The great auk was gobbled up by sailors. Now the importance of such species is highlighted in a study proving how the barren wastes are transformed into a green land where Inuits and Vikings found a haven.
The climate of the Arctic is changing more rapidly than most other regions, but just south of there is the treeline and then the greatest forests left on earth. How will they and their inhabitants change as the warming continues over the next century or so, and are we able to help?
Boom time or bust? The terrible effects of the loss of our Arctic sea ice have been well-advertised. Rearing young, or simply hunting prey, in the case of polar bears, has become almost impossible where the ice has gone. This relatively good news is of the baleen whales that are benefitting in the Pacific from extra flow as well as upwelling that creates plankton population surges.
We worry now a lot more than before about the planets surface temperatures. Now the Arctic is defrosting and sea levels even affect your seaside holiday, perhaps it is too late. But given the unprecedented talking about carbon limitations and political action, the classic crunch could come next year, when there could be a slight cooling. If not, we cant blame El Niño, as we do for this years record breaking.
How do we know how the oceans and winds will deliver when global warming destroys or present climate systems? The answer will depend on how this new information on Arctic sea-ice fits with various modelling experiments. We need to have information on these unexpected floods, violent hurricanes and killer droughts if we are to have any chance of preventing their worst excesses.
Will global warming bring more butterflies to northern Europe; can more species now live in the Arctic and Antarctic. We have to allow for changing habitat and even habitat preferences, if we are going to face the true character of global warming, drying environments or melting ice.
Serious results follow loss of our glaciers and ice sheets. The need for vigilant and expert reporting is made clear with the latest results from satellite instruments. Both Poles are losing ice rapidly, with Greenland having 75% of the total loss.
The worlds soils have been tested, in a thermal gradient from the Arctic through to the tropical rainforest. Despite claims to the contrary, the loss of carbon as global warming increases is going to increase markedly. We have to prepare ourselves to investigate how soils can be somehow prevented from contributing so much of the greenhouse gases that we have to reduce.
What a turn up for the book. The Arctic fox didn't evolve from Eurasian or North American relatives. Instead, the climates of the Himalaya and Arctic were at one time similar enough to encourage migration in several animals. This species of fox must now be counted as related to an extinct animal that adapted thousands of kilometres away to mountainous terrain that resembles its present niche.
We have heard a lot about the release of bacteria and other pathogens while ice is no longer containing them in the Arctic. Here is the American Association for the Advancement of Science in their latest Chicago briefing.
How do we measure the effect of ice loss and does the recent strange pattern of rainfall in many places have any connection with distant ice loss. The use of simulations is becoming more and more accurate, as long as people believe the correlations and the logic behind the science.
Unresolved, but still liable to blow up into another international row, the Arctic's exploitation is being shown up by the Greenpeace action. Military involvement seems to be part of the Russian reaction to any denial of their supposed rights to territory that belongs to no one.
When rivers flowed and heat was bearable, ice still remained on the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica was safe from development. Fond memories!
What do we do to help the crisis as the Arctic ice disappear? Gather more statistics, with the effect of that on the problem - an absolute zero.
While the warming has been catastrophic, the underlying effects of our treatment of the Arctic have been overlooked. This is a truly enormous chemical change, joining with global warming to destroy communities and possibly ecosystems.
It's science against politics against climate effects in a 3-way struggle this week. We all know the winner will be climate, unless some pretty good technology can come to our aid.
We have no idea how long the Arctic ice will continue to decrease, as it did this year to a record low. Most important perhaps, we need to know the biological response to such extremes and the resultant environmental change.
The clock towards a sea-ice free Arctic is ticking ever more rapidly. And just as quickly, oil and gas companies are rushing to the region to grab newly-exposed resources. That has many environmentalists worried about the threat of spills in this pristine wilderness - and the reckless gamble with a climate change shock.
The Arctic ice cap is at an all time low and has fallen below four million square kilometres for the first time, according to new data.
Sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean is now the smallest ever size seen since satellite monitoring of the Arctic polar cap started.
A record 97% of Greenland's surface ice sheet melted during two weeks in July - the most recorded since records began, according to data from NASA satellites.
