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Study shows Arctic sea ice continues to melt considerably
by Amy Wallace
Washington (UPI) Sep 15, 2017

Navy deploys buoys in Arctic for climate research
Washington (UPI) Sep 14, 2017 - The Office of Naval Research, Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy and several other partners have deployed climate change research buoys into the Arctic Ocean.

The mission, announced Wednesday by the Navy, was a joint effort to collect oceanographic and temperature data for environmental modeling purposes. The research is designed to assist future naval operations in the Arctic.

"Polar lows are like hurricanes of the north and the data collected from these buoys will help us with numerical weather prediction, which will help to keep our and our partner forces safe," chief officer of the National Ice Center Cmdr. Ruth Lane said in a press release.

The program is under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In a recent event, Hurricane Hunter aircraft from the administration dropped scientific buoys in the path of Hurricane Irma.

The disposable units are called Air Expendable Ice Beacons and have been deployed out of C-130 aircraft flying from Thule Air Force Base in Greenland in a joint operation with the Danish Air Force.

"The buoys will provide data for 3 to 5 years," said Navy Lt. Emily Motz, "providing operational and scientific community access to the in situ observations available to all forecasters and researchers through the International Arctic Buoy Program."

The Navy and U.S. military as a whole have expressed concerns over how melting ice and changing Arctic conditions might affect operations in the future. China and Russia have both been stepping up their presence in Arctic waters, with the melting ice providing both new sea lanes and access to new mineral and oil deposits.

Arctic sea ice shrank to roughly 4.7 million square kilometers in September, making the sea ice extent in 2017 far below numbers from 1979 to 2006.

Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, the University of Bremen and Universitat Hamburg reported Friday that the minimum sea ice extent for 2017 is average for the past 10 years, despite being far below average from previous decades.

The sea ice in the Arctic is considered a critical element in climate processes and a vital early-warning system for global warming. Researches point to the September minimum extent as an important indicator of climate change.

Sea ice covered area is measured using high-resolution microwave satellites, with data provided by the University of Bremen and Universitat Hamburg.

According to researchers, the amount of ice loss is massive even though the current extent of sea ice does not represent a new record low.

"This year's sea ice extent is again on a very low level: the observed September value of the past eleven years has consistently been lower than in any of the previous years," Marcel Nicolaus, a sea ice physicist from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, said in a press release.

The waters in the Arctic remained unusually warm this past winter and scientists found that sea ice coverage in March was lower than in any March before.

"Thanks to the relatively cold summer, the sea ice managed to bounce back somewhat, but this year's September minimum is by no means a good sign," said Lars Kaleschke, a researcher at Universit├Ąt Hamburg's Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability. "Though the amount of sea ice is of course subject to natural fluctuations, the long-term decline is obvious."

The spatial distribution of sea-ice differed this year from the patterns in recent years, and from the long-term pattern, with less ice recorded in the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas than in 2016. Conversely, more ice was found north of Svalbard and in the Beaufort Sea.

"Despite the warm winter, the sea ice wasn't unusually thin," Nicholaus said. "Our explanation is that the small and thin ice coverage from the previous summer -- the second-smallest area ever recorded -- grew faster and thicker than in other years, since thin ice grows faster than thick ice."

After a significant increase, the researchers say the exact date and value of the minimum sea ice extent in 2017 can't be determined for several weeks, and that the monthly mean for September can't be determined until October.

Reindeer grazing protects tundra plant diversity in a warming climate
Umea, Sweden (SPX) Sep 13, 2017
Climate warming reduces the number of plant species in the tundra, but plant-eating animals, such as reindeer and voles, can turn this negative effect into something positive. The results of a study coordinated from Umea University in Sweden are now published in Nature Communications. "By eating tall and wide-leaved plants, reindeer can increase light availability and thus allow more plant ... read more

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