Tag: Antarctica

The roll of the dice

Or observing Lady Luck in great form!

We all know that so many things in life have two sides to them. As in a positive and negative side. Which ‘side’ we look at has more to do with ourselves, again as you all know.

So when I republished an essay from Patrice Ayme a little over a year ago about the loss of the ice in Antarctica I was in harmony with Patrice’s gloomy stance:

I have written for years that a runaway Antarctica was certain, with half the icy continent melting rather spectacularly on an horizon of two centuries at most, and probably much less than that. This rested on the fact that half of Antarctica rests on nothing but bedrock at the bottom of the sea. At the bottom of what should naturally be the sea, in the present circumstances of significant greenhouse gas concentrations.

But Lady Luck comes into view and we have this: (Courtesy of Mother Nature Network.)

ooOOoo

Global warming is making Antarctica green again, and it’s stunning

At current rates, it’s not crazy to think that the Antarctic peninsula could eventually become forested again.

Bryan Nelson May 19, 2017

From white to green: plant life is booming in Antarctica as the climate warms. (Photo: Matt Amesbury, University of Exeter/Flickr)

When you think of Antarctica, you probably imagine a frigid, windswept, icy, inhospitable domain; the whitest, most barren canvas on Earth. That’s pretty much the way the Southern continent has been for at least the last 3 million years, since the last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels approached their current levels. But times, they are a-changing.

The effects of global warming are beginning to radically alter the Antarctic landscape in some surprising ways. Scientists say it’s like looking back in time, to an epoch when this bleached terrain was actually green. Mossy mats are rapidly spreading across the thawed, exposed soils at unprecedented rates, transforming the land from a place of desolation, to a place of viridescence.

At the very least, we’re getting a peek at Antarctica’s future, which like its past was green and filled with plant-life, reports the Washington Post.

“This is another indicator that Antarctica is moving backward in geologic time — which makes sense, considering atmospheric CO2 levels have already risen to levels that the planet hasn’t seen since the Pliocene, 3 million years ago, when the Antarctic ice sheet was smaller, and sea-levels were higher,” said Rob DeConto, a glaciologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, Antarctica will head even further back in geologic time… perhaps the peninsula will even become forested again someday, like it was during the greenhouse climates of the Cretaceous and Eocene, when the continent was ice free.”

So far, the greening of Antarctica is mostly limited to the peninsula, where two different species of mosses are fanning out at a startling clip, at four to five times the rate seen just a few decades ago. They gain a footing in the summers, when the frozen ground thaws, then freeze back over in the winter. But these layers-upon-layers are thickening, generating an increasingly detailed record of Antarctica’s warming climate.

It’s perhaps only a matter of time before grasses, bushes, perhaps even trees begin to sprout. As beautiful as a forested Antarctica might be to imagine, it’s important to remember that this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Climate change is an ambiguous beast; Antarctica might be getting greener, but deserts elsewhere in the world are expanding, sea levels are rising, and weather is becoming more severe.

“These changes, combined with increased ice-free land areas from glacier retreat, will drive large-scale alteration to the biological functioning, appearance, and landscape of the [Antarctic peninsula] over the rest of the 21st century and beyond,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Current Biology.

Lead author Matthew Amesbury added: “Even these relatively remote ecosystems, that people might think are relatively untouched by human kind, are showing the effects of human induced climate change.”

ooOOoo

 Sorry to drag out this old saw of mine, but it is so perfect: “I can predict anything except those things that involve the future”!

Because I am still staying with the Lady Luck theme but this time going from the vastness of the Southern polar regions to something a little closer to home. (Again, seen on Mother Nature Network.)

ooOOoo

Pit bull on ‘death row’ at shelter gets new life as police dog

Leonard recently became Ohio’s first ever pit bull K-9.
Jenn Savedge    May 19, 2017

Leonard found his forever home with Ohio’s Clay Township police force. (Photo: Union County Humane Society/Facebook)

When Leonard, a stout young pit bull, arrived on the doorstep of the Union County Humane Society in Ohio a few months ago, the staff had little hope for his prospects of being adopted. Leonard was deemed “aggressive,” and that meant he was more likely to be euthanized than sent home with a new family. But Jim Alloway, the center director, saw something different in the dog. And thanks to his observation, Leonard has a future that includes work, play and lots of belly rubs.

As luck would have it, Alloway has an extensive background of working with police dogs. He realized Leonard’s aggression was really a very strong desire to play. Whenever someone was holding something, Leonard wanted it and would try to grab it. As a pet in the average family, this may not be a desirable trait. But this strong “prey drive” made him a great candidate for training as a police dog.

So Alloway called Storm Dog K-9 training. After an initial round of testing, Mike Pennington, the owner of the training facility, agreed to take Leonard on and train him to sniff out narcotics. (Leonard wasn’t a good candidate for tracking and catching suspects because he loves people way too much.)

