The Humanion Arkive Year Delta 2018-19
September 24: 2018-September 23:2019
The Arkives
First Published: September 24: 2015




























The Arctic

The image at centre, taken on January 24, 2012, by B. Jørgensen, courtesy of ESA, above Grotfjord, Norway

Sea Ice Decline Could Weaken Ocean Currents of the North Atlantic

Image: UN Photo


|| August 06: 2017: University of Southampton News || ά. The Arctic ice loss could lead to harsher winters and stormier weather in Europe because of its impact on Atlantic ocean currents, warn the authors of a new study, led by the University of Southampton. The research, published in Nature Climate Change and conducted in partnership with Yale University, found that a decline in sea ice cover, caused by global warming, could weaken the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation:AMOC, a large-scale ocean circulation system, that affects climate.

AMOC is responsible for transporting heat from low to high latitudes. It has a lower limb of dense, cold water, that flows south from the North Atlantic, and an upper limb of warm, salty water, that flows north from the South Atlantic as part of the Gulf Stream. The authors found that the system, which plays a major role in the climate of Atlantic rim countries, particularly, those in Europe, could lose up to 50 per cent of its strength, leading to a cooling of the ocean surface in parts of the North Atlantic.

Lead Author Dr Florian Sévellec, of the University of Southampton, said, “We suggest that Arctic ocean changes on a multi-decadal time scale, such as, the decline in sea ice cover, that we are currently experiencing, can efficiently weaken the large-scale ocean circulation of the North Atlantic, which is responsible for the oceanic transport of heat from the Equator to high latitudes.

This, in turn, would have significant impacts on our daily weather, since the slow-down of this circulation and its induced ocean surface cooling, has been shown in other studies to lead to an increase in storminess, to harsher winters, and to drier summers in Europe, for instance.”

Co-author Professor Alexey Fedorov, of Yale University, said, “Our study establishes a new mechanism, that links the loss of sea ice and the AMOC. Potentially, this mechanism could lead to a reduction of between 30 and 50 per cent of the AMOC’s strength.”

In the short term, changes in the sub-polar North Atlantic have the greatest impact on AMOC, the researchers found. But over the course of a few decades, it was changes in the Arctic that became most important to AMOC.

The researchers based their findings on a combination of comprehensive climate change model simulations and novel computations of the sensitivity of ocean circulation to fluctuations in temperature and salinity at the ocean’s surface over time.

The research was supported by grants from the Natural and Environmental Research Council UK, the US Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Now What 2018: What About Building an Igloo: But What About the Oulu U Arctic Congress: Well They Can Wait Till Next Year Can't They

Image: University of Oulu

|| July 06: 2017: University of Oulu News || ά. University of Oulu is preparing to host a major scientific event next year, when the UArctic Congress 2018 takes place on September 03-07. The congress will be arranged jointly with the University of Helsinki, the first four days of the congress taking place in Oulu and the final day in Helsinki. The UArctic Congress 2018 themes revolve around the priorities of the Finnish Chairship, including the goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The congress will be second in the series started in 2016, when the first UArctic Congress took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, hosted by the St. Petersburg State University. The congress gathered 450 participants from the UArctic member countries and beyond. The congress of 2018 has already raised a lot of interest and it is anticipated to attract a similar amount of international participants. Therefore, save the date and join this exciting meeting in Oulu and in Helsinki.

Based on the presentations from the UArctic Congress 2016, a book, titled, The Interconnected Arctic is now published by Springer Nature as an Open Access book in the Springer Polar Sciences series. The book presents a variety of current arctic issues and is targeted to appeal to a wide audience from scientists to policy makers. The book is edited by Ms Kirsi Latola and Ms Hannele Savela, both working at the Thule Institute at the University of Oulu.

The book consists of 31 chapters, each focusing on a topic related to the themes presented in the congress, such as vulnerability of arctic environment and societies, building of long-term human capacity, arctic tourism, arctic safety, and equality in the Arctic.

The book is Open Access, and can be viewed and downloaded free of charge from the website or via the SpringerLink platform. ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Scientists to Study Impact of Climate Change on the Arctic Ecosystem

Image: University of Manchester


|| February 04: 2017: University of Manchester News || ά. A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team led by the University of Liverpool working on a £02.6m project to explore how the ecosystems in the Arctic Ocean are being altered by climate change. Funded by the Natural and Environmental Research Council:NERC, ocean scientists and marine biologists will undertake a three-and-a-half year research project aiming to better understand how climate-driven changes to the Arctic will affect the productivity at the base of the food web and two Arctic seal species, the harp seal and ringed seal.

The project will study Arctic food web structure over the next few years, and also use archive samples of seal teeth collected since the 1950s in the Norwegian Arctic and 1980s in the Canadian Arctic to better understand how climate change has altered food web structure on decadal time scales. The Arctic Ocean is undergoing unprecedented rates of environmental change, warming fast than any other ocean region. Sea ice is declining by 10% per decade and causing open water regions to expand.

