Do Onion Farmers Hate the Arctic?

Op-Ed

Peel off the layers of the National Onion Association and you will find an organization that wants to despoil the Arctic with drilling for oil and gas, or maybe they just aren’t very smart and really believe that drilling for oil in the Arctic can be safe, just like fracking doesn’t frequently contaminate groundwater and emit massive amounts of methane and deepwater drilling didn’t result in the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill.

Earlier this year the National Onion Association, being the experts in Arctic ecology they are, expressed their “strong support for oil and gas development in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)” by sending a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement recommending that drilling in the Arctic be approved.

The letter was provided to them by Shell Oil’s lobbying and lying organization “Consumer Energy Alliance”.

Maybe the onion-heads truly believe in the old dirty energy industry lies that the climate is not really changing and even if it was, it is just a natural variation in weather.  Or maybe their leadership is just corrupt and took money from the dinosaurs in the fossil fuel industry to lobby the feds.

Maybe it is time to boycott onions.

Please feel free to call the onion-heads at 970-353-5895 and let them know that you will be eating fewer onions in reaction to their stupidity and malice.

 

America Now Has the Power to Curtail Arctic Oil

IQALUIT, Nunavut (Canada)— As the United States assumes the chairmanship of the multi-nation Arctic Council this week, the Obama administration has an unprecedented opportunity to end dangerous oil drilling in the rapidly melting Arctic and establish a meaningful framework for long-term protection of the Arctic Ocean and its incredible array of wildlife. Despite U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s desire to prioritize global warming and ocean conservation on the Arctic Council’s agenda, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell continues to condone Arctic drilling, most recently through her approval of the Chukchi Sea leases where Shell intends to drill this summer.

“While we appreciate Obama’s modest moves to put some of the Arctic temporarily off limits to oil drilling, the reality is that his administration continues to foolishly move ahead with highly dangerous oil leases in the Arctic,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We shouldn’t be drilling in such a sensitive and important ecosystem just to pad the profits of the oil industry.”

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that addresses environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic region. It includes eight founding members — the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden — as well as indigenous group partnerships and other nation-state and non-governmental observers.

“Despite industry and government assurances to the contrary, the extreme conditions of Arctic drilling all but guarantee oil spills and chronic degradation. And the billions of tons of carbon produced from the Arctic Ocean will ultimately wind up in the global atmosphere, further accelerating the climatic warming that is so disastrous for the Arctic,” said Richard Steiner, a marine conservation biologist who was a professor at the University of Alaska for 30 years.

Environmental and citizen groups are also pushing President Obama to use his executive authority to establish permanently protected marine national monuments in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, the Bering Strait and the Arctic Ocean, which could catalyze negotiations for a much-needed international sanctuary around the North Pole.

“Obama and Secretary Kerry have a chance to make history with permanent protection for the Arctic,” Snape said. “But you can’t allow drilling and still say it’s protected — it just doesn’t work that way.”

Polar Bears Unlikely to Thrive on Land-based Foods

According to ClimateChangeNews.info A team of scientists led by the U.S. Geological Survey found that polar bears, increasingly forced on shore due to sea ice loss, may be eating terrestrial foods including berries, birds and eggs, but any nutritional gains are limited to a few individuals and likely cannot compensate for lost opportunities to consume their traditional, lipid-rich prey—ice seals.

Polar-Bear
Polar bear laying down to dry after a swim in the Chukchi sea. Photo: Brian Battaile , USGS

“Although some polar bears may eat terrestrial foods, there is no evidence the behavior is widespread,” said Dr. Karyn Rode, lead author of the study and scientist with the USGS. “In the regions where terrestrial feeding by polar bears has been documented, polar bear body condition and survival rates have declined.”

The authors detail their findings in a review article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The scientists noted that over much of the polar bear’s range, terrestrial habitats are already occupied by grizzly bears. Those grizzly bears occur at low densities and are some of the smallest of their species due to low food quality and availability. Further, they are a potential competitor as polar bears displaced from their sea ice habitats increasingly use the same land habitats as grizzly bears.

