Environment Forum

‘Not enough ice to make a margarita’

Scientists aboard the Russian research vessel Professor Khromov spent the weekend collecting samples of water, sealife and ocean-floor mud at a spot in the western Arctic Ocean that in most years would be covered with sea ice.

The ship, carrying researchers for the six-week RUSALCA expedition, was in its most northerly planned sampling stop, or “station,”  a location nearly 350 miles (563 km) northwest of Barrow, Alaska. During the mission’s last cruise in 2004, the most northerly accessible location was 345 miles (555 km) south of the weekend’s station.

Mission coordinator Kevin Wood, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,  writes from the ship that the water is open on all sides. “There isn’t enough ice here to make a margarita,” Wood said.

The joint U.S.-Russian expedition is carrying out research to gauge the effects of global warming on the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea through the end of the month.

The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported last week that the Arctic’s sea ice thawed to its third smallest on record. This is up slightly from from the last two years, but continues an overall decline that is symptomatic of climate change. The smallest summer ice pack on record was in 2007.

Cracking views of Antarctic icebergs

As a view out of your home it’s hard to match — a constantly changing vista of icebergs just outside the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera research station.

Every day the winds and tides on the Antarctic Peninsula shift them around — some break up  abruptly with a loud splash while many simply slowly grind into ice cubes against the shore and disappear. I’ve tried to take a picture every day from the main balcony here (there’s a metal mast on the right hand side of each photo).

Walking along the shore here you can hear a bubbling as air in the ice melts out into the water. The old ice is the clearest — good for putting in cold drinks. Some form gravity-defying shapes such as arches or big holes — one in the bay a few days ago looked like a giant catamaran.

Cyclones’ silver lining: they may slow global warming

A Filipino resident wades across a flooded area after Typhoon Mindulle hit Baguio City, north of Manila, July 1, 2004. At least 16 people were killed when Typhoon Mindulle hit the country on Wednesday, packing peak winds of 190 km per hour near the center and gustiness of 230 kph, cut power and telecommunications lines. REUTERS/Tito Zapata RR/FAA cyclone slamming into a tropical island in the Pacific or the Caribbean sounds like unmitigated bad news – flattening homes, destroying crops, flooding towns or washing away coastlines.

But there may be a silver lining even to the worst storm clouds; hurricanes and typhoons may help — at least a bit – to slow global warming by washing huge amounts of leaves, branches, tree trunks, roots and soil into the ocean, according to research in the journal Nature Geoscience. Read a story about the findings here.

Plants soak up carbon dioxide – a non-toxic heat-trapping gas that is building up fast in the atmosphere because of human emissions of greenhouse gases – as they grow and release the stored carbon when they rot or burn.