Traces of life under Antarctic glacier discovered

Previous news about possible life forms under the ice of Antarctica had been published over the last few years. A new study by scientists from the Australian National University now found further evidence for this hypothesis. Previously undiscovered animals and plants may live in warm caves under Antarctica's glaciers. Forensic analysis of soil samples from caves on Ross Island revealed traces of DNA from algae, mosses and small animals.

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Brand new space weather radar built in the Arctic

The most advanced space weather radar in the world is to be built in the Arctic by an international partnership including the UK, thanks to new investment, including in the region of £4 to £6m from NERC. The EISCAT_3D radar will provide UK scientists with a cutting-edge tool to probe the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space, helping them understand the effects of space weather storms on technology, society and the environment.

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Antarctic whale numbers slowly on the rise again

The industrialized whaling era had a significant impact on whale populations around Antarctica. Almost all species of baleen whales had been severely decimated and by the end of the 1960s, a moratorium on whaling was decided to give populations time to recover. This moratorium heralded the protection of whales in the Southern Oceans. Today, the populations slowly recover, albeit not as quickly as hoped for, according to a new model presented by Australian scientists.

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Oldest known ice offers glimpse into Earth’s past

Scientists have reported that a core drilled in Antarctica has yielded 2.7 million year old ice. Bubbles in the ice contain greenhouse gases from the Earth’s atmosphere at a time when glacial advance and retreat just had started, thus offering the potential to investigate what had triggered the ice ages. This makes the core the only sample of ancient Earth’s atmosphere at the time being.

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Gentoo penguins can talk under water

Penguins are sociable. During breeding, these birds gather in large colonies on the coasts of Subantarctic islands and on the main land. Their multi-vocal calls are usually loud and heard over the entire colony. But what is their behavior while at sea foraging? To solve this mystery, Korean biologists applied video cameras on Gentoos to film and eavesdrop on the animals while at sea. The results were stunning: Even while swimming and diving, Gentoos communicate amongst each other using short calls. However, the exact nature of these calls is yet to be determined.

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Svalbard reindeer is doing well

The Norwegian Polar Institute counted 1374 Svalbard reindeer in the Adventdalen around Longyearbyen this year. Many calves were observed and only a few dead reindeer found. This is a trend that has been observed for years: The reindeer population has been growing slightly in this region for years.

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How the climate can rapidly change at tipping points

During the last glacial period, within only a few decades the influence of atmospheric CO2 on the North Atlantic circulation resulted in temperature increases of up to 10 degrees Celsius in Greenland – as indicated by new climate calculations from researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute and the University of Cardiff.

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Zooplankton - Time to rise and shine

Genetic clocks in zooplankton species regulate what is likely the largest daily movement of biomass worldwide. The copepod species Calanus finmarchicus schedules its day using a genetic clock that works independently of external stimuli. The clock shapes the copepod’s metabolic rhythms and daily vertical migration. This in turn have an enormous influence on the entire food web in the North Atlantic, where Calanus finmarchicus is a central plankton species. Wherever the high-calorie copepod is, determines where its predator species are. The results of the study will be published in the journal Current Biology.

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Traces of ancient subglacial lake under West Antarctic ice sheet discovered

Researchers have provided new evidence that large sub-glacial lakes existed under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the last glacial period – around 20,000 years ago – a period when the ice was thicker and extended further than it does today. Using sophisticated geochemical techniques to analyse the water trapped within sediment cores recovered from the sea-floor of Pine Island Bay, the team concludes that the area once featured several sub-glacial lakes, the largest of which was the size of Loch Lomond. The results were published this month in the journal Nature Communications.

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Solar heating as a suitable alternative for Arctic countries

According to researchers at Aalto University, by using suitable systems, more than 80% of heating energy for Finnish households could be produced using solar energy. As the price of heating energy obtained from solar heating systems needed to be competitive with the currently used heating alternatives, calculations made by researchers showed that renewable energy could be used to cover 53-81% of annual domestic heating energy consumption depending on the technical implementation method.

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