The research, published in Science Advances Friday, found that the vulnerable glacier had sped up by 12 percent over the last three years as the ice shelf holding it in place breaks up. This finding could accelerate the timeline for when the entire glacier collapses into the sea, and underscores the urgency of acting to combat the climate crisis.
"These science results continue to highlight the vulnerability of Antarctica, a major reservoir for potential sea level rise," Twila Moon, a National Snow and Ice Data scientist who wasn't part of the research, told The AP. "Again and again, other research has confirmed how Antarctica evolves in the future will depend on human greenhouse gas emissions."
The Pine Island Glacier is one of two Antarctic glaciers that most concerns scientists. It and the Thwaites Glacier sit side-by-side in western Antarctica, and keep the rest of the region's ice in check.
If that happened, global sea levels would rise by several feet within a few centuries, a University of Washington (UW) press release explained. The Pine Island Glacier on its own contains enough ice to bump sea levels up by 1.6 feet if it melted. And it is already having an impact. It raises sea levels by a sixth of a millimeter each year and, according to The AP, accounts for about 25 percent of Antarctica's total ice loss.
But the glacier is kept from retreating further by its ice shelf, which acts like a flying buttress on a cathedral, containing its mass, the press release explained. That is why Friday's study is concerning. It analyzed satellite images to show that the ice shelf lost a fifth of its area between 2017 and 2020, and retreated by 19 kilometers (approximately 12 miles) during that time, the study authors wrote.
The images, recorded by the European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, were taken every 12 days between 2015 and 2017, and every six days between 2017 and the present. They revealed that the ice shelf lost most of its mass in three big breakages, calving icebergs more than five miles long by 22 miles wide, according to The AP.
The study also looked at the relationship between the breakup of the ice shelf and the retreat of the glacier, and found that the glacier's movements were directly related to the ice shelf's deterioration.
"The recent changes in speed are not due to melt-driven thinning; instead they're due to the loss of the outer part of the ice shelf," study lead author and UW glaciologist Ian Joughin said in the press release.
All of this means that the shelf and the glacier could both collapse much sooner than previously anticipated.
"It's not at all inconceivable to say the rest of the ice shelf could be gone in a decade," Joughin told The Washington Post. "It's a long shot. But it's not that big a long shot."
A massive chunk of ice broke off of Antarctica this month, and it is now the largest iceberg in the world.
The iceberg, known as A-76, was first spotted by a British Antarctic Survey researcher May 13. It was then confirmed by the U.S. National Ice Center (USNIC) the next day using images from the Sentinel-1A satellite.
"New giant #iceberg breaking away from the Ronne Ice Shelf," researcher Keith Makinson announced on Twitter.
New giant #iceberg breaking away from the Ronne Ice Shelf 13-05-2021 roughly 160 km x 25 km satellite image from… https://t.co/TXrwIl1ClT— Keith Makinson (@Keith Makinson)1620892929.0
The iceberg first broke off from the western edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf, which is located in Antarctica's Weddell Sea, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). It is 89 nautical miles long by 14 nautical miles wide, according to USNIC, and has an area of 1,668 square miles, according to Reuters. To put that in perspective, it is larger than both the Spanish island of Mallorca, at 1,405 square miles, and the state of Rhode Island, at 1,034 square miles. It is also almost six times larger than New York City, HuffPost calculated.
The iceberg's size makes it the largest in the world, according to the ESA. It dwarfs the A-23A iceberg, which is also floating in the Weddell Sea and is around 3,880 square kilometers (approximately 1,498 square miles).
Relive the birth of the #A76 iceberg with this stunning animation! The animation was created using four… https://t.co/k3JfIX3Cbk— ESA EarthObservation (@ESA EarthObservation)1621513726.0
While the iceberg is large in size, its calving isn't necessarily a big deal from a climate perspective. In fact, iceberg calving can be a natural part of an ice shelf's cycle, as long as the ice shelf gains as much mass through snowfall as it loses to icebergs.
"Even relatively large calving events, where tabular ice chunks the size of Manhattan or bigger calve from the seaward front of the shelf, can be considered normal if the ice sheet is in overall balance," NASA explained.
The Ronne Ice Shelf is the second largest in Antarctica, according to HuffPost. It and another ice shelf, the Ross Ice Shelf, have "behaved in a stable, quasi-periodic fashion" for the past 100 years or more, University of Colorado at Boulder research glaciologist Ted Scambos told Reuters.
He said he did not think the calving had anything to do with the climate crisis. However, some ice shelves near the Antarctic Peninsula are disintegrating rapidly, which may be because of rising temperatures, Reuters explained.
While A-76's calving is part of a natural cycle, that doesn't mean it wasn't surprising.
"We could watch them for years and they won't do anything and elsewhere there will be this perfectly solid ice shelf that will suddenly collapse unexpectedly," Christopher Readinger, the lead analyst for the USNIC's Antarctic team, told HuffPost.
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Krill oil has gained a lot of popularity recently as a superior alternative to fish oil. Basically, the claim goes, anything fish oil can do, krill oil does better. Read on to learn what makes krill oil supplements better than fish oil supplements, why you should consider these vitamin supplements, and which brands we recommend.
What is Krill Oil?
Krill oil is made from a tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the ocean and usually serve as whale food. In fact, krill means "whale food" in Norwegian. These tiny organisms actually play an extremely important role in the food chains of marine ecosystems. The krill used to make krill oil are usually found in the waters around Antarctica.
Just like the fish oils found in supplements, krill oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that contain EPA and DHA, two compounds that are proven to have a number of health benefits.
But what makes krill oil better than fish oil?