The melting of Greenland's glaciers is slower than scientists previously thought and so may not present such a serious threat to rising sea levels, according to University of Washington research.
The prey of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Arctic is little studied, except of course by native Inuit peoples. New research has introduced us to this Inuit science, which in this case involves their competitor for prey items, the killer whale.
The US's NOAA duties include regular reports and the latest prepares uis for another of those winters that we just don't understand. For example, the strangely low [ozone] in March this year led to high ultra-violet levels in both Arctic and sub Arctic regions. Most scientists believed this due to the very cold stratosphere, resulting in slow ozone formation.
This year has seen the 10th highest temperatures - the highest ever when taking the cooling of La Nina into account - along with record low Arctic sea ice, preliminary figures show.
Scientists reconstructing the history of the Arctic ice-cap have shown that today's plummeting sea-ice levels are unprecedented in at least the last 1400 years. Using temperature proxies to track sea-ice levels over past centuries, the paper published in Nature dramatically reinforces how man-made climate change is remaking the Arctic.
More disturbing news for environmentalists, with the announcement that starting next year, the US Department of the Interior has granted Shell tentative approval to begin drilling exploratory wells to begin exploiting the vast oil and gas resources in the Arctic Ocean.
The delicate balance between savannah and forest is know better understood thanks to a study from Princeton. The natural world is constantly in a flux with delicate states of equilibrium disturbed by the smallest of changes. The ecosystems that exist on earth have been classified by the WWF and grouped into 14 types that include everything from tropical rainforests to the arctic tundra.
Top news headlines, stories and issues from the environment world this week up to October 14th 2011. Topics this week include conservation and wildlife in the UK, North Sea oil drilling, arctic ice and the oil spill in New Zealand.
The Earth Times environmental writer and award-winning photographer Louise Murray has a new exhibition of her polar photography at the Lacock Photography Gallery in the UK from October 15th 2011 to 31st January 2012.
NASA's continuing monitoring of the ice in the seas around the Arctic has confirmed that the sea ice extent has shrunk close to its 2007 record low confirming a 30 year declining trend. Each year the ice expands through the winter before melting away as the sun warms the northern hemisphere, reaching its minimum level in September.
Ozone depletion over the Arctic has been considerably greater this year due to an extended cold period. The ozone layer is an essential component of a life-supporting planet Earth, protecting life from potentially harmful UV radiation and its adverse effects.
Climatic cycles add an additional pressure to that caused by climatic change, trapping species in unfavourable environmental conditions. Examples on land include the deterioration of the body weight of polar bears and the recent overlap of red and arctic fox territories.
The conditions in the Arctic are changing so fast it's becoming hard for scientists to predict the future, but a new study from America says that computer models of ice loss are likely to be accurate.
Physicists observing the Arctic's ice cover say that a new, and ominous, record has been set this year with the ice melting more than ever previously recorded. Since July, scientists at the University of Bremen, who monitor the extent of the Arctic's seasonal melting and freezing, have feared that 2011 would see an even greater melt than the previous largest in 2007.
WWF Russia is asking for authorities there to pause plans for oil-drilling in the Arctic's Pechora Sea, claiming that company Gazprom would be unable to handle anything except the most minor of spills. The area is home to a major migratory bird feeding ground, as well as endangered Atlantic walruses. A region-wide plan for upgrading oil-spill infrastructure is desperately needed they say.
Not all of the changes ongoing in the Arctic and Antarctic are big and dramatic. Small-scale changes to the bugs and soils are likely to change the face of the poles too, says a presentation to the Ecological Society of America, made in Texas yesterday.
A paper out in Nature today suggests that the touch-paper for runaway global warming could be lit by increased fires in the previously damp tundra soils of the Arctic. Such fires have been absent for 11,000 years - their reappearance could help cause permafrost to melt more readily, in a chain-reaction of CO2 emissions that would boost global warming.
Attempt to remove mention of protests via injunction backfires as Greenpeace supporters tweet pictures. Cairn Energy won an interim injunction on Monday after Greenpeace activists entered their offices. Cairn Energy is responsible for deep-water drilling in the Arctic. Greenpeace said their volunteers wanted to see the firm's ''secret Arctic oil spill response plan''.
