Ocean Currents » sea ice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:52:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 How to Melt the Arctic in 3 Easy Steps http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/06/how-to-melt-the-arctic-in-3-easy-steps/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/06/how-to-melt-the-arctic-in-3-easy-steps/#comments Thu, 06 Oct 2016 12:34:12 +0000 Becca Robbins Gisclair http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13092

How do you melt Arctic sea ice in three simple steps? Glad you asked. Today, I’m sharing our latest recipe with you.

The Arctic is heating up fast. As sea ice melts, more water is opening up for ship traffic and oil drilling, posing a threat to Arctic wildlife—the perfect recipe for disaster.

Will you help us stand up for the Arctic? Sign your name, and pledge your support to this vulnerable area.

Here’s a taste of our family Arctic recipe.

Step 1. Coat the ice with a dusting of black carbon from increased ship traffic to speed melting.

Step 2. Add a dash of oil from offshore drilling to enhance melting.

Step 3. Place in the oven and turn up the heat.

But there’s one major problem with this recipe: We don’t actually want to cook the Arctic. Clearly, we’re missing our key ingredient—YOU!

Will you join thousands of people like you, working together to cook up solutions for the Arctic? You can help keep the Arctic cool. You can protect our Arctic. Will you show your support today?

Take action now. Together we can collect 20,000 signatures to demonstrate our support for the Arctic.

Walruses, ribbon seals and polar bears all depend on sea ice as vital habitat. Narwhals and bowhead whales use quiet Arctic waters to forage for food and raise their young. And seabirds come by the thousands to feed and breed during the northern summer. Alaska Native people have lived in this special place for thousands of years and depend on these abundant resources. Increased shipping, drilling and the melting of sea ice threaten them all.

Add your name to the growing list of people showing their support for the Arctic. Sign alongside others like you who respect this magical area—from the narwhals and ribbon seals, to the people who call the Arctic home. No matter where you live, the changes in the Arctic affect us all.

Let’s make sure we #KeepArcticCool.

Sign the pledge, join the movement and be sure to share this recipe with friends and family.

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Leaving the Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/09/leaving-the-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/09/leaving-the-arctic/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 17:44:53 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12256

The news from the Arctic this week has been all about what’s leaving the Arctic. It’s good news when oil and gas companies leave the Arctic, but it’s really bad news when sea ice leaves the Arctic!!

First, let’s get to the good news. Repsol, an oil and gas company, just announced it’s abandoning 55 of its oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea and plans to abandon the remaining 38 over the next year. In addition, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Iona Energy and Shell have given up more than 350 leases covering more than 2 million acres in the Chukchi Sea. Soon, there will be only one lease remaining in the Chukchi Sea—and additional drilling on that lease is unlikely.

While oil and gas companies have largely given up their oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea, active offshore leases still threaten the Beaufort Sea off the coast of northeastern Alaska. What’s more, the Obama Administration is still considering whether to allow the sale of more offshore oil leases in Arctic waters.

But, you can do something about it! Join us in protecting our Arctic by taking action today! Please take action by asking the Obama Administration to drop Arctic leasing from the final version of the 2017 to 2022 leasing program.

What about the sea ice? That news is not so good: Arctic sea ice extent hit a depressing new low in May. The Washington Post described it in these terms: “The Arctic Ocean this May had more than three Californias less sea ice cover than it did during an average May between 1981 and 2010.”

That’s just the latest bad news. 2016 as a whole hasn’t been a good year for Arctic sea ice; there were record low levels of sea ice extent in January, February and April, too. As the affects of climate change continue to be felt all across our planet, the Arctic is ground zero.

Do we truly know how magnificent the Arctic is—or what’s at stake if we lose more habitat in this precious region of the Earth?

That’s why I want to invite you to join us this summer as we explore the Arctic Ocean in a new blog series. You’ll get to discover some of the world’s largest congregations of seabirds, and learn how iconic wildlife — like polar bears, beluga whales and ringed seals — live in this varied and rapidly changing ocean ecosystem.

