“The Arctic as we know it may be a thing of the past,” writes Eric Post (Penn State) in the journal Science. He’s not just talking about polar bears and sea-ice. Post and colleagues synthesized material from a myriad of recent studies aimed at understanding the effects of rapid warming on the Arctic to show that changes are afoot all over the ecosystem. Earlier spring thaw is causing the northward march of new kinds of plants, which impacts not only the animals that feed on them, but more esoteric things like snow cover and ground temperature. Post himself has an NSF grant to study the impacts of changing seasonality on caribou in southern Greenland, and his data suggest that the timing of caribou births is out of sync with green-up, resulting in lower percentages of yearling calves. Other animals benefit from the seasonal shift–geese and wild reindeer on Svalbard, for example.
“We must protect Arctic ice,” said HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco at a UN meeting attended by international leaders, including President Obama, in New York City this week, a forerunner to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in mid-December. Meanwhile, a new article in the weekly, Nature, reports that Greenland’s and Antarctica’s glaciers are accelerating, probably contributing to sea-level rise more dramatically than previously expected. “To some extent it’s a runaway effect. The question is how far will it run?”, the study’s lead author says in this related article.
“[H]e single-handedly captured the attention of all our students in grades 5-12 for 45 minutes. Short of setting myself on fire and doing cartwheels across the room I really have not been able to accomplish that feat.” So says a school teacher in a rural Alaskan community where Kenji Yoshikawa and his alter ego, Tunnel Man, have visited. Force-of-nature Yoshikawa has an NSF grant to conduct permafrost outreach in the Arctic. This Yoshikawa profile by noted scientist/author Bill Streever captures Kenji’s unique spirit, and his approach to permafrost education. Long live Tunnel Man!