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Vocapedia > Earth > Climate change, Global warming > Glaciers, Polar regions > Lapland, Greenland, Arctic, North Pole




Since 2003,

Greenland has lost on average

more than 272tr kgs of ice a year.


Photograph: Alamy


Melting ice sheets changing the way the Earth wobbles on its axis,

says Nasa


Saturday 9 April 2016    01.35 BST


















The new book Arctic Heroes

sees Icelandic photographer and author Ragnar Axelsson

retelling the personal stories of hunters in the Arctic.


The book bears witness to the magnificence of sled dogs

and the integral role they play in hunters’ lives.


The photographs included in this book

were taken in Greenland between 1986 and 2020.

Arctic Heroes: A Tribute to the Sled Dogs of Greenland

by Ragnar Axelsson is published by Kehrer Verlag


Paw patrol: the majestic sled dogs of the Arctic – in pictures

Sled dogs have helped hunters traverse the region

for more than 4,000 years

– often saving their handlers’ lives.

Yet with climate change,

the faithful hounds’ days could be numbered.

Photographer Ragnar Axelsson’s

tribute to the Arctic Heroes


Thu 10 Dec 2020    07.00 GMT


















In Greenland, where the melting ice sheet

is irrevocably disrupting the hunters’

4,000-year-old way of life,

the stark reality of global warming

is an immediate and direct threat

to the everyday survival of the Greenlandic sled dog


Paw patrol: the majestic sled dogs of the Arctic – in pictures

Sled dogs have helped hunters traverse the region

for more than 4,000 years

– often saving their handlers’ lives.

Yet with climate change,

the faithful hounds’ days could be numbered.

Photographer Ragnar Axelsson’s

tribute to the Arctic Heroes


Thu 10 Dec 2020    07.00 GMT




















The Big Melt

No Escape: Thaw Gains Momentum


October 25, 2005




















The Big Melt

No Escape: Thaw Gains Momentum


October 25, 2005






































































































Arctic        UK





















































































Artic        USA














































































Arctic Circle > Lapland        UK


Lapland is not so much a country,

more a way of life,

where the nomadic Sami people

live and work alongside

their famous reindeer herds.


What we know as “Lapland”

- and they call Sápmi –

covers an area of land

straddling the Arctic Circle,

and running from the northern part of Norway

in the west,

through Sweden and Finland,

to the Kola peninsula of Arctic Russia

in the east.













Located south of the Arctic Circle,

in Russia’s far east,

Yakutsk is known for its severe climate        UK










Arctic wildlife        UK











eco disaster        UK










The New York Times > The Big Melt: A Series        USA


Effects of warming

on the environment

and on the four million people

who live in the Arctic,

and scientists' assessments

of the inevitability of Arctic melting


thebigmelt/index.html - broken link








Artic > sea ice > ice melt        UK








































Artic > sea ice > ice melt        USA












Arctic expert predicts

final collapse of sea ice within four years        UK        September 2012


As sea ice

shrinks to record lows,

Prof Peter Wadhams

warns a 'global disaster'

is now unfolding

in northern latitudes










Rate of arctic summer sea ice loss

is 50% higher than predicted        UK        August 2012


New satellite images

show polar ice coverage

dwindling in extent

and thickness










The Arctic's near-record sea ice low – big picture        UK        September 2011


A view from space of Arctic sea ice

at a near record low this month.


Scientists in Germany,

who use a different methodology,

said 2011 was a record low










ice shelf > collapse        UK










rising temperatures        UK










soaring Arctic temperatures        UK










Arctique > banquise        FR










USA > climate change > Alaska        UK / USA












climate change > warmer winters > Alaska        USA










ice loss > polar bears        UK










global ice loss        UK

































Open Water: Greenlanders on the climate crisis        G        2 December 2019





Open Water: Greenlanders on the climate crisis        Video        The Guardian        2 December 2019


A glimpse into the lives of three Greenlanders:

a hunter, a ship’s captain and a fisherman,

individuals whose very existence and heritage

is intertwined with the Arctic Ocean.


Like many who live in the polar north,

their fortunes straddle the extremes of summer and winter.


Faced with a drastically changing environment,

these seafarers reflect on their past,

their present and uncertain future

with a complex mix of emotions


















Living with climate change in Greenland - in pictures        UK        6 August 2013


Joe Raedle

joined Getty Images in 2000

and is based in Miami.


His work has varied

from outlandish festivities

in the bayous of Louisiana,

to the mountain peaks of Afghanistan

and the deserts of Iraq.


