Tag Archives: Canada

Humans put conservation reserves at risk

In theory conservation reserves are set aside to preserve wild creatures. But then the humans move in. Land almost twice the area of India is threatened.

LONDON, 8 June, 2018 – Many of the world’s conservation reserves, intended to safeguard species at risk of survival, are increasingly unable to provide effective refuge.

At least one third of all the forests, grasslands, wetlands and mangroves notionally protected by laws to safeguard the wild things that evolved with them are under intense human pressure, according to the first detailed study for 25 years.

Major road systems criss-cross African wildlife reserves, cities have grown up in national park areas, and farmland and buildings blight landscapes supposedly reserved for endemic species at hazard from extinction. Altogether 6 million square kilometres (2.3m square miles) of protected land, researchers say, are “under intense human pressure.”

Since the global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was agreed in 1992, the area of the world declared as protected has doubled in size, and more than 202,000 patches of conservation area and national park cover 14.7% of the Earth’s land surface.

“A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species. If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated”

Some of these areas are strictly for conservation of biodiversity; some permit limited human exploitation but are still intended mainly to provide habitat for the wild creatures.

Australian and Canadian scientists report in the journal Science that they examined what they call “human footprint” maps of the globe to make their assessment. The human footprint metric incorporates built environments, intensive agriculture, pasture lands, human population density, night-time lights, roads, railways and navigable waterways.

The scientists found that only 42% of these lands were free of measurable human pressure. But 32.8%, an area of more than 6m sq km – almost twice the size of India – counted as under intense pressure.

What worried the scientists most was what happened to some landscapes that were intact and in a natural state when declared as protected: since 1993, around 280,000 square kilometres of such wilderness had shifted from low disturbance to intense human pressure: this is an area almost as large as Italy.

Complete human dependence

Almost three fourths of the world’s nations – that is, 137 countries – have 50% of their protected land under intense human pressure. “If one assumes that protected land under intense human pressure does not contribute towards conservation targets,” the scientists write, “we show that 74 of 111 nations that have reached a level of 17% protected coverage would drop out of that list.”

Almost all human resources – including food and drink, fabrics and medicines – are derived from the planet’s biodiversity: even the coal, natural gas and petrol that drives the human economy was once wild forest and reed bed. Researchers have repeatedly stressed the importance of biodiversity to all human economic activity – they call it natural capital – and warned that continued loss of wild native plants and animals could have catastrophic consequences. The authors of the Science study warn that if human pressure increases, the goals of the CBD will be severely undermined.

“A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species,” said Kendall Jones of the University of Queensland. “If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated.”

And his co-author James Watson of the World Conservation Society said: “Most importantly, we’ve got to recognise that these jewels in the crown need support – there are some protected areas that are safeguarding nature and that still haven’t got any evidence of human encroachment in them. We must ensure these values are maintained.” – Climate News Network

In theory conservation reserves are set aside to preserve wild creatures. But then the humans move in. Land almost twice the area of India is threatened.

LONDON, 8 June, 2018 – Many of the world’s conservation reserves, intended to safeguard species at risk of survival, are increasingly unable to provide effective refuge.

At least one third of all the forests, grasslands, wetlands and mangroves notionally protected by laws to safeguard the wild things that evolved with them are under intense human pressure, according to the first detailed study for 25 years.

Major road systems criss-cross African wildlife reserves, cities have grown up in national park areas, and farmland and buildings blight landscapes supposedly reserved for endemic species at hazard from extinction. Altogether 6 million square kilometres (2.3m square miles) of protected land, researchers say, are “under intense human pressure.”

Since the global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was agreed in 1992, the area of the world declared as protected has doubled in size, and more than 202,000 patches of conservation area and national park cover 14.7% of the Earth’s land surface.

“A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species. If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated”

Some of these areas are strictly for conservation of biodiversity; some permit limited human exploitation but are still intended mainly to provide habitat for the wild creatures.

Australian and Canadian scientists report in the journal Science that they examined what they call “human footprint” maps of the globe to make their assessment. The human footprint metric incorporates built environments, intensive agriculture, pasture lands, human population density, night-time lights, roads, railways and navigable waterways.

The scientists found that only 42% of these lands were free of measurable human pressure. But 32.8%, an area of more than 6m sq km – almost twice the size of India – counted as under intense pressure.

What worried the scientists most was what happened to some landscapes that were intact and in a natural state when declared as protected: since 1993, around 280,000 square kilometres of such wilderness had shifted from low disturbance to intense human pressure: this is an area almost as large as Italy.

Complete human dependence

Almost three fourths of the world’s nations – that is, 137 countries – have 50% of their protected land under intense human pressure. “If one assumes that protected land under intense human pressure does not contribute towards conservation targets,” the scientists write, “we show that 74 of 111 nations that have reached a level of 17% protected coverage would drop out of that list.”

Almost all human resources – including food and drink, fabrics and medicines – are derived from the planet’s biodiversity: even the coal, natural gas and petrol that drives the human economy was once wild forest and reed bed. Researchers have repeatedly stressed the importance of biodiversity to all human economic activity – they call it natural capital – and warned that continued loss of wild native plants and animals could have catastrophic consequences. The authors of the Science study warn that if human pressure increases, the goals of the CBD will be severely undermined.

“A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species,” said Kendall Jones of the University of Queensland. “If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated.”

And his co-author James Watson of the World Conservation Society said: “Most importantly, we’ve got to recognise that these jewels in the crown need support – there are some protected areas that are safeguarding nature and that still haven’t got any evidence of human encroachment in them. We must ensure these values are maintained.” – Climate News Network

Canada will lose many glaciers as climate warms

Climate change could cause many glaciers in western Canada to start to disappear by 2040, affecting people and places that depend on their water. LONDON, 10 April, 2015 − As the world warms, many of the great frozen rivers of Canada will not just retreat, but could vanish altogether. New research suggests that maritime glaciers in the far northwest might survive, but more than two-thirds of Canada’s existing glaciers in British Columbia and Alberta could be lost altogether by 2100. Garry Clarke, a glaciologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says: “Soon our mountains could look like those in Colorado or California, and you don’t see much ice in those landscapes.” The consequences for the forests, grasslands, animals and communities that depend on glacial meltwater could be serious. The disappearance of the glaciers will also create problems for Canada’s hydroelectric industry, for agriculture and grazing, for the mining industry, for the salmon fishery, and for tourism. Professor Clarke and his colleagues report in Nature Geoscience that they devised a model – a high-resolution computer simulation – of the glaciers of western Canada that explicitly mimicked glacial flow. Then they tested it with a range of scenarios for climate change, driven by human combustion of fossil fuels and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the last two centuries.