It's believed that krill oil is better absorbed in the body than fish oil. Both derive most of their benefits through the EPA and DHA that are contained in their fatty acid stores. However, for the same dose, krill oil will result in more fatty acids in the blood than fish oil. A potential explanation for this is that while fish oil's fatty acids come as triglycerides, krill oil's come as phospholipids which are more easily processed by the body.
Additionally, krill oil contains astaxanthin which is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties that might have an enhanced positive effect on heart health. Studies have shown that krill oil is more effective than fish oil at lowering blood pressure and lowering bad cholesterol.
Our Picks for the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Best for Cognitive Health - Onnit Krill Oil
- Best for Heart Health - NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Best for Joint Health - Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Strongest - Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
How We Chose the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Here are the factors that we considered when comparing the best krill oil brands to create our list of recommended supplements.
Omega-3 Content - We looked to see the amount of omega-3 fatty acids contained in each krill oil softgel or capsule.
Astaxanthin Content - The best krill oil pills contain this naturally-occurring antioxidant.
Third-Party Lab Testing - For any nutritional supplement, we choose brands that guarantee the quality of their product through independent lab testing.
Krill Source - We also compared these supplements for the source of their krill oil, and only recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested krill.
The 5 Best Krill Oil Supplements
Best Overall: Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 3 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 150 mcg per 3 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: We love Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin, and choline to help promote brain, cardiovascular, and joint health, and because it is made with sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill. In fact, Vital Plan uses Superba krill oil, which is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and is 100% traceable.
Best for Cognitive Health: Onnit Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 200 mcg per 2 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Onnit Krill Oil makes it easy to supplement your diet with the essential nutrients found in krill with just two softgels per day. The DHA and EPA fatty acids, plus astaxanthin, contained in these supplements can help support better cognitive, heart, and joint health. Plus, they source their krill from a Friend of the Sea certified supplier.
Best for Heart Health: NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 250 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 360 mcg per 2 softgels
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: NOW Neptune Krill Oil supplements use 100% Neptune krill oil, a patented oil derived from Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Two softgels contain 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 360 mcg of astaxanthin that can promote better cardiovascular and joint health. We like NOW Neptune Krill Oil because they also get their krill oil from a Friend of the Sea certified source.
Best for Joint Health: Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 2 capsules
- Astaxanthin - 1.6 mg per 2 capsules
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Viva Naturals uses a trademarked Caplique capsulation to avoid any krill oil odor or potential fishy burps. WIth 90 mg of DHA and 165 mg of EPA per 2 capsule serving, this supplement will definitely give you your money's worth, as they pack more DHA and EPA than your average supplement. We like that these capsules contain a higher concentration of the antioxidant astaxanthin, and are designed to eliminate any fishy aftertaste.
Strongest: Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per softgel
- Astaxanthin - 500 mcg per softgel
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: IKOS certified and made with their proprietary Superba krill oil formula, Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil is an excellent choice if you're looking to enjoy the benefits that quality omega-3 fatty acids can provide. Every softgel capsule contains 1000 mg of krill oil, making it the strongest krill oil supplement on our list. We like that their krill oil is also certified as sustainably sourced by the MSC.
The Research on Krill Oil Supplements
Research has long demonstrated the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in foods like fish, nuts, and certain grains like flax seed. Since krill oil naturally contains higher levels of these beneficial nutrients, it has also been found to provide a number of health benefits.
Numerous studies have linked the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and krill oil to cardiovascular health, finding that those who ingest higher levels of these nutrients are at lower risk for coronary heart disease, potentially lower risk of stroke, and have lower cholesterol levels. Another study found that krill oil supplements offer a safe alternative to fish oil for those seeking cardiovascular benefits in a smaller and more convenient form.
Krill oil supplementation has also been found to help reduce the symptoms of knee and joint pain.
Additionally, researches found that rats given krill oil supplements showed improved cognitive function and benefited from anti-depressant-like effects. However, more research on its effect for human brain development and function is needed.
How to Choose the Right Krill Oil Supplement
When shopping for a krill oil supplement, there are important pieces of information that you should always look for. Here are some tips on how to compare brands and how to read labels.
What to Look For
For any supplement, always check to see if it has undergone third-party lab testing for quality and safety. This is especially important for any fish or krill oil to make sure that it does not contain any harmful compounds like mercury.
Look for the amount of krill oil contained in each capsule and each serving (as these will sometimes differ). You should choose supplements that offer between 200 mg and 350 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving for the best results.
Make it a priority to learn where the brand sources its supply of krill oil. We recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill oil because the process of harvesting is more tightly regulated by various groups.
This is good advice for all nutritional supplements, but be sure the krill oil you choose does not contain any unwanted or unnecessary ingredients. All of our recommendations contain just the krill oil and the capsule it comes in.
How to Read Labels
When you are comparing krill oil supplements, here are some key things to look for on any label:
- Supplement Facts - This is where you can find information on the amount of krill oil in each capsule, how many capsules make up one serving, and a breakdown of how many omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients are contained in the supplement.
- Other Ingredients - Listed at the bottom of the supplement facts table, this list will tell you what the capsule itself is made of and if there are any additional ingredients present.
- Certifications - Check the label for important certifications and seals of approvals that can tell you if a krill oil is IKOS-certified, third-party lab tested, or sustainably harvest.
How to Use Krill Oil Supplements
Krill oil supplements typically come in capsules that you swallow with water. For most brands, 2 to 3 capsules make up a single serving, and you can take a serving either once or twice per day. Some brands recommend their supplements be taken with food to aid in their digestion and absorption.