“The smaller size and low population density of grizzly bears in the Arctic provides a clear indication of the nutritional limitations of onshore habitats for supporting large bodied polar bears in meaningful numbers,” said Rode. “Grizzly bears and polar bears are likely to increasingly interact and potentially compete for terrestrial resources.”

The study found that fewer than 30 individual polar bears have been observed consuming bird eggs from any one population, which typically range from 900 to 2000 individuals. “There has been a fair bit of publicity about polar bears consuming bird eggs. However, this behavior is not yet common, and is unlikely to have population-level impacts on trends in body condition and survival,” said Rode.

Few foods are as energetically dense as marine prey. Studies suggest that polar bears consume the highest lipid diet of any species, which provides all essential nutrients and is ideal for maximizing fat deposition and minimizing energetic requirements. Potential foods found in the terrestrial environment are dominated by high-protein, low-fat animals and vegetation. Polar bears are not physiologically suited to digest plants, and it would be difficult for them to ingest the volumes that would be required to support their large body size.

“The reports of terrestrial feeding by polar bears provide important insights into the ecology of bears on land,” said Rode. “In this paper, we tried to put those observations into a broader context.  Focused research will help us determine whether terrestrial foods could contribute to polar bear nutrition despite the physiological and nutritional limitations and the low availability of most terrestrial food resources. However, the evidence thus far suggests that increased consumption of terrestrial foods by polar bears is unlikely to offset declines in body condition and survival resulting from sea ice loss.”

The review article was developed by researchers at the USGS, Washington State University, and Polar Bears International.

The USGS is leading studies of polar bear response to sea ice loss through its Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative. Current studies include examination of polar bear nutritional and behavioral ecology, linked to population-level consequences. For further information, visit the USGS Polar Bear Program.

Polar Bears Shifting to Areas with More Sea Ice – Genetic Study Reveals

In a new polar bear study published today, scientists from around the Arctic have shown that recent generations of polar bears are moving towards areas with more persistent year-round sea ice.

Research scientists, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, found that the 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears group into four genetically-similar clusters, corresponding to ecological and oceanographic factors. These four clusters are the Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago, and Southern Canada.

The scientists also detected directional gene flow towards the Canadian Archipelago within the last 1-3 generations. Gene flow of this type can result from populations expanding and contracting at different rates or directional movement and mating over generations. The findings of spatial structure (clusters) and directional gene flow are important because they support the hypothesis that the species is coalescing to the region of the Arctic most likely to retain sea ice into the future.

“The polar bear’s recent directional gene flow northward is something new,” said Elizabeth Peacock, USGS researcher and lead author of the study. “In our analyses that focused on more historic gene flow, we did not detect movement in this direction.” The study found that the predominant gene flow was from Southern Canada and the Eastern Polar Basin towards the Canadian Archipelago where the sea ice is more resilient to summer melt due to circulation patterns, complex geography, and cooler northern latitudes.

Projections of future sea ice extent in light of climate warming typically show greater retention of sea ice in the northern Canadian Archipelago than in other regions.

“By examining the genetic makeup of polar bears, we can estimate levels and directions of gene flow, which represents the past story of mating and movement, and population expansion and contraction,” said Peacock. “Gene flow occurs over generations, and would not be detectable by using data from satellite-collars which can only be deployed on a few polar bears for short periods of time.”

The authors also found that female polar bears showed higher fidelity to their regions of birth than did male polar bears. Data to allow comparison of the movements of male and female polar bears is difficult to obtain because male bears cannot be collared as their necks are wider than their heads.

The study also confirmed earlier work that suggests that modern polar bears stem from one or several hybridization events with brown bears. No evidence of current polar bear-brown bear hybridization was found in the more than 2,800 samples examined in the current study. Scientists concluded that the hybrid bears that have been observed in the Northern Beaufort Sea region of Canada represent a recent and currently localized phenomenon. Scientists also found that polar bear populations expanded and brown bear populations contracted in periods with more ice. In periods with less ice, the opposite was true.

The goal of the study was to see how genetic diversity and structure of the worldwide polar bear population have changed over the recent dramatic decline in their sea-ice habitat. The USGS and the Government of Nunavut led the study with scientists from 15 institutions representing all five nations with polar bears (U.S., Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia).

This circumpolar, multi-national effort provides a timely perspective on how a rapidly changing Arctic is influencing the gene flow and likely future distribution of a species of worldwide conservation concern.

