly, as the hours on the shoal passed. The captain wasn’t communicating with us directly. What little information was offered came from Dave Sinclair, expedition leader, who did wonders calming everyone’s nerves even though he had almost no idea what was going to happen.

RTFA. A good read. Firsthand experience sometimes rocks.

Plus I had to do a quick search through the article for an old bud of mine often on journeys to the poles. All clear.

Arctic crossing planned for autonomous sub


Click to enlargeBritish Antarctic Survey

❝ The UK’s favourite new yellow submarine, Boaty McBoatface, is in training for a grand challenge…Scientists plan to send the long-range autonomous vehicle under the sea-ice of the Arctic – from one side of the ocean basin to the other.

It is a journey of at least 2,500km – and while nuclear subs might routinely do it, the prospect is a daunting one for a battery-operated research vehicle…The trip could happen in 2018 or 2019.

❝ “It represents one of the last great transects on Earth for an autonomous sub,” said Prof Russell Wynn, from the National Oceanography Centre, Boaty’s UK base…“Previously, such subs have gone perhaps 150km (horizontally) under the ice and then come back out out again. Boaty will have the endurance to go all the way across the Arctic.”…

❝ “One of the things we’re going to do is teach Boaty to read a map,” said Prof Wynn. “You give it a map of the seabed in its brain and then as it travels it uses sonar to collect data that it can compare with the stored map. This should tell it where it is. It’s a neat concept but it’s never been tested over thousands of km before.”…

❝ Schools will be able to apply for education packs centred on ocean and polar topics. And STEM ambassadors will also be working with children to bring these subjects alive.

Beaucoup information, anecdotes, discussion-worthy goodies in the article. No doubt there will be online tracking much like that following the recent solar round-the-globe adventure. Looking forward to Boaty’s travels.

The oldest, thickest Arctic sea ice is melting away – shrinking the expanse of sea ice

❝ Arctic sea ice, the vast sheath of frozen seawater floating on the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas, has been hit with a double whammy over the past decades: as its extent shrunk, the oldest and thickest ice has either thinned or melted away, leaving the sea ice cap more vulnerable to the warming ocean and atmosphere…

❝ Direct measurements of sea ice thickness are sporadic and incomplete across the Arctic, so scientists have developed estimates of sea ice age and tracked their evolution from 1984 to the present. Now, a new NASA visualization of the age of Arctic sea ice shows how sea ice has been growing and shrinking, spinning, melting in place and drifting out of the Arctic for the past three decades.

“Ice age is a good analog for ice thickness because basically, as ice gets older it gets thicker,” Walt Meier said. “This is due to the ice generally growing more in the winter than it melts in the summer.”

❝ The new animation shows two main bursts of thick ice loss: the first one, starting in 1989 and lasting a few years, was due to a switch in the Arctic Oscillation, an atmospheric circulation pattern, which shrunk the Beaufort Gyre and enhanced the Transpolar Drift Stream, flushing more sea ice than usual out of the Arctic. The second peak in ice loss started in the mid-2000s…

“We’ve lost most of the older ice: In the 1980s, multiyear ice made up 20 percent of the sea ice cover. Now it’s only about 3 percent,” Meier said. “The older ice was like the insurance policy of the Arctic sea ice pack: as we lose it, the likelihood for a largely ice-free summer in the Arctic increases.”

Science, knowledge, marches on inevitably. Hopefully, our understanding keeps pace. That understanding comes with an imperative to aid increasing knowledge in supplanting older, sometimes spurious understanding.

Russian scientists find WW2 Nazi weather station


Click to enlarge

❝ A secret Nazi base in the Arctic abandoned after scientists ate infected polar bear meat has been unearthed.

The mysterious site, named ‘Schatzgraber’ or ‘Treasure Hunter’ by Hitler’s underlings, was constructed in 1942 – a year after the Third Reich invaded Russia.

Russian researchers have now rediscovered the military base, which the former garrison evacuated by U-boat after eating infected polar bear meat…

❝ More than 500 objects were recovered from the site as Russian scientists explored the former Nazi compound located in Alexandra Land, an island around 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole.

❝ On the barren moonscape of the isolated island, relics of the Second World War can be seen, with shells and other fragments of the conflict lying on the shale.

The ruins of bunkers, discarded petrol canisters and even paper documents have also been discovered, preserved in the intense cold

❝ Allied forces occupied most suitable sites for polar weather reports, so the Nazis landed a small group of observers on Alexandra Land.

Supplies for the men at the remote post were dropped by air.

In 1944 all of the men at he base ate raw polar bear meat, which resulted in trichinosis disease from roundworms living in the infected flesh.

A U-boat had to rescue the scientists posted there after infection ravaged their base.

Not exactly good duty. I hope they at least received combat pay.

Massive amounts of carbon are locked away in permafrost — for how much longer?


Click to enlargeUniversity of Laval

Researchers have confirmed the widespread release of ancient carbon from melting Arctic permafrost in what could be the lit fuse on a climate-change bomb.