Here, he covers

the landscape again,

capturing images of Greenlanders

adapt to the changing climate

as researchers

from the National Science Foundation

and other organisations

study the melting glaciers

and the long-term ramifications

for the world









Greenland        UK












Greenland        USA

















Greenland ice sheet / cap        UK / USA

































Greenland > melting ice        UK / USA












ice island












Greenland's glaciers        UK










Greenland’s ice melt        UK










Greenland ice mass change > Statistics > 1992 - December 2018 > -4040 GT










Greenlander        UK


watch?v=9ZFfyh188SM - G - 2 December 2019








Greenland > sled dogs        UK

















melt        UK












melt        USA












melt away        USA












melting ice        USA












The world's melting glaciers        UK










thawing Arctic permafrost        UK












melting permafrost        USA











































Artic ice        USA
















Arctic ice > Northwest Passage        USA












loss of Arctic ice        UK












loss of Arctic ice        USA










Arctic melt        UK        December 2008












Arctic ice extent > statistics > 1979-2019

Arctic monthly mean sea ice extent > 14.784 million m2

























Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge > oil












Corpus of news articles


Earth > Climate change, Global warming


Glaciers, Polar regions


Greenland, Arctic, North Pole




For the first time

in human history,

the North Pole

can be circumnavigated

Melting ice opens up North-west
and North-east passages simultaneously.
Scientists warn Arctic icecap
is entering a 'death spiral'


Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Independent on Sunday

By Geoffrey Lean,

Environment Editor

Open water now stretches all the way round the Arctic, making it possible for the first time in human history to circumnavigate the North Pole, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. New satellite images, taken only two days ago, show that melting ice last week opened up both the fabled North-west and North-east passages, in the most important geographical landmark to date to signal the unexpectedly rapid progress of global warming.

Last night Professor Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the official US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), hailed the publication of the images – on an obscure website by scientists at the University of Bremen, Germany – as "a historic event", and said that it provided further evidence that the Arctic icecap may now have entered a "death spiral". Some scientists predict that it could vanish altogether in summer within five years, a process that would, in itself, greatly accelerate.

But Sarah Palin, John McCain's new running mate, holds that the scientific consensus that global warming is melting Arctic ice is unreliable.

The opening of the passages – eagerly awaited by shipping companies who hope to cut thousands of miles off their routes by sailing round the north of Canada and Russia – is only the greatest of a host of ominous signs this month of a gathering crisis in the Arctic. Early last week the NSDIC warned that, over the next few weeks, the total extent of sea ice in the Arctic may shrink to below the record low reached last year – itself a massive 200,000 square miles less than the previous worst year, 2005.

Four weeks ago, tourists had to be evacuated from Baffin Island's Auyuittuq National Park because of flooding from thawing glaciers. Auyuittuq means "land that never melts".

Two weeks later, in an unprecedented sighting, nine stranded polar bears were seen off Alaska trying to swim 400 miles north to the retreating icecap edge. Ten days ago massive cracking was reported in the Petermann glacier in the far north of Greenland, an area apparently previously unaffected by global warming.

But it is the simultaneous opening – for the first time in at least 125,000 years – of the North-west passage around Canada and the North-east passage around Russia that promises to deliver much the greatest shock. Until recently both had been blocked by ice since the beginning of the last Ice Age.

In 2005, the North-east passage opened, while the western one remained closed, and last year their positions were reversed. But the images, gathered by Nasa using microwave sensors that penetrate clouds, show that the North-west passage opened last weekend and that the last blockage on the north- eastern one – a tongue of ice stretching down to Russia across Siberia's Laptev Sea – dissolved a few days later.

"The passages are open," said Professor Serreze, though he cautioned that official bodies would be reluctant to confirm this for fear of lawsuits if ships encountered ice after being encouraged to enter them. "It's a historic event. We are going to see this more and more as the years go by."

Shipping companies are already getting ready to exploit the new routes. The Bremen-based Beluga Group says it will send the first ship through the North-east passage – cutting 4,000 nautical miles off the voyage from Germany to Japan – next year. And Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, last week announced that all foreign ships entering the North-west passage should report to his government – a move bound to be resisted by the US, which regards it as an international waterway.

But scientists say that such disputes will soon become irrelevant if the ice continues to melt at present rates, making it possible to sail right across the North Pole. They have long regarded the disappearance of the icecap as inevitable as global warming takes hold, though until recently it was not expected until around 2070.

Many scientists now predict that the Arctic ocean will be ice-free in summer by 2030 – and a landmark study this year by Professor Wieslaw Maslowski at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, concluded that there will be no ice between mid-July and mid-September as early as 2013.

The tipping point, experts believe, was the record loss of ice last year, reaching a level not expected to occur until 2050. Sceptics then dismissed the unprecedented melting as a freak event, and it was indeed made worse by wind currents and other natural weather patterns.

Conditions were better this year – it has been cooler, particularly last winter – and for a while it looked as if the ice loss would not be so bad. But this month the melting accelerated. Last week it shrank to below the 2005 level and the European Space Agency said: "A new record low could be reached in a matter of weeks."

Four weeks ago, a seven-year study at the University of Alberta reported that – besides shrinking in area – the thickness of the ice had dropped by half in just six years. It suggested that the region had "transitioned into a different climatic state where completely ice-free summers would soon become normal".

The process feeds on itself. As white ice is replaced by sea, the dark surface absorbs more heat, warming the ocean and melting more ice.

For the first time in human history,
the North Pole can be circumnavigated,






Warming Revives

Flora and Fauna in Greenland


October 28, 2007

The New York Times



NARSARSUAQ, Greenland — A strange thing is happening at the edge of Poul Bjerge’s forest, a place so minute and unexpected that it brings to mind the teeny plot of land Woody Allen’s father carries around in the film “Love and Death.”

