Sunday, February 20, 2011

Permafrost Melt Soon Irreversible

During the Around the Americas expedition in 2009-10, the crew of Ocean Watch spent time with researchers in the Barrow, AK, tundra. Permafrost is a huge area of concern with climate change as so much of the earth's methane has been locked in the frost and stored, releasing slowly. The article below is troubling indeed...

Published on Sunday, February 20, 2011 by Inter Press Service
by Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE - Thawing permafrost is threatening to overwhelm attempts to keep the planet from getting too hot for human survival.

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, as much as two-thirds of the world's gigantic storehouse of frozen carbon could be released, a new study reported. That would push global temperatures several degrees higher, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable.

Once the Arctic gets warm enough, the carbon and methane emissions from thawing permafrost will kick-start a feedback that will amplify the current warming rate, says Kevin Schaefer, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. That will likely be irreversible.

And we're less than 20 years from this tipping point. Schaefer prefers to use the term "starting point" for when the 13 million square kilometres of permafrost in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe becomes a major new source of carbon emissions.

"Our model projects a starting point 15 to 20 years from now," Schaefer told IPS.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Arctic Current Warmer than for 2,000 years

Tuesday, 08 February 2011 Reuters

The North Atlantic current flowing into the Arctic Ocean is warmer than for at least 2,000 years in a sign that global warming is likely to bring ice-free seas around the North Pole in summers, a study showed. Scientists said that waters at the northern end of the Gulf Stream, between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, averaged 6 degrees Celsius (42.80F) in recent summers, warmer than at natural peaks during Roman or Medieval times.

"The temperature is unprecedented in the past 2,000 years," lead author Robert Spielhagen of the Academy of Sciences, Humanities and Literature in Mainz, Germany, told Reuters of the study in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

The summer water temperatures, reconstructed from the makeup of tiny organisms buried in sediments in the Fram strait, have risen from an average 5.2 degrees Celsius (41.36F) from 1890-2007 and about 3.4C (38.12F) in the previous 1,900 years. The findings were a new sign that human activities were stoking modern warming since temperatures are above past warm periods linked to swings in the sun's output that enabled, for instance, the Vikings to farm in Greenland in Medieval times.

"We found that modern Fram Strait water temperatures are well outside the natural bounds," Thomas Marchitto, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the authors, said in a statement. The Fram strait is the main carrier of ocean heat to the Arctic.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Black Carbon is Big Problem

Whether it is in our oceans or deposited in our lungs, on the snow-capped Rockies or Arctic ice, Black Carbon is one of the major problems on the planet in regards to change in climate and health.

We met scientists at the UCSD's Scripps Institute working on low tech solutions for the developing countries.

In a story by Martin Kaste on NPR, here is some of the story...

Almost half the world still cooks its food with solid fuels, such as wood and charcoal.

The results are deforestation and black carbon, which contributes to global warming. And smoke-related disease kills an estimated 1.6 million people a year.

Read more-

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

More Ice Diminishes

The least sea ice in 800 years
Friday, 03 July 2009 09:01

New research, conducted by the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and published in the scientific journal Climate Dynamics, maintains that the sea ice in the Arctic sea between Greenland and Svalbard has reached the smallest size it has been in 800 years.

The research combined information about the climate found in ice cores from an ice cap on Svalbard and from the annual growth rings of trees in Finland. The data about the ice cover was gathered from the logbooks of whaling- and fishing ships dating back to the 16th century as well as from records from harbors in Iceland, where the sea ice coverage has been recorded since the end of the 18th century. By combining these two sets of information the researchers were able to track the sea ice all the way back to the 13th century.

The sea ice has been at the minimum also before, first in the late 13th century and later in the mid 17th and mid 18th century. The researchers maintain, however, that these periods were in no case as persistent as the decline of the sea ice in the 20th century when the ice diminished 300 000 square km in ten years. The sea ice has been at its largest from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, during a period called the Little Ice Age.

From the Arctic Portal website (great website for Arctic news)-