Half a degree Celsius can mean the world for Arctic animals

The Arctic Ocean stays in the headlines with its continuous loss of sea ice. According to the new study, the probability of ice-free summers or not depends on half a degree Celsius. Thus, polar bears depend on the goodwill of the world leaders to fulfill their climate goals. Credit: Michael Wenger

The difference between life and death usually is a thin line. The same goes for the very existence of Arctic sea ice and all the animals which depend on it, according to a new study by a researcher from the University of Colorado. Her analysis shows that already half a degree more of climate warming will lead to a more certain ice-free Arctic ocean in the future.

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Scott’s scientific legacy helps to understand climate change effects

The Discovery Hut on Ross Island with the US Antarctic McMurdo station in the background. From here, Scott had started his scientific and exploring expedition deep into Antarctica. Credit: Taylor & Francis

During Scott’s famous Discovery Expedition 1901 – 1904, the team collected numerous samples to enhance the scientific knowledge on Antarctica. More than 100 years later, scientists from the UK and the USA have now analyzed some these valuable samples. Their findings give a sneak peek into Antarctic ecology prior to the extensive human activity there and the rest of the world.

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Bowhead whales between Svalbard and Greenland sing various songs “free jazz” style

Bowhead whales are true Arctic whales and spend a lot of time around the floe edge to feed on fish. With their thick and protected tip of their upper jaw, they can even break ice and create their own breathing holes. Credit: Heiner Kubny

Singing whales? Forget the humpback and spot on to bowhead whales. The longest living marine mammal in the world has a broad range of vocalizations, or songs, at least the ones in the Fram Strait between Svalbard and Greenland. A study published by scientists from the University of Washington has come to this conclusion after eavesdropping on bowhead whales for four years.

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Russian plans for North Pole research platform

The geographical North Pole has lured many expeditioners into the vast and icy realm of the Arctic. Nowadays, the ice cover gets thinner almost every year, causing a lot of problems for researchers and expeditions. Credit: Michael Wenger

What sounds like an April‘s Fool joke is in fact a true story: Russia plans to establish a research platform at the North Pole, similar to the Amundsen-Scott Station at the southern end of the world. The new station eventually will replace the Russian drift ice stations that have been around since the 1930s.

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Important role for nitrate in Arctic plant ecology

Arctic tundra usually consists of shrubs, grasses, flowers, and mosses and lichens. The soil is low on nutrients in general, but especially on nitrate. Still, many plants can absorb nitrate just like any other plants in lower latitudes. Credit: Michael Wenger

Despite the harsh conditions, Arctic plants grow in a multitude of forms, colors, and sizes in the tundra. However, Arctic tundra soil is known to be nutrient-limited, especially in terms of nitrogen. An international research team has now challenged the general notion that Arctic plants have no need for nitrate. Their results obtained in the tundra region of Alaska show that Arctic plants can absorb nitrate at comparable rates to any vegetation in nitrate-rich areas

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Some Adélies like it colder than others

Adélie penguins breed along the Antarctic coastline from early spring onwards. Their colonies are up to several hundred thousands of breeding pairs and are the largest gatherings of penguins on the Antarctic continent. Credit: Michael Wenger

Adélie penguins are the southernmost breeding penguin species and iconic to Antarctica. Numerous colonies are found along the Antarctic coast and on nearby islands. Until now, they were thought to come to their breeding places only in summer. Now, remote sensing cameras set up at various colonies have captured Adélies returning to their breeding sites during winter time. A comparison between colonies in West and East Antarctica, however, clearly showed that Western Adélies are the ones returning in winter while Eastern Adélies stay away until spring time.

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When greenhouse gases start wandering

To investigate the melt ponds on sea ice, the scientists are forced to make camp on the sea ice, close by to the icebreaker “Polarstern”. Credit: Marcel Nicolaus

On the seafloor of the shallow coastal regions north of Siberia, microorganisms produce methane when they break down plant remains. If this greenhouse gas finds its way into the water, it can also become trapped in the sea ice that forms in these coastal waters. As a result, the gas can be transported thousands of kilometers across the Arctic Ocean and released in a completely different region months later. This phenomenon is the subject of an article by researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, published in the current issue of the online journal Scientific Reports. Although this interaction between methane, ocean and ice has a significant influence on climate change, to date it has not been reflected in climate models.

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Totten Glacier tongue even bigger than assumed

A team of scientists from Australia and the US had spent all summer on the Totten glacier tongue to investigate what is underneath the ice. Surprisingly, they found water instead of bedrock. Credit: AAD / Ben Galton Fenzi

Totten Glacier is one of the largest and fastest flowing glaciers in Antarctica. It is assumed to be one of the main ice drainage systems in the east of the Antarctic continent, flowing out over the Totten Glacier tongue. However, little is known about the tongue and its size. An international research team has now seismologically surveyed the tongue and found that it is even longer than assumed. This could make it more vulnerable to melting.

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Ocean winds influence seal pup migration

Native American fishermen in Alaska have known that seal pups go with the wind rather than struggle against it. A new research study confirms that. Migrating northern fur seal pups travel hundreds of kilometres farther in blustery years than in calmer years. (Credit: Eric Boerner, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Service)

Scientists have confirmed what native Alaskans have observed for centuries - winds influence the travel patterns of northern fur seal pups. New research shows that strong winds can displace seal pups by hundreds of kilometres during their first winter migration.

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Antarctic sea ice shrinks to second lowest minimum

This year the Antarctic sea ice extent nearly broke the minimum record set just last year. Satellite data showed a total of 2.15 million km2 sea ice (Photo: Katja Riedel)

Antarctic sea ice has shrunk to its second lowest extent on record, with the latest satellite data showing a total 2.15 million km2 surrounding the icy continent. This year's summer low sea ice extent almost broke the existing minimum record of 2.07 million km², set in March last year when the extent was approximately 27% below the average annual minimum since 1979.

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