What is underneath Antarctica’s fastest melting glacier?

A UK team of researchers has produced high-resolution maps of the bed beneath a major glacier in West Antarctica, which will help them predict future sea-level rise from this region. Radar surveys of the land beneath Pine Island Glacier have revealed a diverse landscape under the ice with some surprises. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds aimed for investigation

Atmospheric scientists will use ships, aircraft and satellites to study super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds this summer. The project involving Australian and United States researchers will gather data on super-cooled cloud formations, which are clouds that remain as liquid water well below freezing.

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Why albatross can sail the Southern Oceans

Albatrosses sail the Southern Oceans almost effortlessly. Even though known for centuries, only now, engineers have developed a new model to simulate dynamic soaring, and have used it to identify the optimal flight pattern that an albatross should take in order to harvest the most wind and energy. They found that as an albatross banks or turns to dive down and soar up, it should do so in shallow arcs, keeping almost to a straight, forward trajectory.

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New protected area in Antarctica after iceberg calving

An international agreement is now in place to give special protection to the area of ocean left exposed when one of the largest icebergs ever recorded broke free from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in July this year. The iceberg – known as A68 – is starting to move north, and it will leave behind a 5,818 km2 area of seabed exposed to open marine conditions. Much of this area may have been ice-covered since the last inter-glacial period around 120,000 years ago, providing a unique opportunity for scientists to study how marine life responds to this dramatic change.

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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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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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Early meteorite hit near Falklands formed Earth’s largest crater

In the past, the Antarctic was hit by meteorites and meteors several times. Traces are found on Antarctica on several occasions rather easily. However, the subantarctic islands and surrounding oceans are harder to screen due to the depth of the basins. An international team of scientists now has found a large crater near the Falkland Island archipelago. They estimate the age of approximately 250 million years and consider it one of the largest craters in the world.

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‘Insightful’ approach to aging Antarctic krill

For the first time scientists have been able to determine the age of Antarctic krill by counting the growth bands in their eyestalks.

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Antarctic daylight affects sleep and wake hormones

The continuous daylight conditions of summer in Antarctica are known to interfere with physiological functions such as sleep patterns and the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with circadian rhythms and sleep. Now, a study offers new information about why people in this region sleep poorly, and suggests that social behavior may also play a role. The study, published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology, was chosen as an APSselect article for March.

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Oldest penguin fossils found in New Zealand

Finding fossils needs a lot of patience, knowledge of geology and the history of the environment... or simply a lot of luck. A fossil collector found in New Zealand's Waipara River area in the region of Canterbury by chance the remains of a huge ancient penguin. After thorough examination by scientists from New Zealand and Germany, the age of the fossilized bones was estimated around 61 million years old. According to the researchers, the oldest penguin now known resembled the modern king penguins of today but was more than 150 centimeters talll. This makes it more than 30 centimeters bigger than emperor penguins, the largest modern penguin. The results by the scientists mean that penguin evolution started much earlier than previously estimated. It is probable that the divergencce of penguins from their relatives happened during the age of the dinosaurs.

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