Climate change is lapping at our feet

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 07 Sep 2011

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that visiting Pacific nations threatened by rising seas had reinforced his belief that climate change was real and posed a genuine threat to humanity.

The island of Kiribati is on the front line of climate change. Photograph: Richard Vogel/AP

Ban stopped in the Solomon Islands and Kiribati on his way to New Zealand for the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), and described the two small nations as “on the front line” of the climate change issue.

He said Kiribati, where some villagers have been forced to relocate as the rising ocean encroaches on their land, dramatically illustrated climate change’s impact on the planet.

“For those who believe climate change is about some distant future, I invite them to visit Kiribati or the Solomon Islands and most of the Pacific island countries,” he said in a speech at Auckland University.

“Climate change is not about tomorrow. It is lapping at our feet — quite literally in Kiribati and elsewhere.”

Ban said that in his role as UN leader he had seen the impact of climate change first-hand in areas of the globe ranging from Antarctica to the Amazon Basin and Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.

He said scientific evidence backed up his view. Continue reading

Pine Island Glacier melting 50% faster

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 26 June 2011

New results from an investigation into a large glacier in Antarctica and its impact on global sea level rise are published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Pine Island Glacier glacier melt rate has increased significantly because more warm water is circulating beneath it.

An international team of scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and British Antarctic Survey has discovered that due to an increased volume of warm water reaching the cavity beneath Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica, it’s melting 50 percent faster than it was 15 years earlier. The glacier is currently sliding into the sea at a rate of four kilometres (2.5 miles) a year, while its ice shelf (the part that floats on the ocean) is melting at about 80 cubic kilometres a year.

“More warm water from the deep ocean is entering the cavity beneath the ice shelf, and it is warmest where the ice is thickest,” said lead author, Stan Jacobs, an oceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

In 2009, Jacobs and colleagues sailed to the Amundsen Sea aboard the icebreaking ship Nathaniel B. Palmer to study the region’s thinning ice shelves — floating tongues of ice where land bound glaciers meet the sea. One goal was to study oceanic changes near Pine Island Glacier, which they had visited in an earlier trip in 1994. The researchers discovered that melting beneath the ice shelf had risen by about 50 percent. Although regional ocean temperatures had also warmed slightly, by around 0.2 degrees C, that was not enough to account for the jump. Continue reading

Densest whale population observed

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 03 May 2011

Scientists doing observations in the Wilhelmina Bay in the western Antarctic have found an estimated two million tons of krill, and more than 300 humpback whales feeding on them. It is the densest population of these whales ever recorded, more than 15 per square mile.

Virtually all the larger animals of the Antarctic are either directly or indirectly dependent on krill.

The observations were made in May 2009, autumn in the southern hemisphere, and for four weeks, the scientists documented the gigantic assemblage of shrimplike krill and the ways whales fed on them. The researchers tagged 11 whales in Wilhelmina and nearby Andvord Bay, and found they rested during the day, dived to more than 300 yards in the late afternoon, and fed intensively at night as the krill moved toward the surface.

A humpback can consume half a ton of krill a day, but even at that rate, the authors estimate that the daily intake of the 306 whales was less than seven one-thousandths of 1 percent of the available krill.

Still, according to the lead author, Douglas P. Nowacek, an associate professor of marine conservation technology at Duke, the future of whales and krill in the Antarctic remains in doubt.

“Whales are going to have a few bumper years,” he said, because krill have less ice to hide under, leaving them exposed to predators for longer periods. But krill, feed and reproduce under the ice, and with warmer weather and more open water in winter, the population of krill is likely to decline.

“In the long term, krill aren’t getting the protection they need to reproduce effectively,” Dr. Nowacek said, “and if the krill disappear, the whales will, too.”

By: Nicholas Bakalar
Source: NY Times

Higher sea level rise projected

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 03 May 2011

World sea levels could rise by between 0.9 and 1.6 metres (2ft 11in to 5ft 3in) this century, stoked by accelerated climate change in the Arctic, a study showed on Tuesday.

Antarctica contains enough ice to raise sea levels by about 57 metres if it ever all melted.

The projection, by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, is higher than most past estimates including a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the main U.N. scientific group.

Rising sea levels are a threat to cities from New York to Buenos Aires, coasts from the Netherlands to China and low-lying islands in the Pacific or Indian Oceans.

Following is a history of sea level rise and projections:

History – Sea levels rose about 120 metres (almost 400 ft) after a thaw at the end of the last Ice Age about 21,000 years ago released vast amounts of water frozen on land.

Sea levels stabilised about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, with “no significant change from then until the late 19th century”, the IPCC said in 2007. During the 20th century, they rose about 17 cms. Since 1993, rates have accelerated to about 3 mm per year. Continue reading

Antarctic base becoming prime waterfront property

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 22 February 2011

New Zealand’s Antarctic base is getting closer to becoming prime waterfront property as conditions in the Southern Ocean change.

McMurdo Sound

The breaking-up of sea ice means the waters are now within 1km of Scott Base, providing easier shipping access.

“The last time we saw open sea in front of Scott Base was 1998,” said Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Lou Sanson.

“In the ensuing time we have had these massive icebergs break off the Ross ice shelf that led to these unusual sea ice conditions in McMurdo Sound, and some of the bergs were the bergs that floated up the coast of Dunedin.”

The icebergs, some of which were half the size of Stewart Island, blocked off the entrance to McMurdo Sound and led to “massive multi-year sea ice”, some of which took ships 150km of icebreaking to get in.

Mr Sanson said the breakup could not be put down to climate change.

By: Jarrod Booker
Source: NZ Herald