Archive for the 'antarctic ice' Category

Jun 01 2010

THE EARTH IS BLEEDING BLACK

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BP Oil Slick – Photo: Richard Perry, The New York Times



Declaration of Penguin Sympathy and Penguin Solidarity



We have had our short moment in the sun. For the briefest time, humans flocked to see “March of the Penguins.” During those days, they cared about us. But we have learned, like many before us, that fame is fleeting. And there lots of birds and bees and fish and bears, and a flock of documentary filmmakers looking for Emmys and Oscars.


Thanks to the internet, we have learned that there are many species threatened as we are. The Javan Rhinoceros, fish like the Vaquita, the Cross River Gorilla, the Sumatran Tiger, the Golden-Headed Langur, the Black-Footed Ferret, the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, the Giant Panda, and the Polar Bear from the other end of the Earth. We could go on and on.


Today our hearts go out to all those live in and about the waters of the Gulf Coast. The oysters, the shrimp, the sturgeon, the Brown Pelican, the Least Tern, the Piping Plover, the Oystercatcher, the Northern Gannet, and the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. We could go on and on. And we know it is nesting season.


To our human brothers and sisters, we have a simple question. When will you learn? How many of us have to die before you remember once again to live simply? A train instead of a car. Walking rather than riding. Charity not greed. Care not carelessness.


The American President says he is in control. Perhaps you sleep better believing him. But we who swim and fly know that he controls not the ocean, not the sky, not the ice or the snow.


There is a hole in Earth. The Earth is bleeding black.


The ice melts. The ocean burns.


Wake up!




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Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP



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Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP




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Aug 24 2009

THE ICE MELTS – HUMANS SQUABBLE

OK so maybe now you will believe us – us small folk you think are so cute. The ice is melting. What have we been telling you? The ice is melting.

Down here. Up there. In Montana. In Europe. In South America. In Asia.

Melting faster than you thought. Or wanted to admit.

Go to the BBC: see the pictures.

This is Antarctica, our home:

Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.

Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University says this about the melting ice:

This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We’ve known that it’s been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier.

Now similar things are happening up north in the Arctic.

Professor Jason Box of Ohio State University, has been studying the melting ice up north with Greenpeace. He has been surprised by the lack of significant ice they encountered in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada.

According to the BBC: “He has also set up time lapse cameras to monitor the massive Petermann glacier. Huge new cracks have been observed and it’s expected that a major part of it could break off imminently:

The science community has been surprised by how sensitive these large glaciers are to climate warming. First it was the glaciers in south Greenland and now as we move further north in Greenland we find retreat at major glaciers. It’s like removing a cork from a bottle.

So you are finally seeing the melting ice. But what exactly are some of you doing about it. Banding together to finally confront global warming? Taxing your use of carbon?

How about fighting each other to take advantage of the melting ice? Now that sounds like human beings

The more the ice melts the easier it is to send ships through the North. Russia, Canada, Denmark and the United States all have a strong interest in controlling the northern route. The Russians are having training exercises and firing missiles; the Canadian government is sending its politicians to show how much they care about the far north. Everybody is planting their flags on the ice.

Nobody is asking the polar bears.

Nobody is asking the penguins.



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Apr 08 2009

POLAR MELT TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

Forgive us for being out-of-touch for so long. We’ve just completed a 100-day workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation on Polar Melt Traumatic Stress Disorder PMTSD.

Thanks to Angela Schrimsky and Donald-Peter Fredricksen of the Avian Therapy Center for leading the group.


Unfortunately while we were talking, a large portion of the Wilkins Ice Shelf broke off from the Antarctic mainland confirming the most dire predictions about the climate crisis. We have though, thanks to our talented workshop leaders, learned some very interesting meditation techniques. Not to mention the chanting exercises: “Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”


Now if only Angela and Donald-Peter could do something about our melting home.


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Larsen B Ice Shelf – Photo: Mariano Caravaca



It is not easy to watch the ice melt around you. It is not easy to see your home in danger. To know your fellow penguins may not survive.


