Wild strawberries in mild Arctic autumn (Sveriges Radio)

The Swedish wild strawberries (smultron) are a rare sight this late in the year. Photo: Scanpix

Winter is late, even in the Swedish Arctic.

The far northern city of Kiruna usually meets winter on the 10th of October, and the northern coastal city of Umeå usually has winter weather by the 4th of November.

But instead of winter, fresh wild strawberries are still growing.

Alexandra Ohlsson at the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI) says to news agency TT that winter will probably be at least another week away.

As well as ripening strawberries, the mild temperatures in the northern part of Sweden are also good for pests like mosquitoes and ticks.

Winter is officially defined as an average temperature of below zero for five days in a row. It usually reaches Stockholm by the 1st of December, Gothenburg by the 29th, and Malmö by the 7th of January.

Radio Sweden, original article here

A review of climatic history following a new look at Antarctic ice cores

Posted Mon, 21 Mar 2011 12:33:00 GMT by Michael Evans
Original article here

One of the problems with long-term climate research is that we know so little and what might seem so obvious, sometimes is simply not the case.

Researchers have reconstructed temperature fluctuations in Antarctica for the last million years by studying ice cores. Up until now the presumption has been that these fluctuations were triggered by the global effect of climatic changes in the northern hemisphere.

In the current edition of the journal Nature, three physicists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI), Germany’s largest scientific organisation, have presented new calculations on the connection between natural insolation and long-term changes in global climatic activity.

This new study is part of an expansion of the prevalent theory regarding the development of ice ages and shows that major portions of the temperature fluctuations can be explained equally well by local climate changes in the southern hemisphere.

It was around the middle of the nineteenth century that it first became recognised that much of Europe was at one time covered by a great ice sheet, but it was not until 1911 that a Serbian mathematician, Milutin Malankovitch decided to chart the ice ages of the Pleistocene.

Without the benefit of computers, all of his calculations had to be done manually and he spent the next 30 years working on them. He studied the effects of the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the small orbital changes caused by gravitational pull from nearby planets at various times going back 600,000 years. This enabled him to create charts and tabulations of incoming solar radiation across the Northern Hemisphere.

Although Malankovitch’s calculations are still used today, they have always been the subject of debate. Malankovitch generally felt that insolation changes in the Northern Hemisphere were of outstanding importance for climate change over long periods of time. Since numerous climate reconstructions based on ice cores, marine sediments and other climate archives appear to support this view, it has become the prevailing working hypothesis in current climate research.

The three physicists from AWI have made a further in-depth analysis of the temperature reconstructions in Antarctic ice cores. For the first time they took into account that winter temperature has a greater influence than summer temperature and. when this is done, temperature fluctuations reconstructed from ice cores can be explained by local climatic changes in the southern hemisphere.

Up until now scientists have always tried to explain historical climate data in the context of Malankovitch’s classical hypothesis, ”… and to date,” says AWI scientist Thomas Laepple, ”it hasn’t been possible to plausibly substantiate all aspects of this hypothesis, but now the game is open again and we can try to gain a better understanding of the long-term physical mechanisms that influence the alternation of ice ages and warm periods.”

However, the researchers were anxious to point out that their work involved natural changes that take place over thousands of years and do not relate to potential climate change resulting from man-induced greenhouse gases.

Penguin Colony in the Antarctic Disappears

Softpedia News, March 5th, 2011 Original article here

Map 2: Emperor Island, Dion Islands, ASPA No. 107: topographic map. Map specifications: Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic; Standard parallels: 1st 67° 0' 00" W; 2nd 68° 00' 00"S; Central Meridian: 68° 42' 30" W; Latitude of Origin: 68° 00' 00" S; Spheroid: WGS84; Datum: Mean sea level. Horizontal accuracy: ± 1.5 m; Vertical accuracy ±1 m (best accuracy of the control points); Vertical contour interval 5 m (index contour interval 15m).

Biologists have documented the first instance of what they call the global warming-induced disappearance of an animal colony. The experts can no longer find even the smallest traces of a small colony of penguins that once lived on an island off the coasts of Antarctica.

It has been proposed a long time ago that penguins would be among the most affected species when climate change finally struck, right alongside other ice-dependent animals, like polar bears.

But no one documented an actual case of that happening until now. Experts believe that the emperor penguin colony disappeared because of dwindling sea ices around their home island.

