34 news posts related to Extreme Environments

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Record-low 2016 Antarctic sea ice due to ‘perfect storm’ of tropical, polar conditions

Arctic ice with water between large chunks of ice.

While winter sea ice in the Arctic is declining so dramatically that ships can now navigate those waters without any icebreaker escort, the scene in the Southern Hemisphere is much different. Sea ice around Antarctica has actually increased slightly during winter — until last year. About a year ago, a dramatic drop in Antarctic sea ice during spring in the Southern Hemisphere brought its maximum area to its lowest level in 40 years of record keeping. 

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Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice a combination of climate change and natural variability

Arctic sea ice, as seen from an ice breaker ship in 2014.

Arctic sea ice in recent decades has declined even faster than predicted by most models of climate change. Many scientists have suspected that the trend now underway is a combination of global warming and natural climate variability. A new study finds that a substantial chunk of summer sea ice loss in recent decades was due to natural variability in the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean. 

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Hidden lakes drain below West Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier

Part of the Thwaites Glacier on the edge of West Antarctica.

Thwaites Glacier on the edge of West Antarctica is one of the planet’s fastest-moving glaciers. Research shows that it is sliding unstoppably into the ocean, mainly due to warmer seawater lapping at its underside. But the details of its collapse remain uncertain. The details are necessary to provide a timeline for when to expect 2 feet of global sea level rise, and when this glacier’s loss will help destabilize the much larger West Antarctic Ice Sheet. 

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UW oceanographer dropping robotic floats on voyage to Antarctica

A drone’s-eye view of the R/V Nathaniel B Palmer encountering sea ice in the Southern Ocean.

A University of Washington oceanographer is chief scientist on a voyage in the waters around Antarctica as part of a major effort to monitor the Southern Ocean. Stephen Riser, a UW professor of oceanography, embarked Dec. 24 as part of the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling, or SOCCOM, project to collect better data about the planet’s most remote ocean. 

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Rapid Arctic warming has in the past shifted Southern Ocean winds

Author Bradley Markle examines a section of ice core at the West Antarctic field site. He spent two months in the field as a member of the drilling team.

The global climate is a complex machine in which some pieces are separate, yet others are connected. Scientists try to discover the connections to predict what will happen to our climate, especially in a future with more heat-trapping gases. A dramatic pattern in our planet’s climate history involves paroxysms in Arctic temperatures. During the last ice age, tens of thousands of years ago, Greenland repeatedly warmed by about 10 degrees Celsius over just a few decades and then gradually cooled. 

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