The Arctic Ocean ecosystem is inextricably linked to sea ice, with sea ice derived productivity being an important food source at the base of the food web and also providing a platform for Arctic seals to moult and reproduce.

A University of Manchester scientist, Dr Bart van Dongen, will be leading a part of the project, working with a PhD student, to study how soil containing carbon which runs off of the thawing permafrost enters the Arctic food web.

Dr van Dongen said, “About half the world’s soil carbon is currently stored in Arctic permafrost. This huge freeze-locked pool is vulnerable to global warming and is being released through thawing, increased river runoff and erosion and transported to the Arctic Ocean. In this project we are attempting to improve our understanding of the fate of this re-mobilised carbon in the Arctic Ocean and its contributions to the Arctic food web.”

Liverpool Ocean Scientist, Dr Claire Mahaffey, who is leading the project, said, “The big challenge is being able to detect if and how climate change is altering the marine ecosystem in the Arctic above the natural ecosystem variability.

We propose to use stable isotope biomarkers, seal population ecology and mathematical models to develop a new framework to detect long-term change in the Arctic ecosystem. We will also consider the impact of a changing Arctic on seal population dynamics and thus provide some insight into the management of future ecosystem services.”

This research is funded through NERC’s £10million Changing Arctic Ocean; Implications for Marine Biology and Biogeochemistry Research Programme which supports four research projects and involves 15 UK research institutions starting in February 2017. ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Arctic Lakes are Thawing Earlier Every Year

Professor Mary Edwards and Professor Jadu Dash: University of Southampton: Image: US

|| December 23: 2016: University of Southampton News || ά. Scientists from the University of Southampton have found Arctic lakes, covered with ice during the winter months, are melting earlier each spring. The team, who monitored 13,300 lakes using satellite imagery, have shown that on average ice is breaking up one day earlier per year, based on a 14-year period between 2000 and 2013. Their findings are published in the Nature journal 'Scientific Reports'.  The researchers used information on how light is reflected off the lakes, as recorded by NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer:MODIS sensor, which collects a range of spectral and thermal data on a daily basis as it circles the globe on two satellites.

This study used the changes in reflectance to identify the freezing and thawing processes. Southampton’s Professor Jadu Dash, says, “Previous studies have looked into small numbers of lakes to show the impact of changes in temperature on the cyclic nature of lake-ice cover. However, ours is the first to use time-series of satellite data to monitor thousands of lakes in this way across the Arctic. It contributes to the growing range of observations showing the influence that warmer temperatures are having on the Arctic.” The researchers discovered that all five study areas in the Arctic, Alaska, Northeast Siberia, Central Siberia, Northeast Canada and Northern Europe, showed significant trends of early ice break-up in the spring, but to varying degrees.

Central Siberia demonstrated the strongest trend, with ice starting to break-up an average of 01.4 days earlier each year. Northern Europe showed the lowest change of ice break-up at 0.84 days earlier per year. They found a strong relationship between decreasing ice cover and an increasingly early spring temperature rise.

The team also examined the timing of formation of ice cover on the lakes in late autumn. Although the use of satellite images wasn’t possible due to the short daylight period limiting valid satellite observation, observations on the ground suggest lake freezing is starting later, further shortening the ice period, although more work would be needed to confirm this.

Co-author Professor Mary Edwards, from the University of Southampton, comments, “Our findings have several implications. Changing ice cover affects the energy balance between the land and atmosphere. Less ice means a longer season for lake biology, which together with warmer temperatures will affect processes such as CO2 and CH4 emissions.

Furthermore, many people use ice-covered landscapes for winter transport, and so spring and autumn travel for commercial and subsistence activities is likely to be more and more affected.”

Professor Dash concludes, “This demonstrates the potential of routine satellite data for long term monitoring of physical changes on the Earth’s surface. In the future, the new Sentinel series of satellites from the European Space Agency provide potential opportunities to examine these changes in greater detail.” ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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The Arctic: What President Barack Obama Still Can Do and He Does

|| December 21: 2016: Email Sent Out From the White House, Today: Paul Nicklen: Wildlife Photojournalist Writing || ά. For the last 40 years, I've roamed the polar regions of our world. I started as a child, growing up in an Inuit community on Baffin Island, Canada, where I learned from the Inuit people not just to survive in our environment, but to thrive in and love the Arctic for all it had to offer.

Later, as a scientist, I tried using data to make the case for conservation. But it wasn't until I became a polar photographer for Sea Legacy and National Geographic magazine that I finally found a way to convey the urgency of protecting this fragile ecosystem for the good of all humanity. As a scientist, what I know about the Arctic is terrifying. Currently, it’s warming twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet. As a photographer, I can observe and document these effects first-hand: receding glaciers, struggling wildlife populations, and cities impacted by rising sea levels.

