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Climate Change in the Arctic & around the globe

Alarming rise in Arctic methane emissions

Sound familiar? Ice-blog readers will remember methane is more than 20 times as powerful as CO2 as a greenhouse gas, and that scientists in the Arctic are measuring the extent of methane emissions from melting permafrost.
There are billions of tonnes of methane captured in the Arctic soil. As temperatures rise and the permafrost melts, more methane is released. It increases the greenhouse effect further, resulting in a “feedback loop”, with the increased warming melting more permafrost and releasing even more methane.
Zackenberg station in Greenland, which I visited this year, is one of the Arctic stations measuring methane. If you haven’t heard the programme I made including interviews with Prof. Morten Rasch, who heads the Greenland environment monitoring programme, it’s available under the “climate” banner on the right of DW’s environment page. There’s also a photo gallery with brief texts if you don’t have the time to listen to the full feature.
Climate Monitoring in Arctic Greenland
Now a study presented in the journal Nature reports a massive rise in the amount of methane being released from the Arctic permafrost.
See also today’s edition of the Guardian.
Guardian’s David Adam on rise in Arctic methane emissions
Although only 2% of global methane comes from the Arctic, the increase is highest in the Arctic, which is warming much faster than the rest of the planet.
The Guardian quotes Prof. Paul Palmer from Edinburgh University as saying the study “does not show the Arctic has passed a tipping point, but it should open people’s eyes. it shows there is a positive feedback and that higher temperatures bring higher emissions and faster warming”.
Edinburgh Climate Expert Paul Palmer

Date

January 15, 2010 | 8:57 am

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“The talent and the power to change the world”

Well,we’re approaching the first week of the Copenhagen summit. Are you already getting tired of it? Or do you think it’s starting to get exciting and wonder what the world’s leaders will come up with at the end of next week? Georg Windisch commented on the Ice Blog that he finds it sad we need to worry about overkill on this topic, because he says it’s a matter of our very existence.
“What ever comes about this crucial sumit we must continue to voice our concerns about the future of our children. It is very selfish from us just to keep on taking and not willing to give. To many people have to die because of our life style, its time we give our best efforts to help everyone and every living speceis to exist on our beautiful planet. With hope for a better world as we have the talent and power to change the world for the better” says Georg.
I agree with you wholeheartedly, Georg, I wish more of our influential politicians and business-people would do the same, and be prepared to put their money where their mouths are.
There have been some signs of hope. The US Environment Protection Agency’s decision that greenhouse gases represent a health threat, for instance. Might seem to you like stating the obvious, but if it gives the President more scope to reduce them, it’s a big step forward.
Then again we had the escalation in the dispute between the wealthy industrialised and the developing nations. EU leaders are supposed to come up with a figure for funding today. Let’s see what that brings. Somehow I fear it will fall short of what’s needed.
I’ve been pleased to note the media are really giving full attention to the subject. And people around me are actually talking about it. Let’s hope it stays that way until December 19th – and beyond.
Ice-Blog readers might be interested in a flash picture gallery I made on Climate Change in Greenland. And a 25-minute radio feature to listen or download on the same topic.
Climate Change in Greenland – in sound and pictures
Click on the “climate” section on the right-hand side.
There are some other interesting stories on the page too.

Date

December 11, 2009 | 9:17 am

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Satellite Arctic and Antarctic images alarm scientists


(Greenland coastal glacier I photographed this summer)

More worrying news on the ice front. A study based on the analysis of millions of NASA satellite laser images has indicated that coastal ice in Greenland and Antarctica is thinning more extensively than expected. The biggest loss of ice is caused by glaciers speeding up when they flow into the sea, according to scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Bristol University. There is a clear pattern of glaciers thinning across large areas of coastline, sometimes extending hundreds of kilometres inland. The scientists think the cause is probably warm ocean currents reaching the coast and melting the glacier fronts.
Worryingly, the scientific community still does not have enough information to understand this fully and predict what impact it will have on sea level rise.
According to the study, 81 of 111 fast-moving glaciers in Greenland are thinning at twice the rate of slow-flowing ice at the same altitude. This is called “dynamic thinning”, which means loss of ice caused by a faster flow. Apparently, it is much more significant than people thought before. This fits with what scientists I talked to in Greenland a few weeks ago were saying.


Melting from below

Date

September 24, 2009 | 3:58 pm

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Polar Bear at Zackenberg

I got a mail today from Lars Holst Hansen, deputy station chief during the summer season at Zackenberg Ecological Research Station, the one I visited in July, and a biologist with NERI, the National Environment Research Institute.
It seems there have been several polar bear visits to the station, right up on to the beach. Lars, many thanks for your short report. Here is one of Lars’ pictures.

PHOTO BY LARS HOLST HANSEN
You may well ask what a polar bear is doing on land like this at this time of the year, no ice in sight anywhere. Presumably he is hungry. It seems he also went close to some Zackenberg kayakers. I’m hoping Lars will send me the scientist’s  view of the visit.
Thanks again Lars, and look forward to hearing more from you.

Date

September 10, 2009 | 4:01 pm

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Greenland in the Headlines

Well, your ice-blogger is back from Greenland and trying to get back to business as usual, if there is such a thing.

(Meltpond on the Greenland ice sheet from the air)
I’m still working on stories for radio and online and will put some links to shorter pieces below.I’m making some longer features as part of our international “Pole to Pole” project, which will only be ready later. Meanwhile there’s no shortage of climate developments to keep a journalist out of mischief in the run-up to Copenhagen.
Other media reports have been confirming my own experiences on climate change in Greenland.
The Guardian had a huge spread, including front-page coverage, on the rapid loss of mass from the ice sheet.
Guardian Correspondent on Greenland
The Guardian is actively running a campaign it calls 10:10, reduce your own emissions by 10% in 2010. Does that sound like a lot to you or far too little?
The background on 10:10
A large-scale campaign like this has surely got to be a good idea?
More alarming ice-breaking (-melting?) news came out in the form of a WWF report launched at World Climate Conference 3 in Geneva.
(Why do we need yet another climate conference?)
The report sums up the latest scientific evidence on the changes taking place in the Arctic and warns that feedback effects from the warming will speed up and increase climate change all over the planet. A quarter of the world’s population could be affected by flooding as a result of melting ice.
WWF’s Arctic Climate Expert Martin Sommerkorn on Arctic and World Climate
WWF’s Arctic site
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon picked up on that same theme addressing the conference after a trip up to the Arctic the same week. You’d think that meant top priority for the climate change issue. But is it resulting in any action?
A couple of Greenland article links:
Climate Change already visible in Greenland
Young Volunteers help protect World Heritage Ice Fjord

Date

September 9, 2009 | 8:32 am

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