Before his training with Pennington, Leonard didn’t even know basic commands. But after a few weeks of hard work — which his trainers said he absolutely loved — Leonard was fully certified as a police dog, becoming Ohio’s first pit bull K-9 officer.

Leonard was paired with Terry Mitchell, Clay Township’s Chief of Police. Mitchell told the local ABC affiliate that he was unsure at first about the idea of using a pit bull as a K-9. But the pair bonded immediately.

“I scheduled a time to come down and see him, and after about 10 minutes, I knew this was the dog for us,” Mitchell said.

Leonard officially started work with the force this week. When he has his police vest on, Mitchell says the pup is all business and ready to tackle his narcotics-sniffing job. Off-duty though, Leonard is just a sweet, playful pup, hopping on Mitchell’s lap for evening naps. Oh, and according to Mitchell, he snores horribly.

Leonard — and Mitchell — couldn’t be happier.

ooOOoo

Wonder how long it will be before we have happy ex-rescue dogs frolicking through the forests of Antarctica!!

Still in the month of May!

Figurative and literal cracks!

My rather cryptic sub-heading will make sense very soon.

Just ten days ago I published a post The Month of May. It explained why May had always been a special month in my life and then went on to introduce an article published by The Smithsonian Using a New Roadmap to Democratize Climate Change.

That article featured the former president of Iceland, Olafur Grimsson, and how he was encouraging new solutions to climate change. Primarily via a new organisation called RoadMap. (Did you sign up??)

There is change in the air. People are starting to make a better future. Cities across the USA (and elsewhere undoubtedly) are pledging to go 100 percent renewable. Here’s what Grist published on May 4th.

ooOOoo

Cities all over the U.S. are pledging to go 100 percent renewable.

Atlanta, Georgia (Shutterstock)

On Monday, Atlanta lawmakers voted unanimously to power the city entirely with clean energy sources by 2035.

Atlanta is the 27th city to make the pledge, according to the Sierra Club. These kinds of municipal promises have been popping up nationwide over the past few months. Here’s a recap:

“We know that moving to clean energy will create good jobs, clean up our air and water, and lower our residents’ utility bills,” said Kwanza Hall, an Atlanta City Council member and mayoral candidate, in a statement. “We have to set an ambitious goal or we’re never going to get there.”

A round of applause for local climate progress!

ooOOoo

Lovely to see the city of Portland on that list.

Keep it coming. For we need to see cracks of change; cracks of hope.

Cracks to counter literal cracks.

ooOOoo

The crack that’s redrawing the world’s map.

(From the BBC Culture Newsletter 5th May.)

The shape of the world is hanging by a thread – or rather, according to experts, by a 110 mile-long (177km) rift. That’s the extent of a rapidly expanding crack in an enormous ice shelf in Antarctica. When the Larsen C shelf finally splits, the largest iceberg ever recorded (bigger than the US state of Rhode Island and a third the size of Wales) will snap off into the ocean. Widening each day by 3 ft (1 m), the groaning cleft is on the verge of dramatically redrawing the southern-most cartography of our planet and is likely to lead, climatologists predict, to an acceleration in the rise of sea levels globally.

 An aerial photo of the frigid fissure, taken late last year when it was discovered that the pace of the icy tear was quickening, was suddenly back in the news this week with the announcement that a second rift in the shelf had been detected. The fracture leads our eye along a zig-zagging path – from the backward gaze of the plane’s right engines to the pristine polar blue of the horizon in the distance. The jaggedness of the cleft, which takes our vision on a journey whose ultimate destination is unfathomable, seems at once monumental and terrifyingly fragile. The photo intensifies our helplessness in the face of cataclysmic change. It freezes the potential destruction in the blink of a camera’s shutter, while at the same time hinting at a catastrophe that we can witness unfolding but are utterly powerless to stop.

A second rift was recently discovered in the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula (Credit: NASA/John Sonntag)

As a visual statement, the aerial photo of the Larsen C crack is, by definition, incomparable; never before has the world marked the glacial advance of such a sublime and fearsome fracture in its very fabric. Yet the reemergence of the image in the news anticipates the ten-year anniversary of one of the most intriguing and innovative large-scale works in contemporary art – a work whose power relies for its thought-provoking effect on the peculiar poetry of ruinous rifts. In October 2007, the Colombian-born artist Doris Salcedo unveiled in London an ambitious installation in the cavernous space of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall – a piece that split reaction down the middle.

Inviting gallery-goers into the otherwise empty and austere interior of the former Bankside Power Station, Salcedo subverted expectations. Rather than offering visitors a hall of temporarily installed sculptures, she orchestrated the contemplation instead of a ragged subterranean breach that appeared to rip open the concrete floor of the structure – a crevice that extended from one end of the yawning space to the other.