And as the landscape changes, driven by climate change, I am watching the Arctic region become increasingly vulnerable. In particular, we should see the rapid disappearance of sea ice here for what it is: a sign of imminent and catastrophic change. The danger of an oil spill would deliver a fatal blow to this pristine and critically important ecosystem.

But, with the leadership of President Obama, we've taken a step forward.

Yesterday, President Obama designated vast portions of the United States’ Arctic Ocean as indefinitely off limits for future oil and gas leasing.

The new withdrawal, which encompasses the entire U.S. Chukchi Sea and the vast majority of the U.S. Beaufort Sea, will provide critical protection for the unique and vibrant Arctic ecosystem, which is home to marine mammals and other vital ecological resources and marine species, and upon which many Alaska Native communities depend. With this action, we’ve now protected nearly 125 million acres in the Arctic from future oil and gas activity since 2015.

This action also comes in conjunction with Canada’s announcement that it will freeze offshore oil and gas leasing in its Arctic waters, to be reviewed every five years through a climate and marine science-based assessment.

My career as a scientist, photojournalist, and co-founder of has taught me that merely telling people the ice is melting doesn't work. Temperatures are rising. Animals are struggling, starving and drowning. Water levels are gradually immersing cities. We can no longer just talk about this. We need to show the world how urgent it is with images and stories and, more importantly, with urgent action.

At this pace the Arctic will be void of ice by 2050. It's a message that's hard to hear but easy to understand when you see the damage at the poles of this great Earth. Species whose survival is at serious risk, like the Pacific walrus, polar bear, bowhead whale, fin whale, spectacled eider, and Steller’s eider will benefit from these protections, and so will the communities that rely on the Arctic ecosystem for their way of life. I hope Sea Legacy’s photographs become ambassadors for this beautiful ecosystem and inspire immediate action to protect it.

Thank you to President Obama for having the foresight to step forward. Not back.

Thanks for hearing me,


Paul Nicklen: Wildlife Photojournalist: Nanoose Bay, British Columbia, Canada: This email was sent out from the White House today

About Paul Nicklen: Paul is the Co-founder and Director of SeaLegacy. Canadian-born Paul Nicklen is an internationally acclaimed photographer and marine biologist who has been documenting both the beauty and the plight of our planet’s oceans and polar regions for more than 20 years. As an assignment photographer for National Geographic Magazine, he has captured the imagination of worldwide audiences.

His mission is to use his images, which are often highly emotional, evocative, and very beautiful, to ignite a conversation about the future of our planet’s natural wonders, and in so doing to inspire action. Paul is the recipient of more than 30 international awards, including the Natural Resources Defense Council’s BioGems Visionary Award. As a founder and contributing photographer to SeaLegacy, he plans on dedicating his efforts to illuminating the issues, species, and ecosystems he cares so deeply about. ω.

Images: Sea Legacy and Paul Nicklen

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Do You Read, Arctic

2008 June 18: Credit & Copyright: Kari Nyman


|| December 12: 2016: University of Reading News || ά.  The University of Reading has been handed a share of €07.5 million of funding from the EU to deliver a major project to help communities living in and around the Arctic better forecast changes in the climate. Blue-Action is an international partnership involving scientists from the University of Reading's Meteorology department that has just been launched to improve our detailed understanding of this changing climate and construct better long-term forecast systems for the Arctic and the wider northern hemisphere.

The Arctic faces rapid warming and less sea ice currently covers the Arctic Ocean than ever before at this time of the year, making understanding the processes and impacts of the increasingly extreme weather ever more important. Professor Valerio Lucarini, Professor of Statistical Mechanics at the University of Reading said, "At a time when weather in the Arctic region is becoming more erratic, being able to make better predictions of the changing climate is crucial to protecting the livelihoods of the people who live there.

A changing Arctic climate means a changing UK climate, with weather and climate surprises likely to become more frequent as the ice melts. Our work will ensure businesses and communities are armed with the knowledge they need to understand these changes, increase their resilience and make the plans accordingly."

As part of the four-year research and innovations project, Reading will receive €200,000 from the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme, and will work to improve long-range forecasting of hazardous weather. Blue-Action brings together 116 experts from 40 organisations in 17 countries on three continents working in academia, local authorities and maritime industries.

Pooling their expertise, skills, approaches and networks, the partners aim to evaluate the uncertainty in current weather prediction systems and develop new techniques. This information will allow communities and businesses in Eurasia and North America to develop and plan their activities better. Project Co-ordinator Dr Steffen Olsen, from the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen, said, "Working directly with local communities, businesses operating in the Arctic and industrial organisations, Blue-Action will demonstrate new opportunities for growth through tailored climate services.