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This Week’s Top Tweets: January 4-12 http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/12/this-weeks-top-tweets-jan-4-jan-12/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/12/this-weeks-top-tweets-jan-4-jan-12/#comments Sat, 12 Jan 2013 11:38:01 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4174 It’s been a busy year so far, and we’re only finishing the first full week of 2013. To start off the new year, here are the top five tweets that attracted the most attention in the Twittersphere over the last week:

1. Trapped killer whales freed by shifting ice

A group of killer whales surrounded by ice off the coast of Canada were deemed to have a grim future, but an unexpected shift in wind current moved the ice in a way that allowed them to escape. This surprise happy ending garnered the most attention of our ocean followers this week. This tweet also took away the most favorites.

2. What will your Rippl effect be in 2013?

This tweet gave us all a reminder that keeping up with your ocean-friendly New Year’s resolution can be as simple as downloading our mobile app, Rippl, which suggests weekly tips to help reduce your environmental impact in 2013.

3. Chile making strides in fishing reforms

Whether our followers just wanted to know what a seamount is, what Chile’s new ocean legislation entails or both, this tweet gained a lot of traction–and for good reasons, too! Chile’s government made a groundbreaking decision that other countries can look to model in the future.

4. What big eyes you have!

I don’t know about you, but here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve read the headline “Release the Kraken” too many times to count this week! This story about the first film of a giant squid in its natural habitat is truly, as one commenter put it, “‘fishtory’ in the making.”

5.Getting up close and personal with a polar bear

This video details the BBC’ Gordon Buchanan’s close encounter with a hungry polar bear. With grown males weighing anywhere from 775-1,200 pounds, this was definitely an intense moment to watch, much less experience!

Make sure you check out our Twitter handle, @OurOcean, to keep up with more stories like these right when they get posted. Have any feedback on our top tweets of the week? Be sure to leave a comment below!

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Plastics Have Reached the Final ‘Away’: the Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/26/plastics-have-reached-the-final-away-the-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/26/plastics-have-reached-the-final-away-the-arctic/#comments Mon, 26 Nov 2012 17:33:37 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3614 When you think of the Arctic, you probably think of a pristine area largely untouched by human hands. But even though few people get a chance to see the Arctic firsthand, that’s not stopping our trash from making the journey.

Plastic in the water is the last thing the Arctic needs right now. This past summer, Arctic sea ice melted to its smallest size in the history of satellite measurement. Each year, the amount of Arctic ice (or lack thereof) during summer months stirs up conversations about the health of Arctic ecosystems and potential implications for our global ocean. But Arctic ice is not the only barometer of ecosystem health; instead, we must also take a critical look at what’s below the icy water’s surface.

A recent study published by deep-sea scientists, Dr. Melanie Bergmann and Dr. Michael Kalges from HGF-MPG Group for Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology of the Alfred Wegener Institute, in the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin reveals the sea floor in Arctic deep sea has become increasingly encumbered by ocean trash and plastic pollution. Using photographs of the sea bed taken at a water depth of 2500 meters every 30 seconds, Bergmann and Kalges found the amount of trash, primarily plastics, on the Arctic seafloor has more than doubled in the past decade. Almost 70 percent of the plastic litter researchers encountered had come into contact with deep-sea organisms, including sponges entangled in plastic bags and plastic fragments colonized by sea anemones. The extent of these interactions between deep-sea organisms and plastics are not fully known.

“The Arctic Ocean and especially its deep-sea areas have long been considered to be the most remote and secluded regions of our planet,” notes Bergmann. She goes on to explain that as Arctic sea ice continues to decrease, natural barriers that have typically kept wind-blown trash and ship traffic out of the Arctic will also decrease, yielding a more vulnerable Arctic ecosystem.