Its four oldest trees — in fact, the four oldest pine trees in Greenland, named Rosenvinge’s trees after the Dutch botanist who planted them in a mad experiment in 1893 — are waking up. After lapsing into stately, sleepy old age, they are exhibiting new sprinklings of green at their tops, as if someone had glued on fresh needles.

“The old ones, they’re having a second youth,” said Mr. Bjerge, 78, who has watched the forest, called Qanasiassat, come to life, in fits and starts, since planting most of the trees in it 50 years ago. He beamed like a proud grandson. “They’re growing again.”

When using the words “growing” in connection with Greenland in the same sentence, it is important to remember that although Greenland is the size of Europe, it has only nine conifer forests like Mr. Bjerge’s, all of them cultivated. It has only 51 farms. (They are all sheep farms, although one man is trying to raise cattle. He has 22 cows.) Except for potatoes, the only vegetables most Greenlanders ever eat — to the extent that they eat vegetables at all — are imported, mostly from Denmark.

But now that the climate is warming, it is not just old trees that are growing. A Greenlandic supermarket is stocking locally grown cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage this year for the first time. Eight sheep farmers are growing potatoes commercially. Five more are experimenting with vegetables. And Kenneth Hoeg, the region’s chief agriculture adviser, says he does not see why southern Greenland cannot eventually be full of vegetable farms and viable forests.

“If it gets warmer, a large part of southern Greenland could be like this,” Mr. Hoeg said, walking through Qanasiassat, a boat ride from Narsarsuaq, a tiny southern community notable mostly for having an international airport. Two and a half acres near here of imported pines, spruces, larches and firs are plunked in the midst of the scrubby, rocky hillside next to the fjord, as startling as a mirage. “If it gets a little warmer, you could talk about a productive forest with enough wood for logs,” Mr. Hoeg said.

Farther north, Greenland’s great ice sheet, a vast white landscape of 0.695 million square miles covering 80 percent of the island’s land mass, is melting rapidly, alarmingly, with repercussions not only for the traditional way of life on an island of 56,000 people, but also for the rest of the world. The more the ice melts, the higher sea levels will eventually rise.

But here in the subarctic south — a land of icy water, forbidding mountains, rocky hills, shallow soil, sudden winds and isolated communities slipped in, almost apologetically, along a network of glacier-studded fjords, the changes are more subtle and carry more promise.

“The limiting factor for human survival here is temperature, and there’s a lot of benefits with a warmer climate,” Mr. Hoeg said. “We are on the frontier of agriculture, and even a few degrees can make a difference.”

Greenland, a self-governing province of Denmark, was settled by the pugilistic Viking Erik the Red in the 10th century, after his murderous ways got him ejected from Iceland. Legend has it that he called it Greenland as a way to entice others to join him, and, in fact, it was.

It was relatively green then, with forests and fertile soil, and the Vikings grew crops and raised sheep for hundreds of years. But temperatures dropped precipitously in the so-called Little Ice Age, which began in the 16th century, the Norse settlers died out and agriculture was no longer possible.

Climate is a delicate matter in a place like this. A degree more of warmth here, an inch less of rain there; these can have serious repercussions for a farmer eking out a living raising sheep on the harsh terrain. But while temperatures here in the south dipped in the 1980s, they have risen steadily since. Between 1961 and 1990, the average annual temperature was 33 degrees; in 2006, it was 35 degrees, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute.

Winter is coming later and leaving earlier. That means there is more time to leave sheep in the mountains, more time to grow crops, more time to work outdoors, more opportunity to travel by boat, since the fjords freeze later and less frequently.

Cod, which prefer warmer waters, have started appearing off the coast again. Ewes are having fatter lambs, and more of them every season. The growing season, such as it is, now lasts roughly from mid-May through mid-September, about three weeks longer than a decade ago. “Now spring is coming earlier, and you can have earlier lambings and longer grazing periods,” said Eenoraq Frederiksen, 68, a sheep farmer whose farm, near Qassiarsuk, is accessible by a harrowing drive across a rudimentary road plowed in the hillside. “Young people now have a lot of possibilities for the future.”

Scattered reports of successful strawberry crops in the odd home garden are heard, although it helps to keep them in perspective. As Hans Gronborg, a Danish horticulturist, put it, laughing, “They know whether they’ve harvested 20 strawberries, or 25.” He works at Upernaviarsuk, an agricultural research station near Qaqortoq, one of the largest towns in the south. Like everywhere else, it is accessible only by boat or helicopter. As a rule, no roads connect Greenland towns.

As if visiting the zoo, people come from all over to gape at the varieties of grass in the fields and to see what is growing here, among other things, 15 strains of potatoes and, for the first time, annual flowers: chrysanthemums, violas, petunias.

Mr. Gronborg plucked a head of cauliflower from its nest of leaves. It had a rich, almost sweet flavor — the result, he explained, of slow growth, long summer days of 20 hours of light, and wide swings in temperature from day to night. “It’s small, but it means you get all that flavor concentrated in one-third the size of a regular cauliflower,” he said.

