Seeing 1,000 glorious fin whales back from near extinction is a rare glimmer of hope | Philip Hoare | The Guardian

“Good news doesn’t get any more in-your-face than this. One thousand fin whales, one of the world’s biggest animals, were seen last week swimming in the same seas in which they were driven to near-extinction last century due to whaling. It’s like humans never happened.

This vast assembly was spread over a five-mile-wide area between the South Orkney islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. A single whale is stupendous; imagine 1,000 of them, their misty forest of spouts, as tall as pine trees, the plosive sound of their blows, their hot breath condensing in the icy air. Their sharp dorsal fins and steel-grey bodies slide through the waves like a whale ballet, choreographed at the extreme south of our planet.

The sight has left whale scientists slack-jawed and frankly green-eyed in envy of Conor Ryan, who observed it from the polar cruiser, National Geographic Endurance. Messaging from the ship on a tricky connection, Ryan, an experienced zoologist and photographer, says this may be “one of the largest aggregations of fin whales ever documented”. His estimate of 1,000 animals is a conservative one, he says.”

Source: Seeing 1,000 glorious fin whales back from near extinction is a rare glimmer of hope | Philip Hoare | The Guardian

How to Catch a Polar Bear – By Anna Filipova and Emily Anthes – The New York Times

“From a helicopter, it can be hard to spot a polar bear against the frozen tundra. So when the polar bear biologist Jon Aars heads out for his annual research trips, he scans the landscape for flashes of movement or subtle variations in color — the slightly yellowish hue of the bears’ fur set off against the white snow.

“Also, very often, you see the footprints before you see the bear,” Dr. Aars said. “And the bear is usually where the footprints stop.”

Dr. Aars is one in a long line of polar bear researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute, which has an outpost on Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago. Since 1987, the institute’s scientists have staged annual field trips into the icy wilderness to find and study Svalbard’s polar bears.

 
 

David Lindsay: And now for a few comments, including one by me in response to another.

Lauren

LaurenSt. Petersburg FL2h ago

WOW. Just wow. A sincere hat tip to these dedicated and wonderful researchers. I marveled at the photos and videos. My one hope is that the world wakes up before it’s too late. Thankful that these magnificent creatures are still roaming this earth in my lifetime. The future? Sad.

58 Recommended

Reuel

ReuelIndiana1h ago

I cringe seeing these beautiful animals chased by helicopters, shot, laid out on the ice, their fur flecked with blood. Yes, we ‘need to know’, always more, more research. But we already *know* that these beautiful animals desperately need our help to survive. They are extremely stressed in normal life and are only further stressed by such interventions. We need much less invasive ways to monitor these beautiful animals.4 Replies 28 Recommend

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David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:

@Reuel I worried about this too, so I interviewed a polar bear the other day. She said, “yeah, its ugly, but everyone likes a check up with the doctor, even if that always raises your blood pressure. My pod thinks that the benefits out weigh the costs. We know, first hand, that climate change is an existential crisis, and the more you can broadcast our pleas for mercy and help, the bettter. I cry when I realize that it will be our extinction perhaps, that makes enough humans care to limit their carbon dioxide and green house gas emissions.”

David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net, and is the author of “the Tay Son Rebellion.”

The Antarctic Is Signaling Big Climate Trouble. – The New York Times

David Lindsay: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all. May the gods and 350.org save us.

THE IMMENSE AND FORBIDDING Southern Ocean is famous for howling gales and devilish swells that have tested mariners for centuries. But its true strength lies beneath the waves.

The ocean’s dominant feature, extending up to two miles deep and as much as 1,200 miles wide, is the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, by far the largest current in the world. It is the world’s climate engine, and it has kept the world from warming even more by drawing deep water from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, much of which has been submerged for hundreds of years, and pulling it to the surface. There, it exchanges heat and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere before being dispatched again on its eternal round trip.

Without this action, which scientists call upwelling, the world would be even hotter than it has become as a result of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

“From no perspective is there any place more important than the Southern Ocean,” said Joellen L. Russell, an oceanographer at the University of Arizona. “There’s nothing like it on Planet Earth.”