The island in question is located off the West Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the areas that lost the most ice due to the warming climate. Without the shelfs to provide them with support and food, the penguins most likely could not secure enough to eat.

When the Emperor Island colony was first discovered in 1948, it featured about 150 breeding pairs of penguins. An 1978 report showed a sharp decline in numbers, while a 2009 aerial survey found the entire island deserted.

One of the biggest unknowns in this study is whether the penguins died off, or just relocated to a more hospitable environment, says lead researcher Philip Trathan. He holds an appointment as a conservation biologist as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), LiveScience reports.

An explanation could be that fewer and fewer emperor penguins returned to this location over the years. The animals live for about 20 years, and they tend to return yearly to the site where they hatched.

Over time, it could be that more and more parents from the Emperor Island colony laid their eggs elsewhere. As such, the new generation did not return to the former colony, because they did not know where it was, and had no connection to it.

On the other hand, the researchers did find a connection to climate change and rising temperatures. “The one site in Antarctica where we have seen really big changes is the West Antarctic Peninsula,” Trathan explains in the February 28 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Ices in this region were observed over the past two decades forming about 54 days later than normal, and melting some 31 days earlier. This may have also contributed to the decline of the penguin colony. These birds are completely reliant on ice for most of their activities.

The BAS team admits that more studies are required to establish a clear cause for the penguins’ disappearance. “We need to look at more colonies so we can reduce the uncertainty. With the first report, there is a high degree of uncertainty,” the BAS team leader concludes.

Minnesota Moose Population Crash Possibly Correlated With Climate Change

by John Laumer, Philadelphia on 02.19.11 Original article here


aerial view minnesota moose photo
The end is near. Image credit: Mark Lenarz. (excerpted from slide show)

I recently was chided a bit for suggesting (without having provided a link to supporting scientific evidence) that the behavior of a central-Wisconsin black bear emerging from its den in early February might well be attributed to climate change. (See Black Bear, Bummed Out By Climate Change, Falls Asleep In Backyard ….)

Today I feel lucky, having stumbled onto some related science. The population density of northern Minnesota moose has been falling for years and bull moose are decreasing in proportion to cow moose. No, it’s definitely not a poaching problem; nor is it a human hunting or wolf-predation caused fall off (see below for some data). There is, however, a potential correlation of the long term Minnesota moose population collapse with climate change.

Here are some brief (out of context) excerpts from a presentation made recently that summarized research into possible causes of the observed decline in Minnesota’s moose population. Source: Presentation “Minnesota Moose” by Mark S. Lenarz and Erika Butler Minnesota DNR, Division of Fish and Wildlife Wildlife Research Unit.

  • Moose have an upper critical temperature of 14º C in the summer and -5 º C in the winter (Renecker and Hudson 1986).
  • Moose increase their metabolic rate when these thresholds are exceeded in an attempt to maintain core body temperature.
  • Non-hunting mortality was correlated with temperature indices, both seasonally and annually and these temperature indices have been increasing over the last 50 years.
  • If increasing temperatures are the cause for the decreases in survival, the decline of the northeastern population will take place even more rapidly.

From the same presentation, here are summations of mortality causation and population trend.


Note: I am not personally suggesting that Minnesota moose are dying off mainly because they’re too hot, although, not being an expert, I can’t exclude the direct significance of heat stress, nor can I weigh the impacts on moose of changed seasons. The best thing to do if you are interested in understanding this is to dive into the full presentation and give it some consideration before you comment.

What I am saying, in general – regarding surrogate indicators of climate change – is that a bear crawling out of its den after a two-day Wisconsin February warm up is not a behavior that I’ve ever heard of before. There’s no evolutionary advantage for the bear to then fall asleep in the snow where he is vulnerable to predators. Sure…it happens in March or April; but, a February den emergence signals a change in nature.

Back to Bullwinkle.
Moose evolved to live in a boreal-like forest characterized, in part, by their fitness inside a certain band of seasonal temperatures. When these thermal optima shift upward, individual animals may migrate north and/or the overall moose population will decline. It is the nature of living things. Otherwise we’d have tapirs in Oklahoma and alligators in Maine.

So, I’m sticking with my intuition on this subject. What’s good for the Tea Party is good enough for me. Bears should be in their Wisconsin dens in February and Moose should flourish across northern Minnesota, assuming human-caused habitat changes and disease are shown not to be likely causes of the crash, for example.

