The research vessel Polarstern entered its homeport with the early-morning high tide on Thursday, 20 April 2017, marking the end of a five-month season in the Antarctic for the icebreaker and her crew. Many geoscientists in Bremerhaven can’t wait to see the samples that were collected during a six-week foray into the Amundsen Sea this February and March, which are expected to help decode the glacial history of West Antarctica and improve the accuracy of prognoses for future sea-level rises. Once the samples have been unloaded, preparations will begin for the “Open Ship” event on 22 and 23 April, when the Polarstern will open her doors to the public.
Antarctica is the highest, driest, coldest and windiest continent on earth. The lowest temperature yet recorded by ground measurements for the Antarctic Region, and for the whole world, was -89.2°C at Vostok station on 21 July 1983. But how warm does it get? That was the question posed last year to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations funded body that oversees meteorology and weather observations worldwide. A New Zealand scientist was part of an international group of experts who have identified the highest temperatures ever recorded in Antarctica.
Nuclear submarines in the Arctic always have been a military issue, especially during the Cold War Ear and now with the increasing militarization of Arctic nations. However, there also is a peaceful and scientific utilization of this technique possible, according to Russian engineers. Surprisingly, the Design Bureau that came up with the idea of civilian nuclear submarines is the same that had designed all Russian military subs.
Polar cod fulfil a key role in the Arctic food web, as they are a major source of food for seals, whales and seabirds alike. But the polar cod themselves might soon be the hungry ones. Under the ice of the central Arctic, the juvenile fish are indirectly but heavily dependent on ice algae. As a result, retreating sea ice could have far-reaching impacts on the food web. Though researchers have long since suspected this relation existed, an international team of researchers led by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, have now successfully confirmed it.
Stronger winds, increased warming, ocean acidification and declining sea ice have been identified as major threats to some of the keystone members of the Southern Ocean community – phytoplankton. A recent review, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, predicts the likely impact of climate change on phytoplankton across various regions in the Southern Ocean.
The Arctic Institute (TAI) is a renowned non-profit US organization that covers very complex and diverse Arctic policy and security. It also acts as an information platform on Arctic issues. To this end, it has set up a broad and large network of researchers and other experts on various Arctic topics. However, since the inauguration of the new US administration under President Trump, this network has experienced a surge of data disappearance on US Arctic policy and climate issues and it all points to the US administration as the culprit. Victoria Herrmann, president and managing director of the TAI, has now published an open letter in the British newspaper The Guardian.
As climate change continues to impact the Antarctic, glacier melt and permafrost thaw are likely to make more liquid water available to soil and aquatic ecosystems in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, potentially providing a more nutrient-rich environment for life, according to a Dartmouth study recently published in Antarctic Science.
The Arctic Council was established by Arctic nations as forum to discuss and decide Arctic issues which overlap national boundaries. The chairmanship rotates every two years and now, it is Finland’s turn to chair the council. At the next council meeting in Fairbanks, it will take over the Arctic council as well as the climate leadership from the currently presiding United States.
In 2012, news about the record low of Arctic sea ice minimum extent went around the world. Now, the Arctic sea ice maximum extent also has reached an all-time record low according to the data presented by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. A mere 14.4 million square kilometers of the Arctic Ocean were covered by ice.