“The extent of ice probably hit its low point on September 16, when it covered 1.32 million square miles (3.42 million square km) of the Arctic Ocean, the smallest amount since satellite records began 33 years ago.
Changing weather conditions could further shrink the extent, the center said. A final analysis is expected next month.
The record was broken on August 26, when the ice shrank below the record set in 2007. After that, it kept melting for three more weeks, bringing the ice extent – defined by NSIDC as the area covered by at least 15 percent ice – to nearly half of the 1979-2000 average.
“We are now in uncharted territory,” Mark Serreze, the center’s director, said in a statement. “While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.”
The summer ice isn’t just dwindling. It is also thin, relatively fragile seasonal ice instead of the hardier multi-year ice that can better withstand bright sunlight.”
Read more: Reuters
“In 2007, a new record was set for the minimum summer sea ice cover in the Arctic had halved. This furious flag waving attracted attention. That year, the world’s scientists declared the end of any doubt that our addiction to burning fossil fuels was changing the face of the planet. Al Gore expounded his inconvenient truth and the world seemed set to act.
Today, that 2007 record is smashed and the shredded white flag is now flickering rathering than flashing. But the danger is greater than even, even if the alarm signal is frayed.
The last great global ice melt the planet witnessed came 10,000 years ago at the end of a deep ice age. As glaciers retreated, a benign and balmy climate emerged in which the human race has flourished. Our entire civilisation is built on the warm soils left as the ice sheets melted.
This new great melting heralds the polar opposite: the gravest of threats to civilisation. Removing the lid from the pole will release heat equivalent to fast-forwarding human-caused climate change by two decades, say scientists.”
Read more: Common Dreams
“A massive iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken away from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, scientists have said.
“The floating extension (of the glacier) is breaking apart,” Eric Rignot of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement on Thursday.
“It is not a collapse, but it is certainly a significant event.”
This is the second time in less than two years that the Petermann Glacier has calved a monstrous ice island. In 2010, it unleashed another massive ice chunk into the sea.
The latest break was observed by NASA’s Aqua satellite, which passes over the North Pole several times a day, and was noted by Trudy Wohlleben of the Canadian Ice Service.
“At this time of year, we’re always watching the Petermann Glacier,” Wohlleben said, because it can spawn big icebergs that invade North Atlantic shipping lanes or imperil oil platforms in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland.”
Read more: Aljazeera
“Man-made debris in the oceans is now found from the poles to the equator and from shorelines, estuaries and the sea surface to ocean floor. While the types and absolute quantities vary, it is clear that plastic materials represent the major constituents of this debris, and there is no doubt about the ubiquity of such debris on a truly global scale.
Many conferences and documents on the subject of “Marine Debris,” especially those funded by industry, have been evasive about plastic: the single most destructive and overwhelmingly most common substance of concern in the waste material that washes from our shores to oceans and back onto shores around the globe. The significance of plastics being singled out as the main source of marine debris around the globe is that plastic production continues to increase at a rate of about 9 percent annually and the waste from it is cumulative: “Since most plastic items will not biodegrade in the environment it seems inevitable that quantities of debris will increase over time…” (Andrady 2011).
The second reason for hope is that the report offers real solutions, and a methodology to choose them, in addition to an excellent scientific accounting of the many threats posed by plastic pollution to the environment, wildlife, humans and our economies. The solutions specified in the report take account of the fact that the vast majority of communities around the globe are not able to manage non-biodegradable plastic waste because there is no plastic recycling infrastructure or market, and the volume of plastic waste overwhelms landfill capacity.”
Read more: Alternet
“As global warming triggers heavier rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities in Canada are reporting more cases of illness attributed to pathogens that have washed into surface water and groundwater, according to a new study.
The findings corroborate past research that suggests indigenous people worldwide are being disproportionately affected by climate change. This is because many of them live in regions where the effects are felt first and most strongly, and they might come into closer contact with the natural environment on a daily basis. For example, some indigenous communities lack access to treated water because they are far from urban areas. (See a map of the region.)
“In the north, a lot of [Inuit] communities prefer to drink brook water instead of treated tap water. It’s just a preference,” explained study lead author Sherilee Harper, a Vanier Canada graduate scholar in epidemiology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. ”Also, when they’re out on the land and hunting or fishing, they don’t have access to tap water, so they drink brook water.”
The experiences of the Inuit and other indigenous communities as they struggle to adapt to changing climate conditions could help guide humanity in the coming years when the effects of climate change are felt universally, scientists say.”
Read more: National Geographic
“We’re hoping this project inspires New York to become more sustainable,’’ said Mary Jordan, the organization’s founder, adding that other objectives include “to promote New York City tap water and lower our consumption of plastic waste.’’
Read More: NY Times BLOG
“Scientists are monitoring the birth of a monster iceberg in West Antarctica.
