Arctic sea ice heading towards second lowest on record

This year the extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic is heading towards being the second lowest on record. The Arctic sea ice minimum marks the day – typically in mid-September – when sea ice reaches its smallest extent at the end of the summer melt season. British Antarctic Survey sea-ice scientist, Dr Jeremy Wilkinson, provides a scientific perspective on the trend of rapidly decreasing Arctic sea ice.

Glacial retreats linked to oceanic warming

A new study has found for the first time that ocean warming is the primary cause of retreat of glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. The Peninsula is one of the largest current contributors to sea-level rise and this new finding will enable researchers to make better predictions of ice loss from this region.The research, by scientists at Swansea University and British Antarctic Survey, is published in the journal Science this week (15 July). The study reports that glaciers flowing to the coast on the western side of the Peninsula show a distinct spatial correlation with ocean temperature patterns, with those in the south retreating rapidly but those in the north showing little change. Some 90% of the 674 glaciers in this region have retreated since records began in the 1940s.

Penguin colonies at risk from erupting volcano

A volcano erupting on a small island in the Sub Antarctic is depositing ash over one of the world’s largest penguin colonies.Zavodovski Island is a small island in the South Sandwich archipelago and its volcano Mt Curry has been erupting since March 2016. The island is home to over one million chinstrap penguins – the largest colony for this species in the world.

Antarctic fossils show creatures wiped out by asteroid

A study of more than 6,000 marine fossils from the Antarctic shows that the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was sudden and just as deadly to life in the Polar Regions.Previously, scientists had thought that creatures living in the southernmost regions of the planet would have been in a less perilous position during the mass extinction event than those elsewhere on Earth.

New study casts doubt on how much sea levels may rise from the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet

A new study by scientists in the UK and France has found that Antarctic ice sheet collapse will have serious consequences for sea level rise over the next two hundred years, though not as much as some have suggested.This study, published this week in the journal Nature, uses an ice-sheet model to predict the consequences of unstable retreat of the ice, which recent studies suggest has begun in West Antarctica.An international team of researchers, including a scientist from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), predict that the contribution is most likely to be 10 cm of sea-level rise this century under a mid to high climate scenario, but is extremely unlikely to be higher than 30 cm. When combined with other contributions, that’s a significant challenge for adapting to future sea level rise. But it’s also far lower than some previous estimates, which were as high as one metre from Antarctica alone.

Oceanic Phytoplankton contribute to ice formation in clouds

Researchers from the Arctic Research Programme, managed at British Antarctic Survey, have shown for the first time that phytoplankton (plant life) in remote ocean regions can contribute to rare airborne particles that trigger ice formation in clouds.Results published today in the journal Nature show that the organic waste from life in the oceans, which is ejected into the atmosphere along with sea spray from breaking waves, stimulates cloud droplets to freeze into ice particles. This affects how clouds behave and influence global climate, which is important for improved projections of future climate change.

New study predicts future Antarctic ice loss

A new international study is the first to use a high-resolution, large-scale computer model to estimate how much ice the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could lose over the next couple of centuries, and how much that could add to sea-level rise. The results paint a clearer picture of West Antarctica’s future than was previously possible. The study has been published in The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).“The IPCC’s [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] 4th and 5th Assessment Reports both note that the acceleration of West Antarctic ice streams in response to ocean warming could result in a major contribution to sea-level rise, but that models were unable to satisfactorily quantify that response,” says Stephen Cornford, a research assistant at the University of Bristol, UK and lead-author of the study.

Antarctic life is more diverse than previously thought

The team of scientists, led by Monash University, along with colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Waikato in New Zealand, and Australian National University, looked at how recent investigations have revealed the continent and surrounding ocean is rich in species. They are also very highly diversified into a variety of distinct ecological regions that differ greatly from each other.

Antarctic Ice Shelves found to be thinning from the top AND the bottom

A decade-long scientific debate about what’s causing the thinning of one of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves is settled this week (Wednesday 13 May) with the publication of an international study in the journal The Cryosphere.The Larsen C Ice Shelf — whose neighbours Larsen A and B, collapsed in 1995 and 2002 — is thinning from both its surface and beneath. For years scientists have been unable to determine whether it is warming air temperatures or warmer ocean currents that were causing the Antarctic Peninsula’s floating ice shelves to lose volume and become more vulnerable to collapse. This new study takes an important step forward in assessing Antarctica’s likely contribution to future sea-level rise.

Antarctic ice loss is accelerating

New research published this week in the journal Science Express describes how the ice shelves around Antarctica are thinning and therefore allowing more of the ice sheet behind them to flow into the sea. Using nearly two decades of satellite data, the team of international researchers observed an acceleration of ice loss from the continent’s ice shelves, with an increase in loss of 70% in West Antarctica over the last decade. In the Amundsen and Bellingshausen regions, some ice shelves have lost up to 18% of their thickness in less than two decades.