Safety & Side Effects
While krill oil supplements are generally considered safe for most adults, it is extremely important to note that you should not take krill oil if you are allergic to shellfish. The potential side effects for krill oil are considered mild and similar to fish oils, including:
- Upset stomach
- Fishy taste
By Brett Wilkins
Researchers warned of the need for urgent climate action as a study published Wednesday revealed that the world's mountain glaciers are melting at an unprecedented pace, with glacial thinning rates outside Antarctica and Greenland doubling this century.
For the first time ever, researchers analyzed three-dimensional satellite measurements of the world's approximately 220,000 glaciers, except for those on the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. The results, published in Nature, show that the planet's glaciers lost 267 billion tonnes of ice each year from 2000 to 2019, the equivalent of 21% of sea level rise. The study's authors said that is enough water to flood all of Switzerland under six feet of water every year.
The paper notes that "thinning rates of glaciers outside ice sheet peripheries doubled over the past two decades."
The study's authors found that, on average, glaciers lost 4% of their volume during the two decades studied. They determined that the fastest-melting glaciers are in Alaska and the Alps. Alaska alone accounted for one-quarter of the world's glacial melt, with the Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound retreating by around 115 feet annually.
"A doubling of the thinning rates in 20 years for glaciers outside Greenland and Antarctica tells us we need to change the way we live," Romain Hugonnet of the University of Toulouse in France, the study's lead author, told The Guardian.
"It can be difficult to get the public to understand why glaciers are important because they seem so remote," he added, "but they affect many things in the global water cycle including regional hydrology, and by changing too rapidly, can lead to the alteration or collapse of downstream ecosystems."
Today, the Guardian is launching a new series on global glacier loss. First up: A new study finds glacial melt is d… https://t.co/ixwp8HAzGw— Niko Kommenda (@Niko Kommenda)1619623553.0
Hugonnet said he was particularly concerned about glacier loss in high Asian mountain ranges, which are the sources of rivers upon which more than 1.5 billion people rely for water.
"India and China are depleting underground sources and relying on river water, which substantially originates from glaciers during times of drought," he told The Guardian.
"This will be fine for a few decades because glaciers will keep melting and provide more river runoff, which acts as a buffer to protect populations from water stress," said Hugonnet. "But after these decades, the situation could go downhill. If we do not plan ahead, there could be a crisis for water and food, affecting the most vulnerable."
Mark Serreze, director of the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center, told The Associated Press that sea level rise — which is exacerbated by glacier melt — "is going to be a bigger and bigger problem as we move through the 21st century." Serreze did not contribute to the new paper.
The new study's authors implore policymakers to devise adaptive measures for the estimated billion people threatened with water and food insecurity before 2050.
"We need to act now," stressed Hugonnet.
Samuel Nussbaumer of the World Glacier Monitoring Service, which did not take part in the study, said that "the new paper will have a big impact."
"This is the most global, complete study. The gain in new information is huge," Nussbaumer told The Guardian. "The rapid change we see now is really interesting from a scientific point of view. Never before in history has change happened this fast."
The new study follows research published last week showing shifts in Earth's rotational axis — which have accelerated over the past three decades — are caused by melting glaciers.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Elizabeth Djinis
Florida has long been known as an environmental contradiction. It's mostly a peninsula at risk from the severe impacts of climate change, including rising seas, warming temperatures, and worsening extreme-weather events; yet it's also a state governed by Republican leaders who have refused to even publicly utter the words "climate change."
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was elected in 2018, he appeared to be the archetypal Republican, proudly touting his endorsement from then-president Donald Trump. But DeSantis's immediate actions on the environment surprised even die-hard Democrats. In his first year, he hired the state's first chief resilience officer and recommended that more than $625 million be allocated to restoration of the Florida Everglades and protecting the state's water resources.
Some Republican strategists say DeSantis has paved the way for a Florida legislature that is finally open to acting on climate change. The governor's proposed state budget for 2021-2022 allocates $1 billion over four years for resiliency efforts in response to sea level rise, storm events, and localized flooding, and $25 million to offset harmful algal blooms and red tide.
At the same time, state leaders like Florida's House speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate president Wilton Simpson are proposing a sweeping infrastructure package that would specifically designate consistent funds to mitigating sea level rise and flooding. It's a stunning acceptance of a problem that, for too long, Republicans refused to even admit.
But many of Florida's young climate activists say the focus is misplaced. Sure, it's great that Republicans have finally recognized the threat posed by the climate crisis, but they are more concerned with dealing with the consequences than the causes. And Republicans are still reticent to use the term "climate change," preferring the more palatable "resiliency," which emphasizes bracing to withstand the impacts of climate change rather than enacting policies that could actually reduce carbon emissions.
"It's gotten to the point in Florida where politicians really can't ignore climate change and the cost of not investing in resilient infrastructure, because sea level rise is going to destroy our tourism industry," says Mary-Elizabeth Estrada, 24, a climate organizer with the environmental nonprofit the CLEO Institute. "But a lot of the time it's still money-centered as opposed to 'how can we help the people?' It's
National GOP media strategist Adam Goodman, who splits his time between Washington, DC, and the Tampa Bay area, says DeSantis has opened the door for other Florida Republicans to follow in his footsteps. GOP leaders took note of the Florida governor's popularity jump after he proposed allocating money to protect coastlines and preserve natural resources. Party leaders began to view environmental protections as a core Florida message rather than a partisan issue, Goodman tells Teen Vogue.
They have also keenly realized the alternative: Not acting on the environment could have severe economic consequences for the state and threaten the party's dominance of state politics. "Republicans are learning that if they become more sensitive to the environment and climate change, they can then go back in the campaign process and policy process to some of their bread-and-butter conservative economics and careful growth policies," Goodman explains. "If they don't check this box, especially in a state like Florida, they are going to have a much more difficult time putting into play a conventional Republican agenda."
