Climate has influenced the distribution patterns of Adélie penguins across Antarctica for millions of years. The geologic record tells us that as glaciers expanded and covered Adélie breeding habitats with ice, penguin colonies were abandoned. When the glaciers melted during warming periods, this warming positively affected the Adélie penguins, allowing them to return to their rocky breeding grounds. But now, University of Delaware scientists and colleagues report that this beneficial warming may have reached its tipping point.
Antarctic sea ice is constantly on the move as powerful winds blow it away from the coast and out towards the open ocean. A new study published today in the journal Nature Geoscience shows how that ice migration may be more important for the global ocean circulation than anyone realized.
The Totten Glacier region in East-Antarctica is the outlet for one of the biggest ice catchments in the world. Scientists have discovered that two unstable regions exist across which the ice has retreated and advanced rapidly before in Earth history. A retreat past these unstable regions could cause a dramatic further retreat of the glacier with an associated global sea-level rise of 2 or even 4 meters.
Celebrating solstice has become very popular again in the western world. On June 21st, thousands of people on the northern hemisphere celebrate the longest day and enjoying the longest sunshine of the year (if visible). But at the same time on the southern hemisphere, people celebrate the shortest day of the year and the return of the sun, especially in Antarctica. But how do they celebrate in the remote stations of the Antarctic continent?
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.
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.
Antarctica holds many mysteries but a new one seems to have been revealed recently. Another large lake is hiding under its ice – second only to Lake Vostok in size. Today 370 subglacial lakes are known and they are of great interest because of the possibility that they could harbour unique life forms that may have existed in isolation, locked under ice for millions of years.
Four weeks of field research in the perpetual dark of an Antarctic winter in -50°C temperatures is not most people's idea of a good time. But for the Antarctic researcher Professor Ian Hawes, it will represent the pinnacle of a career visiting the ice almost every year since 1978. In a world first, five New Zealand scientists are planning to carry out research in the middle of the Antarctic winter. The project has attracted the attention of NASA, which is keen to learn lessons it could apply to a manned trip to Mars.