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Boats 02-17-2020 06:52 AM

From a glacier break to record temperatures, Antarctica had quite the week in climate
From a glacier break to record temperatures, Antarctica had quite the week in climate change
By Caroline Catherman and Christina Zdanowicz, CNN -
Updated 2:26 PM ET, Fri February 14, 2020

(CNN)This week, an iceberg the size of Atlanta broke off a glacier. Researchers discovered a dramatic decline in Antarctic penguin colonies. And Antarctica may have just registered its hottest temperature ever.

In case all of that was not enough to make you at least a little concerned, yet another unusually high temperature was logged in the Antarctic Peninsula on February 9, when a weather station on Seymour Island produced a reading of almost 70 degrees. The World Meteorological Association is trying to verify it as a new record.
Though the WMO has not yet determined whether this reading breaks any sort of record, it certainly provides additional evidence of warming in the Antarctic region and around the world, according to Randall Cerveny, a meteorologist at Arizona State University and a climate extremes expert at the World Meteorological Organization.

According to the organization's website, these events are all consistent with trends seen in Antarctica over the past few years. The Antarctic Peninsula, where the potentially record-breaking February temperatures were logged, is one of the fastest-warming regions on the planet.

"Our polar regions are kind of the canary in the mine," said Cerveny, "They are a more sensitive environment, so they are a warning system to other areas of the world."

The decline of the Antarctic penguin colonies provides evidence of the effects of this broader warming on the animals that inhabit these sensitive regions. The number of penguins on Elephant Island, where a recently released survey took place, is half what it was at the last survey in 1971.

Noah Strycker, an ornithologist and penguin researcher at Stony Brook University, told CNN that climate change has removed these penguins' primary food source, krill.

"Penguins, seals and whales all depend on krill, which depends on ice. So if climate change affects the ice, that impacts on everything else," he said in an earlier interview with CNN.

While the penguin decline and Pine Island Glacier breakage were due to long-term influences, it is important to note that this week's potentially record-breaking temperatures, if verified, are mostly due to a very specific weather event called a "foehn," which causes unusually warm temperatures.

The temperatures have already returned to normal, but this does not mean that Antarctica's rising temperatures should be disregarded, according to Ella Gilbert, a climate scientist who works at the British Antarctic Survey.

"Although we can't take single events as an indication of a long-term trend, extreme events like these are becoming more common as the climate changes," she told CNN.


Personal note: We all know climate change is rising. There doesn't seem like much we can do other than let it runs its course. The price we pay for global warming will have long term end results. Whether or not humans can sustain such an environmental change is yet to be established. The Arctic is going we can't stop it. What about the South Pole don't hear too much about that of late? We humans caused this and now have to live with the new weather issues and heat.


Boats 02-17-2020 06:55 AM

South Pole sea ice is now vanishing at an alarming rate, too
South Pole sea ice is now vanishing at an alarming rate, too
By: MIT Technology Review News

Photo link:
Antarctic sea ice loss has suddenly sped ahead of the long-running decline in the Arctic.

The background: The disappearance of Arctic sea ice has been accelerating since the late 1990s, outpacing rates predicted by climate models and seizing media attention (see “How nuclear weapons research revealed new climate threats”). But it’s been an altogether different story at the South Pole, where ice cover gradually increased in recent decades, confounding scientists trying to work out the exact nature of the complex interactions in the global climate system.

A dramatic reversal: That story seems to have come to an abrupt end, however, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Antarctic’s sea ice cover reached its annual peak in 2014 and has since declined by around 2 million square kilometers (more than 770,000 square miles). It's a dramatic reversal, wiping out about 35 years’ worth of gains in a few years, according to the study by Claire Parkinson, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

What it means: At this stage, scientists can’t say with certainty why it took so long for Antarctic sea ice to begin receding, or why the loss accelerated so rapidly. Some of the contributing factors could include ocean heating from the extreme El Niño in late 2015 and early 2016, and a weakened polar vortex altering prevailing wind patterns.

It’s also not clear yet whether the precipitous decline after 2014 signals the start of a “long-term negative trend,” or if a slight uptick in 2018 marks a blip or the “start of a rebound,” the study noted.

But the sharp downward shift in recent years at least provides additional data that could enable researchers to test and refine their models, and unearth additional links between shifting climate and changes in sea ice.

Feedback loop: Since sea ice is already displacing water, its loss doesn’t directly raise sea levels nearly as much as the melting of land-based ice sheets does. But it can unleash dangerous feedback effects: as dark blue water replaces lighter surfaces across millions of square kilometers, a growing amount of heat is absorbed rather than being reflected away. That, in turn, threatens to melt sea ice and glaciers at even higher rates.

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