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Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice hit its lowest extent ever recorded by Satellites: Scientists

The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September

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Ice Loss in Antarctic Sea, VOA

Washington, March 23, 2017: While Arctic Sea ice reached this year a record low wintertime maximum extent, sea ice around Antarctica also hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, scientists have said.

In February this year, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent was at its lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979, said scientists at NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

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Total polar sea ice covered 16.21 million square km, which is two million square km less than the average global minimum extent for 1981-2010 — the equivalent of having lost a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico, the study said.

“It is tempting to say that the record low we are seeing this year is global warming finally catching up with Antarctica,” Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a NASA release on Wednesday.

“However, this might just be an extreme case of pushing the envelope of year-to-year variability. We’ll need to have several more years of data to be able to say there has been a significant change in the trend,” Meier added.

The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September.

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As the Arctic temperatures drop in the autumn and winter, the ice cover grows again until it reaches its yearly maximum extent, typically in March.

The ring of sea ice around the Antarctic continent behaves in a similar manner, with the calendar flipped –it usually reaches its maximum in September and its minimum in February.

This winter, a combination of warmer-than-average temperatures, winds unfavourable to ice expansion, and a series of storms halted sea ice growth in the Arctic, the scientists said.

This year’s maximum extent, reached on March 7 at 14.42 million square kilometres, is 97,00 square kilometres below the previous record low, which occurred in 2015, and 1.22 million square kilometres smaller than the average maximum extent for 1981-2010, according to the scientists. (IANS)

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Delayed Onset and Early Departure of Winter Reflect Changing Climate, Scientists Say

Shorter winters and hotter temperatures are expected to lead to rising seas that cause worse flooding during heavy storms.

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climate
Sun rays spill through a gap between the clouds and the White Mountains as the skies begin to clear above Bartlett, New Hampshire, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. The first weekend of autumn is expected to be unusually warm with temperatures expected to reach the upper 80s. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Washington, October 29, 2017 : Winter is coming … later. And it’s leaving ever earlier.

Across the United States, the year’s first freeze has been arriving further and further into the calendar, according to more than a century of measurements from weather stations nationwide.

Scientists say it is yet another sign of the changing climate, and that it has good and bad consequences for the nation. There could be more fruits and vegetables — and also more allergies and pests.

“I’m happy about it,” said Karen Duncan of Streator, Illinois. Her flowers are in bloom because she’s had no frost this year yet, just as she had none last year at this time, either. On the other hand, she said just last week it was too hot and buggy to go out — in late October, near Chicago.

The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

To look for nationwide trends, Kunkel compared the first freeze from each of the 700 stations to the station’s average for the 20th century. Some parts of the country experience earlier or later freezes every year, but on average freezes are coming later.

Average first freeze

The average first freeze over the last 10 years, from 2007 to 2016, is a week later than the average from 1971 to 1980, which is before Kunkel said the trend became noticeable.

This year, about 40 percent of the Lower 48 states had a freeze as of October 23, compared with 65 percent in a normal year, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground.

Duncan’s flowers should be dead by now. According to data from the weather station near her in Ottawa, Illinois, the average first freeze for the 20th century was October 15. The normal from 1981 to 2010 based on NOAA computer simulations was October 19. Since 2010, the average first freeze is on October 26. Last year, the first freeze in Ottawa came on Nov. 12.

Last year was “way off the charts” nationwide, Kunkel said. The average first freeze was two weeks later than the 20th century average, and the last frost of spring was nine days earlier than normal.

ALSO READ Hottest in History: India faced the Warmest Winter this year due to Global Warming, says Study

Overall the United States freeze season of 2016 was more than a month shorter than the freeze season of 1916. It was most extreme in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon’s freeze season was 61 days shorter than normal.

Global warming has helped push the first frosts later, Kunkel and other scientists said. Also at play, though, are natural short-term changes in air circulation patterns, but they, too, may be influenced by man-made climate change, they said.

This shrinking freeze season is what climate scientists have long predicted, said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado.