The other day, the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about ways to protect the polar regions:

Clinton said the recent collapse of an Antarctic ice bridge was a stark reminder that the poles are gravely threatened by climate change and human activity.
“With the collapse of an ice bridge that holds in place the Wilkins Ice Shelf, we are reminded that global warming has already had enormous effects on our planet and we have no time to lose in tackling this crisis,” she told the first-ever joint meeting of Antarctic Treaty parties and the Arctic Council at the State Department in Baltimore.
The bridge linking the Wilkins shelf to Antarctica’s Charcot and Latady Islands snapped on Saturday after two large chunks of it fell away last year. The shelf had been stable for most of the last century before it began retreating in the 1990s.



And we have recently received word for our friends up north that the arctic ice. As William Marsden reported for the Montreal Gazette::

In the summer of 2007, a large portion of Arctic Sea ice – about 40 per cent – simply vanished. That wasn’t supposed to happen. At least not yet. As recent as 2004, scientists had predicted it would take another 50 to 100 years for that much ice to melt. Yet here it was happening today.



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Measuring Arctic Ice – Photo: Martin Hartley, Reuters



Hopefully, Schrimsky and Fredricksen will be heading there to do a workshop.
Unfortunately the Arctic Nations are now arguing about who has control over the ice and melting ice and the resources that will soon be easily to get to as the ice recedes.


And for all the talk about making the shift to renewable resources and away from burning fossil fuels like oil and coal, Jad Mouawad of the New York Times reported on April 8, 2009:

The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation.
But the world’s oil giants are not convinced that it will work. Even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

Royal Dutch Shell said last month that it would freeze its research and investments in wind, solar and hydrogen power, and focus its alternative energy efforts on biofuels. The company had already sold much of its solar business and pulled out of a project last year to build the largest offshore wind farm, near London.
BP, a company that has spent nine years saying it was moving “beyond petroleum,” has been getting back to petroleum since 2007, paring back its renewable program. And American oil companies, which all along have been more skeptical of alternative energy than their European counterparts, are studiously ignoring the new messages coming from Washington.

Already one penguin species has been named by the US EPA as endangered and 5 other species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). According to the EPA:

The penguin species recommended for endangered status is the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), of South Africa and Namibia … The five species recommended for threatened status are: the yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), the white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata), the Fiordland crested penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), the erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri), all from New Zealand, as well as the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) of Chile and Peru.

They have solicited more scientific information about the:

effects of climate change and changing ocean, land or sea ice conditions on the distribution and abundance of these penguin species and their principal prey species over the short and long term (especially information on known prey substitutions and their effects on the penguins …

If only they had attended our workshop!


What can we say except: “Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”
All together now:
“Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”



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Apr 02 2008

PENGUINS: WE ARE NEW ORLEANS

Our home is cracking apart around us.


Some of the Antarctic ice shelf just broke off. How big? For those of you Americans who have ventured to the city that calls itself the Greatest City in the world, it is 9x the size of Manhattan. And sticking with American examples, the Wilkins Ice Shelf itself is about the size of Connecticut.


According to CNN,“British scientist David Vaughan says it’s the result of global warming.”


The rest of the Connecticut-sized ice shelf is holding on by a narrow beam of thin ice and scientists worry that it too may collapse. Larger, more dramatic ice collapses occurred in 2002 and 1995.”


Glaciologist Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, CO was studying satellite data. He let Professor David Vaughan and Andrew Fleming of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) know that the ice shelf was at risk. Luckily, a crew from BAS photographed the process from aboard a Twin Otter plane. Thanks to them you, too, can see what is happening:


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According to the Christian Science Monitor:

“the region has seen unprecedented rates of warming during the past 50 years. Two of the 10 shelves along the peninsula have vanished within the past 30 years. Another five have lost between 60 percent and 92 percent of their original extent. Of the 10, Wilkins is the southernmost shelf in the area to start buckling under global warming’s effects.


‘Wilkins is a stepping stone in a larger process,’ says Scambos. ‘It’s really a story of what’s yet to come if the mainland of Antarctica begins to warm.’”



That is what happening to the ice. And things aren’t so hot when it comes to food.


The UK Observer published this article by Juliette Jowitt:

“The Antarctic, one of the planet’s last unspoilt ecosystems, is under threat from mankind’s insatiable appetite for harvesting the seas.