These will give users the information they need to live and work safely and successfully in the rapidly changing regions in and surrounding the Arctic." The Blue-Action project began its work on December 01, but the firstmeeting will be held from January18-20 at the Max Planck Society's Harnack-Haus in Berlin.

This work follows on from another EU-financed project, which Reading is also a partner on. APPLICATE is backed by €8m of funding and seeks to explore how a warming Arctic climate will impact on the weather in Britain and beyond.

For more project details, visit. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no 727852. In an announcement in August this year, the UK government pledged to underwrite any Horizon 2020 awards of funding, and to guarantee any grant contracts signed before the UK formally leaves the EU for their full duration. ω.

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The Svalbard Satellite Station on Spitsbergen Island

Proba-1 images Svalbard ground station: Released 21/04/2016 10:29 am: Copyright ESA

|| April 21: 2016 || Long shadows cast across the snow give a frosty view of the covered domes of Europe’s most northerly ground station, as seen by the smallest camera on ESA’s veteran Proba-1 minisatellite.

The Svalbard Satellite Station sits on the island of Spitsbergen in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean. Operated by Kongsberg Satellite Services, it is the world’s largest commercial satellite ground station.

Located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard can track all 14 daily passes of polar-orbiting satellites, and has performed downlink duties for numerous ESA Earth-observing missions up to the present day.

It is an also an important site for Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, hosting a sensor station to monitor signal quality and an uplink station to transmit navigation message updates to the satellite fleet.

In addition, Svalbard hosts one of Europe’s three terminals for relaying distress beacons detected by Galileo and other satellites to regional search and rescue services.

Note the slice of airstrip, cleared of snow, at the top of the image. Also free of snow is the road to the station, which stands 400 m above the airstrip. The island power plant can also be seen along the road. The Global Seed Vault, storing diverse crop seeds in the event of global disaster, is also located along the road, although not visible here.

The cubic-metre Proba-1 is the first in ESA’s series of satellites aimed at flight-testing new space technologies. It was launched in October 2001 but is still going strong after 14 years, having since been reassigned to ESA’s Earth observation duties.

Proba-1’s main hyperspectral CHRIS imager is supplemented by this experimental HRC high-resolution camera, acquiring black and white 5 m-resolution images.

Other innovations included what were then novel gallium-arsenide solar cells, the use of startrackers for gyroless attitude control, one of the first lithium-ion batteries – now the longest such item operating in orbit – and one of ESA’s first ERC32 microprocessors to run Proba-1’s agile computer.

This HRC image was acquired on 16 April 2016.


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Pyramid Ice Crystal Halos Over Finland

2008 June 18: Credit & Copyright: Kari Nyman

Explanation: What if the atmosphere above you became one gigantic lens? This actually happens when a nearly transparent sheet of pyramid shaped ice crystals falls from the sky in a common orientation. These ice-crystals act together like millions of miniature ice mirrors, with external and internal reflections from different faces creating arcs and halos of different radii. An amazing display of pyramid ice crystal halos was captured on June 5 above Tampere, Finland. Visible above are very unusual sun halos of 9, 18, 20, 23, and 24 degrees. In contrast, thin and flat falling ice crystals will produce a halo of 22 degrees only. The high clouds containing the ice crystals are faintly visible, as are some sundogs. The usual Sun image was covered behind a light post, and the above image was significantly digitally sharpened. It is not currently known how large areas of nearly uniform pyramidal ice crystals form.


Posted: December 18, 2015


The Dramatics of the Arctic Sea Ice

Image: NASA

March 26, 2016: Layers of frozen seawater cap the Arctic Ocean. This sea ice grows dramatically each winter, usually reaching its maximum in March. It melts just as dramatically each summer, reaching its minimum in September. It is a natural fluctuation that has been going on for thousands of years, but winter and summer trends have become negative in recent decades.

These image pairs show Arctic sea ice extent for the month of September (left) and the following March (right) from September 1999 to March 2015. The yellow outline on each image shows the median sea ice extent for September and March as observed by satellites from 1979 through 2000. Extent is the total area in which the ice concentration is at least 15 percent. The median is the middle value; that is, half of the extents were larger than the line, and half were smaller.

Since 1978, satellites have monitored sea ice growth and retreat, and they have detected an overall decline in Arctic sea ice. The rate of decline has steepened in the 21st century. In September 2002, the summer minimum ice extent was the lowest it had been since 1979. Although the September 2002 low was only slightly below previous lows, it was the beginning of a series of record or near-record lows in the Arctic.

The new summer lows, combined with poor wintertime recoveries, have fueled a persistent decline in Arctic sea ice. Since 2002, ice extent at the summer minimum has not returned to anything approaching the long-term average (1979-2000). Though winter ice extent has fluctuated, satellite and in situ observations have shown that there is much less multiyear ice and more annual ice.