The paper “Implications of the circumpolar genetic structure of polar bears for their conservation in a rapidly warming Arctic” was published today in the journal PLOS One.

New Portal Champions Climate Action

A way to increase the visibility of the wealth of climate action by cities, regions, companies and investors was launched last recently by the government of Peru.

The portal aims to demonstrate the strategic action being taken by ‘non-state actors either individually or as part of cooperative initiatives. The on-line site, developed with the support of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been named the Nazca Climate Action Portal, after the vast ancient lines found in the landscape of Peru.

These world-famous works of art depict among other things the agility of the hummingbird, the creativity of the monkey and the soaring ambition of the condor—all key qualities that are needed now and into the future for realizing short and long term climate action.

The Nazca Climate Action portal, launched with a first group of non-state actors, will progressively showcase the extraordinary range of game-changing actions being undertaken by thousands of cities, investors and corporations. Many of these actions—ranging from increases in energy efficiency and deployment of renewables to carbon pricing policies and investments in adaptation— are happening in partnership with governments, organizations and international bodies, including the United Nations.

While the range of actions is impressive, it is clear that they are not sufficient to address the challenge of climate change. The data underlines the fact that cities, regions, companies and others need a strong, universal climate agreement to be signed at COP 21 in Paris to be able to unleash even further innovation in the areas of mitigation and adaptation.

The portal will draw on data from established, credible sources with a strong track record of reporting and tracking progress. For the launch these include the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the Carbonn Climate Registry. More data partners will be added throughout the year.

The portal will also provide a site for showcasing the many ambitious pledges and initiatives launched at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September 2014, covering reducing deforestation along supply chains to greening the investments of the insurance industry. Other cooperative initiatives, such as those aggregated in the Climate Initiatives Database, will also be included throughout the year.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, President of the 20th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC taking place in Lima and the Peruvian Environment Minister, said today that he believed the new portal will trigger confidence and ambition.

“We are very pleased to be contributing this way to showcasing the impressive scale of action by cities, regions, companies and others in a way that will provide additional momentum and urgency into the process through to COP 21. Much of the ambition featured here will provide inspiration for what can be achieved, which is why we have named it Nazca. The Nazca lines symbolize the creativity and the vision that more than 190 countries will need to finalize a strong 2015 agreement. These ancestral lines hold significance for the peoples of this region and the peoples of the world as we look to the past to inform the present and inspire a new and better future for humanity,” he said.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said: “The Nazca Climate Action portal is a great move forward in showcasing climate action and we congratulate the Peruvian Presidency in taking this step. The insight hosted here will provide inspiration for what can be done but it is not designed to be an exhaustive list of everything that is happening on climate change by non-state actors. More insight will be added throughout 2015 in the lead up to COP 21, as the momentum for an agreement in Paris builds throughout the year”.

The Nazca Climate Action portal can be found atwww.climateaction.unfccc.int

Champions of Change Wanted for Climate Education

Communities across the United States are working to advance understanding of climate variability and change. Leaders inside and outside of government are helping to increase science-based understanding and awareness of current and future climate change, enhancing climate literacy in K-12 classrooms, on college and university campuses, and in parks and museums across the country. There has been tremendous progress to date, but there is still more work to be done.

A climate-literate workforce will be required for tomorrow’s community leaders, city planners, and entrepreneurs to have the information, knowledge, and training to make sound choices and grow businesses in the context of a changing climate. That’s why on December 3, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) launched the Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, focused on connecting Americans of all ages with the best-available, science-based information about climate change. This initiative builds upon a Call to Action around climate education and literacy that received nearly 150 submissions from schools, communities, individuals, and organizations across the country. These responses demonstrated the magnitude and diversity of efforts underway and articulated ideas for future action.

The OSTP is asking for help to identify and honor local leaders who are taking action to enhance understanding of climate change as Champions of Change for Climate Education and Literacy. These extraordinary leaders will be invited to the White House to celebrate their accomplishments and amplify their work to promote climate education and literacy as a critical step toward building an educated, next-generation American workforce that grasps the climate change challenge and is equipped to seek and implement solutions.