For many, the Arctic is a place that induces thoughts of polar bears, seals and glaciers that span for as far as the eye can see; the final frontier. The truth is, we are only beginning to understand the implications of deteriorating marine ecosystems—especially the Arctic—yet we continue to introduce new threats that challenge the resiliency of the ocean. Over the past decade, the majority of attention surrounding ocean trash and plastic pollution has focused largely on the North Pacific Gyre. But plastic pollution is everywhere, and the findings of Bergmann and Kalges on the Arctic seafloor accentuates the fact that ocean trash has infiltrated all reaches of planet Earth, from the middle of the ocean to Mount Everest.

We cannot continue to throw our trash ‘away’ because time and time again we are reminded that there is no away. From Midway Atoll to the middle of the ocean, I have seen ubiquitous presence of plastics. And while debate continues over whether plastics ever truly breakdown in the marine environment, the proliferation of plastics in the Arctic confirms one thing: plastics do not go away.

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Arctic Sea Ice is Melting Faster Than Predicted As Commercial Activity Increases http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/27/arctic-sea-ice-is-melting-faster-than-predicted-as-commercial-activity-increases/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/27/arctic-sea-ice-is-melting-faster-than-predicted-as-commercial-activity-increases/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2012 18:22:30 +0000 Carmen Yeung http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3135

The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of September 17, 2012, along with daily ice extent data for 2007 and 2005, the previous record low years. 2012 is shown in blue and 2007 in green. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Credit: National Snow and Ice Dara Center, Boulder CO

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) recently made a preliminary announcement that Arctic sea ice on September 16 had melted to about 1.32 million square miles, or just 24 percent of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. This is the lowest seasonal ice coverage since satellite measurements began in 1979. Although ice should start building back up now as the Arctic heads into winter, any newly formed sea ice will be relatively thin and more prone to melting in the coming summer. The Arctic is our planet’s air conditioner, and it plays a key role in regulating global climate. Its cold air and water help drive atmospheric and ocean currents that regulate temperatures worldwide.

NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve said, “Recent climate models suggest that ice-free conditions may happen before 2050, though the observed rate of decline remains faster than many of the models are able to capture.” This means the actual melting of sea ice is happening faster than what recent climate models predict and an ice-free Arctic could happen even sooner.

The decrease in seasonal sea ice has created the potential for increasing vessel traffic in the Arctic and a dramatic expansion of Arctic offshore oil and gas exploration. Currently, there are few Arctic-specific protective measures in place to improve shipping safety, reduce the risk of accidents, or mitigate environmental impacts associated with commercial vessel traffic such as spills. Likewise, there is no adequate technology, technique or infrastructure to respond effectively to an oil spill in icy Arctic waters. These factors, combined with the region’s harsh conditions, remoteness, and lack of infrastructure, make it difficult for industries to operate safely and responsibly in the Arctic environment. And they place the communities and animals that depend on the Arctic at high risk.

Expanding industrial uses in a region that is already under enormous stress could have dire consequences, not only for the Arctic, but for the planet as a whole. That’s why we support the use of science and a precautionary approach to guide decisions about whether industrial activities occur in the Arctic and, if so, when, where, and how they occur.

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Smarter Arctic Choices Begin With More Arctic Science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/21/smarter-arctic-choices-begin-with-more-arctic-science/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/21/smarter-arctic-choices-begin-with-more-arctic-science/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 21:01:48 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3064
Today, Alaska Senator Mark Begich introduced important new legislation that would establish a permanent program to conduct research, monitoring, and observing activities in the Arctic. If passed, Senator Begich’s bill could lead to significant advances in Arctic science that can then be used to support decisions about the management of a region that is crucial not only to the people who live there, but to the world.

Senator Begich’s bill – the Arctic Research, Monitoring, and Observing Act of 2012 – recognizes that the Arctic is undergoing profound changes. Temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the global average, seasonal sea ice is diminishing rapidly, and there is increased interest in oil exploration, commercial fishing, shipping, and tourism. As the legislation acknowledges, however, lack of integration and coordination among existing Arctic research and science programs has limited our ability to understand the important changes that are taking place in the Arctic. And our understanding of the Arctic marine ecosystem, which provides irreplaceable benefits, is further hampered by a lack of reliable baseline data, critical science gaps, and limited documentation and application/use of traditional knowledge. In addition to urgently needed baseline data and analysis of ecosystem functions in Arctic marine waters, the legislation would enable the gathering of information about subsistence resources and patterns of use in local economies, which are essential to the people and cultures coastal communities in the Arctic.