Cycles of natural variability such as the Arctic Oscillation are known to play a role in Arctic sea ice extent, but the sharp decline cannot be explained by natural variability alone. Natural variability and rising global temperatures have worked together to melt greater amounts of Arctic sea ice. Some modelers have forecast an ice-free Arctic for at least part of the year before the end of the 21st century.

This time series above is made from a combination of observations from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imagers (SSM/Is) flown on a series of Defense Meteorological Satellite Program missions. The sensors measure microwave energy radiated from the Earth’s surface (sea ice and open water emit microwaves differently), which can be used to map sea ice concentrations.

The gray circle at the center of each image is the “pole hole,” north of which satellite sensors have historically been unable to collect data. The sea ice estimates from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, NASA’s archive for sea ice data, assume that this hole is ice-filled.


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The Seagull Surveying the High Norwegian Arctic from Floating Ice

Image: UN Photo

A view of the high Norwegian Arctic. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the region to observe first-hand the effects of climate change. 08 July 2015.
Longyearbyen, Norway


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Methane Emissions in Arctic Cold Season Higher Than Expected

Half of Alaska's methane emissions occur in winter -- mostly during times when soil temperatures are poised near freezing.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech


The amount of methane gas escaping from the ground during the long cold period in the Arctic each year and entering Earth’s atmosphere is likely much higher than estimated by current carbon cycle models, concludes a major new study led by San Diego State University and including scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

The study included a team comprising ecologists Walter Oechel (SDSU and Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom) and Donatella Zona (SDSU and the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom) and scientists from JPL; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado; and the University of Montana, Missoula. The team found that far more methane is escaping from Arctic tundra during the cold months when the soil surface is frozen (generally from September through May), and from upland tundra, than prevailing assumptions and carbon cycle models previously assumed. In fact, they found that at least half of the annual methane emissions occur in the cold months, and that drier, upland tundra can be a larger emitter of methane than wet tundra. The findings challenge critical assumptions in current global climate models. The results are published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to atmospheric warming, and is approximately 25 times more potent per molecule than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Methane trapped in the Arctic tundra comes primarily from microbial decomposition of organic matter in soil that thaws seasonally. This methane naturally seeps out of the soil over the course of the year, but scientists worry that climate change could lead to the release of even larger emissions from organic matter that is currently stabilized in a deep, frozen soil layer called permafrost.

Over the past several decades, scientists have used specialized instruments to accurately measure methane emissions in the Arctic and incorporated those results into global climate models. However, almost all of these measurements have been obtained during the Arctic’s short summer. The region’s long, brutal cold period, which accounts for between 70 and 80 percent of the year, has been largely “overlooked and ignored,” according to Oechel. Most researchers, he said, figured that because the ground is frozen solid during the cold months, methane emissions practically shut down for the winter.

“Virtually all the climate models assume there’s no or very little emission of methane when the ground is frozen,” Oechel said. “That assumption is incorrect.”

The water trapped in the soil doesn’t freeze completely even below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), he explained. The top layer of the ground, known as the active layer, thaws in the summer and refreezes in the winter, and it experiences a kind of sandwiching effect as it freezes. When temperatures are right around 32 degrees Fahrenheit -- the so-called “zero curtain” -- the top and bottom of the active layer begin to freeze, while the middle remains insulated. Microorganisms in this unfrozen middle layer continue to break down organic matter and emit methane many months into the Arctic’s cold period each year.

Just how much methane is emitted during the Arctic winter? To find out, Oechel and Zona oversaw the upgrade of five sampling towers to allow them to operate continuously year-round above the Arctic Circle in Alaska. The researchers recorded methane emissions from these sites over two summer-fall-winter cycles between June 2013 and January 2015. The arduous task required highly specialized instruments that had to operate continuously and autonomously through extreme cold for months at a time. They developed a de-icing system that eliminated biases in the measurement and that was only activated when needed to maintain operation of the instruments down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius).

After analyzing the data, the research team found a major portion of methane emissions during the cold season were observed when temperatures hovered near the zero curtain.

“This is extremely relevant for the Arctic ecosystem, as the zero curtain period continues from September until the end of December, lasting as long or longer than the entire summer season,” said Zona, the study’s first author. “These results are opposite of what modelers have been assuming, which is that the majority of the methane emissions occur during the warm summer months while the cold-season methane contribution is nearly zero.”

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that during the cold seasons they studied, the relative methane emissions were higher at the drier, upland tundra sites than at wetland sites, contradicting yet another longstanding assumption about Arctic methane emissions. Upland tundra was previously assumed to be a negligible contributor of methane, Zona said, adding that the freezing of the surface inhibits methane oxidation, resulting in significant net methane emissions during the fall and winter. Plants act like chimneys, facilitating the escape through the frozen layer to the atmosphere. The highest annual emissions were observed in the upland site in the foothills of the Brooks Range, where warm soils and a deep active layer resulted in high rates of methane production.