Part of the impetus lies in experience. Florida Republicans, like all Floridians, are already experiencing climate change, whether it's firsthand or through the perspectives of their constituents. Estrada has lobbied Democrats and Republicans on climate policy through her nonprofit roles, and she's talked to legislators who mention increased flooding and rising tides in their own neighborhoods. "When it impacts you, I think that's when you start to realize that this really is a problem," Estrada says.
So far, Florida Republicans seem to be picking and choosing what climate issues they're willing to engage on. Proposed legislation in the Florida Senate, for example, would bar local governments from restricting the types of energy production, like electricity or natural gas, that get supplied to customers by a utility company. Another bill would have given the state broad oversight on energy infrastructure regulation, prohibiting local governments from taking regulatory action on existing or new energy infrastructure; it has since been amended to apply only to gas stations and their related transportation infrastructure.
These moves are particularly unnerving because youth climate activists say much of Florida's environmental progress has been made at the local level. Numerous Florida cities, including St. Petersburg, Orlando, and Gainesville, have taken the Sierra Club's "Ready for 100" pledge to use 100% clean and renewable energy no later than 2050.
"In coastal communities like the Tampa Bay area and the Miami Beach area, there we do see elected officials on a local level who seem to really care and make big steps and move toward solar energy," says Catarina Fernandez, a 20-year-old activist working as a fellow with Our Climate and studying the environment and society at Florida State University.
While youth activists tend to focus on national issues, buoyed by proposals like the Green New Deal and dynamic national representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, there's so much more potential to get things done on the local level, according to Estrada. "People should realize the importance of local elections. That's where you can really get stuff done," she says. "On the local level, you can actually talk to city council members and your local state legislators."
Even Florida Republican policies that appear positive on their face — like Sprowls and Simpson's plan to allocate recurring funding toward the effects of sea level rise and flooding — have a hidden underbelly. That money would come from a state trust fund that uses documentary stamp tax revenue from real estate transactions to fund affordable housing. The state has routinely tapped that fund to address various crises, and the Republicans' proposal would also crystallize a policy wherein the funds meant mainly for affordable housing would be shared with those for sea level rise mitigation and wastewater grants.
This puts activists in a terrible position, pitting the housing justice movement against the environmental movement, Fernandez says. "That's a fight nobody asked for," she says. "I want climate resiliency measures, but do I want that at the expense of some of the most vulnerable communities here in Florida? No, not in a million years."
Ultimately, young climate activists have had to take a pragmatic look at the limitations of what can be accomplished through policy. Fernandez says it is not the "end-all, be-all." "If you're living in a conservative state like Florida, it can be really hard to get that stuff off the ground," she says. "You're not really going to get policy changes unless you have the people behind you, and the way to get people behind you is by educating them and connecting with them and tapping them into these issues."
Elizabeth Djinis is a writer and journalist based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her work has been published by Poynter, The Dallas Morning News, The Tampa Bay Times, The Penny Hoarder and Sarasota Magazine, among others. Follow her on Twitter.
This story originally appeared in Teen Vogue and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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Germany's highest court ruled Thursday that the country's 2019 climate law unconstitutionally saddles young people with the burden of fighting climate change by "irreversibly offload[ing] major emission reductions burdens onto periods after 2030."
Olaf Scholz, Germany's finance minister, said the government would rapidly propose legislation to comply with the ruling. The case was brought by young people who argued the German plan to reach net-zero carbon pollution by 2050 backloaded too much of the required emissions cuts until after 2030.
"We are super happy with the court's decision," 22-year-old plaintiff Sophie Backsen, who fears sea level rise will engulf her family's farm, told reporters. "Effective climate protection has to be implemented now and not in 10 years' time, when it'll be too late."
As reported by The Guardian:
One of the complainants, Luisa Neubauer, an activist from Fridays for Future, welcomed the ruling, saying: "This is huge. Climate protection is not nice to have; climate protection is our basic right and that's official now. This is a huge win for the climate movement, it changes a lot."
Neubauer said the climate lobby's success at Karlsruhe was only the beginning, emphasising that the five months leading up to the federal elections in September, in which the pro-environmental Greens have a good chance of entering government, would be crucial.
"We will continue to fight for a 1.5 degree policy which protects our future freedoms, instead of endangering them," she said, adding, "gone are the days when we were called ignorant for demanding climate action."
For a deeper dive:
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A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Chatham, Massachusetts was evacuated March 31 over concerns the entire operation would topple into the ocean.
"We had to say goodbye to the site because of where we are located at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, we're adjacent to a bluff that overlooks the ocean," Boston NWS meteorologist Andy Nash told WHDH at the time. "We had to close and cease operations there because that bluff has significantly eroded."
Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, a land mass extending out into the Atlantic Ocean that has been reshaped and eroded by waves and tides over tens of thousands of years, The Guardian explained. However, sea level rise and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis have sped that change along.
"It's an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here," Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at Cape-Cod based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told The Guardian. "We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic."
This was the case with the Chatham weather station. It used to be protected from the drop into the ocean by about 100 feet of land. However, storm action in 2020 alone washed away as much as six feet of land a day.
"We'd know[n] for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise," Nash told The Guardian. "We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn't have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem."
The Chatham station was part of a network of 92 NWS stations that monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and other data in the upper atmosphere, The Cape Cod Chronicle explained. The stations send up radiosondes attached to weather balloons twice a day to help with weather research and prediction. The Chatham station, which had been observing this ritual for the past half a century, sent up its last balloon the morning of March 31.
"We're going to miss the observations," Nash told The Cape Cod Chronicle. "It gives us a snapshot, a profile of the atmosphere when the balloons go up."