Some plants suffer

A shorter freeze season means a longer growing season and less money spent on heat. But it also hurts some plants that require a certain amount of chill, such as Georgia peaches, said Theresa Crimmins, a University of Arizona ecologist. Crimmins is assistant director of the National Phenology Network. Phenology is the study of the seasons and how plants and animals adapt to timing changes.

Pests that attack trees and spread disease aren’t being killed off as early as they normally would be, Crimmins said.

climate
Morning dew covers berries in Bartlett, N.H., Sept. 18, 2017. Despite forecasts for brilliant foliage throughout the Northeast this year, longtime leaf watchers said the leaves this fall were dull and weeks behind schedule in their turn from green to the brilliant hues of autumn. VOA

In New England, many trees aren’t changing colors as vibrantly as they normally do or used to, because some take cues for when to turn from temperature, said Boston University biology professor Richard Primack.

Clusters of late-emerging monarch butterflies are being found far farther north than normal for this time of year, and are unlikely to survive their migration to Mexico.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said natural variability, especially an El Nino, made last year exceptional for an early freeze, but “it represents the kind of conditions that will be more routine in a decade or two” because of man-made climate change.

“The long-term consequences are really negative,” said Primack, because shorter winters and hotter temperatures are also expected to lead to rising seas that cause worse flooding during heavy storms.

In suburban Boston, Primack and his wife are still eating lettuce, tomatoes and green beans from their garden. And they are getting fresh figs off their backyard tree almost daily.

“These fig trees should be asleep,” Primack said. (VOA)

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Arctic Sea Ice May Be Shrinking Faster Than Thought, says Study

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Canadian Arctic
An iceberg floats past Bylot Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. VOA

Arctic sea ice may be thinning faster than predicted because salty snow on the surface of the ice skews the accuracy of satellite measurements, a new a study from the University of Calgary said on Tuesday.

The report from the Canadian university’s Cryosphere Climate Research Group published in the academic journal Geophysical Research Letters found satellite estimates for the thickness of seasonal Arctic sea ice have been overestimated by up to 25 percent.

That means the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free much sooner than some scientific predictions, which forecast Arctic sea ice will first disappear completely during summer months between 2040 and 2050, according to lead author Vishnu Nandan.

Ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean would impact global weather patterns by increasing the magnitude and frequency of major storms and alter the Arctic marine ecosystem, making it harder for animals like polar bears to hunt.

There is a wide range of projections as to when Arctic sea ice will start disappearing in the summertime as a result of warming global temperatures, and the University of Calgary study calls into question satellite measurements provided so far.

“The problem is, microwave measurements from satellites don’t penetrate the salty snow very well, so the satellite is not measuring the proper sea ice freeboard and the satellite readings overestimate the thickness of the ice,” Nandan said.

The Arctic sea ice freeboard refers to ice that can be seen above sea level and co-researcher John Yackel said, “Our results suggest that snow salinity should be considered in all future estimates on the Arctic seasonal ice freeboard made from satellites.”

Reporting by Nia Williams; editing by Diane Craft.(VOA)

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Exclusive : Our Islands Are Vanishing! | Tracing the Inundation of Parali I Island

Looking at the current trend of harmful activities undertaken by humans, the world might have to be ready for losses that we are going to face because of climate change.

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Parali I
India has lost an entire island to erosion. Lakshadweep is no longer an archipelago of 36 islands (Representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, September 25, 2017: What if we told you that our landmasses are shrinking and disappearing under water? The earth’s climate is rapidly changing and life is at risk. Human impact on the environment, which first began when our ancestors began to stalk and collect the natural resources. It is now of such intensity that it threatens to radically amend the planet’s ecology – its climate, water, air, and even life.

The highly-dramatized Hollywood fiction film ‘2012’ left deep impressions on our minds, opening us to the possibility of a possible catastrophe. Rising sea levels that submerge complete islands were thought of as a distant possibility of this apocalyptic future. But in the idyllic Indian subcontinent, it seems that the destruction is here already.


The ‘Disappearance’ of Parali I

A report by PTI in early September revealed that the Parali I island, a biodiversity-rich uninhabited island of the Lakshadweep archipelago, has completely vanished due to coastal erosion.