To complement and verify the on-the-ground study, the University of Montana’s John Kimball and his team used microwave sensor measurements from the AMSR-E instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite to develop regional maps of surface water cover, including the timing, extent and duration of seasonal flooding and drying of the region’s wetlands.

“We were able to use the satellite data to show that the upland tundra areas that appear to be the larger methane sources from the on-the-ground instruments, account for more than half of all of the tundra in Alaska,” Kimball said.

Finally, to test whether their site-specific sampling was representative of methane emissions across the Arctic, the researchers compared their results to measurements recorded during aircraft flights over the region made by NASA’s Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE).

“CARVE flights were designed to cover as much of the year as feasible,” said CARVE Principal Investigator Charles Miller of JPL. “It was a challenging undertaking, involving hundreds of hours of flying in difficult conditions.”

The data from the SDSU sites were well aligned with the larger-scale aircraft measurements, Zona said.

“CARVE aircraft measurements of atmospheric methane show that large areas of Arctic tundra and boreal forest continue to emit methane to the atmosphere at high rates, long after the surface soil freezes,” said Róisín Commane of Harvard University, who helped acquire and analyze the aircraft data.

Oechel and Zona stressed the importance for modelers to have good baseline data on methane emissions and to adjust their models to account for Arctic cold-season methane emissions as well as the contributions of non-wetland areas, including upland tundra.

“It is now time to work more closely with climate modelers and assure these observations are used to improve model predictions, and refine our prediction of the global methane budget,” Zona said.

It is particularly important, Oechel added, for models to get methane output right because the gas is a major driver of atmospheric warming. “If you don’t have the mechanisms right, you won’t be able to make predictions into the future based on anticipated climate conditions,” he said.

Steven Wofsy of Harvard University added, "Now that we know how important the winter is to the methane budget, we are working to determine the long-term trends in greenhouse emissions from tundra and their sensitivity to winter warming."

This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy.

SDSU; JPL; Harvard University; the University of Montana; the University of Sheffield; the National Research Council (CNR) of Italy; the University of Helsinki; the University of Colorado, Boulder; Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Lexington, Massachusetts; the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; NOAA; and Open University all contributed to the study.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

More information on CARVE
More information about NASA's Earth science activities

Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Beth Downing Chee
San Diego State University, San Diego

( Editor: Tony Greicius: NASA)


P: 11.01.16


Arctic Lidar Observatory in Norway

Arctic Lidar Observatory: Copyright Leif Jonny Eilertsen/Andøya Rocket Range

The Rayleigh/Mie/Raman Lidar and the Natrium lidar on the island of Andøya in northern Norway (69,28°N, 16.01°E), which is part of the Arctic Lidar Observatory for Middle Atmosphere Research.


Posted: December 6, 2015


The First Global Review Of Arctic Marine Mammals

Kristin Laidre, lead author of the new review on the status and future of Arctic marine mammals, doing field work in Greenland in 2013. Credits: Erik Born / Greenland Institute of Natural Resource

Many human communities want answers about the current status and future of Arctic marine mammals, including scientists who dedicate their lives to study them and indigenous people whose traditional ways of subsistence are intertwined with the fate of species such as ice seals, narwhals, walruses and polar bears.

But there are many unknowns about the current status of 11 species of marine mammals who depend on Arctic sea ice to live, feed and breed, and about how their fragile habitat will evolve in a warming world.

A recently published multinational study attempted to gauge the population trends of Arctic marine mammals and changes in their habitat, identify missing scientific information, and provide recommendations for the conservation of Arctic marine mammals over the next decades.

The Arctic sea ice cover, made of frozen seawater floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas, naturally grows in the fall and winter and melts during the spring and summer every year. But over the past decades, the melt season has grown longer and the average extent of Arctic sea ice has diminished, changing the game for many Arctic marine mammals – namely beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales; ringed, bearded, spotted, ribbon, harp and hooded seals; walruses; and polar bears.

"This research would not have been possible without support from NASA," said Kristin Laidre, lead author of the new study and a polar scientist with University of Washington in Seattle. "NASA backed us on research related to the biodiversity and ecology of Arctic marine mammals, as well as the development of metrics for the loss of sea ice, their habitat."

Laidre’s team used the Arctic sea ice record derived from microwave measurements taken by NASA and Department of Defense satellites. This record began in late 1978, is uninterrupted, and relies on NASA-developed methods for processing the microwave data.

"It’s really our best global view of the Arctic sea ice," said Harry Stern, author of the paper with Laidre and a mathematician specializing in sea ice and climate at University of Washington.