“Once the glaciers are gone, the streams will be a lot warmer and this will hugely change freshwater habitat”

There are more than 17,000 glaciers in British Columbia and Alberta, covering more than 26,000 square kilometres of the two provinces, and holding an estimated 2,980 cubic kilometres of ice. This puts western Canada as more glaciated than the Himalayas (which have less than 23,000 sq kms of glacier): the entire continent of South America has only 31,000 sq kms of glacier. The researchers found that maritime glaciers in the northwest would endure, in a diminished state. But overall, the volume of the glaciers in western Canada would shrink by 70%, give or take 10%. Right now glaciers, most of them between 100 and 200 metres thick, are thinning at a rate of about a metre a year. The peak flow of meltwater would most likely occur between 2020 and 2040. Thereafter, the rivers would be in decline. Potential sea level rise as a consequence of this, the scientists say, would be “modest” at around 6mm, but the consequences for that part of Canada would be substantial. The Columbia River, which flows from the interior to the Pacific coast of Washington and Oregon, yields the largest hydroelectric production of any river in North America. And the impact on freshwater ecosystems could be considerable. “These glaciers act as a thermostat for freshwater systems,” said Professor Clarke. “Once the glaciers are gone, the streams will be a lot warmer and this will hugely change freshwater habitat. We could see some unpleasant surprises in terms of salmon productivity.” – Climate News Network

Climate change could cause many glaciers in western Canada to start to disappear by 2040, affecting people and places that depend on their water. LONDON, 10 April, 2015 − As the world warms, many of the great frozen rivers of Canada will not just retreat, but could vanish altogether. New research suggests that maritime glaciers in the far northwest might survive, but more than two-thirds of Canada’s existing glaciers in British Columbia and Alberta could be lost altogether by 2100. Garry Clarke, a glaciologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says: “Soon our mountains could look like those in Colorado or California, and you don’t see much ice in those landscapes.” The consequences for the forests, grasslands, animals and communities that depend on glacial meltwater could be serious. The disappearance of the glaciers will also create problems for Canada’s hydroelectric industry, for agriculture and grazing, for the mining industry, for the salmon fishery, and for tourism. Professor Clarke and his colleagues report in Nature Geoscience that they devised a model – a high-resolution computer simulation – of the glaciers of western Canada that explicitly mimicked glacial flow. Then they tested it with a range of scenarios for climate change, driven by human combustion of fossil fuels and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the last two centuries.

“Once the glaciers are gone, the streams will be a lot warmer and this will hugely change freshwater habitat”

There are more than 17,000 glaciers in British Columbia and Alberta, covering more than 26,000 square kilometres of the two provinces, and holding an estimated 2,980 cubic kilometres of ice. This puts western Canada as more glaciated than the Himalayas (which have less than 23,000 sq kms of glacier): the entire continent of South America has only 31,000 sq kms of glacier. The researchers found that maritime glaciers in the northwest would endure, in a diminished state. But overall, the volume of the glaciers in western Canada would shrink by 70%, give or take 10%. Right now glaciers, most of them between 100 and 200 metres thick, are thinning at a rate of about a metre a year. The peak flow of meltwater would most likely occur between 2020 and 2040. Thereafter, the rivers would be in decline. Potential sea level rise as a consequence of this, the scientists say, would be “modest” at around 6mm, but the consequences for that part of Canada would be substantial. The Columbia River, which flows from the interior to the Pacific coast of Washington and Oregon, yields the largest hydroelectric production of any river in North America. And the impact on freshwater ecosystems could be considerable. “These glaciers act as a thermostat for freshwater systems,” said Professor Clarke. “Once the glaciers are gone, the streams will be a lot warmer and this will hugely change freshwater habitat. We could see some unpleasant surprises in terms of salmon productivity.” – Climate News Network

Bears pay price of Arctic ice melt

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The Arctic lost less sea ice this year than last, and that is good news for many polar bears, if not for their preferred prey, the ringed seals. LONDON, 7 November – Churchill, Manitoba is about to lose its star performers, but paradoxically nobody will be sorry to see them go. And, even more paradoxically, the whole world can now watch them, courtesy of a set of web cameras set up by the media organisation Explore [Live cam footage courtesy of explore.org, Polar Bears International and Frontiers North Adventures]. The story is a simple one: somewhere between 900 and 1,000 polar bears make up the Western Hudson Bay population of Ursus maritimus, the Arctic’s top terrestrial predator, and many of them will have not eaten properly for eight months. Polar bears will if there is no choice forage for goose eggs, berries, carrion and town rubbish, which is why so many gather near Churchill, Manitoba while waiting for the seas to freeze. The polar bear is adapted to the Arctic ice as perfectly as the African lion is at home on the savannah. But as the Arctic summers lengthen, and the ice dwindles, the southernmost polar bear population is under threat. Only as Hudson Bay ices over will the Churchill bears be able to hunt their favoured prey, the ringed seal, Phoca hispida, an energy source so rich that – when the hunting is good – polar bears will eat only the blubber, and leave the rest for other Arctic carnivores and scavengers. The polar bear needs at least two kilograms of seal blubber a day; a hungry polar bear has enough room in its stomach for up to a fifth of its bodyweight. A kilo of seal blubber could deliver up to 5,000 kilocalories which means a 500 kg bear could in theory gorge on up to 500,000 kilocalories a day, in a voracious bid to build up enough fat to see it through the next cycle of spring births and summer fasting. But to gorge, the bears must get to the ice. During the summer of 2012, Arctic ice contracted to its lowest ever recorded level. If the pattern of summer ice loss continues, the bears could be in trouble.

