Microplastics found in waters off Svalbard, raising more concerns about Arctic Ocean pollution

Tiny plastic particles, so called microplastics, from personal-care products and plastic waste, are accumulating in marine waters and big lakes around the world. They haven now also been showing up in Arctic waters south and southwest of Svalbard, Norway, raising concerns that they are entering the Arctic food web.

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Billions of juvenile fish under the Arctic sea ice

Using a new net, marine biologists from the Alfred Wegener Institute have, for the first time, been able to catch polar cod directly beneath the Arctic sea ice with a trawl, allowing them to determine their large-scale distribution and origin. This information is of fundamental importance, as polar cod are a major source of food for seals, whales and seabirds in the Arctic. The study, which was recently published in the journal Polar Biology, shows that only juvenile fish are found under the ice, a habitat the researchers fear could disappear as a result of climate change.

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2015 Antarctic maximum sea ice extent does not set a new record

Antarctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual maximum extent on October 6. The maximum occurred relatively late compared to past years. In contrast to the past three years, the 2015 maximum did not set a new record high for the period of satellite observations, but was nevertheless slightly above the 1981 to 2010 average.

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Start of the Antarctic 2015-16 summer season

The Antarctic 2015-16 summer season has now started at New Zealand’s Scott Base with the first flights leaving from Christchurch, New Zealand for Antarctica.

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Where is the world’s permafrost thawing?

At 19 September 2015 a conference in Quebec, Canada an international research team will present the first online data portal on global permafrost. In the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (www.gtnp.org) researchers first collect all the existing permafrost temperature and active thickness layer data from Arctic, Antarctic and mountain permafrost regions and then make it freely available for download. This new portal can serve as an early warning system for researchers and decision-makers around the globe. A detailed description of the data collection is published today in an open access article on the Earth System Science Data portal.

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Sea-ice zone has a major influence on the ecosystem

In the last 30,000 years there was, at times, more mixing in the Southern Ocean than previously thought. This meant that vast quantities of nutrients were available to phytoalgae, which in turn contributed to storing the greenhouse gas CO2 during the last glacial period. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) present these new findings in a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Study on changes of past climate

The northern Antarctic Circumpolar Current’s flow speed in the Drake Passage was reduced by 40 % during the last glacial in comparison with the present interglacial. This is one result of a study by Dr. Frank Lamy from the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and colleagues in this week’s “Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences of the United States of America”.

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How do krill survive the Antarctic winter?

Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute together with international colleagues could analyse the distribution and behaviour of larval and juvenile krill beneath wintery Antarctic sea ice for the first time. In order to decrypt the life cycle of this ecologically important species 51 scientists and technicians as well as 44 crewmembers sailed the Weddell Sea for 63 days.

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Revived oceanic CO2 uptake

A decade ago scientists feared that the ability of the Southern Ocean to absorb additional atmospheric CO2 would soon be stalled. But the analysis of more recent observations show that this carbon sink reinvigorated during the past decade.

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Arctic oil drilling projects face an uncertain future

Currently, oil prices drop almost every day to new record lows. This trend is likely to continue into the near future. However, this trend also poses questions about drilling projects in the Arctic, which already are considered high risk / high cost projects. Several companies already backed away from these projects and put their plans back into the drawers. What will be the future then? Are Arctic drilling plans done?

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