The population of krill, a tiny crustacean, is in danger from the growing demand for health supplements and food for fish farms. Global warming has already been blamed for a dramatic fall in numbers because the ice that is home to the algae and plankton they feed on is melting. Now ‘suction’ harvesting which gathers up vast quantities has been introduced to meet the increased demand. It threatens not just krill, but the entire ecosystem that depends on them, say environmental campaigners.


Krill are also believed to be important in removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by eating carbon-rich food near the surface and excreting it when they sink to lower, colder water to escape predators.


‘Whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses and petrels – all those creatures we think are absolute icons of Antarctica – depend on krill,’ said Richard Page, a marine reserves expert with Greenpeace International.



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Photo: Corbis


We watched as New Orleans was swallowed by the sea. Penguins: we are New Orleans.





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Jan 18 2008

PENGUINS: ON THIN ICE

If you are reading this, it’s probably because you have been thinking about penguins, or about global warming and climate change, maybe wondering how we are doing, or maybe about your future.

These are scary and complicated times for all of us.

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Adélie 422 walking – Photo: Geroge F. Mobley



The news down South is not very good. And for that matter, it’s even worse up North. I’ll talk about that in just a minute. But there’s one thing that really confuses me. Now that I’m surfing the web – interesting choice of words for a penguin – I read a lot of newspaper reports about the climate crisis. And, of course, the comments that readers post. Have you ever taken the time to read those comments?

So many of you humans are so very angry. You’re angry at the newspaper for printing the reports. You’re angry at your scientists for telling you about rising levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, rising sea levels and melting ice. About disappearing glaciers. Check it out: angry comment after angry comment.

What’s going on? Is it so very hard to acknowledge what is happening before your very eyes? Here’s a picture of the Boulder Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana, US in 1932.

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And a photo taken in 2005:

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It’s gone. Do you want to blame the scientists?

Is it so very hard to understand that the Earth is paying a price for all the coal you burn to keep your cities lit so bright? When did you become so afraid of the dark? Is it so very hard to understand that there is a price to be paid for the SUVs you drive to the malls you shop in? Where is it written in your holy books that each man and woman needs to have a car, two cars, three? That it is too much of an inconvenience to ride together in buses and train and trolleys? That you need second homes and motor boats and private airplanes?


Anyway here’s a quick update of the latest news. Antarctica, our home, our ice is melting. TV3 in New Zealand reports:

The ice shelves of Antarctica are collapsing faster than scientists could ever have predicted, loosened by warming climate conditions – warm air and warm water is compromising the existence of the entirety of the Antarctic ice sheet as global temperatures rise.

Dozens of ice shelves are steadily breaking apart – three major ice shelves have disintegrated in recent times, one of which taking mere days to collapse …

During the last 15 years, almost 90% of the glaciers observed by scientists in Antarctica have shown significant levels of retreat.



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Adelie penguins – Photo: Frans Lemmens



Our dear friends, the Adélies, founding members of Penguins United, are in deep trouble. The melting ice is a matter of life and death for the Adélies. A National Geographic headline asks “Antartica’s Adelie Extinct in a Decade?”

Adélie penguins in Antarctica are in the midst of a major upheaval as climate change causes their icy habitat to warm up, experts say.

Some populations of the birds are thriving, but most are declining rapidly.

The penguins rely on winter sea ice as a platform for feeding on ocean krill.

But they also need the ice to shrink in the summer so they can access their breeding colonies on land.

The mid-latitudes of the Antarctic Peninsula once provided the perfect habitat for the penguins—but not anymore.

“That region has experienced the most rapid warming during winter on the planet,” said Bill Fraser, an ecologist with the Polar Oceans Research Group in Sheridan, Montana.

“The mid-winter temperatures are now around 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit [6 degrees Celsius] higher than they were 50 years ago.”



Help the Adélies. Save the Ice. Save our Home.





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Dec 11 2007

PENGUINS IN PERIL

You know you’re in big trouble when they talk about you in Forbes and the UK Guardian and the Telegraph and National Geographic News all in the same day.

Big big trouble. Why? The World Wildlife Fund issued its report, “Antarctic Penguins and Climate Change.”