Fewer cubs survive

Pregnant female bears generally enter their dens in November or December and then emerge with their cubs in April or May, having eaten nothing for four or five months, only to be forced off the ice in July. “So by the time they head out to the ice again, they’ve been without food for up to eight months,” says Barbara Nielsen of Polar Bears International, which declared Polar Bear Week, beginning on 4 November. “The longer ice free periods are really hard on mothers with cubs and scientists are seeing a drop in cub survival rates as a result.” Some of the population have been fitted with radio collars and tracked by satellite: the first tracked bear came ashore on 4 July of this year, a month earlier than was normal 30 years ago. Polar bears are powerful swimmers, and have been tracked swimming for huge distances; on land they can move at speed, but not for long, because they overheat. So their best hope of a full meal is on the ice, used by ringed seals as a nursery every spring. Although summer ice loss in 2013 was much less dramatic than in 2012, Arctic ice has been retreating at an accelerating rate for the last 30 years.  Conservationists and zoologists have repeatedly warned that the polar bear population of Hudson Bay is at risk. So the people of Churchill will be happy to see them go, because the sooner they go, the more likely it is that many of them will be back. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The Arctic lost less sea ice this year than last, and that is good news for many polar bears, if not for their preferred prey, the ringed seals. LONDON, 7 November – Churchill, Manitoba is about to lose its star performers, but paradoxically nobody will be sorry to see them go. And, even more paradoxically, the whole world can now watch them, courtesy of a set of web cameras set up by the media organisation Explore [Live cam footage courtesy of explore.org, Polar Bears International and Frontiers North Adventures]. The story is a simple one: somewhere between 900 and 1,000 polar bears make up the Western Hudson Bay population of Ursus maritimus, the Arctic’s top terrestrial predator, and many of them will have not eaten properly for eight months. Polar bears will if there is no choice forage for goose eggs, berries, carrion and town rubbish, which is why so many gather near Churchill, Manitoba while waiting for the seas to freeze. The polar bear is adapted to the Arctic ice as perfectly as the African lion is at home on the savannah. But as the Arctic summers lengthen, and the ice dwindles, the southernmost polar bear population is under threat. Only as Hudson Bay ices over will the Churchill bears be able to hunt their favoured prey, the ringed seal, Phoca hispida, an energy source so rich that – when the hunting is good – polar bears will eat only the blubber, and leave the rest for other Arctic carnivores and scavengers. The polar bear needs at least two kilograms of seal blubber a day; a hungry polar bear has enough room in its stomach for up to a fifth of its bodyweight. A kilo of seal blubber could deliver up to 5,000 kilocalories which means a 500 kg bear could in theory gorge on up to 500,000 kilocalories a day, in a voracious bid to build up enough fat to see it through the next cycle of spring births and summer fasting. But to gorge, the bears must get to the ice. During the summer of 2012, Arctic ice contracted to its lowest ever recorded level. If the pattern of summer ice loss continues, the bears could be in trouble.

Fewer cubs survive

Pregnant female bears generally enter their dens in November or December and then emerge with their cubs in April or May, having eaten nothing for four or five months, only to be forced off the ice in July. “So by the time they head out to the ice again, they’ve been without food for up to eight months,” says Barbara Nielsen of Polar Bears International, which declared Polar Bear Week, beginning on 4 November. “The longer ice free periods are really hard on mothers with cubs and scientists are seeing a drop in cub survival rates as a result.” Some of the population have been fitted with radio collars and tracked by satellite: the first tracked bear came ashore on 4 July of this year, a month earlier than was normal 30 years ago. Polar bears are powerful swimmers, and have been tracked swimming for huge distances; on land they can move at speed, but not for long, because they overheat. So their best hope of a full meal is on the ice, used by ringed seals as a nursery every spring. Although summer ice loss in 2013 was much less dramatic than in 2012, Arctic ice has been retreating at an accelerating rate for the last 30 years.  Conservationists and zoologists have repeatedly warned that the polar bear population of Hudson Bay is at risk. So the people of Churchill will be happy to see them go, because the sooner they go, the more likely it is that many of them will be back. – Climate News Network

Scientists mull Arctic's slow CO2 loss

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Arctic permafrost thaws each year, but – to the surprise of scientists from Denmark – in some areas it is not releasing the carbon dioxide it contains nearly as fast as they had expected.

LONDON, 28 July – Think of permafrost as a slush fund of so-far uncertain value. The levels of Arctic permafrost that thaw each year and freeze again are growing at depths of 1cm a year, but the carbon locked away in the soils is – so far – not being released at an accelerating rate.

This is good news for climate change worriers, but only for the time being. Bo Elberling of the Centre for Permafrost at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that the soggy summer soils of Greenland, Svalbard and Canada where they have taken samples are not releasing carbon dioxide at the rate some had feared.

But the results are based on preliminary research and they still have to work out why carbon release is so slow – and whether it will remain slow.

The “active permafrost” is a natural feature of sub-Arctic life: there is a shallow thaw each summer, plants flower, insects arrive, migrating birds follow the insects, grazing animals forage, predators seize a chance to fatten, and then winter returns with the shorter days.

But of all the climate zones, the Arctic is responding fastest to global warming, with a startling loss of sea ice; the glaciers, too, are in retreat almost everywhere.

Professor Elberling and colleagues have been taking measurements over the three or four months of the thaw for the last 12 years; they have also modelled changing conditions in the laboratory.

Slow decay rate

There they could change the drainage and control the temperature, and they found that a layer of thawing permafrost could lose significant quantities of carbon, as the microbes resumed the business of decay: in 70 years of such annual thaw and freeze, up to 77% of the soil carbon could turn into carbon dioxide, with serious consequences for yet further global warming.

But, they report in Nature Climate Change, that does not seem to be happening at any of the sites under test: if the water content of the thawing soils remains high, then carbon decay is very slow, and the eventual release of this carbon could take hundreds of years.

So anyone who wants to model this release will have to think about whether there is enough oxygen to speed up the release, or whether cold water will dampen the process and slow it down.

“It is thought-provoking that micro-organisms are behind the entire problem – micro-organisms which break down the carbon pool and which are apparently already present in the permafrost. One of the critical decisive factors – the water content – is in the same way linked to the original high content of ice in most permafrost samples.

“Yes, the temperature is increasing, and the permafrost is thawing, but it is, still, the characteristics of the permafrost which determine the long-term release of carbon dioxide,” says Elberling. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Arctic permafrost thaws each year, but – to the surprise of scientists from Denmark – in some areas it is not releasing the carbon dioxide it contains nearly as fast as they had expected.

LONDON, 28 July – Think of permafrost as a slush fund of so-far uncertain value. The levels of Arctic permafrost that thaw each year and freeze again are growing at depths of 1cm a year, but the carbon locked away in the soils is – so far – not being released at an accelerating rate.

This is good news for climate change worriers, but only for the time being. Bo Elberling of the Centre for Permafrost at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that the soggy summer soils of Greenland, Svalbard and Canada where they have taken samples are not releasing carbon dioxide at the rate some had feared.

But the results are based on preliminary research and they still have to work out why carbon release is so slow – and whether it will remain slow.