Mr. Gronborg loaded a dozen trays of vegetables into a motorboat to take them to the supermarket in Qaqortoq. Soon, he said, restaurants will serve Greenlandic vegetables beside Greenlandic lamb and reindeer.

“Greenlanders are hunters, and it takes time to change their way of living and being,” he said. “But I am confident that things can grow in south Greenland.”

Warming Revives Flora and Fauna in Greenland,
NYT, 28.10.2007,






Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts


October 2, 2007

The New York Times



The Arctic ice cap shrank so much this summer that waves briefly lapped along two long-imagined Arctic shipping routes, the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia.

Over all, the floating ice dwindled to an extent unparalleled in a century or more, by several estimates.

Now the six-month dark season has returned to the North Pole. In the deepening chill, new ice is already spreading over vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean. Astonished by the summer’s changes, scientists are studying the forces that exposed one million square miles of open water — six Californias — beyond the average since satellites started measurements in 1979.

At a recent gathering of sea-ice experts at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Hajo Eicken, a geophysicist, summarized it this way: “Our stock in trade seems to be going away.”

Scientists are also unnerved by the summer’s implications for the future, and their ability to predict it.

Complicating the picture, the striking Arctic change was as much a result of ice moving as melting, many say. A new study, led by Son Nghiem at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and appearing this week in Geophysical Research Letters, used satellites and buoys to show that winds since 2000 had pushed huge amounts of thick old ice out of the Arctic basin past Greenland. The thin floes that formed on the resulting open water melted quicker or could be shuffled together by winds and similarly expelled, the authors said.

The pace of change has far exceeded what had been estimated by almost all the simulations used to envision how the Arctic will respond to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. But that disconnect can cut two ways. Are the models overly conservative? Or are they missing natural influences that can cause wide swings in ice and temperature, thereby dwarfing the slow background warming?

The world is paying more attention than ever.

Russia, Canada and Denmark, prompted in part by years of warming and the ice retreat this year, ratcheted up rhetoric and actions aimed at securing sea routes and seabed resources.

Proponents of cuts in greenhouse gases cited the meltdown as proof that human activities are propelling a slide toward climate calamity.

Arctic experts say things are not that simple. More than a dozen experts said in interviews that the extreme summer ice retreat had revealed at least as much about what remains unknown in the Arctic as what is clear. Still, many of those scientists said they were becoming convinced that the system is heading toward a new, more watery state, and that human-caused global warming is playing a significant role.

For one thing, experts are having trouble finding any records from Russia, Alaska or elsewhere pointing to such a widespread Arctic ice retreat in recent times, adding credence to the idea that humans may have tipped the balance. Many scientists say the last substantial warming in the region, peaking in the 1930s, mainly affected areas near Greenland and Scandinavia.

Some scientists who have long doubted that a human influence could be clearly discerned in the Arctic’s changing climate now agree that the trend is hard to ascribe to anything else.

“We used to argue that a lot of the variability up to the late 1990s was induced by changes in the winds, natural changes not obviously related to global warming,” said John Michael Wallace, a scientist at the University of Washington. “But changes in the last few years make you have to question that. I’m much more open to the idea that we might have passed a point where it’s becoming essentially irreversible.”

Experts say the ice retreat is likely to be even bigger next summer because this winter’s freeze is starting from such a huge ice deficit. At least one researcher, Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., projects a blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013.

In essence, Arctic waters may be behaving more like those around Antarctica, where a broad fringe of sea ice builds each austral winter and nearly disappears in the summer. (Reflecting the different geography and dynamics at the two poles, there has been a slight increase in sea-ice area around Antarctica in recent decades.)

While open Arctic waters could be a boon for shipping, fishing and oil exploration, an annual seesawing between ice and no ice could be a particularly harsh jolt to polar bears.

Many Arctic researchers warned that it was still far too soon to start sending container ships over the top of the world. “Natural variations could turn around and counteract the greenhouse-gas-forced change, perhaps stabilizing the ice for a bit,” said Marika Holland, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

But, she added, that will not last. “Eventually the natural variations would again reinforce the human-driven change, perhaps leading to even more rapid retreat,” Dr. Holland said. “So I wouldn’t sign any shipping contracts for the next 5 to 10 years, but maybe the next 20 to 30.”

While experts debate details, many agree that the vanishing act of the sea ice this year was probably caused by superimposed forces including heat-trapping clouds and water vapor in the air, as well as the ocean-heating influence of unusually sunny skies in June and July. Other important factors were warm winds flowing from Siberia around a high-pressure system parked over the ocean. The winds not only would have melted thin ice but also pushed floes offshore where currents and winds could push them out of the Arctic Ocean.

But another factor was probably involved, one with roots going back to about 1989. At that time, a periodic flip in winds and pressure patterns over the Arctic Ocean, called the Arctic Oscillation, settled into a phase that tended to stop ice from drifting in a gyre for years, so it could thicken, and instead carried it out to the North Atlantic.

The new NASA study of expelled old ice builds on previous measurements showing that the proportion of thick, durable floes that were at least 10 years old dropped to 2 percent this spring from 80 percent in the spring of 1987, said Ignatius G. Rigor, an ice expert at the University of Washington and an author of the new NASA-led study.