For centuries this ocean was largely unknown, its conditions so extreme that only a relative handful of sailors plied its iceberg-infested waters. What fragmentary scientific knowledge was available came from measurements taken by explorers, naval ships, the occasional research expeditions or whaling vessels.

But more recently, a new generation of floating, autonomous probes that can collect temperature, density and other data for years — diving deep underwater, and even exploring beneath the Antarctic sea ice, before rising to the surface to phone home — has enabled scientists to learn much more.

They have discovered that global warming is affecting the Antarctic current in complex ways, and these shifts could complicate the ability to fight climate change in the future.”

Arctic’s Shift to a Warmer Climate Is ‘Well Underway, Scientists Warn – By Henry Fountain – The New York Times

“The Arctic continued its unwavering shift toward a new climate in 2020, as the effects of near-record warming surged across the region, shrinking ice and snow cover and fueling extreme wildfires, scientists said Tuesday in an annual assessment of the region.

Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska and one of the editors of the assessment, said it “describes an Arctic region that continues along a path that is warmer, less frozen and biologically changed in ways that were scarcely imaginable even a generation ago.”

“Nearly everything in the Arctic, from ice and snow to human activity, is changing so quickly that there is no reason to think that in 30 years much of anything will be as it is today,” he said.

While the whole planet is warming because of emissions of heat-trapping gases through burning of fossil fuels and other human activity, the Arctic is heating up more than twice as quickly as other regions. That warming has cascading effects elsewhere, raising sea levels, influencing ocean circulation and, scientists increasingly suggest, playing a role in extreme weather.”

Opinion | John Kerry: China’s Chance to Save Antarctic Sealife – By John F. Kerry – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Kerry served as U.S. secretary of state from 2013 to 2017.

Credit…Liu Shiping/Xinhua, via Getty Images

“Even as the United States and China confront deep disagreements, there is a global challenge that simply won’t wait for the resolution of our differences: climate change.

While some have decided that we are entering a new Cold War with China, we can still cooperate on critical mutual interests. After all, even at the height of 20th-century tensions, the Americans and the Soviets negotiated arms control agreements, which were in the interests of both countries.

Climate change, like nuclear proliferation, is a challenge of our own making — and one to which we hold the solution. We have an opportunity this month to make clear that great power rivalries aside, geopolitics must end at the water’s edge — at the icy bottom of our planet in the Southern Ocean, which surrounds the entire continent of Antarctica.

The first post-World War II arms limitation agreement — the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 at the height of the Cold War — banned military activities, created a nuclear-free space, set aside territorial claims and declared the continent a global commons dedicated to peace and science. Now we have the opportunity to extend that global commons from the land to the sea.”

The Arctic Is Shifting to a New Climate Because of Global Warming – By Henry Fountain – The New York Times

 

“The effects of global warming in the Arctic are so severe that the region is shifting to a different climate, one characterized less by ice and snow and more by open water and rain, scientists said Monday.

Already, they said, sea ice in the Arctic has declined so much that even an extremely cold year would not result in as much ice as was typical decades ago. Two other characteristics of the region’s climate, seasonal air temperatures and the number of days of rain instead of snow, are shifting in the same way, the researchers said.

The Arctic is among the parts of the world most influenced by climate change, with sharply rising temperatures, thawing permafrost and other effects in addition to shrinking sea ice. The study, by Lara Landrum and Marika M. Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., is an effort to put what is occurring in the region in context.

“Everybody knows the Arctic is changing,” said Dr. Landrum, a climate scientist and the lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change. “We really wanted to quantify if is this a new climate.”

In other words, she said, “has the Arctic changed so much and so fast that the new climate cannot be predicted from the recent past?”

Using years of observational data from the region and computer models, the researchers found that sea ice is already in a new climate, in effect: The extent of ice in recent years is consistently less than what would be expected in even the worst year for ice in the mid-20th century.