The “active permafrost” is a natural feature of sub-Arctic life: there is a shallow thaw each summer, plants flower, insects arrive, migrating birds follow the insects, grazing animals forage, predators seize a chance to fatten, and then winter returns with the shorter days.

But of all the climate zones, the Arctic is responding fastest to global warming, with a startling loss of sea ice; the glaciers, too, are in retreat almost everywhere.

Professor Elberling and colleagues have been taking measurements over the three or four months of the thaw for the last 12 years; they have also modelled changing conditions in the laboratory.

Slow decay rate

There they could change the drainage and control the temperature, and they found that a layer of thawing permafrost could lose significant quantities of carbon, as the microbes resumed the business of decay: in 70 years of such annual thaw and freeze, up to 77% of the soil carbon could turn into carbon dioxide, with serious consequences for yet further global warming.

But, they report in Nature Climate Change, that does not seem to be happening at any of the sites under test: if the water content of the thawing soils remains high, then carbon decay is very slow, and the eventual release of this carbon could take hundreds of years.

So anyone who wants to model this release will have to think about whether there is enough oxygen to speed up the release, or whether cold water will dampen the process and slow it down.

“It is thought-provoking that micro-organisms are behind the entire problem – micro-organisms which break down the carbon pool and which are apparently already present in the permafrost. One of the critical decisive factors – the water content – is in the same way linked to the original high content of ice in most permafrost samples.

“Yes, the temperature is increasing, and the permafrost is thawing, but it is, still, the characteristics of the permafrost which determine the long-term release of carbon dioxide,” says Elberling. – Climate News Network

Scientists mull Arctic’s slow CO2 loss

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The Arctic permafrost thaws each year, but – to the surprise of scientists from Denmark – in some areas it is not releasing the carbon dioxide it contains nearly as fast as they had expected. LONDON, 28 July – Think of permafrost as a slush fund of so-far uncertain value. The levels of Arctic permafrost that thaw each year and freeze again are growing at depths of 1cm a year, but the carbon locked away in the soils is – so far – not being released at an accelerating rate. This is good news for climate change worriers, but only for the time being. Bo Elberling of the Centre for Permafrost at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that the soggy summer soils of Greenland, Svalbard and Canada where they have taken samples are not releasing carbon dioxide at the rate some had feared. But the results are based on preliminary research and they still have to work out why carbon release is so slow – and whether it will remain slow. The “active permafrost” is a natural feature of sub-Arctic life: there is a shallow thaw each summer, plants flower, insects arrive, migrating birds follow the insects, grazing animals forage, predators seize a chance to fatten, and then winter returns with the shorter days. But of all the climate zones, the Arctic is responding fastest to global warming, with a startling loss of sea ice; the glaciers, too, are in retreat almost everywhere. Professor Elberling and colleagues have been taking measurements over the three or four months of the thaw for the last 12 years; they have also modelled changing conditions in the laboratory.

Slow decay rate

There they could change the drainage and control the temperature, and they found that a layer of thawing permafrost could lose significant quantities of carbon, as the microbes resumed the business of decay: in 70 years of such annual thaw and freeze, up to 77% of the soil carbon could turn into carbon dioxide, with serious consequences for yet further global warming. But, they report in Nature Climate Change, that does not seem to be happening at any of the sites under test: if the water content of the thawing soils remains high, then carbon decay is very slow, and the eventual release of this carbon could take hundreds of years. So anyone who wants to model this release will have to think about whether there is enough oxygen to speed up the release, or whether cold water will dampen the process and slow it down. “It is thought-provoking that micro-organisms are behind the entire problem – micro-organisms which break down the carbon pool and which are apparently already present in the permafrost. One of the critical decisive factors – the water content – is in the same way linked to the original high content of ice in most permafrost samples. “Yes, the temperature is increasing, and the permafrost is thawing, but it is, still, the characteristics of the permafrost which determine the long-term release of carbon dioxide,” says Elberling. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The Arctic permafrost thaws each year, but – to the surprise of scientists from Denmark – in some areas it is not releasing the carbon dioxide it contains nearly as fast as they had expected. LONDON, 28 July – Think of permafrost as a slush fund of so-far uncertain value. The levels of Arctic permafrost that thaw each year and freeze again are growing at depths of 1cm a year, but the carbon locked away in the soils is – so far – not being released at an accelerating rate. This is good news for climate change worriers, but only for the time being. Bo Elberling of the Centre for Permafrost at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that the soggy summer soils of Greenland, Svalbard and Canada where they have taken samples are not releasing carbon dioxide at the rate some had feared. But the results are based on preliminary research and they still have to work out why carbon release is so slow – and whether it will remain slow. The “active permafrost” is a natural feature of sub-Arctic life: there is a shallow thaw each summer, plants flower, insects arrive, migrating birds follow the insects, grazing animals forage, predators seize a chance to fatten, and then winter returns with the shorter days. But of all the climate zones, the Arctic is responding fastest to global warming, with a startling loss of sea ice; the glaciers, too, are in retreat almost everywhere. Professor Elberling and colleagues have been taking measurements over the three or four months of the thaw for the last 12 years; they have also modelled changing conditions in the laboratory.

Slow decay rate

There they could change the drainage and control the temperature, and they found that a layer of thawing permafrost could lose significant quantities of carbon, as the microbes resumed the business of decay: in 70 years of such annual thaw and freeze, up to 77% of the soil carbon could turn into carbon dioxide, with serious consequences for yet further global warming. But, they report in Nature Climate Change, that does not seem to be happening at any of the sites under test: if the water content of the thawing soils remains high, then carbon decay is very slow, and the eventual release of this carbon could take hundreds of years. So anyone who wants to model this release will have to think about whether there is enough oxygen to speed up the release, or whether cold water will dampen the process and slow it down. “It is thought-provoking that micro-organisms are behind the entire problem – micro-organisms which break down the carbon pool and which are apparently already present in the permafrost. One of the critical decisive factors – the water content – is in the same way linked to the original high content of ice in most permafrost samples. “Yes, the temperature is increasing, and the permafrost is thawing, but it is, still, the characteristics of the permafrost which determine the long-term release of carbon dioxide,” says Elberling. – Climate News Network

Rowers' epic will show Arctic melting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Four young oarsmenn have begun an attempt to do what nobody has yet accomplished – to row the length of the Northwest Passge in Canada’s Arctic in a single season.

London, 6 July – Canada’s Northwest Passage was once one of the great challenges of the marine world, its treacherous ice floes navigable only at warmer times of the year by steel-hulled ice breakers. Not any more.

Rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic mean the 3,000 km-long Passage is increasingly accessible, with shipping companies eyeing the route as a short cut between North America and Asia.

Now a four-man team of Canadian and Irish rowers calling themselves the Mainstream Last First team are attempting the first ever navigation of the seaway by human power alone in a single season.

“Climate change is transforming the Arctic and the world”, says Kevin Vallely, the team’s lead rower. “By traversing the Northwest Passage completely under human power in a rowboat, without sail or motor, the Mainstream Last First team will be able to demonstrate first-hand the dramatic effects climate change is having on our planet.

“Something like this has never been done before. It is only now possible due to the increase in seasonal sea ice melt and deterioration due to climate changes.”

The team – which has previously rowed the Atlantic Ocean, canoed across Canada and skied to the South Pole in record time – set off from Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories on 4 July in their 25 foot long boat, The Arctic Joule.

The four are rowing in shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: the route will be in Arctic daylight for most of the time. They hope to arrive at Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on the east coast of Baffin Island between 75 and 90 days after setting out.

Showing the reality

The Arctic Joule is built of marine plywood, with multiple layers of foam Kevlar and fibreglass for strength and stability. It has two cabins where the team take it in turns to rest: all supplies for the three-month expedition are being carried on board.

“There seems to be a disconnect between what’s actually happening with climate change and what’s being done about it”, says Vallely. “We hope that our expedition will show the world, through a real life example, what climate change is doing today.”

The rowers are working with scientists at Vancouver Aquarium, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Rangers on a project called the Canadian Rangers Ocean Watch programme (CROW), aimed at collecting and analyzing environmental data in the Arctic Ocean.

A wind and solar company, Mainstream Renewable Power, is sponsoring The Arctic Joule expedition.

You can follow the rowers’ progress via a GPS system installed on the expedition website. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Four young oarsmenn have begun an attempt to do what nobody has yet accomplished – to row the length of the Northwest Passge in Canada’s Arctic in a single season.

London, 6 July – Canada’s Northwest Passage was once one of the great challenges of the marine world, its treacherous ice floes navigable only at warmer times of the year by steel-hulled ice breakers. Not any more.

Rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic mean the 3,000 km-long Passage is increasingly accessible, with shipping companies eyeing the route as a short cut between North America and Asia.

Now a four-man team of Canadian and Irish rowers calling themselves the Mainstream Last First team are attempting the first ever navigation of the seaway by human power alone in a single season.

“Climate change is transforming the Arctic and the world”, says Kevin Vallely, the team’s lead rower. “By traversing the Northwest Passage completely under human power in a rowboat, without sail or motor, the Mainstream Last First team will be able to demonstrate first-hand the dramatic effects climate change is having on our planet.

“Something like this has never been done before. It is only now possible due to the increase in seasonal sea ice melt and deterioration due to climate changes.”

The team – which has previously rowed the Atlantic Ocean, canoed across Canada and skied to the South Pole in record time – set off from Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories on 4 July in their 25 foot long boat, The Arctic Joule.

The four are rowing in shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: the route will be in Arctic daylight for most of the time. They hope to arrive at Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on the east coast of Baffin Island between 75 and 90 days after setting out.

Showing the reality

The Arctic Joule is built of marine plywood, with multiple layers of foam Kevlar and fibreglass for strength and stability. It has two cabins where the team take it in turns to rest: all supplies for the three-month expedition are being carried on board.

“There seems to be a disconnect between what’s actually happening with climate change and what’s being done about it”, says Vallely. “We hope that our expedition will show the world, through a real life example, what climate change is doing today.”

The rowers are working with scientists at Vancouver Aquarium, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Rangers on a project called the Canadian Rangers Ocean Watch programme (CROW), aimed at collecting and analyzing environmental data in the Arctic Ocean.

A wind and solar company, Mainstream Renewable Power, is sponsoring The Arctic Joule expedition.

You can follow the rowers’ progress via a GPS system installed on the expedition website. – Climate News Network

Rowers’ epic will show Arctic melting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Four young oarsmenn have begun an attempt to do what nobody has yet accomplished – to row the length of the Northwest Passge in Canada’s Arctic in a single season. London, 6 July – Canada’s Northwest Passage was once one of the great challenges of the marine world, its treacherous ice floes navigable only at warmer times of the year by steel-hulled ice breakers. Not any more. Rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic mean the 3,000 km-long Passage is increasingly accessible, with shipping companies eyeing the route as a short cut between North America and Asia. Now a four-man team of Canadian and Irish rowers calling themselves the Mainstream Last First team are attempting the first ever navigation of the seaway by human power alone in a single season. “Climate change is transforming the Arctic and the world”, says Kevin Vallely, the team’s lead rower. “By traversing the Northwest Passage completely under human power in a rowboat, without sail or motor, the Mainstream Last First team will be able to demonstrate first-hand the dramatic effects climate change is having on our planet. “Something like this has never been done before. It is only now possible due to the increase in seasonal sea ice melt and deterioration due to climate changes.” The team – which has previously rowed the Atlantic Ocean, canoed across Canada and skied to the South Pole in record time – set off from Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories on 4 July in their 25 foot long boat, The Arctic Joule. The four are rowing in shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: the route will be in Arctic daylight for most of the time. They hope to arrive at Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on the east coast of Baffin Island between 75 and 90 days after setting out.

Showing the reality

The Arctic Joule is built of marine plywood, with multiple layers of foam Kevlar and fibreglass for strength and stability. It has two cabins where the team take it in turns to rest: all supplies for the three-month expedition are being carried on board. “There seems to be a disconnect between what’s actually happening with climate change and what’s being done about it”, says Vallely. “We hope that our expedition will show the world, through a real life example, what climate change is doing today.” The rowers are working with scientists at Vancouver Aquarium, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Rangers on a project called the Canadian Rangers Ocean Watch programme (CROW), aimed at collecting and analyzing environmental data in the Arctic Ocean. A wind and solar company, Mainstream Renewable Power, is sponsoring The Arctic Joule expedition. You can follow the rowers’ progress via a GPS system installed on the expedition website. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Four young oarsmenn have begun an attempt to do what nobody has yet accomplished – to row the length of the Northwest Passge in Canada’s Arctic in a single season. London, 6 July – Canada’s Northwest Passage was once one of the great challenges of the marine world, its treacherous ice floes navigable only at warmer times of the year by steel-hulled ice breakers. Not any more. Rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic mean the 3,000 km-long Passage is increasingly accessible, with shipping companies eyeing the route as a short cut between North America and Asia. Now a four-man team of Canadian and Irish rowers calling themselves the Mainstream Last First team are attempting the first ever navigation of the seaway by human power alone in a single season. “Climate change is transforming the Arctic and the world”, says Kevin Vallely, the team’s lead rower. “By traversing the Northwest Passage completely under human power in a rowboat, without sail or motor, the Mainstream Last First team will be able to demonstrate first-hand the dramatic effects climate change is having on our planet. “Something like this has never been done before. It is only now possible due to the increase in seasonal sea ice melt and deterioration due to climate changes.” The team – which has previously rowed the Atlantic Ocean, canoed across Canada and skied to the South Pole in record time – set off from Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories on 4 July in their 25 foot long boat, The Arctic Joule. The four are rowing in shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: the route will be in Arctic daylight for most of the time. They hope to arrive at Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on the east coast of Baffin Island between 75 and 90 days after setting out.