A paper published this week in Nature Geoscience has released the first measurements of greenhouse gases from permafrost under Arctic lakes. But while the study confirms those gases locked away in ice for thousands of years are seeping free, it concludes the amounts are not yet large.

Scientists have long known that permafrost contains vast quantities of carbon in dead plants and other organic material, about twice as much as the entire atmosphere. Now, that permafrost is melting more quickly as the Arctic warms up faster than anywhere else on Earth…

Researchers looked at lakes in Alaska and Siberia, as well as data from Canada. They used aerial photographs and other information to measure how the area had changed over the last 60 years.

They found that, across the Arctic, the amount of gas being released from a lake was directly related to its expansion. The more permafrost was melted around the water’s edge, the bigger the lake became, and the more greenhouse gases were released.

The team captured some of those gases and subjected them to radiocarbon dating. They found the gases had been generated from carbon stored for anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 years…

Models suggest that over the next 90 years, greenhouse gas releases from permafrost will be 100 times higher than the levels Walter Anthony measured.

That hasn’t begun to happen, yet. No accelerated rate. No “explosion”, yet.

Devotees of philosophical and political systems embracing sophistry will welcome the news. Sit around doing nothing, whining about folks who see a need for responsible action.

Know-nothings, especially the Congressional flavor, won’t even be that concerned.

OTOH, folks who comprehend the predictive aspect of scientific research will continue the fight to mobilize political and social response to climate change.

Radioactive waste ready to re-surface with global warming


One of eight nuclear power plants left behind under the ice and snow

In 1951, the United States government made a pact with the Danish government to begin building camps and testing sites throughout Greenland to protect themselves from arctic Soviet attacks.

Camp Century, built 125 miles inland from Greenland’s shores, was built within the ice, housing up to 200 soldiers, testing construction in the arctic, drilling some of the first ice cores and even testing secret nuclear missiles.

But in 1967, Camp Century, and other camps, were decommissioned and closed. All but the nuclear reactor cores were left, to live forever, forgotten beneath the ice. Or so they thought.

A new study published…in the journal Geophysical Research Letters says that we shouldn’t forget about the stuff, some of it toxic and radioactive, because Greenland is melting. The scientists, from York University in Toronto, estimate with a business-as-usual climate model, the site will be melting in the next 75 years. Outside experts say it could be even sooner than that.

…The scientists estimate that there are 53,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 63,000 gallons of waste water and sewage, and unknown amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls and radioactive coolant. While the site is currently under more than 100 feet of snowfall, fallen since the 1960s, the pollutants will not stay hidden forever.

With the pollutions’ reemergence, the study authors believe this could bring up questions of who is accountable for cleaning up the site. The United States built the site, with the Danish government on a Danish territory, which is now under self-rule.

“It’s a new breed of political challenge we have to think about,” lead author and climate and glacier scientist William Colgan said…

If scientists had their way, responsibility would ultimately accrue to those who put dangerous materials in place. The United States government? That’s another story. The bifurcated clown show in Congress will ultimately decide on the budget – if any – for responsible action. Regardless of which party sits in the White House.

Given our nation’s track record, domestic and foreign, for action on radioactive pollution foisted on communities in the name of our “peace-loving” military – I ain’t too hopeful.

NASA study displays Arctic greening


Click to enlargeNASA/Cindy Starr

The northern reaches of North America are getting greener, according to a NASA study that provides the most detailed look yet at plant life across Alaska and Canada. In a changing climate, almost a third of the land cover – much of it Arctic tundra – is looking more like landscapes found in warmer ecosystems.

With 87,000 images taken from Landsat satellites, converted into data that reflects the amount of healthy vegetation on the ground, the researchers found that western Alaska, Quebec and other regions became greener between 1984 and 2012. The new Landsat study further supports previous work that has shown changing vegetation in Arctic and boreal North America…

“It shows the climate impact on vegetation in the high latitudes,” said Jeffrey Masek, a researcher who worked on the study and the Landsat 9 project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center…Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than elsewhere, which has led to longer seasons for plants to grow in and changes to the soils. Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to shrublands, and shrubs growing bigger and denser – changes that could have impacts on regional water, energy and carbon cycles

With the higher resolution Landsat data, the researchers also found a lot of differences within areas – one pixel would be brown, and its neighbors green, noted Ju. “It’s very localized,” he said. “The vegetation is responding to the microclimates. That’s the benefit of using Landsat data, is that we can reveal this spatial variation over very short distances.”

With the large map complete, researchers will focus on these short distances – looking at the smaller scale to see what might control the greening patterns, whether it’s local topography, nearby water sources, or particular types of habitat. They also plan to investigate forested areas, particularly in the greening Quebec.

❝ “One of the big questions is, ‘Will forest biomes migrate with warming climate?’ There hasn’t been much evidence of it to date,” Masek said. “But we can zoom in and see if it’s changing.”

At this point you really can’t predict gains or losses. The dramatic changes only point out how quickly climate change is affecting some regions unchanged for tens of thousands of years.

RTFA for technical details how NASA scientists did the observational work.