The station was officially decommissioned April 1, and the two buildings on the site will be demolished sometime this month. The NWS is looking for a new location in southeastern New England. In the meantime, forecasters will rely on data from stations in New York and Maine.
Nash said the leavetaking was bittersweet, but inevitable.
"[M]other nature is evicting us," he told The Cape Cod Chronicle.
Published on Monday in Nature Communications, the study found that phosphorus, a mineral found in dust, is a key nutrient for an extensive glacier algae bloom on Greenland's ice sheet, known as the "dark zone." As the algae grow, the ice becomes darker, decreasing its ability to reflect sunlight and causing the ice to melt faster and sea levels to rise.
"It's important to understand the controls on algal growth because of their role in ice sheet darkening," Dr. Jenine McCutcheon, who led the study published in Nature Communications, told the University of Leeds. "Although algal blooms can cover up to 78 percent of the bare ice surfaces in the Dark Zone, their abundance and size can vary greatly over time," Dr. McCutcheon added.
Since 2000, the dark zone's melting season has "progressively started earlier and lasted longer," according to the University of Leeds. Glacier algal blooms are responsible for up to 13 percent of surface melting in this region, the study noted.
But until recently little was known about how these algal blooms developed.
Researchers found that phosphorus can cause the photosynthesis rate of the ice algae to improve significantly, McCutcheon said, according to the University of Leeds.
Although researchers examined dust sourced from local rock, they warned that dust can be transported thousands of miles by the wind.
"As dryland areas in northerly latitudes become even drier under climate change, we can expect to see more dust transported and deposited on the Greenland Ice Sheet, further fueling algal blooms," Associate Professor Dr. Jim McQuaid, who co-authored the study, noted.
"The findings of this study will improve how we predict where algal blooms will happen in the future, and help us gain a better understanding of their role in ice sheet albedo reduction and enhanced melting," Dr. McCutcheon added.
Researchers are also asking how these algal blooms will grow and darken in a warming climate.
"In 2019 our glaciers and ice sheets [are] already being darkened by dust, soot, and ash from our industrial world, which provides the perfect home for algae to flourish," Alexandre Anesio, a professor in Arctic biogeochemistry from Aarhus University, who was not affiliated with the University of Leeds study, told The Guardian. "As the organisms reproduce, they melt even more snow, which in turn allows them to proliferate again. So it's like a cycle. A very bad one."
Darkening ice is not just occurring on Greenland's ice sheets, according to The Guardian. It's happening globally, Professor Liane Benning of the German Research Center for Geosciences noted, also impacting the Alpine and Himalayan glaciers.
In Western Canada, wildfires fueled by climate change are also leaving ash on glaciers, staining the ice, creating habitats for algae and "accelerating the warming process in a feedback loop," Reuters reported.
"To be honest, I'm massively worried," Anesio told The Guardian. As the planet warms, researchers are rushing to find answers on glacial melting and its impact on biodiversity.
"I just hope that we are not crossing that tipping point because I don't think humans can adapt to the rates of changing climates at the moment," Anesio added.
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A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.
The answer? Quite a lot. The rate of worldwide ice loss has increased by more than 60 percent in the past three decades, a study published in The Cryosphere on Monday found.
"The ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," Dr. Thomas Slater, study lead author and research fellow at Leeds' Center for Polar Observation and Modeling, said in a University of Leeds press release. "Sea-level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century."
Previous studies have used satellite data to assess ice loss from individual sources, such as polar ice caps, The Guardian explained. However, this is the first one to consider all sources of ice loss. The study found that the world lost around 31 trillion U.S. tons between 1994 and 2017. During that time, the rate of ice loss also increased 65 percent, from 0.9 trillion U.S. tons a year to 1.4 trillion U.S. tons a year. Ice loss from ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland largely contributed to that number, the press release stated.
The paper also broke down which sources had lost the most ice in total terms between 1994 and 2017. Amounts are approximate and in U.S. tons:
- Arctic sea ice: 8.4 trillion
- Antarctic ice shelves: 7.2 trillion
- Mountain glaciers: 6.7 trillion
- Greenland ice sheet: 4.2 trillion
- Antarctic ice sheet: 2.8 trillion
- Southern Ocean sea ice: one trillion
The study also examined the leading cause of ice melt for each source, according to the press release. For Arctic sea ice and mountain glaciers, rising atmospheric temperatures have driven melting. For the Antarctic ice sheet, rising ocean temperatures have been the main cause. And for the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctic ice shelves, melting has been increased by a combination of the two.
All told, melting from Antarctica, Greenland and mountain glaciers have increased sea levels by around 34.6 millimeters, the study found. While this might not sound like a lot, every centimeter of sea level rise puts around a million people in low-lying areas at risk of being flooded out of their homes, the press release said. Moreover, sea level rise isn't the only threat from melting ice.
"As well as contributing to global mean sea level rise, mountain glaciers are also critical as a freshwater resource for local communities," Inès Otosaka, report co-author and Leeds PhD researcher, said in the press release. "The retreat of glaciers around the world is therefore of crucial importance at both local and global scales."
Melting Arctic sea ice is also a problem because it reduces the ice cover that reflects solar energy back into space.
"As the sea ice shrinks, more solar energy is being absorbed by the oceans and atmosphere, causing the Arctic to warm faster than anywhere else on the planet," Dr. Isobel Lawrence, coauthor and Leeds research fellow, explained in the press release. "Not only is this speeding up sea ice melt, it's also exacerbating the melting of glaciers and ice sheets which causes sea levels to rise."
Climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, who was not involved in the study, called it a "thorough accounting of how ice is disappearing from the Arctic, Antarctic and mountain ranges."