This is what the Forbes headline says: “Penguins in Peril as Climate Warms.” The Chinese news service Xinhua puts it this way: “WWF: Climate warming threatens Antarctica Penguins.”

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Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap & Gentoo Penguins – UK Telegraph

According to Forbes:

four populations of penguins that breed on the Antarctic continent are under escalating pressure. For some, global warming is taking away precious ground on which penguins raise their young. For others, food has become increasingly scarce because of warming in conjunction with overfishing.

This reminds us a bit of the American writer Mark Twain who read his own obituary in the newspaper.

You writing about us?

We’ve talked a lot about the Arctic ice here but today they’re talking about our ice:

The Antarctic Peninsula is warming five times faster than the average rate of global warming. The vast Southern Ocean has warmed all the way down to a depth of 3,000m.

Sea ice – ice that forms from sea water – covers 40 percent less area than it did 26 years ago off the West Antarctic Peninsula. This decrease led to reduced numbers of krill, the main source of food for Chinstrap Penguins.

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Macaroni and Chinstrap Penguins – Sylvia Rubli/WWF

The number of Chinstraps decreased by as much as 30 to 66 percent in some colonies, as less food made it more difficult for the young to survive. It’s the same story for Gentoo Penguins, which are increasingly dependent on the declining krill stocks as overfishing kills off their usual food sources.

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Gentoo Penguin with chicks, South Georgia – Fritz Pölking/WWF

The Emperor Penguin, the largest and most majestic penguin in the world, has seen some of its colonies halved in size over the past half century. Warmer winter temperatures and stronger winds mean that the penguins had to raise their chicks on increasingly thinner sea ice. For many years, sea ice has broken off early and many eggs and chicks have been blown away before they were ready to survive on their own.

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2 Emperors with chick – Fritz Pölking/WWF

In the northwestern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, where warming has been the most dramatic, populations of Adelie Penguins have dropped by 65 percent over the past 25 years. Not only has food become scarcer with the disappearance of sea ice, but the Adelies’ warm-loving cousins the Gentoos and Chinstraps have also invaded the region.

Warmer temperatures mean that the atmosphere can hold more moisture, which in turn brings more snow. Scientists are worried for the Adelie Penguin, which needs land that is free of snow and ice to raise their young, is likely to lose out to its warm-loving cousins.

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Adelie Penguin – Sylvia Rubli/WWF

“Having just returned from the Antarctic, I’ve witnessed what is happening to the penguins there,” says Dr. Lara Hansen, Chief Scientist of WWF’s Global Climate Change program. “The warming climate means warmer, wetter air and too much snow at the wrong time of year. Penguins have to wait for snow to melt and they are breeding later – much too late. Add invasive species that are expanding their ranges to diminishing numbers of penguins and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. The delegates at the Bali COP have a chance to protect Antarctica’s penguins and many other species, but they must act now.”

Well many many thanks to Dr. David Ainley and WWF and their terrific photographers and their very informative website, penguinscience.com for bringing attention to our plight.

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Gentoos at sunset, Falklands – Kevin Schafer/WWF




In the days to come we’ll offer our take on the events taking place in Bali. But for today, this one day, it’s time to focus on PENGUINS IN PERIL.


ACT NOW. SAVE THE ICE.







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Nov 26 2007

ADOPT A HUMAN

Several human-based environmental organizations have ways of raising money based on adopting animals.

One organization, Defenders of Wildlife, has a program called “Adopt a Penguin.” This is what they write:
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A variety of species of penguins have been declining due to the effects of global warming. Starvation, habitat loss, and the fact that the penguins’ world is literally breaking up under their feet are all contributing factors to dramatic population loss.

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Adelie Penguins Photo: British Antarctic Survey

In one instance, a large number of Adelie penguins were literally made prisoners and starved because global warming had unexpectedly altered their habitat. In 2004, Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound was blocked by the mountainous remnant of the world’s largest iceberg. The iceberg cut off supply routes for several research bases on the sound and was so big that it blocked wind and water currents that would normally break up the ice in the sound and make access to the sea much easier for researchers and penguins. As a result, tens of thousands of Adelie penguin chicks and their parents were stranded inland with a 112-mile round trip being the shortest distance to gather food. Experts estimate that the three colonies of Adelie penguins may have declined by up to 70 percent.

