Arcticportal News
Twitter grows fast
Old News
Friday, 17 February 2012 08:23
 Arctic Portal is on Twitter and its ever growing list of followers counts 229 today. We are glad that the Twitter community acknowledges our work!

Twitter has really been gaining ground recently. Arctic Portal posts new articles and news stories in its Twitter feed every day.

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting. Simply find the accounts you find most compelling and follow the conversations.

At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets.

Many other Arctic organizations and affiliations are on Twitter and they are easy to find via the search box.

Click here to go to Arctic Portals Twitter page.
 
New Feature of the week
Old News
Friday, 17 February 2012 08:06
200249757-001 SmallPermafrost in the Arctic (Photo: GettyImages)Today's Feature of the week explains issues regarding permafrost. Global warming is changing our planet and permafrost is an important aspect to that in the Arctic.

But what is it and why is it such a hot topic right now?

Out latest feature seeks to explain this.

It also talks about the PAGE21 project which Arctic Portal is a part of.

Click here to read the latest Feature of the week.
 
What is Permafrost?
Old News
Friday, 17 February 2012 07:51
Permafrost doeas not always mean that the ground is covered in ice or snow (Photo: Thinkstock))Permafrost doeas not always mean that the ground is covered in ice or snow (Photo: GettyImages)Permafrost covers a large area of the Arctic and a total of 25% of the earth surface. But what is it and why is it in the focal point of contemporary climate change research.

1. What is Permafrost?
Permafrost is defined as ground (soil or rock and included ice or organic material) that remains at or below 0°C for at least two consecutive years. Therefore, the ground is permanently frozen, hence the name Permafrost.

Most of the permafrost that exists today was formed during cold glacial periods. It has persisted through interglacial periods the last 10,000 years. Relatively shallow permafrost (30 to 70 meters) was formed during the last 6,000 years and some during the Little Ice Age (from 400 to 150 years ago). In continental interiors, permafrost temperatures at the boundaries between continuous and discontinuous permafrost areas are generally about -5°C, corresponding roughly with the -8°C mean annual air temperature.

Permafrost in mid- and low- latitude mountains is warm and its distribution is closely related to characteristics of the land surface, slope gradient and orientation, vegetation patterns, and snow cover.

Subsea permafrost occurs close to 0°C over large areas of the Arctic continental shelf, where it was formed during the last glacial period on the exposed shelf landscapes.

Permafrost is geographically continuous beneath the ice-free regions of the Antarctic continent and occurs beneath areas in which the ice sheet is frozen to its bed.

100547419 SmallPermafrost area in the Arctic (Photo: GettyImages)2. Why is it important?
Climate scientists have predicted that global warming will warm the earth of at least two degrees Celsius by the year 2100. Some say the figure could rise to 5 degrees. This will have significant effects on permafrost regions.

Climate change will lead to the earths warming, therefore melting large permafrost areas. The projections are that permafrost will though not disappear completely. A projected decline in the extent of permafrost will have a major impact on the Earth ecosystem, affecting global climate through the mobilization of carbon and nitrogen stored in permafrost.

The largest permafrost areas are in Siberia, where the thickest permafrost can also be found. In Central Siberia the soil can be frozen to a depth of over 1500 meters. Permafrost is also common in Alaska and Canada. Click the map on the right to expand it and see the main permafrost areas.

On the southern fringes of permafrost areas, where the permafrost is already relatively warm, it could disappear completely. Further north, much more soil could melt - perhaps up to 80 centimeters deep instead of 50 centimeters, as it is today.
In all these areas fauna and flora have to adjust. Where the soil was previously dry, it could become wet. Conversely, areas with many lakes can suddenly dry up, because of the thawing permafrost. The thawing can become so severe, that the permafrost becomes permeable and the lake water will seep into the underlying ground.

But humans could ultimately be effected as well, and in fact already have. In Siberia, railway lines have subsided and therefore are ruined. Many areas, in Siberia especially, could be affected since many things are built on permafrost. When the ground thaws, the foundation can fall, like the case with the railway lines. Same applies to some airport runways, roads and households, both in Siberia, Alaska and Canada.