Senator Begich’s bill takes several steps to address these problems. First, it calls on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission to establish a national Arctic research program plan to help coordinate scientific research activities in the region. Second, it funds a merit-based grant program that will support new scientific research and field-work in the Arctic. Third, the bill provides funding to establish and support long-term ocean observing systems and monitoring programs in the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, and North Pacific.

If these provisions become law and are implemented correctly, they could function as a long-term, integrated science and monitoring program for the Arctic, something that Ocean Conservancy has long advocated. A coordinated research program would help fill important gaps in our knowledge of Arctic ecosystems and identify areas that are especially important to the functioning of the marine ecosystem. Just as important, a long-term monitoring and observing program would help us understand how the region is responding to climate change and industrial development.

This kind of understanding gives policy-makers, decision-makers and stakeholders the knowledge they need to make informed choices about activities such as oil exploration, shipping, and commercial fishing. It can also inform decisions about conservation. For instance, as scientists gain more knowledge about the Arctic marine ecosystem and as they integrate and synthesize that knowledge they will be better able to identify critical areas that should be protected from development activities. And that will help ensure that the Arctic Ocean remains an intact and productive ecosystem well into the future.

Federal agencies are already making management decisions that will have significant impacts on the future of the Arctic Ocean. Americans want those decisions to be based on sound science and to ensure sustainable uses of our ocean resources for this and future generations. The Arctic research, monitoring, and observing activities addressed by Senator Begich’s bill would take an essential step toward that goal.

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Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Low http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/28/arctic-sea-ice-reaches-record-low/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/28/arctic-sea-ice-reaches-record-low/#comments Tue, 28 Aug 2012 13:35:25 +0000 Carmen Yeung http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2540

This visualization shows the extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, 2012, the day the sea ice dipped to its smallest extent ever recorded in more than three decades of satellite measurements. The line on the image shows the average minimum extent from the period covering 1979-2010, as measured by satellites. Every summer the Arctic ice cap melts down to what scientists call its “minimum” before colder weather builds the ice cover back up. The size of this minimum remains in a long-term decline. Credit: NASA

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has just announced critical ice in the Arctic Ocean melted to record low levels this summer. The Washington Post reports:

“As of Sunday, the Arctic sea ice cover had shrunk to 1.58 million square miles, the smallest area since satellite measurement began in 1979. With the melting season not yet over, the ice will almost certainly contract further in the coming weeks before it begins to re-form.”

Arctic sea ice plays an important role in moderating the global climate. The bright surface of sea ice reflects sunlight back into space. Each year, portions of it melt in the summer, exposing the ocean surface. While the sea ice can reflect about 50 to 70 percent of the sunlight back into space, the dark ocean absorbs approximately 90 percent of the sunlight, heating the water and causing Arctic temperatures to rise even further. This process creates a feedback loop as warmer temperatures cause further sea ice melt. The reduction in Arctic sea ice has far reaching impacts on global atmospheric patterns and ocean circulation. Learn more about the important role sea ice plays in regulating the global climate here.

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we have been urging the government to stop Shell’s Arctic drilling plans and protect this fragile and vitally important region. A green light for Arctic drilling would mean placing an already stressed environment in greater jeopardy, which isn’t worth the risk. The decrease in seasonal sea ice has created the potential for a dramatic expansion of oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters. Currently, there is no adequate technology, technique or infrastructure to respond effectively to an oil spill in icy Arctic waters, and darkness, hazardous weather, or sea conditions could delay spill response for weeks.

Even without a major accident, day-to-day oil and gas operations create significant environmental disturbances. Seismic testing, exploratory drilling, and increased vessel and air traffic associated with oil and gas operations generate noise and air and water pollution, with the potential to affect whales and other marine animals and, in turn, the people who depend on them for subsistence.

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