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.
The Antarctic ice sheet and its response to climate change has received increased attention over the last couple of years. Now it becomes clear, that choices that the world makes this century could determine the fate of this massive layer of ice covering Antarctica. A study published in Nature finds that continued growth in greenhouse-gas emissions over the next several decades could trigger an unstoppable collapse of Antarctica’s ice — raising sea levels by more than a meter by 2100 and more than 15 meters by 2500.
Reaching the North Pole still is a challenge due to its location in the middle of the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. To get there, many travelers are using the Russian Camp Barneo, a drift station that has been set up annually for 15 years. Usually, passengers and materials would be flown in via Longyearbyen to the camp. This season, the Russian crew experienced a lot of troubles, both in terms of ice as well as politically. Now the camp organizers decided to change the flight itinerary and plan to use Franz-Josef-Land in the future.
The Arctic is a relentless and unforgiving environment with harsh conditions, yet a rich area for feeding in summer. Many sea birds spend the summer in the Arctic for breeding and feeding, attracted by the nutrient-rich water along the coastal areas of Alaska. However, since last year, researchers have noted massive die-offs of common murres (Uria aalge) along the coast. First thought to be a unique event, more and more regions along the coast of Alaska seem to be affected. The latest area with dead birds ashore is Katmai National Park in the southwest corner of Alaska. The scientists are puzzled about the reasons for the die-off.
„Below 40 degrees south there is no law; below 50 degrees south there is no God”, but even in the icy barren landscape of Antarctica, the explorers and scientists of past and present have found time for prayer and religion. With at least seven churches used for religious practice in Antarctica, these are the southernmost places in the world to worship.
So far considered “a sleeping giant” the East Antarctic Ice Sheet could melt if carbon dioxide levels keep increasing a new study warns. Carbon dioxide levels above 600 parts per million could induce a rapid melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet adding several tenths of meters of sea level rise a new study says.
For a long time, polar research was treated in a Cinderella-like way, despite outstanding and internationally renowned scientists like climatologist Professor Thomas Stocker and head of the WSL Professor Konrad Steffen. But now, Switzerland has its own polar institute, officially presented at press conference in Berne. Initiated by polar explorer und businessman Frederik Paulsen, the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) was presented to the public. At the same time, the initiates also presented the first project of the SPI: a 3-month scientific expedition around the entire Southern Ocean to assess the impact of climate change and the pollution of the Southern Ocean.
The largest animal on earth feeds on one of the smallest one: Whales in the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean feast on krill, crustaceans only a few centimetres long. This extraordinary dinner party was recently witness by Australian scientists on a research expedition to the Kerguelen Islands where a rare ‘super-swarm’ of krill attracted more than 100 humpback whales.
Polar bears are perfectly adapted to their harsh environment, even in energy terms. Summer time, when all other animals are flourishing, means fasting for polar bears and the king of the Arctic has live off its energy reserves gained during the winter time. However, thanks to climate change, summer are getting longer and the animals weaker.
Antarctica is a place dedicated to peace and science. Every year, numerous scientists make their way down south to spend weeks to months in the coldest, windiest, most barren places of our planet. This raises the question: Why? A new anthology by science writer Rebecca Priestley now reveals numerous scientific discoveries that have been made in Antarctica from Captain James Cook to modern day scientists. It might help to elucidate the fascination and magic of this last true wilderness. The titel of the book: “Dispatches from Continent Seven”.
The Arctic sea ice has become a synonym for effects of climate change. Almost every year, news of another record low of the white northern cap, which covers the Arctic Ocean, make it to the headlines in the news around the globe. This winter season, the extent of Arctic sea ice has reached another record low according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).