Without the thick ice, which can endure months of nonstop summer sunshine, more dark open water and thin ice absorbed solar energy, adding to melting and delaying the winter freeze.

The thinner fresh-formed ice was also more vulnerable to melting from heat held near the ocean surface by clouds and water vapor. This may be where the rising influence of humans on the global climate system could be exerting the biggest regional influence, said Jennifer A. Francis of Rutgers University.

Other Arctic experts, including Dr. Maslowski in Monterey and Igor V. Polyakov at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, also see a role in rising flows of warm water entering the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia, and in deep currents running north from the Atlantic Ocean near Scandinavia.

A host of Arctic scientists say it is too soon to know if the global greenhouse effect has already tipped the system to a condition in which sea ice in summers will be routinely limited to a few clotted passageways in northern Canada.

But at the university in Fairbanks — where signs of northern warming include sinkholes from thawing permafrost around its Arctic research center — Dr. Eicken and other experts are having a hard time conceiving a situation that could reverse the trends.

“The Arctic may have another ace up her sleeve to help the ice grow back,” Dr. Eicken said. “But from all we can tell right now, the means for that are quite limited.”

Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts, NYT, 2.10.2007,






Arctic Ice Melt

Opens Northwest Passage


September 16, 2007
Filed at 1:53 a.m. ET
The New York Times


PARIS (AP) -- Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.

The waters are exposing unexplored resources, and vessels could trim thousands of miles from Europe to Asia by bypassing the Panama Canal. The seasonal ebb and flow of ice levels has already opened up a slim summer window for ships.

Leif Toudal Pedersen, of the Danish National Space Center, said that Arctic ice has shrunk to some 1 million square miles. The previous low was 1.5 million square miles, in 2005.

''The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected,'' Pedersen said in an ESA statement posted on its Web site Friday.

Pedersen said the extreme retreat this year suggested the passage could fully open sooner than expected -- but ESA did not say when that might be. Efforts to contact ESA officials in Paris and Noordwik, the Netherlands, were unsuccessful Saturday.

A U.N. panel on climate change has predicted that polar regions could be virtually free of ice by the summer of 2070 because of rising temperatures and sea ice decline, ESA noted.

Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States are among countries in a race to secure rights to the Arctic that heated up last month when Russia sent two small submarines to plant its national flag under the North Pole. A U.S. study has suggested as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden in the area.

Environmentalists fear increased maritime traffic and efforts to tap natural resources in the area could one day lead to oil spills and harm regional wildlife.

Until now, the passage has been expected to remain closed even during reduced ice cover by multiyear ice pack -- sea ice that remains through one or more summers, ESA said.

Researcher Claes Ragner of Norway's Fridtjof Nansen Institute, which works on Arctic environmental and political issues, said for now, the new opening has only symbolic meaning for the future of sea transport.

''Routes between Scandinavia and Japan could be almost halved, and a stable and reliable route would mean a lot to certain regions,'' he said by phone. But even if the passage is opening up and polar ice continues to melt, it will take years for such routes to be regular, he said.

''It won't be ice-free all year around and it won't be a stable route all year,'' Ragner said. ''The greatest wish for sea transportation is streamlined and stable routes.''

''Shorter transport routes means less pollution if you can ship products from A to B on the shortest route,'' he said, ''but the fact that the polar ice is melting away is not good for the world in that we're losing the Arctic and the animal life there.''

The opening observed this week was not the most direct waterway, ESA said. That would be through northern Canada along the coast of Siberia, which remains partially blocked.


Associated Press Writer Louise Nordstrom

in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.


On the Net:


Arctic Ice Melt Opens Northwest Passage,
aponline/world/AP-Northwest-Passage.html - broken link






Warming Is Seen

as Wiping Out Most Polar Bears


September 8, 2007

The New York Times




WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 — Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will disappear by 2050, even under moderate projections for shrinking summer sea ice caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, government scientists reported on Friday.

The finding is part of a yearlong review of the effects of climate and ice changes on polar bears to help determine whether they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Scientists estimate the current polar bear population at 22,000.

The report, which the United States Geological Survey released here, offers stark prospects for polar bears as the world grows warmer.

The scientists concluded that, while the bears were not likely to be driven to extinction, they would be largely relegated to the Arctic archipelago of Canada and spots off the northern Greenland coast, where summer sea ice tends to persist even in warm summers like this one, a shrinking that could be enough to reduce the bear population by two-thirds.

The bears would disappear entirely from Alaska, the study said.

“As the sea ice goes, so goes the polar bear,” said Steven Amstrup, lead biologist for the survey team.

The report was released as President Bush was in Australia meeting with Asian leaders to try to agree on a strategy to address global warming. Mr. Bush will be host to major industrial nations in Washington this month to discuss the framework for a treaty on climate change.

The United Nations plans to devote its general assembly in the fall to global warming.

A spokeswoman for the White House declined to comment on the report, saying it was part of decision making at the Interior Department, parent of the survey.

