During 2016-2017, the Arctic sea ice, overall, has been hammered by far warmer than normal temperatures. The result has been continued record low Arctic sea ice volume and record low or near record low extent throughout the present period stretching from October of 2016 to late June of 2017. Now, the development of a pool of warm water in the Beaufort Sea even as a strengthening ridge is poised to inject more heat into this key region threatens to increase sea ice melt pressure as we enter mid-summer.
(Far warmer than normal conditions greatly impacted Northern Hemisphere sea ice during 2016 and 2017. Due to this heat spike, the sea ice is presently far more susceptible to summer melt pressure. Image source: NASA GISS.)
Counter-Trend Cooling in May — But Sea Ice Still in Record Low Ranges
Cooler than normal temperatures in the High Arctic during May and near…
A grizzly bear and cub in Yellowstone. (Photo: wolverine_9_5/flickr/cc)
The Trump administration announced Thursday that the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is losing its endangered species protections—a decision conservation groups say is “flawed and premature” and could make the iconic species the target of trophy hunters.
CNNreports: “The bears received endangered species protection in 1975, when their population was about 136. Today, there are estimated to be 700, more than enough to meet the criteria to be removed from the endangered list, the government said.”
A press statement from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says that the “population was determined to be recovered because multiple factors indicate it is healthy and will be sustained into the future.”
Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, doesn’t see it that way. “This outrageously irresponsible decision ignores the best available science,” she said. “Grizzly conservation has made significant strides, but the work to restore these beautiful bears has a long way to go.”
Zack Strong, and advocate for NRDC’s land and wildlife program, echoes that point. Though the numbers have increased, he writes that the estimated population number represents “far too few individuals to ensure long-term genetic health. Until natural connectivity with the northern grizzly population occurs, scientific studies make clear that a minimum population of closer to 2,000 bears would be needed to maintain long-term genetic diversity.”
Another problem with the rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says Strong, is that it “dismisses the potential threat of climate change [… ] such as loss of food sources (like whitebark pine seeds) and shifts in denning time leading to increased conflicts with humans.”
And then there’s the threat bears that wander out of the park’s confines will face.
Under current law, eliminating threatened species protection for the big bear paves the way for Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to take over responsibility from federal managers outside Yellowstone. That means fewer restrictions; states alone will make the call on dealing with nuisance bears—and will probably include a hunting season for grizzlies. Bears within the boundaries of the national park will remain a federal responsibility and will not be hunted, unless they leave Yellowstone.
According to Santarsiere, that means the “ongoing threats the bears face will now be compounded by trophy hunting and lethal removal by trigger-happy state agencies.”
The rule will be published in the Federal Register and will take effect 30 days after that publication.
It’s likely to face legal challenges.
“The government’s campaign to remove protections provided by the Endangered Species Act overlooked important conservation issues and denied public comment on key points,” said Tim Preso, and attorney with Earthjustice. “We will closely examine this decision, and are prepared to defend the grizzly if necessary,” he said.
A rift in West Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf is about to expel a 1,000 foot tall, Delaware-sized iceberg into the Southern Ocean. The crack began to form in 2011. But over the past year, it has expanded rapidly. Now this massive, newly-forming iceberg hangs by just a thin 13 kilometer wide thread.
As you can see from the above Sentinel 1 animation posted by Adrian Luckman, rift progression has occurred in large leaps as pressure on the shelf reached various breaking points. New additions to the rift have often been in jumps of 20 kilometers or more of rift length in numerous instances over the past year. With just 13 kilometers of connecting ice remaining, the entire state-sized iceberg could…
Not only does warm water hold less dissolved oxygen than cool water, it also tends to divide into layers that don’t readily mix. According to one recent study, the ocean has been losing oxygen since the mid-1980s, likely because rising temperatures have impeded circulation
“When oxygen goes way down, it’s effectively habitat loss,” Levin says. “They might move north, they might move upslope into shallower water.” Species that can’t easily relocate, like muck-dwelling invertebrates, may perish.
The cruel corollary to deoxygenation is that warmer waters also drive up animals’ metabolic rates, forcing them to use more oxygen to breathe. As Curtis Deutsch, a chemical oceanographer at the University of Washington, puts it, “They need more, at the same time that they have less.”
“The factor that best explained variation in extinction risk was the level of future climate change. The future global extinction risk from climate change is predicted not only to increase but to accelerate as global temperatures rise (regression coefficient = 0.53; CIs, 0.46 and 0.61) (Fig. 2).”