For the Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s 2007 work, Shibboleth, a giant crack was made in the concrete floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (Credit: Alamy)

Salcedo deepened the mystery of her bold and experimental conceptual work by giving to it the curious title Shibboleth – a biblical word which, when mispronounced, was said to have exposed the outsider status of individuals. Complicating matters still further, the artist insisted that her work was a comment not on the folly of material ambitions, but on racism – that deep cultural scar that tears at the foundations of humanity. Placed side-by-side, this week’s photo from Antarctica and the image captured a decade ago of Doris Salcedo’s challenging Shibboleth share both a brutal beauty and a common theme: the brittleness of being.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

ooOOoo

“the brittleness of being.”

Please, all of us, let’s make a positive difference so that we can soften the edges of that brittleness.

The Antarctic Ocean needs your help

This post appeared first on Lack of Environment on Monday; and is re-published here today with the permission  (and active editorial co-operation!) of Martin Lack.  If you have not signed the Avaaz petition already, you will find links to it embedded in the email message at the end of this post (from Hollywood megastar Leonardo diCaprio).

————-

I must admit that I thought the Antarctic Treaty System protected the species living in the Great Southern Ocean – by virtue of the 1982 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCMLR).  However, it would seem that, in the same way that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has not eliminated trade in ivory (etc), it may be that the CCMLR is failing to protect endangered species in the Antarctic.  The key to this paradox may therefore be in the word “Conservation”.  If so, what the Antarctic Ocean would need is an equivalent to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991).  However, looking at that Protocol it already appears to include the entire Southern Ocean above a Latitude of 60 Degrees South.  If so, then you might conclude that 1991 Protocol is not working or not being enforced effectively. Sadly, it would appear to be more sinister than that.

Some of the parties to the existing CCMLR are clearly trying to subvert it!

Following receipt of an email from Leonardo diCaprio (writing on behalf of Avaaz) – appended below – I have retrieved the information below from the website of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, which provides some useful background…

Antarctic Ocean Alliance logo

The oceans around Antarctica are some of the most precious in the world. They’re one of the last places on Earth still relatively untouched by human activity.

1.  This beautiful, icy ocean environment is home to almost 10,000 species, many of which can be found nowhere else on the planet.
2.  Adelié and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals all thrive in this inhospitable climate.
3.  While many other marine ecosystems in other parts of the world have been devastated by development, pollution, mining, oil drilling and overfishing, Antarctica’s Ross Sea remains the most intact marine ecosystem on the planet.
4.  About 70% of our earth’s surface is ocean, yet less than 1% of it is fully protected from human development.
5.  85% of the world’s fisheries are classified as over exploited, fully exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion, so commercial fishing vessels are moving to remote waters such as Antarctica’s in search of fish (according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation).
6.  Antarctica’s species are now under increasing pressure from commercial fishing for the slow-growing and long-lived Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish, (also known in parts of the world as the Chilean sea bass). These toothfish have become an expensive delicacy, sold in high-end restaurants as well as speciality seafood markets, primarily in the United States, Japan and Europe.
7.  Fishing by illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) vessels, often using “flags of convenience” is on the rise. In some parts of the Southern Ocean, unsustainable fishing methods such as deep sea gillnets are in use in some areas. These gillnets can reach more than 100 kilometres in length and are a threat to almost all marine life, including marine mammals and non-targeted fish species such as rays.
8.  Then there’s krill – an essential part of the food chain that supports the region’s whales, penguins, seals, fish and birdlife. Growing demand for krill as a health supplement and as food for fish farms has put it at risk. Climate change has already been linked to a significant decline in krill numbers – up to 80% in one region around the Scotia Sea (Atkinson et al 2004).
9.  Poor management and the large-scale removal of toothfish and species like krill would threaten the very balance of Antarctica’s unique and fragile ocean ecosystems.
10.  In 1991, the international community made a courageous decision to protect the Antarctic region as a natural reserve for peace and science. This included a ban on mining but this protection does not extend to Antarctica’s magnificent marine environment, leaving it at risk.

———–
Leonardo diCaprio
I shall leave it to Leonardo diCaprio to explain the whole story:

Dear friends,

I’m writing to ask for your help. Within days, governments could begin turning wide stretches of the Antarctic ocean into the world’s largest marine sanctuary, saving the habitat of whales, penguins, and thousands of other polar species from industrial fishing fleets.  But they won’t act unless we speak out now.

Most countries support the sanctuary, but Russia, South Korea and a few others are threatening to vote it down so they can plunder these seas now that others have been fished to death. This week, a small group of negotiators will meet behind closed doors to make a decision. A massive people-powered surge could break open the talks, isolate those attempting to block the sanctuary, and secure a deal to protect over 6 million square kilometers of the precious Antarctic ocean.