2011 is shaping up to be another year of danger for the Arctic ice cap, with levels of sea-ice cover nudging below those for the record ice-loss of 2007. The final minimum won't be known until September, but the volume of ice is already thought to be lower than any previous year - leaving the climate, and polar bears, as big losers.
The news that the fabled North-west passage, across the Arctic, has become a reality for Pacific marine life, is just of many worrying signs reported from Europe's seas for an ongoing marine monitoring project. The shifting fortunes of Europe's seas, under the impact of climate change, is revealed today in a release from Project CLAMER, a collaboration between 17 European marine-study institutes.
Greenpeace protesters clinging to a controversial Arctic drilling ship were evicted and arrested yesterday - even as the oil firm involved, Cairn Energy, sought damages from Greenpeace, via the Dutch courts. Greenpeace issued statements saying it remained unbowed in its determination to defend the Arctic environment.
A project to help indigenous people to help themselves, in adapting to the changes inflicted by climate change, has received a grant today from the International Development Research Council. Tribal groups in Peru, Uganda and the Canadian Arctic will be involved in deciding how to safeguard their health, and future survival, in environments threatened by both global warming and the ecological pillaging of mining, timber and oil industries.
It was global cooling rather than global warming, but American climate scientists say new evidence points to the catastrophic effects of climate change on a Viking settlement on Greenland.
The frozen waters of the Arctic are again home to confrontation, with Greenpeace successfully attaching a 'survival pod', with a pair of activists, to an oil drilling ship off of Greenland. They are determined to halt an oil exploration program which poses extra risks in the remote Arctic seas - and could help turn up the heat with climate change.
The conflict over a British company's plans to drill for oil off Greenland continues as Greenpeace faces the Danish navy deep in the Arctic Sea. Greenpeace ships, the Arctic Sunrise and the Esperanza, have been searching the North Atlantic for the oil rig, Leiv Eiriksson. The ships finally found the Cairn Energy owned oil rig this week hidden amongst the icebergs.
A new study has projected future sea-level rises, just from Greenland's melting ice-sheets, at 3.5 inches over this century. The paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science attempts to produce more complex computer models of recent dramatic ice-shelf losses that have kick-started accelerating Greenland glaciers - something the IPCC admits is poorly understood.
The phenomenon of a ''hole'' in the ozone blanket that covers the earth at polar latitudes was first discovered in 1985 by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey. The ''hole'' was a cylinder of the
atmosphere, forming over polar regions, where the level of ozone in the atmospheric column was depleted.
The vast Canadian archipelago of Arctic islands, the territory of Nunavut, covers an area the size of western Europe. New research shows that the melting ice caps and glaciers there play a much greater role in global sea level rise than previously believed - 1mm in only 6 years.
A quarter of the Arctic's permafrost coastline is suffering from erosion due to climate change. The impact on settlements, shipping, oil and gas installations and coastal infrastructure is likely to grow. As ice free periods increase due to global warming, there is a direct effect on the fragile polar coastline which is largely composed of frozen permafrost.
A scientist based at an American university has deposited a series of desert plant seeds in a collection designed to protect species should they die out due to environmental events. The University of Arizona (UA) has confirmed that Margaret Norem, a researcher from its Department of Arboretum Affairs, took the seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on a remote island off the coast of Norway, a few hundred miles from the North Pole.
Major studies of the oceans around Europe have led scientists to warn of possible changes in temperatures and sea conditions which will have a major impact on human and marine life. Scientists have raised alarming prospects for the future of the climate of north western Europe as meltwater pours south from the Arctic possibly slowing the warming ocean currents.
Unusual atmospheric conditions during the last Arctic winter have opened a massive hole in the ozone layer and that hole is extending into the more densely populated latitudes of northern Europe. Ozone depleted air masses are moving south from the Arctic and have reached Finland. They are expected to move as far east as the Russian-Chinese border and perhaps as far south as the Mediterranean.