Mark C. Urban
Accelerating extinction risk from climate change.
SCIENCE 1 MAY 2015 • VOL 348 ISSUE 6234
“Between 1C and 2C increases in global mean temperatures most species, ecosystems and landscapes will be impacted and adaptive capacity will become limited.”
Rik Leemans and Bas Eickhout. Another reason for concern: regional and global impacts on ecosystems for different levels of climate change. Global Environmental Change 14 (2004) 219-228
The petition to the Environmental Protection Agency reads:
“The proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska would unleash billions of tons of toxic waste and cause an irreversible environmental catastrophe. Keep the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination in place and protect the environment, jobs, the region’s economy and this fragile ecosystem.”
You’ll receive periodic updates on offers and activism opportunities.
The world’s largest salmon fishery is again under threat of massive amounts of toxic mining waste — and this time our own government is behind it.
In a reversal of Obama administration efforts, climate change denier Scott Pruitt and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have given a Canadian company the green light to begin construction on the Pebble Mine in Alaska, which would be one of largest open-pit gold and…
On June 22, the Interior Department announced that the Yellowstone grizzly bear will no longer be listed as an endangered species. The bear has been listed for 42 years, despite multiple efforts to remove Endangered Species Act protections. The move could allow hunting of the grizzly – a decision will be left up to the states.
“This is good news for the Yellowstone grizzly and good news for the region’s ranchers,” Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and Dave Eliason, president of the Public Lands Council, said in a statement.
Here are 5 things to read to make sense of the controversial decision:
1. Tribal nations fight removal of grizzly protectionsTribal nations in the Northern Rockies have promised to fight for continued protections for the bear. In October 2016, members of the Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes signed the Grizzly Treaty, committing to restore and revitalize the threatened grizzly bear across North America.
2. How did we get here? Brush up on the long road to delisting, which began with the grizzlies’ precipitous population decline in the first half of the 20th century.
3. State management plans could allow huntingThe delisting places management of the bear in the hands of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, including decisions about hunting and habitat conservation. Last year, states dusted off old plans for bear management, in anticipation of a delisting decision.
Extreme heat struck across the Southwest U.S. this week, sending temperatures in Phoenix soaring to near 120°F and grounding airplanes that were unable to operate in such warm weather.
Heat waves are nothing new, but they have increased in frequency and severity in recent decades as a result of climate change. And each extreme heat event reveals another way our society simply isn’t built for such high temperatures, from our transport systems to the agriculture industry.
“We’ve built entire infrastructures with particular temperatures in mind,” says Matthew T. Huber, an associate professor of geography at Syracuse University. “When temperatures get really high, we don’t have the material capacity to deal with that.”
Still, humans continue to relocate to warm places like the Southwest, drawn by the temperate climate. In the coming decades, many climate researchers expect that pattern to reverse, as those…
The Trump administration has made the issue one of its top priorities.
Despite international condemnation, North Korea has increased its missile tests, with the aim of developing an intercontinental nuclear-armed rocket.
The US Defense Intelligence Agency warned last month that North Korea was on an “inevitable” path to achieving this.
US officials speaking anonymously to several news agencies said the latest engine test, on Thursday, could be one stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) engine that would be able to reach the US.
Due to the secretive nature of all of North Korea’s military activity, it is hard for experts to assess how close the country is to building a reliable ICBM.
North Korea’s missiles – what do we know?
North Korean missiles can already reach South Korea or Japan, both countries have a US military presence.
A missile to reach the US mainland is in development but it’s not clear what stage the project is at.
The US regularly conducts drills with Japan as well as South Korea, and is installing a controversial missile defence system in South Korea, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad).
But South Korea recently said it was suspending the further deployment of the system until an environmental assessment was completed.
In contrast, during the two year period following the 1998 super El Nino, annual global temperature averages subsequently cooled by around 0.2 C to about 0.64 C warmer than 1880s averages as a strong La Nina swept in. This post El Nino cooling provided some respite from harmful global conditions like increasingly prevalent droughts, floods, fires and coral bleaching events set off by the 1998 temperature spike. It did not, however, return the world to anything close to average or normal temperature conditions.
Warming Out of Context
(So far, 2017 temperature averages for the first five months have remained disturbingly close to what should have been an El Nino driven peak in 2016. Temperatures remaining so warm post El Nino are providing little…