Showing the reality

The Arctic Joule is built of marine plywood, with multiple layers of foam Kevlar and fibreglass for strength and stability. It has two cabins where the team take it in turns to rest: all supplies for the three-month expedition are being carried on board. “There seems to be a disconnect between what’s actually happening with climate change and what’s being done about it”, says Vallely. “We hope that our expedition will show the world, through a real life example, what climate change is doing today.” The rowers are working with scientists at Vancouver Aquarium, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Rangers on a project called the Canadian Rangers Ocean Watch programme (CROW), aimed at collecting and analyzing environmental data in the Arctic Ocean. A wind and solar company, Mainstream Renewable Power, is sponsoring The Arctic Joule expedition. You can follow the rowers’ progress via a GPS system installed on the expedition website. – Climate News Network

Greenland’s great melt is pinned on climate change

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The forensic search for the mysterious agent that almost melted Greenland goes on. The latest suspect to be rounded up for questioning is the jet stream, according to scientists in Sheffield, in the UK. LONDON, 18, June – First: the story so far. For a few days in July 2012, almost 97% of the surface of Greenland began suddenly to thaw. This was a melt on an unprecedented scale. Greenland carries a burden of three million cubic kilometres of ice and even in the summer, most of it stays frozen, partly because of the island’s high latitude and partly because ice reflects sunlight, and tends normally to serve as its own insulator. The event was so unusual, and so unexpected, and on such a scale that nobody seriously suggested that the dramatic conversion of snow to slush was direct evidence of climate change because of human-induced global warming. Soot, smoke and heat At first, climatologists were inclined to see the thaw as a consequence of the record-breaking heat waves and forest fires that afflicted North America last summer: snow could have been darkened by columns of soot and smoke from forest fires, just enough to start absorbing the sunlight, some reasoned. Then in April a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggested that freak cloud behaviour over Greenland at the time might have caused the melting. Clouds normally block sunlight and keep the terrain below them cool. But these clouds could have been thin enough to let solar radiation through, but thick enough to trap the consequential infra-red radiation from the ground, and raise the local temperature levels. Now Edward Hanna and colleagues at Sheffield report in the International Journal of Climatology that they have another explanation. Unusual atmospheric circulation and changes in the jet stream – the same changes that almost washed away summer in England – sent a blister of warm air sweeping over the ice sheet. Hanna and his team analysed all the weather data collected by the Danish Meteorological Institute and by US researchers, and then employed satellite readings and a computer simulation called SnowModel to reconstruct the strange turn of events. And climate change may after all be a suspect.   High melt years The Greenland Ice Sheet is a highly sensitive indicator of regional and global change, and, says Prof Hanna, been undergoing rapid warming, and losing ice, for at least the last five years and probably the last 20. “Our research found that a ‘heat dome’ of warm southerly winds over the ice sheet led to widespread surface melting.” This was not predicted by the climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and perhaps that indicated a deficiency in those models, he suggested. The event seemed to be linked to changes in a phenomenon known to oceanographers and meteorologists as the summer North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), another well-observed high pressure system called the Greenland Blocking Index, and the polar jet stream, all of which sent warm southerly winds sweeping over Greenland’s western coast. “The next five to 10 years will reveal whether or not 2012 was a rare event resulting from natural variability of the NAO or part of an emerging pattern of new extreme high melt years.” It was hard to predict future changes in the Greenland climate in the current state of knowledge, but important to keep on trying. There is an awful lot of ice on top of Greenland. Once it starts to melt, it is likely to be, say the Sheffield scientists,  “dominant contributor to global sea level change over the next 100 to 1,000 years.”- Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The forensic search for the mysterious agent that almost melted Greenland goes on. The latest suspect to be rounded up for questioning is the jet stream, according to scientists in Sheffield, in the UK. LONDON, 18, June – First: the story so far. For a few days in July 2012, almost 97% of the surface of Greenland began suddenly to thaw. This was a melt on an unprecedented scale. Greenland carries a burden of three million cubic kilometres of ice and even in the summer, most of it stays frozen, partly because of the island’s high latitude and partly because ice reflects sunlight, and tends normally to serve as its own insulator. The event was so unusual, and so unexpected, and on such a scale that nobody seriously suggested that the dramatic conversion of snow to slush was direct evidence of climate change because of human-induced global warming. Soot, smoke and heat At first, climatologists were inclined to see the thaw as a consequence of the record-breaking heat waves and forest fires that afflicted North America last summer: snow could have been darkened by columns of soot and smoke from forest fires, just enough to start absorbing the sunlight, some reasoned. Then in April a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggested that freak cloud behaviour over Greenland at the time might have caused the melting. Clouds normally block sunlight and keep the terrain below them cool. But these clouds could have been thin enough to let solar radiation through, but thick enough to trap the consequential infra-red radiation from the ground, and raise the local temperature levels. Now Edward Hanna and colleagues at Sheffield report in the International Journal of Climatology that they have another explanation. Unusual atmospheric circulation and changes in the jet stream – the same changes that almost washed away summer in England – sent a blister of warm air sweeping over the ice sheet. Hanna and his team analysed all the weather data collected by the Danish Meteorological Institute and by US researchers, and then employed satellite readings and a computer simulation called SnowModel to reconstruct the strange turn of events. And climate change may after all be a suspect.   High melt years The Greenland Ice Sheet is a highly sensitive indicator of regional and global change, and, says Prof Hanna, been undergoing rapid warming, and losing ice, for at least the last five years and probably the last 20. “Our research found that a ‘heat dome’ of warm southerly winds over the ice sheet led to widespread surface melting.” This was not predicted by the climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and perhaps that indicated a deficiency in those models, he suggested. The event seemed to be linked to changes in a phenomenon known to oceanographers and meteorologists as the summer North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), another well-observed high pressure system called the Greenland Blocking Index, and the polar jet stream, all of which sent warm southerly winds sweeping over Greenland’s western coast. “The next five to 10 years will reveal whether or not 2012 was a rare event resulting from natural variability of the NAO or part of an emerging pattern of new extreme high melt years.” It was hard to predict future changes in the Greenland climate in the current state of knowledge, but important to keep on trying. There is an awful lot of ice on top of Greenland. Once it starts to melt, it is likely to be, say the Sheffield scientists,  “dominant contributor to global sea level change over the next 100 to 1,000 years.”- Climate News Network