All there is left to debate is whether and to what extent we humans are causing the climate to change.

If I lived in Minnesota and liked to hunt I would want to get to the bottom of this and would offer what ever support I could to the researchers studying the population crash. Same if I were a company making a rifle capable of downing a bull moose.


Castration could save reindeer in warming Arctic

MSNBC – original article here

TROMSOE, Norway — Indigenous Sami peoples in the Arctic may have found a way to help their reindeer herds cope with climate change: more castration.

Research by Sami experts shows that sterilized males can grow larger and so are better at digging for food — as Arctic temperatures vary more, thawing snow often refreezes to form thick ice over lichen pastures.

Alissa de Carbonnel / AFP - Getty Images Reindeer herds like this one in Lovozero, Russia, are part of the native Arctic culture.

Neutered males are more able to break through ice with their hooves or antlers, and seem more willing than other males to move aside and share food with calves that can die of starvation in bad freeze-thaw winters like 2000-01.

“To make herds more resilient in the future, we need to re-learn the traditional knowledge of castration,” said professor Svein Mathiesen, coordinator of the University of the Arctic’s Institute of Circumpolar Reindeer Husbandry.

More castration “could be useful to adapt to climate change,” he told Reuters in the Arctic city of Tromsoe. “These animals are very good diggers for the small calves in the most critical period of the winter.”

Castration has traditionally been used by reindeer herders, partly to make wild animals more docile. Herders on the Yamal peninsula in Russia still neuter about half of all males — usually by biting into the testicles with their teeth.

Far fewer animals are castrated outside Russia. About 100,000 Sami own about 2.5 million reindeer in homelands in the Nordic countries and Russia.

The traditional Sami biting technique aims for “half-castration” — under which the animals become sterile but still produce some of the male hormone testosterone that promotes muscle growth.

Sami in Norway, where laws limit castration to surgery with anesthetics, are now experimenting with a vaccine to recreate the effects of half-castration.

No interest in sex also helps neutered males in winter.

“Males castrated in the traditional way would have an increased chance of survival over other males since they maintain body weight and condition during the rutting season,” according to a research document by Eli Risten Nergaard of Sami University College.

The Arctic region is warming at double the global rate in a trend blamed by the U.N.’s panel of climate scientists on greenhouse gases from mankind’s burning of fossil fuels.

Yamal herders castrate many of their reindeer, partly because they need strong, docile animals to pull heavy sleds. In Norway, Sami have come to rely on snow-scooters and get most money for calf meat, meaning most males are slaughtered young.

The Sami castration study indicates the complexities of adapting to the impacts of climate change. Many other scientists are focusing on issues such as how to cope with river floods or rising sea levels, or ways to develop drought-resistant crops.

Castrated reindeer also keep their antlers for much of the winter while normal males shed their antlers each autumn after the mating season. That implies that Rudolph, pulling Father Christmas’s sled, has been castrated.

Wilder weather in Northern Norway from climate change

(Barents Observer, 11 May 2010)
Northern Norway should start preparing for a warmer, wilder and wetter climate, researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute say. A new report from the institute concludes that climate changes in the High North are proceeding quicker than previously anticipated and that they will be felt by “everybody in the region”. According to the report, which is part of the NorACIA project, temperatures at Svalbard will in the next 90 years increase 9 degrees, while the northern parts of the Norwegian mainland will see a 2–2,5 degree temperature increase. -Humans, animals and nature will feel the changes, and society planners should consider carefully where to build houses, Ellen Øseth, adviser at Polar Institute, told newspaper Aftenposten. -The only thing we are sure about is that the changes will be felt by everybody, she adds. The warmer water in the Arctic seas will attract new fish stocks to the region. While the cod over the next 100 years might have moved from Norwegian to Russian waters, the mackerel will increasingly like it in the region. Also industrial activities will seek towards the region as the ice contracts, the researchers say. The NorACIA report is based on findings from more than 100 Norwegian and international researchers. It is the last of five reports, which all are part of the Norwegian contribution in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). The Norwegian Polar Institute has had the secretariat for the international project, which has been going on since 2005.

Barents Observer
Original article here

Greenpeace heads to Arctic to investigate urgent ocean threats

Press release – May 12, 2010
KIEL, Germany, Greenpeace today announced its ‘Arctic Under Pressure Expedition’ in which it will join with leading scientists to investigate the most urgent threats to the Arctic Ocean: ocean acidification, melting of the sea ice due to climate change and the fishing industry’s northward race (1).