In the report, the team said, “Sea ice conditions would have to be substantially better than even the most conservative computer simulations of warming and sea ice” to avoid the anticipated drop in bear population.

In a conference call with reporters, the scientists also said the momentum to a warmer world with less Arctic sea ice — and fewer bears — would be largely unavoidable at least for decades, no matter what happened with emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.

“Despite any mitigation of greenhouse gases, we’re going to see the same amount of energy in the system for 20, 30 or 40 years,” said Mark Myers, the survey director. “We would not expect to see any significant change in polar conditions regardless of mitigation.”

In other words, even in the unlikely event that all the major economies were to agree to rapid and drastic reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, the floating Arctic ice cap will continue to shrink at a rapid pace for the next 50 years, wiping out much of the bears’ habitat.

The report makes no recommendation on listing the bears as a threatened species or taking any action to slow ice cap damage. Such decisions are up to another Interior Department agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the Endangered Species Act. That decision is due in January, officials have said. The wildlife agency had to make a determination on the status of a threatened species because of a suit by environmental groups like Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In some places, the bears have adapted to eating a wide range of food like snow geese and garbage. But the survey team said their fate was 84 percent linked to the extent of sea ice.

Separate studies of trends in Arctic sea ice by academic and government teams have solidified a picture of shrinking area in summers for decades to come.

A fresh analysis by scientists of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to be published Saturday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, says sea-ice coverage of the Arctic Ocean will decline by more than 40 percent before the summer of 2050, compared with the average ice extent from 1979 to 1999.

This summer the ice retreated much farther and faster than in any year since satellite tracking began in 1979, several Arctic research groups said.


John H. Broder reported from Washington,

and Andrew C. Revkin from New York.

Warming Is Seen as Wiping Out Most Polar Bears, NYT, 8.9.2007,






Many Arctic Plants

Have Adjusted to Big Climate Changes,

Study Finds


June 15, 2007
The New York Times


Many Arctic plant species have readily adjusted to big climate changes, repeatedly recolonizing the rugged islands of the remote Svalbard archipelago off Norway’s coast through 20,000 years of warm and cool spells since the frigid peak of the last ice age, researchers report in today’s issue of the journal Science.

Their finding implies that, in the Arctic at least, plants may be able to shift long distances to follow the climate conditions for which they are best adapted as those conditions move under the influence of human-caused global warming, the researchers and some independent experts said.

Some experts on climate and biology who were not involved with the study, which was led by scientists from the University of Oslo, said it provided a glimmer of optimism in the face of generally bleak scientific assessments of the vulnerability of ecosystems to the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases.

Terry L. Root, a biologist at Stanford who has been involved with many studies concluding that plants and animals are measurably feeling the effects of human-driven warming, described the Svalbard research as “great news.”

“The large number of documented changes has created quite a concern about the fate of many species,” Dr. Root said. The new study, she said, shows that “some Arctic plants, and hopefully vegetation in other areas, apparently are able to respond in a manner that compensates for the rapid warming.”

Norwegian and French scientists analyzed the DNA of more than 4,000 samples of nine flowering plant species from Svalbard, a group of islands between the Scandinavian mainland and the North Pole. They said they found genetic patterns that could be explained only by the repeated re-establishment of plant communities after the arrival of seeds or plant fragments from Russia, Greenland or other Arctic regions hundreds of miles away.

The wide dispersal of the plants presumably occurs through a combination of Arctic winds, driftwood or dirt carried in floating ice and bird droppings, the scientists said.

Julie Brigham-Grette, a geosciences professor at the University of Massachusetts, said the findings were consistent with research from Alaska showing that forests had extended farther north during a period, warmer than the present, that peaked around 11,000 years ago.

“As the proper habitat is available, plants will survive,” she said. “I have not seen this demonstrated so clearly as it is in this paper. If dispersal is not a limiting factor, then maybe the rate of warming ongoing in the Arctic will not be a limiting factor in plant survival in distant places.”

Inger Greve Alsos, the study’s lead author, said natural adaptability in the plants might be tested if the projections for rapid Arctic warming from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came to pass. She also cautioned that the evidence for resilience and long-distance mobility in Arctic plants could be the exception, not the rule.

The ability of Arctic flora to disperse widely is probably an evolutionary consequence of the region’s tendency toward sharp climate swings, she said.

Many Arctic Plants Have Adjusted to Big Climate Changes, Study Finds,
NYT, 15.6.2007,






Arctic Sea Ice Melting Faster,

a Study Finds


May 1, 2007
The New York Times


Climate scientists may have significantly underestimated the power of global warming from human-generated heat-trapping gases to shrink the cap of sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean, according to a new study of polar trends.

The study, published online today in Geophysical Research Letters, concluded that an open-water Arctic in summers could be more likely in this century than had been estimated in the latest international review of climate research released in February by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“There are huge changes going on,” said Julienne Stroeve, a lead author of the new study and a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “Just with warm waters entering the Arctic, combined with warming air temperatures, this is wreaking havoc on the sea ice, really.”

The intergovernmental panel concluded that if emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide were not significantly reduced, the region could end up bereft of floating ice in summers sometime between 2050 and the early decades of the next century.