However, he disagreed with the paper's claim that the melting of floating sea ice does not contribute directly to sea level rise. He pointed to a 2007 paper that found that if all currently floating sea ice were to melt, sea levels would rise around four centimeters. Slater agreed that the language should be changed to make it clear that melting floating sea ice does slightly contribute to sea level rise.
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Previously, researchers thought they could measure ice melt simply by looking at the amount of meltwater sitting on top of glaciers and in moulins — shafts in the glacier that empty rivers from the surface to the interior, Earther explained. But the new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters on Monday, found that a glacier's speed increased when water pressure rapidly changed beneath the ice sheet, NASA explained.
"These findings will help to refine ice sliding models, which are critically important for predicting future ice sheet contributions to global sea level rise," Laurence Smith, study coauthor and Brown University environmental studies professor, told Earther.
The Greenland ice sheet is extremely important when it comes to global sea level rise. The size of Mexico, it currently contributes more to rising sea levels than any other source, NASA reported. If all of Greenland's ice sheet were to melt, it would increase water levels by 20 feet, according to Earther.
"The number one reason we are here is all about global sea level rise," Smith said in a video documenting the research. "Greenland is the single largest melting chunk of ice in the world. What really matters is how much of that water in the ice sheet gets out to the ocean."
To better understand the dynamics driving this melt, Smith and his team traveled to the Russell Glacier in southwestern Greenland in 2016 and studied a glacial river, NASA said. The researchers recorded the forward motion of the glacier itself, the amount of meltwater pouring into the moulin and the amount of meltwater pouring out from beneath the glacier at the water's edge. They determined that changes in subterranean water pressure were driving the glacier's overall speed.
"Even if the cavities are small, as long as the pressure is ramping up very fast, they will make the ice slide faster," Smith explained.
NASA Glaciologist Dr. Lauren Andrews compared a glacier moving over subterranean meltwater to car tires sliding on a wet road.
"If you have a rapid perturbation of water going into the subglacial system, you overwhelm the system, and so you create essentially a layer of water at the interface that's not contained in channels or cavities anymore," Andrews said.
The way that water pressure drives glacier speed had never been studied in the field before, NASA said. This new research now adds 168 hours of "rare in situ" measurements to understand the dynamics of glacial rivers, which had previously been overlooked.
"In 2015 when we started this study, there was surprisingly little attention paid to the hydrology of streams and rivers on the ice sheet, especially inland away from the ice edge, and we felt that this was a critical scientific gap," Smith said in the video.
The research supports the team's initial feeling.
"These findings affirm the importance of supraglacial rivers to subglacial water pressure and ice dynamics, even in relatively thick ice," the researchers wrote.
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This has been a matter of debate and concern for scientists. Now, for the first time, researchers have identified the tipping points that would send the glacier into an irreversible retreat and published their findings in The Cryosphere on March 25. This retreat is a big deal because it could lead to the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsing and sea levels rising almost 10 feet.
"The possibility of Pine Island Glacier entering an unstable retreat has been raised before, but this is the first time that this possibility is rigorously established and quantified," Hilmar Gudmundsson, study author and University of Northumbria professor of glaciology and extreme environments, said in a press release.
Our @NUGeog researchers have confirmed for the first time that Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica could cross t… https://t.co/o84C7Mmrei— Northumbria Uni (@Northumbria Uni)1617285857.0
West Antarctica is feeling the impacts of the climate crisis more than East Antarctica. The West Antarctic Peninsula is warming five times faster than the global average, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research found. In West Antarctica, the Pine Island Glacier and its neighbor, the Thwaites Glacier, are two of the glaciers most impacted by warming temperatures, and there is evidence that the ice shelf supporting them is beginning to crack.
Even now, the two glaciers are responsible for around 10 percent of global sea level rise, the press release explained, which is why researchers are so concerned about their eventual collapse. However, while scientists have raised the possibility of collapse before, they have not been able to identify if or how it would happen.
Until now. The University of Northumbria team developed an ice-flow model that enables them to identify key tipping points for the glacier.
"Many different computer simulations around the world are attempting to quantify how a changing climate could affect the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, but identifying whether a period of retreat in these models is a tipping point is challenging," Dr. Sebastian Rosier, study lead author and a Vice-Chancellor's Research Fellow in Northumbria's Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, said in the press release. "However, it is a crucial question and the methodology we use in this new study makes it much easier to identify potential future tipping points."
Using their model, the researchers identified three potential tipping points for the Pine Island Glacier.
"The third and final event, triggered by an ocean warming of approximately 1.2 degrees C from the steady-state model configuration, leads to a retreat of the entire glacier that could initiate a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet," the study authors warned.
While Gudmundsson was pleased with the results on a scientific level, they also alarmed him on a human level.
"[T[he findings of this study also concern me. Should the glacier enter unstable irreversible retreat, the impact on sea level could be measured in meters, and as this study shows, once the retreat starts it might be impossible to halt it," he said.
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By Sam Baker
What really makes this reporter's stomach churn thinking about climate change? Thawing permafrost. A scenario where it all melts, releasing copious amounts of CO2 and methane (it holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere holds right now), and there's no going back.
But what's at the top of the list of concerns for those who study how climate change is unfolding – on ice sheets and urban street corners, in oceans and farm fields – the climate scientists themselves?
DW asked a dozen experts spanning climatology, entomology, oceanography and yes, permafrost research, what keeps them up at night when it comes to the climate.
The Greatest Unknown – People
Nana Ama Browne Klutse studies changing weather with climate models at the University of Ghana. While she says tipping points like permafrost thaw worry her, she also worries how individuals will handle changing climates.
