Global environmental challenges
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.
Rodney Russ lives for the times he is at the rudder of a Zodiac.
For the owner of Heritage Expeditions, the New Zealand-based company that is operating the Russian research ship Professor Khromov in the Bering Sea, the more challenging the conditions the better.
In an age of angst about security and Arctic sovereignty, it’s no mean feat piecing together an oceanographic expedition involving scientists from the United States, Russia and elsewhere and launching the whole affair from a northern U.S. port.
In the choppy waters of the Bering Sea just off Nome, Alaska, the Russian research ship Professor Khromov is waiting to come in to port, where strict security protocols will be adhered to under the watchful eye of U.S. authorities.
Admit it: we all wondered just what Sarah Palin would turn her time and talents to after she announced her resignation from the Alaska governor’s job, and now she’s given what looks like an answer. In an op-ed column in The Washington Post, Palin took a swipe at Washington insiders and the mainstream media for ignoring the economy, and then tipped her hand.
“Unfortunately, many in the national media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these challenges,” she wrote. “So, at risk of disappointing the chattering class, let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be: I am deeply concerned about President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan, and I believe it is an enormous threat to our economy. It would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage.”
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).
New research shows that both Antarctica and the Arctic are getting less icy – and the best explanation is mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases.
But will that convert anyone who doubts that global warming is caused by human activities, led by burning fossil fuels?
Ice getting bigger hardly sounds like a sign of global warming but that’s apparently what is happening in the seas around Antarctica.
Leading climate scientists say that a tiny trend towards bigger ice in winter floating on the oceans around the frozen continent since the late 1970s — the maximum extent is around now, in September — is consistent with models of climate change that predict harsher winds and less warmer water at the surface.
Talk about occupational hazards.Five Wildlife Conservation Society scientists studying the effects of global warming on shorebirds in Arctic Alaska had to be airlifted away from their remote camp late last month because of the appearance of another species whose life is changing as warming helps erode shores and melt sea ice. The researchers said a polar bear stuck on land forced them to evacuate their camp north of the remote Teshekpuk Lake on the Beaufort Sea –leaving food and tents behind. The carnivorous bears would normally be out on sea ice this time of year. But with recent warming the ice is miles from shore and polar bears, which were recently listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, are becoming increasingly trapped on land well away from their usual seal prey, said Dr. Steve Zack, who leads Arctic studies for WCS ”We had no idea how hungry they’d be and thus how ornery they’d be,” Zack, who made the decision for the researchers to evacuate even though they had been trained in bear safety, told me by his mobile phone from his current base near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. ”Where there’s one polar bear there are usually more,” he said, adding that government scientists have seen 32 polar bears stuck on shore this year, up from only one or two in previous years. In subsequent fly-overs over the abandoned camp, the team discovered that bears had eaten all of the food left by the researchers and destroyed two $500 tents. ”It was an ironic circumstance that studying climate change issues for our shorebirds put us in harm’s way with climate change effects on polar bears,” said Zack. Image by Mark Maftei, WCS