Stern divided the Arctic Ocean into 12 regions. Using daily sea ice concentration data from the satellite record, he calculated changes in the dates of the beginning of the melt season in spring and the start of the fall freeze-up from 1979 to 2013. He found that, in all regions but one, the melt season had grown longer (mostly by 5 to 10 weeks, and by 20 weeks in one region).

"Sea ice is critical for Arctic marine mammals because events such as feeding, giving birth, molting, and resting are closely timed with the availability of their ice platform," Laidre said. "It is especially critical for the ice-dependent species -- seals and polar bears. Ice seals use the sea ice platform to give birth and nurse pups during very specific weeks of the spring, and polar bears use sea ice for feeding, starting in late winter and continuing until the ice breaks up."

Pacific walrus use the floating pack ice both as a platform on which to rest between feeding bouts and as a passive transport around their habitat.

"Loss of sea ice has resulted in walrus hauling out on land in Alaska and Russia in massive numbers – these land haul outs result in trampling of their young," Laidre said. "Also, now walrus must travel a longer way to reach their feeding areas, which is energetically costly."

In the case of Arctic whales, the changes in sea ice might benefit their populations, at least in the short term: the loss and earlier retreat of sea ice opens up new habitats and, in some areas of the Arctic, has also led to an increase in food production and the length of their feeding season.

In the future, Stern said higher-resolution satellite microwave data might come in handy when studying the interactions of Arctic marine mammals with their icy habitat.

"For example, we know that narwhals congregate in specific areas of the Arctic in the wintertime, so maybe a higher spatial resolution in these areas might help us better understand their relationship with the ice," Stern said. "But mainly, just continuing daily coverage is what’s important for the long-term monitoring of habitat changes."

This review study was funded by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, the Danish Ministry of the Environment and NASA.

Link to the study "Arctic marine mammal population status, sea ice habitat loss, and conservation recommendations for the 21st century"

Maria-José Viñas: NASA’s Earth Science News Team: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
( Editor: Lynn Jenner: NASA)


Posted on: November 22, 2015


Arctic Sea Ice Maximum Annual Extent Is Lowest On Record This Year

Arctic sea ice likely reached its annual maximum winter extent on Feb. 25, barring a late season surge. At 5.61 million square miles, this year's winter peak extent is the lowest and one of the earliest on the satellite record that began in 1979. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Arctic sea ice, frozen seawater floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas, is in constant change: it grows in the fall and winter, reaching its annual maximum between late February and early April, and then it shrinks in the spring and summer until it hits its annual minimum extent in September. The past decades have seen a downward trend in Arctic sea ice extent during both the growing and melting season, though the decline is steeper in the latter.

This year’s maximum was reached 15 days earlier than the 1981 to 2010 average date of March 12, according to NSIDC. Only in 1996 did it occur earlier, on Feb. 24. However, the sun is just beginning to rise on the Arctic Ocean and a late spurt of ice growth is still possible, though unlikely.

If the maximum were to remain at 5.61 million square miles, it would be about 50,000 square miles below the previous lowest peak wintertime extent, reached in 2011 at 5.66 million square miles — in percentages, that’s less than a 1 percent difference between the two record low maximums. In comparison, the swings between record lows for the Arctic summertime minimum extent have been much wider: the lowest minimum extent on record, in 2012, was 1.31 million square miles, about 300,000 square miles, or 18.6 percent smaller than the previous record low one, which happened in 2007 and clocked at 1.61 million square miles.

A record low sea ice maximum extent does not necessarily lead to a record low summertime minimum extent.

“The winter maximum gives you a head start, but the minimum is so much more dependent on what happens in the summer that it seems to wash out anything that happens in the winter,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “If the summer is cool, the melt rate will slow down. And the opposite is true, too: even if you start from a fairly high point, warm summer conditions make ice melt fast. This was highlighted by 2012, when we had one of the later maximums on record and extent was near-normal early in the melt season, but still the 2012 minimum was by far the lowest minimum we’ve seen.”

The main player in the wintertime maximum extent is the seasonal ice at the edges of the ice pack. This type of ice is thin and at the mercy of which direction the wind blows: warm winds from the south compact the ice northward and also bring heat that makes the ice melt, while cold winds from the north allow more sea ice to form and spread the ice edge southward.

“Scientifically, the yearly maximum extent is not as interesting as the minimum. It is highly influenced by weather and we’re looking at the loss of thin, seasonal ice that is going to melt anyway in the summer and won’t become part of the permanent ice cover,” Meier said. “With the summertime minimum, when the extent decreases it’s because we’re losing the thick ice component, and that is a better indicator of warming temperatures.”

