Wednesday, 18 October 2017

New Zealand glaciers have shrunk by almost 20 cubic kilometres in the last 36 years.
According to the Ministry for the Environment, glacier ice volumes in 1978 were above 50 cubic km.
In 2014, it dropped to slightly more than 35 cubic km.

University of Otago department of geography lecturer in hydrology Sarah Mager said last year that ice loss observed at the famous Tasman Glacier was likely a natural readjustment to climate changes.

Melting ice had formed a terminal lake.

The glacier was losing more ice volume than was being naturally replaced through snowfall and ice accumulation, Mager said.

The terminal lake is now 7 kilometres long and deeper than Lake Pukaki due to the glacier's ice loss, and was expected to grow much larger.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Return of 'ocean chimney' the size of Tasmania puzzles Antarctic scientists

Known as the Weddell Sea or Maud Rise Polynya, the ice-free zone appeared in September and has grown to as large as 80,000 square kilometres, according to the University of Toronto.

Polynyas, defined as a stretch of open water surrounded by ice, are frequently found in the Arctic and Antarctica, usually near the coast. They rarely reach the extent now seen in middle of the pack ice.

"Something has changed" to bring the polynya back, Kent Moore, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto, said. "But we are not quite sure what that trigger was," he said.

A much smaller polynya opened up in the same Maud Rise region last year for a couple of weeks. Before that, the previous such event there was in the mid-1970s, with the polynya lasting three years and swelling to as much as five times the current size, Moore said.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Just two baby penguins survive disastrous breeding season from colony of 36,000 in Antarctica

A colony of more than 18,000 pairs of Adelie penguins in Antarctica have suffered a catastrophic breeding season with just two chicks surviving, wildlife experts say.

Scientists say an unusually extensive sea ice late in the summer - despite low ice early in the season - is being blamed as this meant the penguins had to travel further for food causing the chicks to starve.

Conservation group WWF says the devastating breeding season also proves waters off East Antarctica must be protected from fishing fleets which make it harder for penguins to find their key food source, krill.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will meet on Monday to consider a proposal for a new marine protected area for the waters off East Antarctica.
A marine protected area, which would prevent krill fishing, would help to secure a future for the wildlife of East Antarctica, including Adelie and emperor penguins, WWF said.

Adelie penguins are generally faring well in East Antarctica, but declining in the Antarctic peninsula region where climate change is already established, the conservation group said.

But the same colony which failed to breed chicks this year, failed to produce a single chick four years ago from 20,196 adult pairs, with heavy sea ice combining with unusually warm weather and rain followed by a drop in temperature leaving many chicks saturated and freezing to death.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Scientists mapping Greenland have found an ice surprise, but it's not a nice surprise


 Greenland is less parts rock and more parts ice than previously thought.

Greenland, the world's largest island and home to its second largest ice sheet, is a land of ragged cliffs, breathtaking fjords and unimaginable amounts of water on either side of the freezing point.
It has also, until now, been something of a mystery.

Greenland drew some pointed attention during the world wars and the Cold War, thanks to its strategic location.

But it is only today, thanks to rapid climate change, that scientists are beginning to take the full measure of all the earth, rock and ice in a place that's now raising seas by nearly a millimetre every single year.

Two new studies of Greenland, using sophisticated technologies and large scientific teams to pull together and process the data, have now gone further in taking the full measure of the island through that ever-so-basic scientific act: mapping.
Greenland ice melt is already predicted to raise sea levels, so the discovery of more ice is worrying.
The first, a comprehensive seabed mapping project, relying in part on new data from NASA's OMG ("Oceans Melting Greenland") mission, concludes that the Greenland ice sheet is far more exposed to the planet's warming oceans than previously known - and has more ice to give up than, until now, has been recognised.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Cattle behind unexplained surge in methane emissions, US study finds

The study found that for 2011, global emissions were 8.4 per cent higher from enteric fermentation and 36.7 per cent higher from manure management, compared with research by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

When it comes to climate change, we know where the most important warming agent - carbon dioxide - is coming from.

Most of it is coming from the burning of fossil fuels, with some additional contributions from deforestation and other causes.

But the second most potent greenhouse warming agent - the hard-hitting, if short-lived, gas known as methane - presents more of a mystery. There has clearly been an alarming uptick in atmospheric methane in recent years, following a flattening of concentrations from 2000 to around 2007.

Some blamed the fracking industry for increases in atmospheric methane.

But the cause of this particular pattern has been hotly debated, with some blaming the fracked natural gas boom (natural gas is primarily composed of methane), and others pointing to other causes, such as agriculture

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Japan's sea animals floated across Pacific on 'rafts' of plastic waste

Plastic debris in the oceans is accidentally transporting creatures across the globe, scientists have warned.

For the first time in recorded history, researchers have discovered that entire communities of coastal species have crossed thousands of miles of water floating on makeshift rafts.

Between 2012 and 2017, nearly 300 species of marine animals arrived alive in North America from Japan, having travelled on crates and other objects released into the Pacific after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

Although the natural disaster was an extreme case, scientists say it is likely that many non-native species are travelling across thousands of kilometres of water on "ocean rafts" of marine plastic, carried by storm surges.

"I didn't think that most of these coastal organisms could survive at sea for long periods of time," said Greg Ruiz, marine biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. "But in many ways they just haven't had much opportunity in the past. Now, plastic can combine with tsunami and storm events to create that opportunity on a large scale."

John Chapman, a marine scientist at Oregon State University, added: "This has turned out to be one of the biggest, unplanned natural experiments in marine biology, perhaps in history."

The 2011 tsunami swept millions of objects out to sea, from small pieces of plastic to entire fishing boats and even docks. Scientists began finding tsunami debris washing up in Hawaii and western North America in 2012, with living organisms still attached.

They detected 289 live species on debris originating from Japan.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Pole dancing, late-night visits, evading the law: Australian police report encounters with koalas

Public indecency, stalking and fleeing from police - Queensland koalas have some serious questions to answer after several incidents were reported by officers during the past month.

The most serious allegations came on September 10, when police in the Townsville suburb of Stuart in north Queensland allege a koala, which went by the name of Fernando, gave officers a pole dancing display in the middle of a busy road.

Sergeant Julie Cooke wrote in an online account of the incident that officers were "concerned for the koala's safety" but the animal was "very stubborn and reluctant to move on".

"But when police pumped the new Taylor Swift song through the radio he showed his distaste and ditched the pole dancing lesson," Sergeant Cooke wrote.

Kenny the koala came off second-best after being clipped by a car.

In Brisbane, police were also forced to pursue a koala on August 21, after it fled from officers into thick bushland.

According to Sergeant Darnielle Fioriti, Holland Park officers were hunting "a different kind of offender" off Logan Road in Mount Gravatt when they saw a koala jaywalking in front of them.

Police will allege the animal showed a "blatant disregard for authority" before it was clipped by a car and staggered off into nearby bushland.