A rift has formed in the shelf of floating ice in front of the Pine Island Glacier (PIG).
The surface crack in the PIG runs for almost 30km (20 miles), is 60m (200ft) deep and is growing every day.
US space agency (Nasa) researchers expect the eventual iceberg to cover about 880 sq km – an area the size of Berlin. It should break away towards the end of the year or early in 2012.
Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest and fastest-moving tongues of ice on the White Continent and drains something like 10% of all the ice flowing out of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet into the ocean.”
Read more: BBC
“Major river systems in the developing world have enough water to meet food production needs this century, according to a report by researchers from 30 countries published in the International Water Journal.
“A study of 10 river basins in Asia, Latin America and Africa released today from Recife, Brazil, found there’s “clearly enough” water, and the issue is one of inefficient use and unfair distribution rather than scarcity, the Challenge Program on Water and Food, or CPWF, said in a statement.
“The river basins studied are home to about 1.5 billion people, according to the research group. World food output will have to climb 70 percent by 2050 as the world’s population rises to 9.2 billion from an estimated 6.9 billion in 2010, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
“Water scarcity is not affecting our ability to grow enough food,” Alain Vidal, director of the CPWF who is based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, said in the statement. “There is scarcity in certain areas, but our findings show that the problem overall is a failure to make efficient use of the water available in these river basins.”
Read more: Bloomberg
“Towing icebergs to places desperate for water is something of a non-urban myth. The idea sounds good on the surface. The planet is running short of freshwater, and gloomy forecasts predict a 30 percent rainfall decrease around the globe. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of big, purely freshwater icebergs crack off Greenland and Antarctica every year, only to drift into warmer waters and melt.
The notion of harnessing these massive, glassy natural resources is hardly new. In 1773 Captain James Cook brought small icebergs aboard The Resolution to replenish fresh water supplies. Towing bergs north or south has been seriously talked about in this century since the 1950s.
Unfortunately, every time a visionary entrepreneur floats a plan for navigating all that solid freshwater to parched markets, the H2O innovator is stymied by 1) the high cost of the towing and 2) the unacceptable amount of ice lost along the route.
Still, new iceberg theorists pop up every few years. The latest proposal comes from a University of Cambridge professor of ocean physics named Peter Wadhams. Wadhams claims to have partners in Canada and France who want to use tugboats to lug bergs from Newfoundland to the Canary Islands.”
Read more: Take Part
Vision: 8 Reasons Global Capitalism Makes Our Lives Worse — And How We Can Create a New Kind of Economy
“Globalization wastes natural resources. Consumerism is threatening the planet, natural resources are stretched to the breaking point and yet we have an economic system that encourages us to consume more and more, says Norberg-Hodge. Consumer culture is increasingly urban and when rural people move to the city the food they used to grow themselves is now grown on industrial-sized chemical-intensive farms. Food must be trucked to cities, waste must be trucked out. Large dams are needed to provide water and huge centralized power plants must be fueled by coal and uranium mines.
4. Globalization accelerates climate change. Globalization’s “success” is often attributed to efficiencies of scale, but mostly it is fueled by deregulation and hidden subsidies that make food from around the globe cost less than food from down the street. With efficiencies of scale, it’s really the opposite, says British MP Zac Goldsmith, “Tuna caught off the east coast of America is flown to Japan, processed and flown back to America to be sold to consumers; English apples are flown to South Africa to be waxed, flown back to England to be sold.”
Read more: AlterNet
“The research, led by scientist Daniel Obrist and colleagues at Nevada’s Desert Research Institute with a group of Israeli researchers at Hebrew University, found that mercury was concentrated into the most toxic form in the air above the Dead Sea.
The atmosphere over the Dead Sea, researchers found, is laden with oxidized mercury, a much more toxic form of Mercury than the elemental form. The finding was surprising, as such high levels of oxidized mercury have only been found at the polar regions.
“We’ve found near-complete depletion of elemental mercury – and formation of some of the highest oxidized mercury levels ever seen – above the Dead Sea, a place where temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius,” Obrist noted.
The findings are a concern because oxidized mercury threatens the food supply more readily than the elemental form. That is because, once oxidized in what scientists call elemental mercury depletion events – it is then readily deposited on a surface such as the ocean, and can then find its way into the food chain.”