Arctic sea ice has declined by about 12 percent per decade since satellite measurements began in the late 1970s, and the 13 lowest sea-ice years have all occurred since 2007. This year is expected to be a record or near-record low for ice extent, which will be determined by the end of this month as the summer melt period ends.”

Climate Change Is Ravaging the Arctic, Report Finds – By Kendra Pierre-Louis – The New York Times

“Temperatures in the Arctic region remained near record highs this year, according to a report issued on Tuesday, leading to low summer sea ice, cascading impacts on the regional food web and growing concerns over sea level rise.

Average temperatures for the year ending in September were the second highest since 1900, the year records began, scientists said. While that fell short of a new high, it fit a worrying trend: Over all, the past six years have been the warmest ever recorded in the region.

“It’s really showing that we have a system that’s under duress,” said Donald K. Perovich, a professor of engineering at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College and the lead author of the report’s chapter on sea ice.

The results are from the annual Arctic report card, a peer-reviewed assessment produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that takes a broad look at the effects of climate change in the region and compares current findings with the historical record. The Arctic is of interest to researchers because it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing changes both in the ocean and on land.”

Climate Change Denialists Say Polar Bears Are Fine. Scientists Are Pushing Back. – The New York Times

“Furry, button-nosed and dependent on sea ice for their survival, polar bears have long been poster animals for climate change.

But at a time when established climate science is being questioned at the highest levels of government, climate denialists are turning the charismatic bears to their own uses, capitalizing on their symbolic heft to spread doubts about the threat of global warming.

The scientific evidence that the polar bear’s Arctic home is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet is overwhelming, supported by reports like the National Climate Assessment, which was compiled by 13 federal agencies. In some Arctic regions, scientists have documented declines in polar bear numbers and disturbing signs of physical deterioration linked to the loss of sea ice. And last year, the Obama administration called human-driven climate change the biggest threat to the bears’ continued existence.

But to hear climate denialists tell it, polar bears are doing just fine. On Watts Up With That, Climate Depot and other websites that dispute climate science, bloggers insist that the Arctic’s receding ice is part of a natural warming cycle unrelated to human activities. Predictions about devastating declines in polar bear populations, they say, have failed to materialize.”

Opinion | Will We Protect Antarctica or Exploit It? – By José María Figueres – NYT

Quote

By José María Figueres

Mr. Figueres is a former president of Costa Rica and served as chief executive of the World Economic Forum.

 

This week, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, comprising 24 nations and the European Union, is meeting in Hobart, Australia, to consider proposals to protect three areas off Antarctica’s coast totaling 1.2 million square miles. Plans for marine reserves off East Antarctica, which offer critical habitat to emperor and Adélie penguins, and in the Weddell Sea, which would shelter whales and penguins, have been on the table for several years, blocked so far by Russia and China. Both of those areas also harbor cold-water corals, glass sponges and other creatures found nowhere else on earth.

Now, a new proposal is up for consideration to establish a marine sanctuary surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet and the Peninsula region is facing multiple pressures, including climate change variability, an increase in tourism as well as intense fishing for krill, which has led to starvation among some populations of penguins.

. . . .

Antarctica’s land mass has proved forbidding since humans first set foot on the continent, but the sea is swarming with life critical to the planet. Indeed, blooms of algae, which supply oxygen to the atmosphere, can be seen from space. And krill, another fundamental cog in the ecosystem that feeds whales, seals, penguin and many fish, have recently been found to behave in a way that accelerates the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. The ecologist Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey, who documented this phenomenon, said the finding “could equate to krill sequestering 23 million tonnes of carbon to the deep sea each year, equivalent to annual” residential emissions of greenhouse gases from Britain.

Yet these links are fragile. Sylvia Earle, the marine biologist and explorer and member of the conservation group Antarctica 2020, said: “Where we’re headed right now is not very encouraging for mankind. We continue to chew away and carve away at the systems that generate oxygen and capture carbon and maintain the chemistry of the planet that works in our favor.”

via Opinion | Will We Protect Antarctica or Exploit It? – The New York Times