Search Results for Tag: ice
Record melt helps first Chinese ship across Arctic
Returning after several trips, I’ve been catching up on the Arctic news and noted with concern but unfortunately not really surprise that the Snow Dragon or Xuelong, a Chinese icebreaker, has become the first ship from China to cross the Arctic Ocean. It arrived in Iceland after sailing the Northern Route, along the coast of Russia. The expedition leader Huigen Yang, head of China’s Polar Research Institute, said he had expected a lot more ice along the route. The sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean actually seems set to beat the record low from 2007. Clearly, Chinese interest is growing, as the melting ice opens up a shorter sea route and, of course potential access to oil, gas and minerals. The country has applied for observer status at the Arctic Council, which consist of the Arctic countries USA, Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark (because of Greenland) and Iceland. China is not the only interested party outside the Arctic states. Japan, South Korea, The European Commission and Italy are also applying. Germany, Britain, France, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands are already observers.
What clearer a signal could you get that climate change is affecting the Arctic than interest from the world’s number 2 economy, China, which, alas, is also the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter?
DateAugust 20, 2012 | 12:28 pm
North East passage opening up early this summer?
The North-East passage, the sea route that goes along the northern coast of Russia, looks as if it will be free of ice at a very early stage this summer, according to scientists from Germany’s AWI, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. Towards the end of last winter, the scientists found large areas of the Laptev Sea covered by ice which was only a maximum of 50 cm thick. This, they say, is unlikely to last long once the summer sun comes out. Previous measurements in 2007/2008 had recorded ice thicknesses of up to a metre around the same place . Dr. Thomas Krumpen, the expedition leader, said the team has been surprised by the measurements, taken by a special ice-depth sensor dangled from a helicopter. Dr. Krumpen says the wind is probably responsible. When the wind is blowing from land out on to the sea, it forces the pack ice from the Laptev Sea northwards. This leaves open areas of water at the coast, which cool out fast and form thin ice. But the scientists were not previously aware that the areas could be this big. In some places they flew a good 400 kilometres over thin ice. The team want to use the measurements to calibrate satellite data.
More information on the AWI website, but I’m afraid the English version of this story doesn’t seem to be available yet.
DateJune 8, 2012 | 2:42 pm
Warm ocean currents are melting Antarctic ice
Recent ice loss from Antarctica was mainly caused by warm ocean currents, according to a team of scientists led by British Antarctic Survey. In an article for the journal NATURE this week, they explain how they used new techniques to differentiate for the first time between the two known causes of melting ice shelves – warm ocean currents attacking from below and warm air melting from above. One worrying thing is that this means “we can lose an awful lot of ice to the sea without ever having summers warm enough to make the snow on top of the glaciers melt – the oceans can do all the work from below” says Dr. Hamish Pritchard from BAS, lead author of the report.
The warm water melting the ice sheets is causing inland glaciers to speed up and discharge masses of ice into the sea. The reason the water is warming, is probably because of changes in wind patterns, caused in turn by changes in climate. This would mean “Antarctica’s glaciers are responding rapidly to a changing climate” says Pritchard.
Most of the ice shelves being melted by warm ocean currents are in West Antarctica. On the eastern Antarctic Peninsula the shelf thinning found by the study can be explained by warmer summer winds directly melting the snow on the ice shelves.
The results will help improve projections of future sea-level rise.
More here on the website of the British Antarctic Survey
DateApril 27, 2012 | 1:02 pm
Scientists are using satellite mapping technology to count penguins in Antarctica. The latest results have shown that there are actually twice as many emperor penguins there as previously thought. Isn’t it nice when you hear some good news for a change?
The information provides a more accurate basis for researchers to monitor how environmental change is affecting the penguins. Satellite photography is proving to be a great way of keeping track of the penguins because their black and white feathers stand out against the snow, so the colonies are clearly visible on satellite imagery.
DateApril 16, 2012 | 9:58 am
If there’s one place that definitely isn’t connected to the electricity grid and can benefit from using renewable energies, it’s got to be the Antarctic. Belgium, a country that might not be the first to come to mind when you think of polar research, has its own station, the “Princess Elisabeth Antarctica” station, and it is a “zero emissions” station. The summer research season has just come to an end, and the station says it was one of its most ambitious yet.
DateApril 3, 2012 | 11:13 am