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Rockhopper Penguin, The Falklands Photo: Ben Tubby

The decline of the rockhopper penguin is another example of how warming temperatures are affecting these beloved birds. The number of rockhopper penguins breeding on one island has gone from 1.4 million to only 100,000 in the last 60 years–most likely due to warming waters surrounding the island.

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Emperor Penguins Photo: Serene Chew

… according to National Geographic News, the population of emperor penguins has been cut in half over the past 50 years … These amazing animals can withstand some of the harshest conditions on Earth, but they cannot continue to sustain themselves without krill–a shrimplike creature that is a staple of the emperor penguin’s diet. The sea ice necessary to the survival of krill larvae is disappearing earlier and taking with it 80 percent of the krill population. The emperor penguins are starving to death because the warming air and water is drastically changing the environment to which they have adapted.

Where there are obviously good reasons to adopt a penguin. We are in big trouble. Melting ice, starvation, the destruction of our home. So maybe the least you can do is to adopt one of us.

But, the fact of the matter is. if you have been paying attention to our last posts you should be adopting many many others: polar bears, the scottish puffin, butterflies, baby seals, dolphins, whales … The list never ends.

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately down here at Penguin Central. And we’ve been doing a lot of reading too.

How many of you have checked out the latest report of the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is their report to policy makers about the climate crisis. Here are a few excerpts:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level …

Numerous long-term changes in climate have been observed. These include changes in arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones …

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Beached mini-icebergs Longyearbyen Photo: Rob Bell

Sea ice is projected to shrink in both the Arctic and Antarctic under all SRES scenarios. In some projections, arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century … It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent …

So what does this all mean. The UK Independent puts it this way:

Here it is: the future of the world, in 23 pages … [The IPCC] spelled out comprehensively that the Earth could warm by an average of up to 6C during the course of the coming century, and that this would be catastrophic in its impact for human society, most of all the poor in developing countries; but they also offered hope that the problem was solvable, if the governments took rapid and decisive action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions causing the warming.

So you can adopt a penguin if you want. You can adopt a baby seal. You can adopt a fern. But that won’t change what’s really going on here. It isn’t us spewing greenhouse gases up into the atmosphere. It isn’t us burning coal and oil. We’re not cutting down the forests of Indonesia and the Amazon.

How about you adopt a human for a change? How about you adopt your friends and neighbors? How about you save your farmland? How about you save Glacier National Park in Montana? How about you save the Swiss Alps? How about you demand to drive a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon? Better yet, how about you demand energy-efficient buses and trains?

See these people. Don’t they deserve to be adopted?

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Yutian, China Photo: Peter Parks/AFP – Getty



God bless these environmental movements. And thanks if you’ve actually adopted one of us. But really isn’t it time to wake up! Look, really look, at the world around you. It’s time for you human to get your act together.


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Polluted reservoir, La Paz Bolivia Photo: Dado Galdieri/AP



Adopt A Human.
Save the Earth.
Save the Ice.
Save the Penguins.
Save us All.
Save Yourselves.
Adopt A Human.
Please, Adopt A Human.





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Sep 25 2007

WE ARE ALL TUVALU

Another day without a penguin dollar. One of the benefits of living without money. As world leaders gather at the United Nations for talk, more talk, there is more news about the ice.

The BBC says “Ice withdrawal ‘shatters record.'” Which means we have lost more ice than ever before:

“The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September.

The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Northwest Passage was open.”

The fabled Arctic shipping route from the Atlantic to the Pacific is normally ice-bound at some location throughout the year; but this year, ships have been able to complete an unimpeded navigation.

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East Greenland 2 – Photo, Christian Morel



Words don’t do ice justice. You have to see it the ice to understand. There are human scientists who have dedicated themselves to better understand the ice. Their project is called the International Polar Year. They have some extraordinary photographs on their website, including many by a truly gifted photographer, Christian Morel. Look. Feel. Experience. Mourn the loss of the ice.