The whales and penguins can’t speak for themselves, so it’s up to us to defend them. Let’s change negotiators’ minds with a massive wave of public pressure — Avaaz will surround the meeting with hard-hitting ads, and together we’ll deliver our message to delegates via a deafening cry on social networks. Sign this urgent petition and share it with everyone you know:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_southern_ocean_5/?bSkdncb&v=18906

More than 10,000 species call these remote Antarctic waters their home, including blue whales, leopard seals, and emperor penguins, and many are found nowhere else on Earth. Climate change has already taken a cruel toll on their fragile habitat, but they will come under further threat from the industrial fishing fleet’s mile-long nets cast over these precious waters. Only a marine sanctuary will increase their odds for survival.

The 25-member governing body that regulates the Antarctic oceans has already committed to creating these marine protected areas. But the two plans being negotiated — one to protect part of the fragile Ross Sea and one for East Antarctica — are at risk of dilution or delay. Shockingly, the talks have been off the media’s radar and countries like Russia and South Korea are betting their opposition will go unnoticed, but if we cast a public spotlight on the talks we can force them to back off, and encourage champions like the US and EU to push for even stronger protections.

The future of the Southern ocean is in our hands. Let’s unleash a massive surge of global pressure and ensure governments don’t put profits before our planet. Please sign and share this petition with everyone you know:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_southern_ocean_5/?bSkdncb&v=18906

The Avaaz community has come together time and time again to protect our oceans. We’ve already helped win two of the largest marine reserves in the world. But the threats to our oceans continue, and one by one species are coming closer to the brink. Join me in saving the Antarctic ocean before it’s too late.

With hope,

Leonardo DiCaprio, with the Avaaz team.

The Lost World of Lake Vostok

A breath-taking film from the BBC Horizon series about a vast hidden lake under the Antarctic ice sheet.

My apologies for putting very little effort into today’s Post.  It’s because Jean and I will be in Phoenix for much of Tuesday (I’m writing this on Monday, 7th!) and it felt easier on me to drop this in for your elucidation than try and write something in a scrabble on Tuesday evenning.

Jean and I watched this last week-end and, …. well just watch it!

It sometimes seems as if our planet has no secrets left – but deep beneath the great Antarctic ice sheet scientists have made an astonishing discovery. They’ve found one of the largest lakes in the world. It’s very existence defies belief. Scientists are desperate to get into the lake because its extreme environment may be home to unique flora and fauna, never seen before, and NASA are excited by what it could teach us about extraterrestrial life. But 4 kilometers of ice stand between the lake and the surface, and breaking this seal without contaminating the most pristine body of water on the planet is possibly one of the greatest challenges science faces in the 21st century.

In 1957 the Russians established a remote base in Antarctica – the Vostok station. It soon became a byword for hardship – dependent on an epic annual 1000km tractor journey from the coast for its supplies. The coldest temperature ever found on Earth (-89°C) was recorded here on the 21st July 1983. It’s an unlikely setting for a lake of liquid water. But in the 1970’s a British team used airborne radar to see beneath the ice, mapping the mountainous land buried by the Antarctic ice sheet. Flying near the Vostok base their radar trace suddenly went flat. They guessed that the flat trace could only be from water. It was the first evidence that the ice could be hiding a great secret.

But 20 years passed before their suspicions were confirmed, when satellites finally revealed that there was an enormous lake under the Vostok base. It is one of the largest lakes in the world – at 10,000 square km it’s about the extent of Lake Ontario, but about twice as deep (500m in places). The theory was that it could only exist because the ice acts like a giant insulating blanket, trapping enough of the earth’s heat to melt the very bottom of the ice sheet.

Frozen in ice

Serendipity

Vickers aircraft

Thanks to a small piece on AOPA Online (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), a wonderful insight into a hitherto unheard of organisation and a most charming story.

That organisation is Mawson’s Huts Foundation, an Australian organisation that describes itself as:

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation has been established to conserve in perpetuity for the Australian people the unique, historical buildings known as Mawson’s Huts, base for one of the most significant expeditions in Antarctic history. The Foundation’s website provides a variety of resources concerning current and future efforts to conserve the huts and information about the archaeology and heritage of the site.

Sir Douglas Mawson was an Australian Antarctic explorer and geologist born in 1882.  More background from the Mawson’s Huts website:

Sir Douglas Mawson, a geologist, who led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911, landed a party of

Sir Douglas Mawson

18 at Cape Denison on Commonwealth Bay in January, 1912, and remained there until December 1913. The site was not visited again until Mawson returned in 1931 with the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition and then not again until the 1950’s. Only a concerted public campaign would save and conserve this historic site for all Australians, and the Mawson’s Huts Foundation was formed in 1996 for this purpose.

Read more about this story