"What can you do as an individual to avoid the impact of climate change?" she asked. "We need government policies for resilience, building of community, city resilience. Then we need that global action."
Climate scientist Ruth Mottram studies the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and sea level rise for the Danish Meteorological Institute, but it's not the science that worries her.
"I'm less concerned that there are unknown processes going on that we don't understand, and there could potentially be some unforeseen catastrophe on the way," she said. "We know what a lot of the impacts are going to be. I think what keeps me awake at night in a metaphorical sense is really the interaction between the physical system and how human societies are going to handle it."
Giving the example of sea level, she says we will see a meter rise this century — in our lifetimes or that of our children — and will have to make tough decisions about our coastal cities. But she says it won't end there.
"I think that human societies have not really grasped what that means and that adaptation to sea level rise is going to be a long process and we are going to be doing it for hundreds of years," said Mottram, suggesting that we start thinking in terms of the lifetimes of cities (hundreds of years) rather than just human lifetimes.
Protecting the Vulnerable
Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Permafrost Laboratory, said that while he thinks about how what happens in the Arctic will affect the rest of the world, his concerns are much more local.
"We should remember that there are still some people living in the Arctic," he said. Around 4 million people in fact who would have to deal with the real-life consequences of solid ground thawing beneath their feet and houses. "Changes in these local or regional kind of climates and environments, they impact these people and some of these impacts could be very severe."
Closer to the planet's other pole, Carolina Vera fears that existing inequalities will only be exacerbated by climate change.
"Climate change is already impacting the most vulnerable sectors of our planet," said Vera, who studies climate variability as a principal researcher for the National Council of Science of Argentina, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires and chief of staff for Argentina's Ministry of Science and Technology. Her work has led her to incorporate local knowledge and data collection into studies, involving communities that are balancing the problems of deforestation with their need to farm.
Heat and New Extremes
Perhaps not surprisingly, global heating is a key concern for many researchers, like Dim Coumou, who studies extreme weather at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Of most concern to him are heat and humidity extremes in the tropics – especially highly populated parts like West Africa, Pakistan and India – which will make it unbearable to be outside. When cooling down by sweating is no longer possible, people can't work outside and therefore can't grow food. The likely result being mass migration.
But it's not just the tropics.
Closely related to heat is the increase in extreme weather brought on by a warming climate. Coumou and his colleagues' research shows how changes to the jet stream will lead to more extreme weather in Europe, including floods and droughts.
This increase in extreme weather is climate scientist Abubakr Salih Babiker's biggest climate concern.
"A warmer atmosphere can hold more water in it and when it rains, it rains heavily leading to floods. A warmer ocean can lead to stronger tropical cyclones," said Babiker, who works for the East African Climate Center ICPAC in Nairobi. He explained that cyclones gain more energy from warmer water.
"We have seen evidence of all these events," he said. "The strongest tropical cyclones to impact the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, and Mozambique occurred in the past 20 years!"
Science for Solutions
Pests, drought and flooding are on Esther Ngumbi's mind too.
An entomologist and professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she said that what keeps her up at night is the thought: "How can my science truly help?"
Ngumbi's work on pest and drought-resistant crops is driven by her concerns for vulnerable farmers who live in countries lacking social safety nets, where one season of crop devastation due to insects can mean going hungry and being unable to pay for their children's education.
"That truly makes me wake up every day and go to the lab to understand how my research can contribute to solutions that we need," she said.
Natasha Picone – an urban climatologist at the National University of Central Buenos Aires – says it's the solutions that occupy her thoughts too.
"With the pandemic, I realized that we are not doing enough for changing our cities to be more livable," she said. Her research informs urban planners about phenomena such as the urban heat island effect, air pollution and urban run-off that can lead to flooding. "If we don't change the path now, it will be really difficult to go back."
Weighing on the mind of oceanographer Renata Hanae Nagai at the University of Parana in Brazil is her four-year-old nephew and what his life will look like in a warmer world, but he also gives her hope. During a recent trip to the beach to watch nesting turtles, he warned others to leave the turtles alone.
She sees this same care in her students – learning about problems and coming up with solutions.
"People are the solution," she said. "We try, even under the hardest conditions."
'Scientists are Humans' Too
"For me, that's like morally totally unacceptable what they do – they lie," said the climate physicist from Maynooth University in Ireland, reflecting on encountering such people at public talks. "I mean, you can't argue with climate."
But this only pushes Caesar to better communicate what the science shows.
They Worry About Us
A common thread of this (rather unscientific) survey is that while we laypeople might be worrying about what the science says, climate scientists are often worrying about us.
"Scientists always think about what are the results of their studies, how are they important for, you know, for usual people, for normal people," the permafrost scientist told me. While doing his research, Romanovsky said he's always thinking about "how this could be used to make life of people easier or more predictable."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Andrew Christ and Paul Bierman
In 1963, inside a covert U.S. military base in northern Greenland, a team of scientists began drilling down through the Greenland ice sheet. Piece by piece, they extracted an ice core 4 inches across and nearly a mile long. At the very end, they pulled up something else – 12 feet of frozen soil.
The ice told a story of Earth's climate history. The frozen soil was examined, set aside and then forgotten.
Half a century later, scientists rediscovered that soil in a Danish freezer. It is now revealing its secrets.
Using lab techniques unimaginable in the 1960s when the core was drilled, we and an international team of fellow scientists were able to show that Greenland's massive ice sheet had melted to the ground there within the past million years. Radiocarbon dating shows that it would have happened more than 50,000 years ago. It most likely happened during times when the climate was warm and sea level was high, possibly 400,000 years ago.