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Antarctic Peninsula – Photo, Christian Morel


Speaking to BBC News on Monday this week, Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the NSIDC, said: “2005 was the previous record and what happened then had really astounded us; we had never seen anything like that, having so little sea ice at the end of summer. Then along comes 2007 and it has completely shattered that old record.”

He added: “We’re on a strong spiral of decline; some would say a death spiral. I wouldn’t go that far but we’re certainly on a fast track. We know there is natural variability but the magnitude of change is too great to be caused by natural variability alone.”



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Svalbard – Photo, Christian Morel



And so what does it mean to you, this melting ice. The islanders of Tuvalu already know what is happening. Do you?

The Associated Press can help:

How would some of the United States’ best known cities look if seas rise by slightly more than 3 feet? It’s a disturbing picture.

The projections are based on coastal maps created by scientists at the University of Arizona, who relied on data from the US Geological Survey. Many scientists say sea rise of 1 meter is likely to happen within 100 years. Here is a look at what that might do:

Boston

Fourth of July celebrations wouldn’t be the same. The Esplanade, where fireworks watchers gather, would be submerged by a rising Charles River, along with the Hatch Shell where the Boston Pops stages its annual concert. Some runways at Logan International Airport will be partially covered, and the neighborhoods tourists know best would be smaller.

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Hatch Shell Boston Pops – Photo, Winslow Townsend, AP


New York

At the southern tip of Manhattan, sea water would inundate Battery Park City, now home to 9,000 people. Waves would lap near the base of the new Freedom Tower. Beachfront homes from the blue collar Rockaways to the mansions of the Hamptons, could be swamped by advancing surf.

New Yorkers seeking a change of scene would find it tougher to get out of town, since both runways at LaGuardia Airport would be partly underwater. But all that would pale compared to what would happen during a bad storm. If giant storm walls were built across key waterways, that might protect parts of the city, “but that doesn’t help anyone outside the gates,” said Malcolm Bowman, who leads a storm surge research group at Stony Brook University.

Miami

You can kiss goodbye the things that make south Florida read like an Elmore Leonard novel: the glitz of South Beach, the gator-infested Everglades, and some of the bustling terminals of Miami International Airport.

Many of the beachside places where tourists flock and the rich and famous luxuriate would be under water. Spits of land would be left in fashionable South Beach and celebrity-studded Fisher Island.

While the booming downtown would be mostly spared, inland areas near the airport and out to the low-lying Everglades would be submerged. Miami would resemble a cookie nibbled on from the south and east.

New Orleans

If the levees break again and the nation gives up the fight to save the lowest parts of New Orleans, the Big Easy would be reduced to a sliver of land along the Mississippi River, leaving the French Quarter and the oldest neighborhoods as the only places on dry ground.

Another article by Seth Borenstein of AP puts it this way:

Experts say that protecting America’s coastlines would run well into the billions and not all spots could be saved.

And it’s not just a rising ocean that is the problem. With it comes an even greater danger of storm surge, from hurricanes, winter storms and regular coastal storms, Boesch said. Sea level rise means higher and more frequent flooding from these extreme events, he said.

All told, one meter of sea level rise in just the lower 48 states would put about 25,000 square miles under water, according to Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona. That’s an area the size of West Virginia.

The amount of lost land is even greater when Hawaii and Alaska are included, Overpeck said.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s calculation projects a land loss of about 22,000 square miles. The EPA, which studied only the Eastern and Gulf coasts, found that Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina would lose the most land. But even inland areas like Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia also have slivers of at-risk land, according to the EPA.

And for you college students:

Storm surges worsened by sea level rise will flood the waterfront getaways of rich politicians – the Bushes’ Kennebunkport and John Edwards’ place on the Outer Banks. And gone will be many of the beaches in Texas and Florida favored by budget-conscious students on Spring Break.

Spring Break! Gone! Kaput! Like Tuvalua!

If that’s not enough to get you moving, nothing is.




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May 18 2007

FROM THE ROAD – UH FROM THE ICE

Well hello, Penguin 5 here, posting you from the road – I mean, of course, from the ice. It is good to be about and among my fellow penguins, resting and roaming, lying in the sun, swimming in the sea.