Thawing permafrost can further make Oil pipelines unstable both in Russia, Alaska and Canada. The Trans-Alaskan pipeline system is in some places built on permafrost. If it would fall it could cause a major disaster. Houses have also fallen because of permafrost thaw, like the picture at the top shows.

Another aspect of the permafrost thaw is the methane buried under it. The effects of such greenhouse gas release are still unknown and further research on this is both needed and due. General consensus is that the permafrost thaw will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

 3. PAGE21
As noted, further research is necessary. Currently, numerous prestige institutions are working together within the "PAGE21 – Changing Permafrost in the Arctic and its Global Effects in the 21st Century" project to better understand the feedbacks of the Arctic permafrost carbon and nitrogen pools to global climate change.

PAGE21 will aim to understand and quantify the vulnerability of permafrost environments to a changing global climate, and to investigate the feedback mechanisms associated with increasing greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost zones.
This research will make use of a unique set of Arctic permafrost investigations performed at stations that span the full range of Arctic bioclimatic zones. The project will bring together the best European permafrost researchers and eminent scientists from Canada, Russia, the USA, and Japan.

The four year project, coordinated by Dr. Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, will contribute directly to the existing permafrost monitoring frameworks to further research into permafrost and climate change and works in close connection with members of the IPCC 5th Assessment Working Group.

Sources: International Permafrost Association   I   Alfred Wegener Institution   I   PAGE21 website

 
What is Permafrost?
Features
Friday, 17 February 2012 07:51
Permafrost doeas not always mean that the ground is covered in ice or snow (Photo: Thinkstock))Permafrost doeas not always mean that the ground is covered in ice or snow (Photo: GettyImages)Permafrost covers a large area of the Arctic and a total of 25% of the earth surface. But what is it and why is it in the focal point of contemporary climate change research.

1. What is Permafrost?
Permafrost is defined as ground (soil or rock and included ice or organic material) that remains at or below 0°C for at least two consecutive years. Therefore, the ground is permanently frozen, hence the name Permafrost.

Most of the permafrost that exists today was formed during cold glacial periods. It has persisted through interglacial periods the last 10,000 years. Relatively shallow permafrost (30 to 70 meters) was formed during the last 6,000 years and some during the Little Ice Age (from 400 to 150 years ago). In continental interiors, permafrost temperatures at the boundaries between continuous and discontinuous permafrost areas are generally about -5°C, corresponding roughly with the -8°C mean annual air temperature.

Permafrost in mid- and low- latitude mountains is warm and its distribution is closely related to characteristics of the land surface, slope gradient and orientation, vegetation patterns, and snow cover.

Subsea permafrost occurs close to 0°C over large areas of the Arctic continental shelf, where it was formed during the last glacial period on the exposed shelf landscapes.

Permafrost is geographically continuous beneath the ice-free regions of the Antarctic continent and occurs beneath areas in which the ice sheet is frozen to its bed.

100547419 SmallPermafrost area in the Arctic (Photo: GettyImages)2. Why is it important?
Climate scientists have predicted that global warming will warm the earth of at least two degrees Celsius by the year 2100. Some say the figure could rise to 5 degrees. This will have significant effects on permafrost regions.

Climate change will lead to the earths warming, therefore melting large permafrost areas. The projections are that permafrost will though not disappear completely. A projected decline in the extent of permafrost will have a major impact on the Earth ecosystem, affecting global climate through the mobilization of carbon and nitrogen stored in permafrost.

The largest permafrost areas are in Siberia, where the thickest permafrost can also be found. In Central Siberia the soil can be frozen to a depth of over 1500 meters. Permafrost is also common in Alaska and Canada. Click the map on the right to expand it and see the main permafrost areas.

On the southern fringes of permafrost areas, where the permafrost is already relatively warm, it could disappear completely. Further north, much more soil could melt - perhaps up to 80 centimeters deep instead of 50 centimeters, as it is today.
In all these areas fauna and flora have to adjust. Where the soil was previously dry, it could become wet. Conversely, areas with many lakes can suddenly dry up, because of the thawing permafrost. The thawing can become so severe, that the permafrost becomes permeable and the lake water will seep into the underlying ground.