And there was more. As we explored the soil under a microscope, we were stunned to discover the remnants of a tundra ecosystem – twigs, leaves and moss. We were looking at northern Greenland as it existed the last time the region was ice-free. Our peer-reviewed study was published on March 15 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Engineers pull up a section of the 4,560-foot-long ice core at Camp Century in the 1960s. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
With no ice sheet, sunlight would have warmed the soil enough for tundra vegetation to cover the landscape. The oceans around the globe would have been more than 10 feet higher, and maybe even 20 feet. The land on which Boston, London and Shanghai sit today would have been under the ocean waves.
All of this happened before humans began warming Earth's climate. The atmosphere at that time contained far less carbon dioxide than it does today, and it wasn't rising as quickly. The ice core and the soil below are something of a Rosetta Stone for understanding how durable the Greenland ice sheet has been during past warm periods – and how quickly it might melt again as the climate heats up.
Secret Military Bases and Danish Freezers
The story of the ice core begins during the Cold War with a military mission dubbed Project Iceworm. Starting around 1959, the U.S. Army hauled hundreds of soldiers, heavy equipment and even a nuclear reactor across the ice sheet in northwest Greenland and dug a base of tunnels inside the ice. They called it Camp Century.
It was part of a secret plan to hide nuclear weapons from the Soviets. The public knew it as an Arctic research laboratory. Walter Cronkite even paid a visit and filed a report.
Workers build the snow tunnels at the Camp Century research base in 1960. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Camp Century didn't last long. The snow and ice began slowly crushing the buildings inside the tunnels below, forcing the military to abandon it in 1966. During its short life, however, scientists were able to extract the ice core and begin analyzing Greenland's climate history. As ice builds up year by year, it captures layers of volcanic ash and changes in precipitation over time, and it traps air bubbles that reveal the past composition of the atmosphere.
One of the original scientists, glaciologist Chester Langway, kept the core and soil samples frozen at the University at Buffalo for years, then he shipped them to a Danish archive in the 1990s, where the soil was soon forgotten.
A few years ago, our Danish colleagues found the soil samples in a box of glass cookie jars with faded labels: "Camp Century Sub-Ice."
Geomorphologist Paul Bierman (right) and geochemist Joerg Schaefer of Columbia University examine the jars holding Camp Century sediment for the first time. They were in a Danish freezer set at -17 F. Paul Bierman / CC BY-ND
A Surprise Under the Microscope
On a hot July day in 2019, two samples of soil arrived at our lab at the University of Vermont frozen solid. We began the painstaking process of splitting the precious few ounces of frozen mud and sand for different analyses.
First, we photographed the layering in the soil before it was lost forever. Then we chiseled off small bits to examine under the microscope. We melted the rest and saved the ancient water.
Then came the biggest surprise. While we were washing the soil, we spotted something floating in the rinse water. Paul grabbed a pipette and some filter paper, Drew grabbed tweezers and turned on the microscope. We were absolutely stunned as we looked down the eyepiece.
Staring back at us were leaves, twigs and mosses. This wasn't just soil. This was an ancient ecosystem perfectly preserved in Greenland's natural deep freeze.
Dating Million-Year-Old Moss
How old were these plants?
Over the last million years, Earth's climate was punctuated by relatively short warm periods, typically lasting about 10,000 years, called interglacials, when there was less ice at the poles and sea level was higher. The Greenland ice sheet survived through all of human history during the Holocene, the present interglacial period of the last 12,000 years, and most of the interglacials in the last million years.
But our research shows that at least one of these interglacial periods was warm enough for a long enough period of time to melt large portions of the Greenland ice sheet, allowing a tundra ecosystem to emerge in northwestern Greenland.
We used two techniques to determine the age of the soil and the plants. First, we used clean room chemistry and a particle accelerator to count atoms that form in rocks and sediment when exposed to natural radiation that bombards Earth. Then, a colleague used an ultra-sensitive method for measuring light emitted from grains of sand to determine the last time they were exposed to sunlight.
Maps of Greenland show the speed of the ice sheet as it flows (left) and the landscape hidden beneath it (right). BedMachine v3; Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) / CC BY-ND
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today is well beyond past levels determined from ice cores. On March 14, 2021, the CO2 level was about 417 ppm. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / CC BY-ND
The million-year time frame is important. Previous work on another ice core, GISP2, extracted from central Greenland in the 1990s, showed that the ice had also been absent there within the last million years, perhaps about 400,000 years ago.
Losing the Greenland ice sheet would be catastrophic to humanity today. The melted ice would raise sea level by more than 20 feet. That would redraw coastlines worldwide.
About 40% of the global population lives within 60 miles of a coast, and 600 million people live within 30 feet of sea level. If warming continues, ice melt from Greenland and Antarctica will pour more water into the oceans. Communities will be forced to relocate, climate refugees will become more common, and costly infrastructure will be abandoned. Already, sea level rise has amplified flooding from coastal storms, causing hundreds of billions of dollars of damage every year.
Tundra near the Greenland ice sheet today. Is this what Camp Century looked like before the ice came back sometime in the last million years? Paul Bierman / CC BY-ND
The story of Camp Century spans two critical moments in modern history. An Arctic military base built in response to the existential threat of nuclear war inadvertently led us to discover another threat from ice cores – the threat of sea level rise from human-caused climate change. Now, its legacy is helping scientists understand how Earth responds to a changing climate.
Andrew Christ is a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in geology at the University of Vermont.
Paul Bierman is a fellow of the Gund Institute for Environment and professor of geology and natural resources at the University of Vermont.
Disclosure statement: Andrew Christ receives funding from the Gund Institute for Environment and the National Science Foundation. Paul Bierman receives funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation and UVM Gund Institute for Environment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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