Tar sands struggle reaches Europe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The oil from Canada’s tar sands is widely regarded as one of the dirtier fuels produced, not least because it takes more energy to extract it. Canada’s First Nations are anxious to stop the oil being exported to Europe. LONDON, March 8 – A leader of Canada’s Indigenous peoples has arrived in Europe to try to stop the tar sands industry, which he says is “destroying the way of life of First Nations peoples”, from making inroads here. He is Chief Bill Erasmus, head of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories, who has come to Europe ahead of a vote by the European Council later this year which could make the export of oil from the tar sands to Europe more difficult. Canada has huge oil reserves, mostly in the form of unconventional crude, including tar sands – deposits that need more energy to extract than conventional crudes. The oil, found in clay-like deposits, is widely judged one of the oil industry’s most polluting fuels. The European Union,  in its Fuel Quality Directive, describes tar sands as one of the world’s dirtiest forms of crude oil. Its studies show that mining a barrel of oil from tar sands generates about 20% more emissions than from conventional crudes. Chief  Erasmus says the extraction process is making his ancestral homeland uninhabitable, contravening still-extant treaties. “The extraction of the oil does not recognise our sovereignty over the land as set out in the treaties concluded between our peoples and the British”, he told the Climate News Network. He said the mining squandered vast amounts of fresh water, needing three times more than the drilling of conventional crudes to heat and cool the sands and to separate the oil. It wasted gases, left lakes of sludgy toxic pollution and released carcinogens into the environment.

Wildlife affected

  If that sounds familiar, perhaps it is – the sort of protest often prompted by conventional mining and drilling of conventional fuels. But Erasmus says it’s more than that. “The problem is that there’s no plan in Canada”, he says. “There’s no search for new ways of extraction, or for disposing of effluents. “The Government denies that it’s dirty oil, it says it’s ethical. There’s no discussion with people and no thought of sustainable development.” What really bothers him is the effect he sees on wildlife. Still hunting and trapping at nearly 60 years of age,  he says animal behaviour is changing – and he thinks the pollution the tar sands industry is causing is partly to blame. “We’re caribou people”, he explains. “We’re hunting them now. But their migration patterns are changing, and we’re getting a lot more moose, which are starting their rutting earlier. “There are cougars now from the south, and deer which we’ve never had before. In the last 15 years we’ve been seeing magpies. “The bears used to stay in their dens till May, but now they’re emerging in March. It’s partly because the climate is changing, and partly because of the way the oil industry and the chemicals it’s using are changing the environment and harming the animals in the food chain.”

‘Indelible impact’

  Canada withdrew at the end of 2011 from the international treaty designed to tackle climate change, the Kyoto Protocol. Environment Canada, the Canadian Government’s agency responsible for protecting the environment, set up an Oilsands Advisory Panel, chaired by a former head of the UN’s Environment Programme, Liz Dowdeswell. The Environment Minister asked the Panel whether or not Canadians had a first-class state-of-the-art monitoring system in place in the oil sands. The Panel’s answer was “no – but…” The “but” was added because the Panel was “convinced that the current activities could be transformed into a system that will provide credible data for decisions – a system that will allow us to know the current conditions and trends in the oil sands ecosystem and encourage the necessary foresight to prevent a compromised environment.” But… it submitted its findings to the Minister – A Foundation for the Future: Building an Environmental Monitoring System for the Oil Sands – and added this comment: “…as a final note, our site visits had an indelible impact. It is hard to forget the sheer extent of landscape disruption, the coke piles and the ubiquitous dust.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The oil from Canada’s tar sands is widely regarded as one of the dirtier fuels produced, not least because it takes more energy to extract it. Canada’s First Nations are anxious to stop the oil being exported to Europe. LONDON, March 8 – A leader of Canada’s Indigenous peoples has arrived in Europe to try to stop the tar sands industry, which he says is “destroying the way of life of First Nations peoples”, from making inroads here. He is Chief Bill Erasmus, head of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories, who has come to Europe ahead of a vote by the European Council later this year which could make the export of oil from the tar sands to Europe more difficult. Canada has huge oil reserves, mostly in the form of unconventional crude, including tar sands – deposits that need more energy to extract than conventional crudes. The oil, found in clay-like deposits, is widely judged one of the oil industry’s most polluting fuels. The European Union,  in its Fuel Quality Directive, describes tar sands as one of the world’s dirtiest forms of crude oil. Its studies show that mining a barrel of oil from tar sands generates about 20% more emissions than from conventional crudes. Chief  Erasmus says the extraction process is making his ancestral homeland uninhabitable, contravening still-extant treaties. “The extraction of the oil does not recognise our sovereignty over the land as set out in the treaties concluded between our peoples and the British”, he told the Climate News Network. He said the mining squandered vast amounts of fresh water, needing three times more than the drilling of conventional crudes to heat and cool the sands and to separate the oil. It wasted gases, left lakes of sludgy toxic pollution and released carcinogens into the environment.

Wildlife affected

  If that sounds familiar, perhaps it is – the sort of protest often prompted by conventional mining and drilling of conventional fuels. But Erasmus says it’s more than that. “The problem is that there’s no plan in Canada”, he says. “There’s no search for new ways of extraction, or for disposing of effluents. “The Government denies that it’s dirty oil, it says it’s ethical. There’s no discussion with people and no thought of sustainable development.” What really bothers him is the effect he sees on wildlife. Still hunting and trapping at nearly 60 years of age,  he says animal behaviour is changing – and he thinks the pollution the tar sands industry is causing is partly to blame. “We’re caribou people”, he explains. “We’re hunting them now. But their migration patterns are changing, and we’re getting a lot more moose, which are starting their rutting earlier. “There are cougars now from the south, and deer which we’ve never had before. In the last 15 years we’ve been seeing magpies. “The bears used to stay in their dens till May, but now they’re emerging in March. It’s partly because the climate is changing, and partly because of the way the oil industry and the chemicals it’s using are changing the environment and harming the animals in the food chain.”