I don’t know about you but I certainly enjoyed Penguin 4’s joke – it was good to laugh again. I’ve made a friend named Fred from the McMurdo Station, Ross Island, here in Antarctica. Her name isn’t really Fred but I don’t really want to get her into trouble in case one of the top mucky-mucks in Washington doesn’t believe in penguins and humans spending too much time together. There are a lot of scientists around here. I got a business card from someone from The Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They get money from the National Science Foundation. They have what they call a Penguin Ranch. Anyway I’m not sure what I think about the name but Fred gave me a bunch of pictures and diagrams documenting some of their work which I’ll share. Maybe you can come up with a better name. I have an idea about the ranch but more about that later.


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The Penguin Ranch – The Research Center, J. Heil



Well you can just imagine how many penguins are flocking and flopping their way over here for a room, or some ice, with a view.


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A Penguin Arrives – The Penguin Ranch, K.Ponganis



The scientists at Penguin Ranch are particularly interested in how we swim and fish and what we talk about after work. They drilled a special hole in the ice with an observation chamber to see us swim. But I’m pretty sure they don’t understand Penguinese. So most of our secrets are safe. Of course a blabbermouth like me isn’t helping matters.


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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – Or Corrals as the Scientists Say
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



It’s obviously time for a dip:


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Penguin 4526 Volunteers to Go First
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



Here is a picture of the observation tube:


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Looking up the observation tube in McMurdo Sound.



And this is what Penguin 4526 looks like from the underwater observation tunnel on his way up to the hole.


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Penguin 4526 Returns to Penguin Ranch
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



As some of you who have read my previous posts know, I am a bit skeptical about some of the ways human beings are interacting with us.

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Melanie Conner, National Science Foundation



Fred took me to the National Science Foundation’s website. This is what it said about our penguin diving: “The routine occurrence of 500-meter dives during foraging trips is a physiological and behavioral enigma. Ponganis examines pressure tolerance, management of oxygen stores, end-organ tolerance of diving hypoxemia/ischemia, and deep-dive foraging behavior. This information provides insight into human diving physiology and has medical applications for patients whose organs or tissues have been deprived of oxygen due to heart attack, stroke, transplant, etc.” That’s a lot of big words for a small penguin.


Fred, though, is very committed to finding ways to solve the climate crisis. Living here in the Antarctic, she and some of her fellow scientists have a better understanding about our lives – and the importance of the glaciers, the ice, and the delicate balance of life here.


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Some of Fred’s Friends
Kristan Hutchison, National Science Foundation



I’m not really sure that every penguin is pleased with the service at Penguin Ranch but, as Penguin 4 has shown, it helps to tell a penguin joke every now and then.


Anyway, Fred has shared a bit about human life here. And if half of what she says is true, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for some of us penguins to build a Human Ranch with observation windows. Any chance the National Science Foundation would pay for that? Where do we get a grant application? I’m sure we qualify under the income guidelines.


In the meantime, if any of you adult humans out there are interested in some human stories about living and working in and around penguins and for the government, you can check out: Big Dead Place: Welcome to the Program. I’m not sure what Penguin 4 will think about it and there are some bad human words – so please read it before to see whether you want your kids to check it out – but it’s not often we penguins see into the world of penguin-watchers. And it’s good for us penguins to be thinking about something other than penguin problems. Like ice-cubes rather than glaciers.


I’ll leave you with the following:


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Emperors Struggling With Iceberg Blockade
Gerald Kooyman, NSF/Scripps Institution of Oceanography



Keep those cards and letters coming.



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May 08 2007

FOND FAREWELL

Well I must admit we all miss Penguin5 a bit more than we expected. Here’s a photo one of the researchers took – that’s me in the background as Penguin5 takes one last look back as he heads off on his adventure.


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Penguin4 watches as Penguin5 slowly heads off

Photo: Kris Kuenning, National Science Foundation



Meanwhile I’m very pleased about our new focus on humor. Penguin 3, our webmistress – and we penguins know about using the web – just found the following cartoon:


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The Cause of Global Warming, HoleyHands



She’s convinced it’s very funny. From the penguin school of thought that you have to be willing to laugh at yourself before you can laugh at others.


So what do you think? Funny, no? Or not funny?



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