In the first ocean acidification experiment of its kind (2), Greenpeace is supporting the German marine research institute IFM-GEOMAR (Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences), in exploring the effects of rising CO2 levels on marine life. The impacts of CO2-induced acidification are expected to hit first and hardest in the Arctic. It is changing the oceans’ chemistry, and could cause a breakdown of ocean ecosystems as we know them. The survival of plankton, corals and other critical sea life are threatened.

“Ocean acidification is pollution of the sea on a global scale and one more result of the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. Governments must make urgent and deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions now before it’s too late,” said Dr David Santillo of Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter.

Ocean acidification is caused by rising CO2 levels in the oceans as a result of burning of fossil fuels and forest destruction. Oceans absorb around 8 billion tonnes of the CO2 produced by people each year through use of fossil fuels alone (3) – equal, in terms of volume, to filling over a billion Olympic-sized swimming pools. The changes are happening faster in cold water than in warm.

“Our study addresses the base of the Arctic food web. We expect important new results on the sensitivity of Arctic life to ocean acidification,” said Professor Ulf Riebesell, leader of the multinational project on ocean acidification.

Greenpeace is taking some of the institute’s scientists, along with over 30 tonnes of scientific equipment, including nine large off-shore testing structures – mesocosms — on board the ‘Esperanza’ to Ny-Ålesund, on the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic. Greenpeace will assist the scientists in deploying the equipment in the Kongsfjord, where it will be used to simulate future conditions of ocean acidification within the mesocosms and monitor potential effects (4). Scientists from nine countries will be taking part in what is the most comprehensive experiment on ocean acidification to date.

Throughout the northern hemisphere summer, the Greenpeace ‘Arctic Under Pressure Expedition’ will also expose and document other key threats to the Arctic Ocean that are endangering its wildlife and environment. These include the melting of the Arctic sea ice due to climate change and the fishing industry’s northward race to exploit areas of ocean previously protected by ice.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of Cambridge University’s Polar Ocean Physics Group, will join the ‘Esperanza’ in August to conduct a range of tests to establish the thickness of the ice and its rate of melt, following on from his 2009 Arctic work with Greenpeace.

See http://www.greenpeace.org/Arctic2010 for Leo Murray’s new animated film for Greenpeace on ocean acidification and for more throughout the Expedition. Goes live at 15.00 CET.

Notes to editors:

(1) Greenpeace’s ‘Arctic Under Pressure Expedition’ is in the Arctic from 24 May to mid-September. The ocean acidification experiments will take place from 27 May to 12 July; exposing fishing fleets’ northward race from 8 June to 6 July and examining the rate of sea ice melt from 18 August to mid-September.

(2) IFM-GEOMAR’s equipment features nine large structures called mesocosms, which are being transported by the Esperanza to the Kongsfjord, Ny-Ålesund, creating nine isolated columns of seawater as the basis for the experiments. Each weighs two tons, is the height of two double-decker buses, and will enclose 50 cubic metres of water.

(3) IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Chapter 7, Table 7.1 (page 516) and Section 7.3.2 (pages 515-526); http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html:

(4) CO2 will be bubbled into the mesocosms to give a range of concentrations from present values (~390 ppm) to those expected by the middle of the next century (~1250 ppm), producing different levels of acidification. Over five weeks, scientists will take daily samples to monitor changes in the chemistry and biology of the seawater trapped within each mesocosm, testing what happens under increasing CO2 and acidification. See: http://epocaarctic2010.wordpress.com/the-experiments/the-mesocosms/ The scientists will be based at the international research station King’s Bay, on Svalbard’s west coast. In summer the station comprises scientists from many institutions and countries specialising in environmental and earth science research.


On shore:

Beth Herzfeld, Greenpeace International communications, tel: +44 (0) 7717 802 891
Dr. Andreas Villwock, IFM-GEOMAR press office, tel: +49 431 600 2802

On board the ‘Esperanza’:

Dave Walsh, Greenpeace International Communications, tel: +47 5140 7986/7/8; and from 20 May call: Iridium numbers: +88 16 777 01411/2/3

Throughout the expedition photo and video will be available from:

John Novis, Greenpeace International photo desk, +44 7801 615 889
Maarten Van Rouveroy, Greenpeace International video desk, +31 646 197 322

Original article here