But humans could ultimately be effected as well, and in fact already have. In Siberia, railway lines have subsided and therefore are ruined. Many areas, in Siberia especially, could be affected since many things are built on permafrost. When the ground thaws, the foundation can fall, like the case with the railway lines. Same applies to some airport runways, roads and households, both in Siberia, Alaska and Canada.

Thawing permafrost can further make Oil pipelines unstable both in Russia, Alaska and Canada. The Trans-Alaskan pipeline system is in some places built on permafrost. If it would fall it could cause a major disaster. Houses have also fallen because of permafrost thaw, like the picture at the top shows.

Another aspect of the permafrost thaw is the methane buried under it. The effects of such greenhouse gas release are still unknown and further research on this is both needed and due. General consensus is that the permafrost thaw will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

 3. PAGE21
As noted, further research is necessary. Currently, numerous prestige institutions are working together within the "PAGE21 – Changing Permafrost in the Arctic and its Global Effects in the 21st Century" project to better understand the feedbacks of the Arctic permafrost carbon and nitrogen pools to global climate change.

PAGE21 will aim to understand and quantify the vulnerability of permafrost environments to a changing global climate, and to investigate the feedback mechanisms associated with increasing greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost zones.
This research will make use of a unique set of Arctic permafrost investigations performed at stations that span the full range of Arctic bioclimatic zones. The project will bring together the best European permafrost researchers and eminent scientists from Canada, Russia, the USA, and Japan.

The four year project, coordinated by Dr. Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, will contribute directly to the existing permafrost monitoring frameworks to further research into permafrost and climate change and works in close connection with members of the IPCC 5th Assessment Working Group.

Sources: International Permafrost Association   I   Alfred Wegener Institution   I   PAGE21 website

 
Great melt - But not in the Himalayas
Old News
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 08:23
A melting glacier in the Himalayas. Although the outsides of the ice cap is getting smaller, the thickness near the top is growing (Photo: GettyImages)A melting glacier in the Himalayas. Although the outsides of the ice cap is getting smaller, the thickness near the top is growing (Photo: GettyImages)A new study led by a research team from the University of Colorado Boulder shows that glaciers and ice caps in the world, outside Greenland and Antarctica, are shedding roughly 150 billion tons of ice annually.

This is the first comprehensive satellite study of the contribution of the world's melting glaciers and ice caps to global sea level rise. The result indicates they are adding roughly 0.4 millimeters annually according to physics Professor John Wahr who led the study. Melting sea ice contributes to global rise in sea levels, which could lead to significant threats in the future.

The team used satellite images to conduct the study and the annual shed between the years 2003-2010 was enormous. The total does not count the mass from individual glacier and ice caps on the fringes of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets -- roughly an additional 80 billion tons.

Launched in 2002, two GRACE satellites whip around Earth in tandem 16 times a day at an altitude of about 300 miles, sensing subtle variations in Earth's mass and gravitational pull. Separated by roughly 135 miles, the satellites measure changes in Earth's gravity field caused by regional changes in the planet's mass, including ice sheets, oceans and water stored in the soil and in underground aquifers.

One unexpected study result from GRACE was that the estimated ice loss from high Asia Mountains -- including ranges like the Himalaya, the Pamir and the Tien Shan -- was only about 4 billion tons of ice annually. Some previous ground-based estimates of ice loss in the high Asia Mountains have ranged up to 50 billion tons annually, Wahr said.

A leading glacier expert in Iceland, confirms that the melt in the Himalayas is not as great as many have thought. He says that it is a misunderstanding that millions of people will be without water if the glaciers melt. Even if they melt, it would continue to snow in the Himalayas and it would be sufficient for the water supply.

He also concluded that the total loss in the Himalayas was not sufficient, as the cap near the top in the Himalayas was getting thicker, while the outsides were shrinking.

Tómas also point out that the great gap in between studies of the Himalayas shows that the measurements are not as accurate as many think. A study from a few years back showed great melt in the Himalayas, much greater then this study.

Source:


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{mosmap address='Lhasa, Tibet'|zoom='3'|tooltip='The melt in the HImalayas is perhaps not as great as previously thought.}

 
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