‘Indelible impact’

  Canada withdrew at the end of 2011 from the international treaty designed to tackle climate change, the Kyoto Protocol. Environment Canada, the Canadian Government’s agency responsible for protecting the environment, set up an Oilsands Advisory Panel, chaired by a former head of the UN’s Environment Programme, Liz Dowdeswell. The Environment Minister asked the Panel whether or not Canadians had a first-class state-of-the-art monitoring system in place in the oil sands. The Panel’s answer was “no – but…” The “but” was added because the Panel was “convinced that the current activities could be transformed into a system that will provide credible data for decisions – a system that will allow us to know the current conditions and trends in the oil sands ecosystem and encourage the necessary foresight to prevent a compromised environment.” But… it submitted its findings to the Minister – A Foundation for the Future: Building an Environmental Monitoring System for the Oil Sands – and added this comment: “…as a final note, our site visits had an indelible impact. It is hard to forget the sheer extent of landscape disruption, the coke piles and the ubiquitous dust.” – Climate News Network

Canadian glaciers are melting fast

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Many of the Canadian far north’s glaciers are likely to have melted by the end of the century, researchers believe, making significant sea-level rise inevitable. LONDON, 7 March – Canada’s Arctic Archipelago glaciers will melt faster than ever in the next few centuries, research by European-funded scientists has shown. They say 20% of the Canadian Arctic glaciers may have disappeared by the end of this century, which would mean an extra sea level rise of 3.5cm The results of the research, part of the EU-funded ice2sea programme, will be published in Geophysical Research Letters this week, and the paper, Irreversible mass loss of Canadian Arctic Archipelago glaciers, is now available online. The researchers developed a climate model for the island group in the north of Canada in which they simulated the shrinking and growing of glaciers in this area. The model correctly “predicted” the ice mass loss measured over the last ten years, and the researchers then used it to look forward to project the effect of future climate change on the Arctic Archipelago glaciers. The most important result of the research is that it shows that the melting will probably be irreversibie, according to lead author Dr Jan Lenaerts of Utrecht University. He says: “Even if we assume that global warming is not happening quite so fast, it is still highly likely that the ice is going to melt at an alarming rate. The chances of it growing back are very slim.” One main reason for this expected irreversibility is that snow melting on tundra, and sea ice loss from around the glaciers, will intensify regional warming. Snow and sea ice reflect the sunlight, and when they disappear a large part of the sunlight will instead be absorbed by the land and the sea, raising the local temperature significantly.

Successful backcasting

  In one scenario considered by the scientists 20% of the volume of the glaciers disappears by the end of this century. This would be accompanied by an average global temperature rise of 3°C. But the regional rise around the Canadian ice caps – a form of glacier in which the ice flows to the sea in many directions – would be 8°C. And this is not an extreme scenario, Dr Lenaerts says. Canada’s Arctic Archipelago glaciers are one of the largest ice bodies in the world after Greenland and the Antarctic. If they  melted completely, global average sea level would rise by 20 cms. Since the year 2000 the temperature in this area has risen by 1-2°C and the ice volume has already decreased significantly. Professor David Vaughan, the programme leader of ice2sea, who is based at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK, says: “Added to glaciers in Alaska, the Russian Arctic and Patagonia, these apparently small contributions add up to significant sea-level rise. “A key success of this study was in showing that the model performed well in reproducing recently observed changes. That success gives us confidence in how the model predicts future changes”. Glaciers in many parts of the world are undergoing rapid melting, although some experts argue that natural variability needs to be taken into account as well as climate change (and see our story of 3 March, Glaciers on the slide.) – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Many of the Canadian far north’s glaciers are likely to have melted by the end of the century, researchers believe, making significant sea-level rise inevitable. LONDON, 7 March – Canada’s Arctic Archipelago glaciers will melt faster than ever in the next few centuries, research by European-funded scientists has shown. They say 20% of the Canadian Arctic glaciers may have disappeared by the end of this century, which would mean an extra sea level rise of 3.5cm The results of the research, part of the EU-funded ice2sea programme, will be published in Geophysical Research Letters this week, and the paper, Irreversible mass loss of Canadian Arctic Archipelago glaciers, is now available online. The researchers developed a climate model for the island group in the north of Canada in which they simulated the shrinking and growing of glaciers in this area. The model correctly “predicted” the ice mass loss measured over the last ten years, and the researchers then used it to look forward to project the effect of future climate change on the Arctic Archipelago glaciers. The most important result of the research is that it shows that the melting will probably be irreversibie, according to lead author Dr Jan Lenaerts of Utrecht University. He says: “Even if we assume that global warming is not happening quite so fast, it is still highly likely that the ice is going to melt at an alarming rate. The chances of it growing back are very slim.” One main reason for this expected irreversibility is that snow melting on tundra, and sea ice loss from around the glaciers, will intensify regional warming. Snow and sea ice reflect the sunlight, and when they disappear a large part of the sunlight will instead be absorbed by the land and the sea, raising the local temperature significantly.

Successful backcasting

  In one scenario considered by the scientists 20% of the volume of the glaciers disappears by the end of this century. This would be accompanied by an average global temperature rise of 3°C. But the regional rise around the Canadian ice caps – a form of glacier in which the ice flows to the sea in many directions – would be 8°C. And this is not an extreme scenario, Dr Lenaerts says. Canada’s Arctic Archipelago glaciers are one of the largest ice bodies in the world after Greenland and the Antarctic. If they  melted completely, global average sea level would rise by 20 cms. Since the year 2000 the temperature in this area has risen by 1-2°C and the ice volume has already decreased significantly. Professor David Vaughan, the programme leader of ice2sea, who is based at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK, says: “Added to glaciers in Alaska, the Russian Arctic and Patagonia, these apparently small contributions add up to significant sea-level rise. “A key success of this study was in showing that the model performed well in reproducing recently observed changes. That success gives us confidence in how the model predicts future changes”. Glaciers in many parts of the world are undergoing rapid melting, although some experts argue that natural variability needs to be taken into account as well as climate change (and see our story of 3 March, Glaciers on the slide.) – Climate News Network