Please submit nominations by midnight on Tuesday December 23rd, 2014. Nominees may include the following types of individuals:

  • -Educators who serve as leaders in promoting and integrating best-available climate science into their classrooms.
  • -Outstanding students who demonstrate a high proficiency in climate knowledge and skills and leadership both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • -Young scientists who are advancing understanding of climate impacts and solutions.
  • -Leaders from, organizations that are developing high-quality, science-based tools, resources, and other learning opportunities for students of all ages.
  • -Individuals from place-based institutions (zoos, parks, aquaria, museums, etc.) that are effectively engaging visitors around climate change.
  • -Business leaders taking action to enhance understanding and awareness around climate change.

Click on the link below to submit your nomination (be sure to choose Climate Education and Literacy in the “Theme of Service” field of the nomination form):

Nominate a Climate Education and Literacy Champion of Change

$12.2M Fine for Drilling Company in Alaska

Noble Drilling (U.S.) LLC was charged with environmental and maritime crimes for operating the drill ship Noble Discoverer and the drilling unit Kulluk in violation of federal law in Alaska in 2012, the Department of Justice announced.

Under the terms of a plea agreement filed in federal court today, Noble will plead guilty to eight felony offenses, pay $12.2 million dollars in fines and community service payments, implement a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan, and will be placed on probation for four years. In addition, Noble’s parent corporation, Noble Corporation plc, headquartered in London, England, will implement an Environmental Management System for all Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs) owned or operated by Noble Corporation plc and its direct and indirect subsidiaries worldwide.

Noble Drilling (U.S.) LLC was charged in an eight-count Information with knowingly failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book and an accurate International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate, knowingly failing to maintain a ballast water record book, and knowingly and willfully failing to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of hazardous conditions aboard the drill ship Noble Discoverer. At the time of the offenses, the Noble Discoverer was operating under contract with Shell Offshore, Inc. and Shell Development, Ltd. for the purpose of drilling in the arctic in Alaska.

During the 2012 drilling season, Noble was the operator and bare boat charterer of the motor vessel Noble Discoverer and the drilling operator of the MODU Kulluk. The Kulluk was a conical-shaped vessel, weighing 27,968 gross tons, and measuring 265.7 feet in diameter. The Kulluk was not self-propelled, but rather had to be towed. The Noble Discoverer, a mobile drill ship, weighed approximately 15,296 gross tons, measured 572 feet long, and was propelled by a single main engine. In 2012, the Kulluk and the Noble Discoverer made several U.S. port calls in Washington and Alaska on their way to the Shell drilling site off the coast of Alaska. After leaving the drill site, the Kulluk ultimately ran aground off the coast of Unalaska when it broke free from its tow in bad weather, and the Noble Discoverer was dead-ship towed from Dutch Harbor to Seward due to failures with its main engine and other equipment.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Noble admits that it knowingly made false entries and failed to record its collection, transfer, storage, and disposal of oil in the Noble Discoverer’s and the Kulluk’s oil record books in 2012. Oil record book entries falsely reflected that the Noble Discoverer’s Oil Water Separator (OWS) was used during periods of time when in fact the OWS was inoperable. Under the International MARPOL protocol and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, all overboard discharges must pass through an operating OWS to insure that water pumped overboard does not contain more than 15ppm of oil.

Noble also admits that it failed to log numerous transfers and storage of machinery space bilge water and waste oil and failed to log that the Noble Discoverer’s oil content meter audible alarm was nonfunctional. Noble also made modifications to the Noble Discoverer’s new OWS system after the OWS system passed inspections by the Classification Society and the U.S. Coast Guard. Noble did not inform the U.S. Coast Guard or the Classification Society of the modifications and did not receive an International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate that documented the unapproved decanting system, the increased storage, or the new OWS piping arrangement.

Noble had problems managing the bilge and wastewater that was accumulating in the engine room spaces of the Noble Discoverer. This and other conditions led to a number of problems. Noble devised a makeshift barrel and pump system to discharge water that had entered the vessel’s engine room machinery spaces directly overboard from the Noble Discoverer without processing it through the required pollution prevention equipment as required by law. Noble failed to notify the Coast Guard about this system, and took steps to actively hide the fact that it was being used. These false and missing record entries and the use of the illegal overboard discharge system all violated the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

In the factual basis of the plea agreement, Noble also admits that it negligently discharged machinery space bilge water from the Noble Discoverer into Broad Bay, Unalaska, on July 22, 2012. While anchored in Dutch Harbor, the Noble Discoverer’s bilge holding tank 27S overflowed and went overboard, creating a sheen in Broad Bay.

The Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act requires vessels to maintain accurate ballast records reflecting the source of ballast water in the ballast water tanks, discharges from the tanks, and the total volume of ballast water onboard. By design, water ballast tanks should only contain uncontaminated seawater. Noble pumped oily skimmer tank fluids and deck water with a sheen into several ballast tanks on the Noble Discoverer. Noble then discharged those ballast tanks directly overboard instead of properly discharging the water through the OWS or transferring to a shore-side facility. Noble failed to record the transfers to the ballast tanks and the subsequent discharges in the ballast log.

The Ports and Waterways Safety Act regulations require that the owner, operator, or person in charge of a vessel must immediately notify the nearest Coast Guard office whenever there is a hazardous condition, either aboard a vessel or caused by the vessel or its operation. Noble knowingly and willfully failed on several occasions in 2012 to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of hazardous conditions aboard the Noble Discoverer. There were conditions aboard the Noble Discoverer that may have adversely affected the safety of the Noble Discoverer, other vessels, and the environmental quality of ports, harbors, and navigable waterways of the United States. During 2012, the Noble Discoverer experienced numerous problems with its main propulsion system, including its main engine and its propeller shaft, resulting in engine shut-downs, equipment failures, and unsafe conditions. At times, the condition of the Noble Discoverer’s main engine also created high levels of exhaust in the engine room, multiple sources of fuel and oil leaks, and backfires. Noble acknowledges that it failed to report any of these hazardous conditions to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Noble Discoverer was initially detained in Seward by the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection for the Western Alaska zone, following a Coast Guard Port State Control examination on November 29, 2012. This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and is being prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

For more Alaska business news visit BidAlaska.com

Polar Bears Declining Rapidly in Beafort Sea

In a new polar bear study published today, scientists from the United States and Canada found that during the first decade of the 21st century, the number of polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea experienced a sharp decline of approximately 40 percent.

The scientists, led by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, found that survival of adult bears and cubs was especially low from 2004 to 2006, when most of the decline occurred.

“Of the 80 cubs observed in Alaska from 2004 to 2007, only 2 are known to have survived,” said Jeff Bromaghin, USGS research statistician and lead author of the study.

Survival of adults and cubs began to improve in 2007 and the population stabilized at approximately 900 bears in 2010, the last year of the study. However, the survival of juvenile bears declined throughout the 10-year study period (2001-2010), suggesting that conditions remained unfavorable for young bears newly separated from their mothers.

Scientists suspect that limited access to seals during both summer and winter contributed to low survival during this period. Although some bears in this population now come onshore during the autumn open water period, most stay with the sea ice as it retreats north into the Arctic Basin and far from shore where few seals are thought to occur. Similarly, the thinning and increasingly mobile winter ice is susceptible to breaking up and rafting, which can create rough and jumbled ice conditions that may make it harder for polar bears to capture seals. However, other potential causes, such as low seal abundance, could not be ruled out.

“The low survival may have been caused by a combination of factors that could be difficult to unravel,” said Bromaghin, “and why survival improved at the end of the study is unknown. Research and monitoring to better understand the factors influencing this population continue.”

The Polar Bear Specialists’ Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature will use the new estimate for the southern Beaufort Sea population to track historic (within the last 25 years) and current (within the last 12 years) trends in the 19 populations worldwide. Currently, four populations, including the southern Beaufort Sea population, are considered to be declining, five are stable, one is increasing, with the remainder considered to be data deficient.

Collaborators with USGS in the study included Environment Canada, University of Alberta, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Polar Bears International, and Western Ecosystems Technology.

The polar bear was listed as globally threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 due to concerns about the effects of sea ice loss on their populations.

The paper “Polar bear population dynamics in the southern Beaufort Sea during a period of sea ice decline” was published today in early online view in the journal Ecological Applications.

