The Arctic probably is the fastest warming region on this planet. It never was as apparent as this winter. Several heat waves had struck the High Arctic and temperatures rose up to 5°C above the 30-year average. This and the fact that less sea ice had been formed last year as well had led to a new record low of Arctic sea ice extent in winter. Only 14.4 million square meters of the Arctic Ocean had been covered with sea ice. The unusual warming period als has led to strange weather phenomenas on the entire northern hemisphere this winter.
In recent years, mackerel have appeared in Greenland waters, and in their wake new and economically important fisheries have emerged. The first mackerel were caught in Greenland in 2011. And already three years later, in 2014, mackerel fishing had grown to make up entire 23 percent of the Greenlandic export earnings which is 78,000 tons of mackerel.
Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) are setting out with the research vessel Polarstern towards Spitsbergen, to use newly developed equipment in the Arctic Ocean. Autonomous instruments on the seabed, in the water column and in the air will complement the long-term measurements of the deep-sea research group. In this way researchers can analyse the climatic changes in the Arctic and their impact on the fauna in the future with higher temporal and spatial resolution.
Alfred Wegener is considered one of the most prominent and most influential European polar researchers. Especially his expeditions to Greenland brought him fame even amongst the Danish community. Now, his diaries of his first Greenland expedition 1906 – 08 have been published. A specialty of the publication are the 70 hand-drawn sketches which were digitally re-mastered with great care. Dr. Reinhard Krause added explanatory comments to the publication.
When talking about greenhouse gases, people usually talk about carbon dioxide. However, methane is considered much more potent as a greenhouse gas despite much lower levels in the atmosphere. The debate about the origin of increased levels of methane in the atmosphere has triggered a number of research projects. Now, the Norwegian Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate has found evidence that only very little of the gas seeping from the seabed of the Arctic Ocean also reaches the atmosphere.
Delivering cargo to Antarctic stations is a tricky business with a high degree of logistics behind it. Most of the time, goods and parts are delivered by ship or by airplane during the Southern summer season. During the winter time, stations are usually on their own. The Australian Antarctic Division in cooperation with the Royal Australian Airforce had begun successfully to use C-17A cargo planes to deliver goods to the largest station Casey in East Antarctica. Now, they also successfully completed the first midwinter airdrop of material in Antarctica.
On their annual meeting in Santiago de Chile, the 29 countries of the Antarctic Treaty unanimously decided to keep the ban on mining activities in the Antarctic. The resolution was initiated by the USA to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
A couple of weeks ago in Arviat, Nunavut (CA), a local Inuit was out to hunt polar bears. However, what he had hunted was not an ordinary polar bear but a polar bear – grizzly hybrid. This is the third confirmed sighting of this hybrid and scientists now debate over the future of polar bears in the face of climate change.
Like a ship moving through pack ice at the top of the world, the task of securing funding for a new U.S. icebreaker has been arduous, lonely and at times maddeningly slow. Sometimes, it’s only by looking backward that progress can be measured, by seeing the obstacles that came before in a trail behind you. This week, Alaska’s congressional delegation got to see a big piece of ice crack and move aside, as Sen. Lisa Murkowski secured an amendment to a Homeland Security and defense spending bill that would direct $1 billion for the construction of a heavy icebreaker to augment America’s meager fleet of polar ships.
The waters around the Antarctic Peninsula are characterized by significant environmental changes and pronounced natural gradients in physical characteristics. The journal Polar Biology has now dedicated a special issue to this region. The articles in the issue report a wide range of results on the ecology of the Southern Ocean.
The Western Antarctic sector of the Southern Ocean is the regular feeding ground of a large number of fin and humpback whales of the Southern Hemisphere. Around 5,000 fin whales likely migrate to its ice-free waters during summer, along with at least 3,000 humpback whales. These estimates follow a ship-based helicopter survey of whales in Antarctic waters. A net trawl survey for krill was also conducted to see if the distribution of these whales and specific krill species are connected. The study was led by Helena Herr of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover in Germany, and is published in a special issue on "Antarctic Peninsula Shelf Biology" in Springer's journal Polar Biology.