Read more: Green Prophet
“Sitka, Alaska, is home to one of the world’s most spectacular lakes. Nestled into a U-shaped valley of dense forests and majestic peaks, and fed by snowpack and glaciers, the reservoir, named Blue Lake for its deep blue hues, holds trillions of gallons of water so pure it requires no treatment. The city’s tiny population—fewer than 10,000 people spread across 5,000 square miles—makes this an embarrassment of riches. Every year, as countries around the world struggle to meet the water needs of their citizens, 6.2 billion gallons of Sitka’s reserves go unused. That could soon change. In a few months, if all goes according to plan, 80 million gallons of Blue Lake water will be siphoned into the kind of tankers normally reserved for oil—and shipped to a bulk bottling facility near Mumbai. From there it will be dispersed among several drought-plagued cities throughout the Middle East. The project is the brainchild of two American companies. One, True Alaska Bottling, has purchased the rights to transfer 3 billion gallons of water a year from Sitka’s bountiful reserves. The other, S2C Global, is building the water-processing facility in India. If the companies succeed, they will have brought what Sitka hopes will be a $90 million industry to their city, not to mention a solution to one of the world’s most pressing climate conundrums. They will also have turned life’s most essential molecule into a global commodity.”
Read more: Newsweek
“The data and statistical tools used to plan $500 billion worth of annual global investments in dams, flood-control structures, diversion projects, and other big pieces of water infrastructure are no longer trustworthy,” she writes. “In other words, when it comes to water, the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future.”
The uncertainty of future water supplies and flow patterns is not limited to concerns over dams and diversions. Food security, public health, and life as we know it are also at risk.
Postel describes a “day of reckoning on the horizon” in the U.S. Southwest, for instance. Some scientists predict there is a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead, which stores Colorado River water for tens of millions of people and one million acres of irrigated land, will dry up by 2021.
And she notes that as much as 10 percent of the world’s food is produced through tapping too deep into residual and unreplenished groundwater resources. “This creates a bubble in the food economy far more serious than the recent housing, credit, or dot-com bubbles, for we are meeting some of today’s food needs with tomorrow’s water.”
“The water challenges confronting us locally, regionally, and globally are unprecedented,” Postel writes. The good news, she says, is that we have the economic and technological capacity to make sure global water needs are met. We just have to start using it.
The smarter path to water sustainability also requires us to work with nature and assign it a value for flood protection, water filtration, and other beneficial services it provides, according to Postel. And smarter water users-individuals, cities, utilities, businesses, and farmers-will be more aware of their water footprints and how to reduce them.”
Read more: National Geographic
“Rivers are the arteries of the planet, linking continents through coastal zones to the ocean. More than 120,000 species of plants and animals make up the world’s riverine ecosystems that provide the multi-trillion dollar services humanity relies upon – however up to 20,000 are at risk of extinction Vörösmarty says.
An international team examined data sets on 23 factors that impact rivers around the world and created state-of-the-art computer models to integrate all of the information to paint the first ever global picture of the health of river systems. More than 65 percent of the world’s rivers are in trouble and this finding is very “conservative” since there was not enough data to assess impacts of climate change, pharmaceutical compounds, mining wastes and massive inter-basin water transfers like the Colorado River in the western U.S.
Where rivers are least at risk are where human populations are smallest. Rivers in arctic regions and relatively inaccessible areas of the tropics appear to be in the best health, according to the findings.
In an unrelated study more than 80 percent of male bass fish exhibited female traits such as egg production because of a “toxic stew” of pollutants in the Potomac River that flows through Washington, DC scientists reported last week. Similar findings have been made in many U.S. rivers.”
Read more: AlterNet
A very interesting interactive video from Scientific American about the limitations of the resources that so many think unlimited.
In this video, Christophe Miller, the project chief of the Continental Water, Climate, and Earth-systems Dynamics project (US Geological Survey/NOAA), summarizes the impact of Global Warming on the water resources.
“Today, March 22nd, is recognized by the United Nations Water Group as “World Water Day”, this year’s theme being “Clean Water for a Healthy World”. Although we live on a water-covered planet, only 1% of the world’s water is available for human use, the rest locked away in oceans, ice, and the atmosphere. The National Geographic Society feels so strongly about the issues around fresh water that they are distributing an interactive version of their April, 2010 magazine for download – free until April 2nd – and will be exhibiting images from the series at theAnnenberg Space for photography. National Geographic was also kind enough to share 15 of their images below, in a collection with other photos from news agencies and NASA – all of water, here at home – Earth. (43 photos total)”
read more: boston.com
“Methane, the second most common greenhouse gas from human activities after carbon dioxide, is bubbling out from the frozen Arctic much faster than expected and could stoke global warming, scientists have warned.”
read more: Economic Times
“The future position of the two giant icebergs will likely affect local ocean circulation, the extent (and timing?) of the polynya, sea ice production, and deep water formation. It also has important implications for the marine biology of this region. A number of on-going field and research activities will follow up this calving event and its impact on the local environment”
read more: Science Daily
“The WMO regards drinking water shortages among principal obstacles to sustainable development. Even now, one third of humanity experiences permanent water shortages. Two thirds will share the plight by 2025 if the trend persists.
Antarctic ice offers a remedy.”
read more: Terra Daily