New heat weave hits large parts of the Arctic

Temperatures at the North Pole usually linger around -15°C in May and around -30°C in winter, with variations of course. However, several times in the past winters, unusual warm spikes were recorded. The latest pushed temperatures around the melting point (0°C). This spells trouble for Arctic sea ice. Credit: Michael Wenger

The Arctic hits one sad record after the other. Last month, news that the maximum ice extent was the second lowest in the history of records spread through the media. Last week, another anomaly was recorded: a new heat wave hit the Arctic region, especially the North Pole, with temperatures around 18° C above normal. Also, almost all areas of the European and Russian Arctic experienced higher temperature than normal.

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Environmental agent hired by AECO as next step to battle plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is considered to be one of the most pressing environmental problems worldwide, including in the Arctic. AECO has now decided to join the UN Clean Seas campaign, increase the efforts of beach cleanups, and urge AECO members to abdicate single-use plastic goods. Credit: Michael Wenger

Recently, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) secured substantial funding for its campaign against single-use plastic in the Arctic and on member vessels. Now, the Arctic expedition cruise industry steps up efforts to combat marine plastic pollution as AECO hires seasoned polar tourism professional Sarah Auffret as AECO’s new environmental agent.

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Subantarctic South Georgia officially rodent-free

South Georgia is situated right in the middle of the South Atlantic and Southern Ocean. Due to its remoteness, only seabirds and marine animals made the place their home, at least until the arrival of human beings. Credit: Michael Wenger

The Subantarctic island of South Georgia had been troubled by rodents for centuries. Brought in by whalers and sealers, rats and mice devastated the bird colonies and the vegetation. Over the last 10 years, however, things have changed for the better. In the world’s largest eradication program, more than 1’000 km2 of the island were cleared of any rodents. Now, the South Georgia Heritage Trust has declared the campaign a huge success.

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IAATO presents latest Antarctic tourism figures

Antarctic tourism has flourished over the last decade. The fascinating magic of the Antarctic environment has captured thousands of people. To make sure that tourism in this fragile wilderness remains environmental friendly and sustainable, IAATO imposes strong regulation strategies on itself. Credit: Michael Wenger

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reported its visitor numbers for the 2017-2018 Antarctic season at the start of its annual meeting in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. IAATO has been monitoring, analyzing and reporting trends since 1991 as part of its commitment to ‘leave only footprints’ through the effective self-management of its activities.

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Freshwater from Antarctic glaciers enhances their melting

The Mertz glacier and its tongue are situated in the Australian sector of Antarctica. The glacier itself is approximately 40 km wide and 72 km long. The tongue protrudes another 100 km into the Southern Ocean. It partially broke off in 2010 when it got struck by another iceberg. Credit: Jacques Verron

A new study has revealed a previously undocumented process where melting glacial ice sheets change the ocean in a way that further accelerates the rate of ice melt and sea level rise. The research found that glacial meltwater makes the ocean's surface layer less salty and more buoyant, preventing deep mixing in winter and allowing warm water at depth to retain its heat and further melt glaciers from below.

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Supersalty lakes found under Canadian ice cap

More than half a kilometre beneath the Devon Ice Cap, scientists discovered two lakes whose extreme saltiness could make them a habitat for microbes—an environment that might also exist on Jupiter's icy moon Europa.  Credit: Martin Sharp

International research teams had found several lakes under the Antarctic ice sheet, preserved there for millions of years. Similar results were obtained in Greenland underneath the second largest ice cap in the world. Now, scientists from the University of Alberta have made an astonishing find: super-salty lakes underneath the Devon Ice Cap, the largest Canadian ice cap, located on Devon Island, Nunavut. These lakes are also the first hypersaline subglacial lakes worldwide.

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Comprehensive conference to focus on changing Southern Ocean systems

All water masses around Antarctica and bordered by the Antarctic convergence are combined to form the Southern Ocean. It is home of penguins, whales, krill, and icebergs. Credit Michael Wenger

The waters around Antarctica, usually combined as the Southern Ocean, have made many headlines lately. Pollution, fisheries, climate change are a few of the pressures that this vast water body is facing. Mid-April, international scientists had gathered in Hobart, Tasmania, to discuss the challenges and possible solutions in a first attempt to combine their knowledge.

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AECO receives big funding to combat marine plastic litter

Plastic litter in the Arctic is enormous problem. Mostly, it is washed ashore and stays there to be degraded into tiny little pieces which then end up in the food chain and accumulate in top predators like polar bears. Credit: Ilja Lang, AECO

The marine environment faces a lot of problems and dangers. Pollution, especially in the shape of plastic litter, is one of the main issues, also in the Arctic. The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators AECO now takes a stand against this threat: Armed with €300’000 in funding, backing from the UN and thousands of volunteers, AECO will work to drastically cut back on single-use plastics on its member vessels, as well as enhance cruise passengers’ involvement in regular beach cleanup. All of this is part of the UN Environment Clean Seas campaign.

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Climate change may hit Arctic arthropods harder than polar bears

Large areas of the Arctic tundra like in Greenland consist of diverse vegetation. In it, a huge number of tiny animals live and thrive, which are overlooked when wandering through the Tundra: Arctic arthropods. Credit: Michael Wenger

Looking at effects of climate change, most people focus on the large iconic species such as seals, whales, and polar bears. However, the Arctic is a very diverse region and consists of more than these animals. A research team from Washington University found that Arctic arthropods such as insects and spiders will face an even harder and more uncertain future than the other Arctic ambassadors. The results of the study were published in The Royal Society Open Science.

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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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