March's Arctic winter-ice peak has just been called by the NSDIC, and it's low. This year's level is tied with the lowest ever recorded sea-ice extent - also seen this decade in 2006. The Arctic is probably seeing the fastest rates of change due to global warming, marking it out as an early warning of the dangers faced. Will anyone listen before this canary keels over?
New data illustrates the rapid rate of ozone loss above the Arctic. The ozone is destroyed when products from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are converted into aggressive substances, this happens when they come into contact with extremely cold conditions and there has long been a link between climate change and the loss of the ozone. Filed in environmental issues: ozone/climate change.
Climate change will have its most dramatic effects on the oceans so it's no surprise that the US Navy are looking at how they will operate in the future. A new report from the National Research Council says that America's navy will have to prepare to operate in the Arctic; expect more humanitarian missions and check whether its coastal facilities are prepared for changing sea-levels.
A new NASA-funded satellite study of the polar ice sheets shows an alarming accelerating trend of ice loss from both Greenland and Antarctica. Combined with losses from mountain glaciers and ice caps this could result in a global sea level rise of 32cm as early as 2050. Filed in environmental issues: Sea Levels/Climate
A reworking of satellite data is helping scientists track the Arctic spring and summer plankton blooms - that color the sea green as the ice retreats. Understanding how these evolve will help to paint the bigger picture of Arctic ecology as its sea-ice continues to disappear. Vast blooms of phytoplankton take advantage of the nutrient-rich sun-lit waters, starting off a cascade of life up the entire length of the Arctic food chain.
As the earth warms through this century forests will move north into tundra regions while Greenland's ice cover will shrink. Forests will spread north into areas of previously bleak tundra and ice cover once thought to be permanent will retreat uncovering new tundra by the end of this century according to climate scientists from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and South Korea.
If you thought Winter 2010 was cold, think again. Over 56,000,000 years ago, our world experienced Arctic conditions which even the warmest, hardiest of UGG boots wouldnt have weathered, but after many years of glacial temperatures the Arctic experienced a sudden change. Global warming occurred in the Arctic many years before it became the go-to cause for modern-day environmental activists.
In the recent past, melting events in the far north have had dramatic effects across continents further south, scientists say. A megadrought some 16,000 years ago dried up the Nile, and Africa's great lakes, according to a new paper in Science. This event may well have been linked to rapid glacial outpourings from North American ice sheets around the same time.
With more than 600,000 seeds in cold storage the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is three years old, is a vital store of genetic diversity. The third anniversary of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) saw yet more seeds arriving at the Arctic stronghold of biodiversity while an important Egyptian collection was looted during the recent revolution and farmers in Australia report almost impossible conditions for agriculture.
Scientists believe that a shrinking Arctic ice cap is introducing warmer fresh water into the Atlantic to slow the warming effects of the Gulf Stream and cool down northwest Europe as a consequence. Britain has just suffered its coldest winter for 100 years, bringing freezing, snowy weather that paralysed the country. Scientists say that these icy winters could become a regular feature simply because the world is getting warmer.
The degree to which the Arctic region can reflect the sun's rays has declined significantly over the past three decades, a team of US researchers have warned. The ongoing loss of snow and ice in the Northern Hemisphere is not just depriving polar bears of their natural habitat, but it is leading to a reduction of the region's solar reflexivity and thereby exacerbating the problem of global warming.
Melting mountain glaciers rather than the ice sheets of the Antarctic will be the biggest contributor to rising sea levels over the decades ahead, scientists believe. That climate scientists looking into rising sea levels are currently directing their research at the massive ice caps of the Arctic and the Antarctic is hardly surprising.
New research indicates that short-term weather extremes and not global warming are the cause of Greenland ice sheet melt. Roughly 80 per cent of Greenland's land surface is hidden under an ice sheet consisting of layers of compressed snow. It is accepted that approximately 100 billion tonnes of this ice are lost each year as the sheet progressively shrinks.
Narwhals are being used to explore the waters under the frozen arctic ocean and report in on under ice winter temperatures previously only possible using costly icebreaker cruises or helicopter charters, filling a vital hole in climate data for the rapidly warming region.