A warmer Arctic could permanently affect the pattern of the high-altitude polar jet stream, resulting in longer and colder winters over North America and northern Europe, US scientists say. The jet stream, a ribbon of high altitude, high-speed wind in northern latitudes that blows from west to east, is formed when the cold Arctic air clashes with warmer air from further south. The greater the difference in temperature, the faster the jet stream moves.
According to Jennifer Francis, a climate expert at Rutgers University, the Arctic air has warmed in recent years as a result of melting polar ice caps, meaning there is now less of a difference in temperatures when it hits air from lower latitudes. “The jet stream is a very fast moving river of air over our head, but over the past two decades the jet stream has weakened. This is something we can measure,” she said Saturday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As a result, instead of circling the earth in the far north, the jet stream has begun to meander, like a river heading off course. This has brought chilly Arctic weather further south than normal, and warmer temperatures up north. Perhaps most disturbingly, it remains in place for longer periods of time.
Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio [x]
Offshore Oil Leases in America’s Arctic Rejected by U.S. Court Court
Decision Paves the Way for Obama Administration to Reconsider Drilling in Wildlife-Rich Arctic Waters
Today, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Department of the Interior violated the law when it sold offshore oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by a coalition of Alaska Native and conservation groups made up of the following: the Native Village of Point Hope, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and World Wildlife Fund. Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, represented the groups.
Statement from Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold:
"We don’t know nearly enough about the Chukchi Sea ecosystems - let alone about how to clean up an oil spill in ice-locked seas - to let international corporations go around poking holes in the seafloor," said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “We do know that the Arctic Ocean is crucial for marine birds and mammals, holding globally significant feeding and resting areas for dozens of species, and they need to be protected. This decision gives the White House a chance to reconsider drilling in the Chukchi.” Via
Highway to the Arctic Ocean, built on melting permafrost, slices through dozens of streams, ponds, and lakes. Why? In anticipation of the Arctic north thawing from climate change giving the Canadian government an edge on extracting natural resources.
Message in a bottle found 54 years later in Arctic
“To Whom it May Concern: This and a similar cairn 21.3 feet to the west were set on July 10, 1959. The distance from this cairn to the glacier edge about four feet from the rock floor is 168.3 feet.
"Anyone venturing this way is requested to remeasure this distance and send the information to: Paul T. Walker, Department of Geology, The Ohio State University, Columbus 10, Ohio, USA and Mr. Albert P. Crary, Air Force Cambridge Research Center, 11 Leon St., Boston 15, Mass. USA. Thank you very much.”
I’m VERY skeptical of National Wildlife Federation’s claim that these polar bears dug into the soil to cool down. NWF claims that these particular bears were over heated and needed to cool down their body temperatures. Cute, but I don’t believe it for a second! Here’s the description of these pics from the the NWF’s bleeding-heart blog post:
The heat-stressed polar bears were digging holes in the dirt, trying to stay cool by lying on the permafrost below. The photos were taken by Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. He just returned from the Hudson Bay in Canada, where he and scientists observed the polar bears. His polar bear photos are available for sharing (credit the National Wildlife Federation).
Wrong. This is exactlyhow polar bears sleep. They dig shallow holes to curl up in, hold their backs against the wind, and nap for about 8 hours.
Misleading blog posts like the above contribute to science illiteracy. The NWF should show 1) that these particular bears don’t normally sleep like this. After all, this is how polar bears sleep - explain why are these bears an exception. 2) Show the baseline data that these particular bears were in fact heat stressed. These guys look fat and healthy. 3) Show that these bears actually cooled off after their nap. In the least, show a correlation between heat stress and cooling off vis a vis digging a hole. And 4) show where and how the bears learned this behavior. After all, temperatures do swing in the Arctic. Polar bears are prepared for these normal swings.
I just see polar bears doing their normal sleepy time. And that these photos were taking from a helicopter on a long-lens, which tells me the bears weren’t actually baselined nor studied.
I’ve left a note for the blog post’s author to clarify and will post an update.
The Arctic sea ice has been surprising scientists for the last six years. It set a new record for melting back during the International Polar Year in 2007.
Last year it beat that record, but at the same time the seasonal ice in the Bering Sea has been increasing – also to a record last winter. Whatever is driving these changes is also beginning to affect the vegetation on land.
Almost no one in America has heard of the Alaskan village of Kivalina. It clings to a narrow spit of sand on the edge of the Bering Sea, far too small to feature on maps of Alaska, never mind the United States.
Which is perhaps just as well, because within a decade Kivalina is likely to be under water. Gone, forever. Remembered - if at all - as the birthplace of America’s first climate change refugees.
Four hundred indigenous Inuit people currently live in Kivalina’s collection of single-storey cabins. Their livelihoods depend on hunting and fishing.
The sea has sustained them for countless generations but in the last two decades the dramatic retreat of the Arctic ice has left them desperately vulnerable to coastal erosion. No longer does thick ice protect their shoreline from the destructive power of autumn and winter storms. Kivalina’s spit of sand has been dramatically narrowed.
I have a few posts on Kivalina. The villagers tried - and lost - several times to sue oil companies and the federal government.
Science struggled to explain fully why an ice age occurs every 100,000 years. As researchers now demonstrate based on a computer simulation, not only do variations in insolation play a key role, but also the mutual influence of glaciated continents and climate.
Last year was among the 10 warmest years on record – ranking eighth or ninth depending on the data set, according to a report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The year 2012 also saw record greenhouse gas emissions, with concentrations of carbon dioxide and other warming gasses reaching a global average of 392.7 parts per million for the year.
"The findings are striking," Kathryn Sullivan, Noaa’s acting administrator, said on a conference call. "Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place."
The scientists were reluctant to point directly to the cause of the striking changes in the climate. But the annual reports are typically used by the federal government to prepare for the future, and in June president Barack Obama used his climate address to direct government agencies to begin planning for decades of warming atmosphere and rising seas.
The biggest changes in the climate in 2012 were in the Arctic and in Greenland, said the report, which is an annual exercise by a team of American and British scientists. The Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes, the report found. By June 2012, snow cover had fallen to its lowest levels since the record began. By September 2012, sea-ice cover had retreated to its lowest levels since the beginning of satellite records, falling to 1.32 million square miles.
The Danish Meteorological Institute is reporting that on Tuesday, July 30, the mercury rose to 25.9 C (78.6 F) at a station in Greenland, the highest temperature measured in the Arctic country since records began in 1958