R M Hidayathulla, a PhD scholar from the Calicut University in Kerala, made the revelations in his study titled “Studies on Coastal Erosion in Selected Uninhabited Islands of Lakshadweep Archipelago with Special Reference to Biodiversity Conservation.”

“We can say Lakshadweep now is not an archipelago of 36 islands,” Hidayathulla was quoted as saying.

In the study, Hidayathulla assessed the biodiversity confining to five uninhabited islands in the Lakshadweep archipelago – Bangaram, Thinnakara, Parali I, II and III.

Parali I, part of the Bangaram Atoll, that stretched across 0.032 km2 in 1968, has now eroded to a 100 per cent extent thus, resulting in its complete inundation.

Parali I
A few islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago. Bangaram atoll can be seen here. Wikimedia

Hidayathulla, in his study, has further claimed that a general trend of erosion has been noticed in almost all islands that were studied. Thus, while we have already lost one island, another four stand at risk of similar inundation.

According to distinguished climate expert, Mr Chandra Bhushan, the research by Hidayathulla is one of the few studies carried in India to establish the erosion and complete inundation of an island.

“India’s coasts and islands, which are densely populated, are highly vulnerable,” told Mr Bhushan, who is currently associated with the Centre for Science and Environment as deputy director general.

The Ghoramara village in the Sunderban delta, West Bengal, was the first region of the Indian territory to face the brunt of the rising water levels. More than 50 per cent of the village was inundated in the mid-2000s.

However, erosion of the Ghoramara was never paid much attention to by the media or the government as it was not of immediate economic interest to the larger population.

While Ghoramara continues to shrink and Parali I has already inundated, with another four islands expected to follow the route, our land masses are at risk. But the issue has remained largely ignored.

Reporter Soha Kala of NewsGram brings you an exclusive conversation with Mr Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi where he shares his insight about the fate of the world’s vanishing islands.

“Banishing of Parali I is just the beginning and
We are going to see much more devastation.
The US has just suffered two hurricanes and three are in line.
The Caribbean has been devastated. India has been
experiencing extremely bad weather
. In such a scenario,
The media has been unable to understand and prioritize
the important issues of all times and, therefore, they are
not reporting them.”

 

Media coverage of the world’s vanishing islands’ plight has been comprehensive. Around the world and in a variety of languages, the tiny country Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and several others in the Pacific region have been a topic for discussion in the last few years.

These islands have become the poster child for the impact of the greenhouse effect and global warming, and have definitely provided a definite face to climate change and its repercussions. Journalists have extensively covered the story of Tuvalu’s sea-level rise. The inundation of the Solomon Islands also received due coverage with The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and The Washington Post being some of the media outlets that reported on the issue.

However, the Indian media is yet to take into account the fate of the Parali I island, with the attention paid to the issue ranging from scanty coverage to mere ignorance.

“I think one of the reasons is because Parali I is an island somewhere in the Indian ocean- out of sight, out of mind. Parali I was not habituated, which means the absence of an economic interest.  And, therefore, it has not been of much interest to the mainstream media,” believes Mr Bhushan.

Mr Bushan agrees that the question NewsGram is raising is absolutely important – Indian mainstream media seems to be losing sight of some of the most important issues of our time. Environment and climate change are one of them.

Why is Sea Level Rising?

Mr Bhushan asserts that the threat of rising sea levels has been previously drastically underestimated. The sea level continues to rise at more than 3 mm per year; a trend Mr Bhushan suggests is only going to hasten because of global warming.

“About two-thirds of the global warming is currently being absorbed by the oceans. As the water warms, it expands and therefore, the sea level rises”, he explained.

Additionally, as the temperatures continue on an upward trend, the glaciers and sea ice continue to melt, which normally increases the sea level.

“Global warming is going to continue and sea levels are going to rise because of the past carbon dioxide emissions, the current emissions and the future projected emissions. Even if we reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which is highly unlikely, we will see the temperature increase of about 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era”, believes Mr Bhushan.

This spiralling trend signals that the low-lying islands and coastal areas will be susceptible to inundation and some islands will vanish.

