I have collected a couple of interesting news articles and interviews over the past few weeks, and now it's time to share with those of you who haven't seen them. I'm posting what I found the most interesting excerpts, follow the links if you want to read the rest.
First up, an interview on SciencePoles with Dr. Agneta Fransson, chemical oceanographer at the Norwegian Polar Institute, called Explaining ocean acidification and consequences for Arctic marine ecosystems:
Are Arctic waters more susceptible to ocean acidification compared to the rest of the world’s oceans? If so, why?
The Arctic Ocean has had high concentrations of CO2 dissolved in it since historical times. This is due to physical processes such as cooling of the relatively fresh surface water, which causes this surface water to sink below the surface towards the bottom of the ocean. When this colder, denser water sinks, it sequesters atmospheric CO2 in the Arctic Ocean. So this results in the Arctic Ocean having a much lower pH and concentrations of carbonate ions (CO32-) compared to other oceans of the world.
The water in the Arctic is also colder. Since CO2 is much more soluble in cold water than it is in warm water, this makes it easier for the ocean to take up more CO2. In addition, as sea ice cover continues to retreat in the Arctic, there will be more open water, which may allow for more direct CO2 uptake into the ocean, and further lowering the ocean’s pH. And, as I mentioned earlier, freshwater influx from rivers empyting into the Arctic ocean, along with melting sea ice, also contribute to lowering the pH of the ocean.
The interview fits in well with this article on other work by the Norwegian Polar Institute that was placed on the website of the Fram Centre. This research is extremely important as ocean heat flux is one of the most influential, but nonetheless relatively poorly understood, factors concerning Arctic sea ice loss.
The article is called New data on Atlantic inflow to the Arctic Ocean reveal effects on sea ice and marine ecosystems:
The primary objective of this project, funded by the Fram Centre “Arctic Ocean” flagship, is to understand how heat from the Atlantic Water influences the Arctic Ocean sea ice cover, but also to provide data for understanding the playing field for some of the key actors in the ecosystem, and components of the carbon system. A-TWAIN (Long-term variability and trends in the Atlantic Water inflow region) was established to gain understanding on how the inflowing current system is distributed at different depths along the continental slope, how it responds to local, short lived atmospheric changes, and how it varies on seasonal and inter-annual timescales.
One of the ships involved in this project is the RV Lance, which we read about in the recent blog post concerning current operations in the Arctic: Mission possible. The ship and some of the results of the latest mission are mentioned in this joint press release by the University of Hamburg and the Alfred Wegener Institute (in German, quote below translated by me):
Success in the Arctic: team manages to measure "thin" ice
AWI sea ice physicist Dr. Stefan Hendricks studied thin first-year ice with colleagues from ESA and the Danish Technical University. Fir this they used EMIRAD, a measuring instrument that is based on the same principles as SMOS, but delivers a more detailed pciture of thin ice than the satellite. The measurements were complemented by a new type of radar that measured snow cover thickness. Two measuring flights were performed with helicopter and airplane combined, while one further measuring flight took place right below the flight path of CryoSat-2. This satellite also measures ice thickness, but only of sea ice that is thicker than 1 metre. "Analysis revolves around comparing data from both satellites, CryoSat-2 and SMOS, and if possible combining them to obtain even better sea ice observation from space," says Hendricks.
Another interview on the excellent Carbon Brief blog with IPCC lead author and Arctic specialist Jan-Gunnar Winther, called Regional changes, global effects:
What are the three main messages in the IPCC report concerning the Arctic?
First, it's important to stress that climate change with an anthropogenic component is having a greater effect in the Arctic than in other parts of the world, according to the report.
Second, it shows that we now have quite substantial knowledge that change in the Arctic region is having an effect on weather and climate in the northern hemisphere. We now know that regional changes - particularly in the Arctic - can have global effects.
And third, the report indicates that climate models have so far failed to give us accurate projections for the future of the Arctic. Over the past 20 years, they have systematically underestimated the rate of change in the Arctic. For example, the reduction in summer sea ice extent and thickness has been far beyond that predicted by models.
We must be aware that the future could bring yet more surprises in the region.
This interview was preceded at the end of March by an article focusing on the new IPCC Working Group 2 (WG2) report:
Winners and losers
In an article today, the Times focuses on the positive consequences melting Arctic ice may have for some humans and natural systems, according to the draft WG2 report. It says:
"A leaked draft of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lists benefits from the shrinking ice cap along with the well-known risks, such as the threat to polar bears and loss of Inuit hunting traditions."
The benefits, according to the Times, include increased tourism. Already, the volume of tourist trips throughout Greenland, Norway, Alaska and Canada have increased rapidly. Killer whales and grey whales are expected to benefit from melting ice, "increasing opportunities for whale-watching trips", the piece says.
Shorter journey times for commercial shipping thanks to access to Arctic waters may also cut emissions from ships, it adds. And oil and gas from the region is expected to contribute increasingly to the global economy, although the resources will be costly and difficult to access.
I put up the last quote as an example of one of various interpretations of Arctic sea ice loss. The question of course is: What is the ratio between winners and losers, and how does this ratio change over time? Is this written in stone?