For the new study, Dr. Stroeve and others at the ice center reviewed nearly six decades of measurements by ships, airplanes and satellites estimating the maximum and minimum area of Arctic sea ice, which typically expands most in March and shrinks most in September.

With an expert from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also in Boulder, they then compared the observed trends with the projections made for the climate panel’s review using the world’s most advanced computer models of climate.

Dr. Stroeve’s team found that since 1953 the area of sea ice in September has declined at an average rate of 7.8 percent per decade. Computer climate simulations of the same period had an average rate of ice loss of 2.5 percent per decade.

The finding implies that the Arctic ice may be quicker to respond to warming as concentrations of heat-trapping gases rise in coming decades, said Marika Holland, an author of the new paper and a computer modeler at the Boulder climate center.

Arctic Sea Ice Melting Faster, a Study Finds, 1.5.2007,






An island made by global warming


The Independent

Published: 24 April 2007

By Michael McCarthy,

Environmental Editor


The map of Greenland will have to be redrawn. A new island has appeared off its coast, suddenly separated from the mainland by the melting of Greenland's enormous ice sheet, a development that is being seen as the most alarming sign of global warming.

Several miles long, the island was once thought to be the tip of a peninsula halfway up Greenland's remote east coast but a glacier joining it to the mainland has melted away completely, leaving it surrounded by sea.

Shaped like a three-fingered hand some 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it has been discovered by a veteran American explorer and Greenland expert, Dennis Schmitt, who has named it Warming Island (Or Uunartoq Qeqertoq in Inuit, the Eskimo language, that he speaks fluently).

The US Geological Survey has confirmed its existence with satellite photos, that show it as an integral part of the Greenland coast in 1985, but linked by only a small ice bridge in 2002, and completely separate by the summer of 2005. It is now a striking island of high peaks and rugged rocky slopes plunging steeply to a sea dotted with icebergs.

As the satellite pictures and the main photo which we publish today make clear, Warming Island has been created by a quite undeniable, rapid and enormous physical transformation and is likely to be seen around the world as a potent symbol of the coming effects of climate change.

But it is only one more example of the disintegration of the Greenland Ice Sheet, that scientists have begun to realise, only very recently, is proceeding far more rapidly than anyone thought.

The second-largest ice sheet in the world (after Antarctica), if its entire 2.5 million cubic kilometres of ice were to melt, it would lead to a global sea level rise of 7.2 metres, or more than 23 feet.

That would inundate most of the world's coastal cities, including London, swamp vast areas of heavily-populated low-lying land in countries such as Bangladesh, and remove several island countries such as the Maldives from the face of the Earth. However, even a rise one tenth as great would have devastating consequences.

Sea level rise is already accelerating. Sea levels are going up around the world by about 3.1mm per year - the average for the period 1993-2003. That is itself sharply up from an average of 1.8mm per year over the longer period 1961-2003. Greenland ice now accounts for about 0.5 millimetre of the total. (Much of the rest of the rise is coming from the expansion of the world's sea water as it warms.)

Until two or three years ago, it was thought that the break-up of the ice sheet might take 1,000 years or more but a series of studies and alarming observations since 2004 have shown the disintegration is accelerating and, as a consequence, sea level rise may be much quicker than anticipated.

Earlier computer models, researchers believe, failed to capture properly the way the ice sheet would respond to major warming (over the past 20 years, Greenland's air temperature has risen by 3C). The 2001 report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was relatively reassuring, suggesting change would be slow.

But satellite measurements of Greenland's entire land mass show that the speed at which its glaciers are moving to the sea has increased significantly in the past decade, with some of them moving three times faster than in the mid-1990s.

Scientists estimate that, in 1996, glaciers deposited about 50 cubic km of ice into the sea. In 2005, it had risen to 150 cubic km of ice.

A study last year by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology showed that, rather than just melting relatively slowly, the ice sheet is showing all the signs of a mechanical break-up as glaciers slip ever faster into the ocean, aided by the "lubricant" of meltwater forming at their base. As the meltwater seeps down it lubricates the bases of the "outlet" glaciers of the ice sheet, causing them to slip down surrounding valleys towards the sea,

Another discovery has been the increase in "glacial earthquakes" caused by the sudden movement of enormous blocks of ice within the ice sheet. The annual number of them recorded in Greenland between 1993 and 2002 was between six and 15. In 2003, seismologists recorded 20 glacial earthquakes. In 2004, they monitored 24 and for the first 10 months of 2005 they recorded 32. The seismologists also found the glacial earthquakes occurred mainly during the summer months, indicating the movements were indeed associated with rapidly melting ice - normal "tectonic" earthquakes show no such seasonality. Of the 136 glacial quakes analysed in a report published last year, more than a third occurred during July and August.

The creation of Warming Island appears to be entirely consistent with the disintegrating ice sheet, coming about when the glacier bridge linking it to the mainland simply disappeared. It was discovered by Mr Schmitt, a 60-year-old explorer from Berkeley, California, who has known Greenland for 40 years, during a trip he led up the remote coastline.