For more

Maria-José Viñas
​NASA's Earth Science News Team
( Editor: Rob Garner: NASA)

Posted on: November 12, 2015


NASA IceBridge Campaign in the Arctic

Heimdal Glacier in southern Greenland, in an image captured on Oct. 13, 2015, from NASA Langley Research Center's Falcon 20 aircraft flying 33,000 feet above mean sea level. Credits: NASA/John Sonntag

NASA’s Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, recently finalized two overlapping campaigns at both of Earth’s poles. Down south, the mission observed a big drop in the height of two glaciers situated in the Antarctic Peninsula, while in the north it collected much needed measurements of the status of land and sea ice at the end of the Arctic summer melt season.

This was the first time in its seven years of operations that IceBridge carried out parallel flights in the Arctic and Antarctic. Every year, the mission flies to the Arctic in the spring and to Antarctica in the fall to keep collect an uninterrupted record of yearly changes in the height of polar ice.

But this year IceBridge added a fall campaign in the Arctic to shed light on the impact of the melt season on the Greenland Ice Sheet and nearby sea ice – the mission had only carried this supplementary campaign once before, in 2013. The new post-melt measurements will help interpret and calibrate the remote data collected by operational satellites such as the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 and prepare for the data from NASA’s upcoming Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2).

Repeated Tracks Over the Arctic

The Arctic campaign, dubbed IceBridge North, began on Sept. 24, when IceBridge researchers onboard NASA Langley Research Center's Falcon 20 aircraft flew their first mission from Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland. Due to the Falcon being smaller than IceBridge’s usual ride in the Arctic, a P-3 Orion, the mission carried a limited set of instruments: a laser altimeter called the Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM), a photographic mapper called the Digital Mapping System (DMS), and an experimental infrared camera.

Whenever possible, IceBridge flew two three-and-a half-hour missions per day. In total, IceBridge North carried 22 flights, including all of its planned land ice missions. But poor weather only allowed for three out of the six planned sea ice flights.

Another difference with IceBridge’s regular Arctic campaigns was that all of the flights were repeats of missions flown in the 2015 spring campaign.

“The main focus of the IceBridge North campaign was to get direct measurements of how much snow and ice has disappeared over the summer,” said John Sonntag, IceBridge mission scientist. “The way you get a direct measurement of this is by surveying the elevation along some flight lines in the spring, doing it again in the early fall, and then comparing the data.”

“Satellites such as CryoSat-2, and ICESat-2 in the future, take measurements all year round,” said Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge’s project scientist and a sea ice researcher with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “So we need to sample the poles at different times of the year to get a better handle of the seasonal cycles of the ice. That will help us validate the satellite data and calibrate numerical models that track ice sheet gains and losses.”


The Antarctic

Posted on : November 29, 2015


Aurora Sodankyla, Lapland

Aurora : Released 19/03/2013 1:27 pm: Copyright Kate Arkless Gray (Courtesy ESA)

Description :  The Northern Lights above Finnish Lapland near Sodankylä during ESA’s space weather-themed social space event in 2013. Northern Lights occur when charged particles from the Sun hit Earth’s atmosphere. The green vertical stripe is a laser beam from the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s Arctic Research Centre to measure cloud particles and aerosols in the upper atmosphere.

Posted on: November 7, 2015


How About This Emerald Eagle!

Taken on January 24, 2012: Released October 26, 2015 12:37 pm Copyright B. Jørgensen : Courtesy ESA

Eerie sheets and ripples of green hang above a deserted rocky landscape in this spooky Space Science Image of the Week. Spikes of neon and emerald seem to form the ominous form of a ghostly celestial eagle, with a sharp beak, bright head and majestic outstretched wings.

While this photograph may resemble paranormal happenings or alien activity, the dramatic skyscape shown here is actually due to a much more common astronomical event known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME.

This scene was captured on 24 January 2012 above Grotfjord, Norway, by photographer Bjørn Jørgensen. The day before, the Sun flung a burst of high-speed charged particles – electrons, protons and other ions – out into space. Large CMEs can contain up to a billion tonnes of matter, all streaming through space at speeds of up to 2000 km/s.

These particles sped towards Earth and some of them became trapped within our planet’s magnetosphere, a region of space in which charged particles are contained by Earth’s magnetic field.

These particles then began to rain down into our atmosphere, smashing into atoms and molecules of oxygen and nitrogen in the process. These collisions release large amounts of energy in the form of light, painting distinctive colours in the sky.

The colour depends on the particle hit. The most common colours are the reddish-blue of nitrogen and the red or greenish-yellow hues of atomic and molecular oxygen (as seen here). These colours can mix to produce striking shades of orange, yellow, pink and purple.

Because of their speed and particle density, CMEs often trigger stunning auroral displays. When the Sun is particularly active it can produce several CMEs per day, dropping to roughly one every five days at lower activity levels. On average, between one and four CMEs hit Earth each month; these are called “Halo CMEs”.

A flotilla of spacecraft, including the ESA-led SOHO, Proba-2 and Cluster missions, monitor the Sun and its effects on our home planet.

Posted on: October 31, 2015


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