Whales win, walruses lose in warmer Arctic

The Arctic zone has moved into a warmer, greener “new normal” phase, which means less habitat for polar bears and more access for development, an international scientific team reported on Thursday.

Arctic air temperatures were higher – about 2.5 degrees F (1.5 degrees C) higher in 2011 than the baseline number for the previous 30 years – and there was a dramatic loss of sea ice and glacier mass, the scientists said in a telephone briefing.

With less bright ice to reflect sunlight, and more dark open water to absorb it, the Arctic’s changed characteristics are likely to feed on each other and accelerate, specialists from 14 countries said in an annual assessment called the Arctic Report Card. (here)

“We’ve got a new normal,” said Don Perovich, an expert on sea ice at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory in New Hampshire.

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