 

For further information:

Learn more about USGS Quantitative Ecology program that originated this study, then visit the USGS Polar Bear program website. The USGS conducts this work under its Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative.

Summary of polar bear population status per 2013 from the Polar Bear Specialists Group.

Multimedia

Find more polar bear photos in the USGS multimedia gallery.

Check out our polar bear POV video in the USGS multimedia gallery.

Better Understanding of Arctic Icebergs

Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have found between Greenland and Spitsbergen the scours left behind on the sea bed by gigantic icebergs. The five lineaments, at a depth of 1,200 metres, are the lowest-lying iceberg scours yet to be found on the Arctic sea floor. This finding provides new understanding of the Ice Age and the extent of the Arctic ice sheet thousands of years ago. In addition, the researchers could draw conclusions about the export of fresh water from the Arctic into the North Atlantic. The AWI scientists have published their findings in the online portal of the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“Whenever icebergs run aground, they leave scours on the seabed. Depending on their depth and location, those markings may continue to exist over long periods of time,” explained Jan Erik Arndt, AWI bathymetrician and lead author for this paper.

It is traces exactly like this that he, together with three colleagues at AWI, discovered on the Hovgaard Ridge. The Hovgaard Ridge is a plateau in the deep Arctic Sea, located a good 400 kilometres off of Greenland’s eastern coast. Found at a depth of 1,200 metres the five lineaments are the deepest iceberg scours found to date in Arctic. The scours are as much as four kilometers long and 15 metres in depth. “ Such scours are a window into the past. Thanks to these iceberg scours we know that a few very large, but also many smaller icebergs, passed across the Hovgaard Ridge,” the scientist said.

The discovery of the scours on Hovgaard Ridge was fortuitous and by no means the result of a defined search. Jan Erik Arndt and his colleagues discovered the lineaments when examining bathymetric data from the year 1990. The data were collected by the research ship Polastern while preparing cartography for the Fram Strait. “When we examined the data once again and in greater detail, we became aware of the scours. Given their depth, it quickly became clear that we had found something very interesting,” says Jan Erik Arndt.

The scientists today work with better hardware and software than what was available in the 1990s. This new technology allows closer scrutiny of the old data. That is why the scours have surfaced on the scientists’ monitors only now, 24 years after the data were collected.

The scientist can, however, only roughly bracket the period within which the icebergs scoured the ridge crest. It is clear, however, that it must have taken place within the past 800,000 years. Since sea level during the glacial period was a good 120 meters lower than today, the icebergs reached to a depth of at least 1,080 metres below sea level. Since about a tenth of an iceberg will, as a rule, be exposed, AWI scientists estimate the height of the iceberg to be roughly 1,200 metres – about three times the height of the Empire State Building. “To calve such megascale icebergs, the edge of the ice sheet covering the Arctic Ocean must have been at least 1,200 metres thick,” Jan Erik Arndt notes.

Today scientist search in vain for such megascale icebergs. “We currently find the largest icebergs in the Antarctic. The very biggest reach only 700 metres below the water’s surface,” noted the bathymetrician. One remaining riddle is the birthplace of the massive icebergs that scraped Hovgaard Ridge. The AWI scientists suggest that two areas off the northern coast of Russia are the most likely sites.

The researchers are interested in these scours not only because of the size of the icebergs. The traces have caused a flare up in the old discussion about how fresh water was transported from the Arctic and into the Atlantic Ocean. In the past, some scientist assumed that thick sea ice was primarily responsible for fresh water export from the Arctic.  The newly discovered scours, however, support another hypothesis: Large icebergs drifted southward through the Fram Strait, carrying large volumes of frozen fresh water into the North Atlantic.

Numerous studies make the increased imports of fresh water responsible for the end of North Atlantic deep water formation at the close of the last ice age. As a consequence, the Gulf Stream ebbed, making for drastic cooling in Europe. Since the currents in the Atlantic are an important engine, driving the global system of circulation, the effects were perceived around the world. “The fact that icebergs of this order of magnitude were driven from the Arctic is clear evidence that icebergs played a more serious role in freshwater imports than what we had previously assumed,” Jan Erik Arndt concludes.

For more information related to climate change and the Arctic please visit http://www.climatechangenews.info