The list of which has already begun.

“There is a very clear prediction that some of the
important islands of Maldives are going to get
reduced in size or even completely inundated.  Similar things
will happen in Lakshadweep as well as some parts of
Andaman. Also, Bay of Bengal and Sundarbans are
extremely vulnerable. In the worst case scenario, about a third
of Bangladesh will go down.”

 

The Key Drivers of Climate Change

The Earth is home to millions of species. But only one dominates it and i.e Humans.

Our attitudes, inventiveness and practices have a profound impact and have in fact, modified most parts of our planet. Looking at the current trend, it won’t be wrong to say that we are the drivers of several global problems the world is currently facing.

A research by the Australian National University (ANU) had revealed in February that humans are forcing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces.

For the last 7,000 years, the principal forces to drive changes in the climate have been astronomical in nature – changes in the orbital parameters and the solar intensity, and the nature and activity of volcanoes. According to Professor Steffen of the Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Climate Change Institute at ANU, these factors when combined drive a rate of change of 0.01 degrees Celsius per century.

However, “human-generated greenhouse gas emissions in the last 45 years have increased this rate of temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius per century,” he said in an official report.

We are not implying that the damage by geological processes or the astronomical forces of the solar system has minimized. But, in comparison to their impact in a mere 45 year period, they are now negligible in comparison to the influence exercised by us.

Such is the destruction caused by humans and this does not cease to stop.

What Can Be Done To Save Our Islands From Vanishing?

Mr Chandra Bhushan believes humanity still has a chance to delay, if not prevent, catastrophic climate change, but time is rapidly running out.

During our conversation with him, the environmental expert highlighted the necessity to immediately undertake coastal and island protection measures- bio-protection being the first line of defense.

He asserted the importance of maintaining healthy mangroves and deciding against mindfully modifying the coastal areas.

Mangroves are known to reduce wave energy as waves travel through them; thus, a healthy practice would be to maintain at least 200 metres of mangrove belts between the embankment and the sea to protect the landmass from eroding.

While this may seem like a practical alternative against erosion, the mangroves themselves are susceptible to erosion when the soil under their root systems is destabilized by wave action.

To counter the damage, seawalls and other man-made protection measures have been built in some areas of the country- the most notable being the sea walls in Marine Drive and in Pudducherry.

Parali I
The sea-wall at Marine Drive, Mumbai. Wikimedia

These concrete structures called tetrapods have been used to reduce the impact of the sea. But if you think these are sufficient to help us wage a war against the strength of Nature, then you should probably reconsider your stand.

The tetrapods in Mumbai require to be replaced annually, or a certain area of the well gets inundated. Similarly, the rising water levels have been eroding the sea walls in Pudducherry as a result of which the walls are collapsing.

Mr Chandra Bhushan told our reporter Soha Kala that all these are temporary solutions till we address the fundamental issue of reversing the global warming. Without this, it will be a losing battle.

He suggested that we look at temporary short-term measures as well as long-term measures to counter the loss of land masses.

“The world today is talking about how to reduce
emission
 but reducing emission is not going to
be sufficient. 

You have to start talking about negative emission
– of 
sucking carbon dioxide from atmosphere and
storing it somewhere.”

Is there nothing that can save our islands from erosion and subsequent inundation?

“As I see, looking at the global trend right now, I am not very optimistic,” said Mr Bhushan.

While we are yet to witness the mainstream media tend to the inundation of Parali I, what is equally upsetting is to see no reaction from the government either.

“Climate change is the gangrene that the
world is 
facing right now. I tell this to everyone,
it is as if you 
have gangrene and the
governments are putting a bandage on it.

They are not thinking about surgery.”

We are currently facing a very grave crisis, the gravity of which has not been sufficiently recognized by the Central government which is yet to release any official statement on the issue. And Mr Bhushan agrees. He told NewsGram that as far as his information, the Indian Government, or for that matter, governments across the world are not serious enough- serious to the proportion of the crisis that we face.

Analyzing the current trend, Dr Bhushan said, “A number of areas will get devastated.  I think the world will have to be ready for losses that we are going to face because of climate change.”