According to the US Geological Survey: "More islands like this may be discovered if the Greenland Ice Sheet continues to disappear."

A self-governing dependency of Denmark, Greenland is the largest island in the world but is inhabited by only 56,000 people, mainly Inuit. More than 80 per cent of the land surface is covered by the ice sheet.

An island made by global warming,
I, 24.4.2007,
environment/climate_change/article2480994.ece - broken link






Ice Mass Snaps Free in Arctic


December 29, 2006

Filed at 6:46 a.m. ET

The New York Times



TORONTO (AP) -- A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a ''major'' reason for the event.

The Ayles Ice Shelf -- all 41 square miles of it -- broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 500 miles south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.

Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and couldn't believe what he saw.

''This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years,'' Vincent said. ''We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead.''

The ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada's Arctic. They are packed with ancient ice that is more than 3,000 years old. They float on the sea but are connected to land.

Some scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in Canada in 30 years and that climate change was a major element.

''It is consistent with climate change,'' Vincent said, adding that the remaining ice shelves are 90 percent smaller than when they were first discovered in 1906. ''We aren't able to connect all of the dots ... but unusually warm temperatures definitely played a major role.''

Laurie Weir, who monitors ice conditions for the Canadian Ice Service, was poring over satellite images in 2005 when she noticed that the shelf had split and separated.

Weir notified Luke Copland, head of the new global ice lab at the University of Ottawa, who initiated an effort to find out what happened.

Using U.S. and Canadian satellite images, as well as seismic data -- the event registered on earthquake monitors 155 miles away -- Copland discovered that the ice shelf collapsed in the early afternoon of Aug. 13, 2005.

Copland said the speed with which climate change has effected the ice shelves has surprised scientists.

''Even 10 years ago scientists assumed that when global warming changes occur that it would happen gradually so that perhaps we expected these ice shelves just to melt away quite slowly,'' he said.

Derek Mueller, a polar researcher with Vincent's team, said the ice shelves get weaker and weaker as temperatures rise. He visited Ellesmere Island in 2002 and noticed that another ice shelf had cracked in half.

''We're losing our ice shelves and this a feature of the landscape that is in danger of disappearing altogether from Canada,'' Mueller said.

Within days of breaking free, the Ayles Ice Shelf drifted about 30 miles offshore before freezing into the sea ice. A spring thaw may bring another concern: that warm temperatures will release the new ice island from its Arctic grip, making it an enormous hazard for ships.

''Over the next few years this ice island could drift into populated shipping routes,'' Weir said.

Ice Mass Snaps Free in Arctic, NYT, 29.12.2006,
AP-Canada-Arctic-Ice-Break.html - broken link






Global warming

devastates sea ice

in Arctic Circle


Published: 04 October 2006

The Independent

By Steve Connor,

Science Editor


Sea ice in the Arctic last month melted to its second lowest monthly minimum in the 29-year record of satellite measurements.

Scientists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Colorado said the total surface area covered by sea ice during September was smaller than in any previous year apart from 2005, when it reached an all-time record minimum. And it was only a sudden change to cool and stormy weather in August that prevented another record low being set this September, they said.

"At this rate, the Arctic Ocean will have no ice in September by the year 2060," said Julienne Strove, one of the NSIDC's research scientists.

The Arctic sea ice floats on the ocean and its surface coverage varies naturally in line with seasonal temperature changes, with an absolute minimum in summer occurring around mid-September.

However, rising temperatures have seen a steady long-term decline in sea ice during the summer months, with little recovery during the Arctic winter.

Summer sea ice across the entire Arctic has been dwindling steadily since satellite measurements began in 1977. But since 2002 scientists have detected a noticeable acceleration in the rate of summer loss, which they believe is caused by global warming.

Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the NSIDC, said this summer could easily have surpassed last year's record loss if it had not been for the change in the weather.

"If fairly cool and stormy conditions hadn't appeared in August, slowing the rate of summer ice loss, I feel certain that 2006 would have surpassed last year's record low for September sea ice," Dr Serreze said.

"August broke the Arctic heatwave and slowed the melt, and storm conditions led to wind patterns that tend to spread the existing ice over a larger area."

Arctic sea ice acts like an insulating lid on the northernmost ocean, reflecting sunlight and preventing the water from absorbing heat and warming up.

Scientists fear that as more and more sea ice is lost, a "positive feedback" will kick in, with the Arctic Ocean absorbing more sunlight, which will in turn cause the loss of more sea ice.

"I'm not terribly optimistic about the future of the ice," Dr Serreze said. "Although it would come as no surprise to see some recovery of the sea ice in the next few years - such fluctuations are part of natural variability - the long-term trend seems increasingly clear. As greenhouse gases continue to rise, the Arctic will continue to lose its ice. You can't argue with the physics."

The Arctic has seen some of the largest increases in average temperatures in the world over the past few decades, and could be one of the places hardest hit by climate change.

"Arctic sea ice is an important climate indicator because it's so sensitive to this initial warming trend," said Ted Scambos, a senior scientist at the Snow and Ice Data Centre.

Global warming devastates sea ice in Arctic Circle,
environment/article1786830.ece - broken link










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