Navigation Links
NRC authors brief federal agencies on the state of polar regions

AMHERST, Mass. The U.S. National Research Council this week released a synthesis of reports from thousands of scientists in 60 countries who took part in the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-08, the first in over 50 years to offer a benchmark for environmental conditions and new discoveries in the polar regions.

University of Massachusetts Amherst geosciences researcher and expert in the paleoclimate of the Arctic, Julie Brigham-Grette, co-chaired the NRC report, "Lessons and Legacies of the IPY 2007-08" with leading Antarctic climate scientist Robert Bindschadler of NASA.

Among the major findings is that global warming is changing the face of Antarctica and the Arctic faster than expected. For example, in 2007 scientists documented a 27 percent loss of sea ice in a single year, Brigham-Grette says. Also, ice sheets around the poles are now showing evidence of serious retreat, expected to continue and perhaps accelerate over coming centuries as warm ocean currents melt the ice front faster than anyone had grasped before. Sea level rise from melting polar ice sheets is today slowly affecting every shoreline on the planet.

"As a result of this work, we have a new benchmark. Seven of 12 Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves are either gone or now in severe decline," she adds. "This type of information makes the report all the more important because the changes we expect to see in the next few decades are going to be incredible."

As co-authors, she and Bindschadler testified last week before representatives of the National Science Foundation, its Office of Polar Programs, NASA, NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Naval Research, the State Department and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. Additional briefings could be scheduled if there are questions or responses to the NRC from Congress, Brigham-Grette says.

Worldwide, scores of oceanographers, meteorologists, geologists, climate scientists, ecologists and other researchers contributed to the report. For example, biologists document diatoms, microscopic phytoplankton at the base of the food chain, in North Atlantic waters where they hadn't been in 800,000 years, the last time the Arctic provided a cold barrier to migration, Brigham-Grette says. Fish specialists see commercial and other species migrating ever northward to suitable habitats. "The fishermen are following," she says. "It's a whole new ballgame for the U.S. Coast Guard and those trying to regulate harvests."

The UMass Amherst geoscientist's own research using ancient sediment cores from Northeast Russia's Lake El'gygytgyn offers a new look at how Antarctic and Arctic warming over the last few million years occurred in sync when forced by the earth system and feedbacks. "We're beginning to see that when the west Antarctic ice sheet collapses, the Arctic warms up. This is a new benchmark linking warming events in these two places for the first time."

In the Antarctic, new imaging techniques deployed during the recent IPY allowed scientists for the first time to visualize a new range, the Gamburtsev Mountains, with peaks as big as the Alps under the east Antarctic ice sheet. They may have been the ice sheet's nucleus millions of years ago. Others found hundreds of freshwater lakes under Antarctic ice, with more being discovered every day.

Brigham-Grette says, "I think if you look at everything we've learned, we see the polar regions are much more vulnerable to global warming than we thought. Global biological and oceanographic systems are responding faster than we ever expected. Earth has gone through this before, and some past warm cycles have been extreme, but we as humans have never seen anything like it in our 10,000 years on the planet. It's extraordinary."

As they release the NRC report to policymakers this week, Brigham-Grette says the authors understand that leaders must try to balance the country's energy needs at the same time they address global climate change by decreasing fossil fuel use.

Two social advances to emerge from the recent IPY are a remarkable increase in the number of women and minorities in leadership roles in science compared to 50 years ago along with the "massive" educational effort and increased interest in and public awareness of issues facing polar regions, she adds.

Among scientists, the IPY led to many new international and multi-disciplinary collaborations that promise to continue, says Brigham-Grette, plus a new international network of young polar scientists. "With the expense of travel and research today, no one country can do it alone, so there's more sharing of resources and data. It's a very much richer environment for study today."


Contact: Janet Lathrop
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Related biology news :

1. NHM entomologist co-authors new research on parasitic phorid fly, a new threat to honey bees
2. BUSM professor authors book on how knowledge about genes and family history can save lives
3. University of Houston professor co-authors PNAS paper on how bacteria move
4. Academic Press authors honored with awards
5. Tel Aviv University President Co-authors Important Paper Unraveling the Effect of Spatial Organization on Intracellular Chemistry
6. Rutgers scholar authors definitive biography of reproductive medicine pioneer
7. Boppart presents at Congressional briefing
8. AAAS news briefs from UC Davis
9. PAL-MED CONNECT partners with Briefings in Palliative, Hospice, and Pain Medicine & Management
10. Capitol Hill briefing to focus on Denmarks ban on routine antibiotic use in food animal production
11. Weill Cornell science briefs: November 2009
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
NRC authors brief federal agencies on the state of polar regions
(Date:11/12/2015)... Nov. 12, 2015  A golden retriever that stayed ... dystrophy (DMD) has provided a new lead for treating ... the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the ... . Cell, pinpoints a protective ... the disease,s effects. The Boston Children,s lab of ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... , Nov. 10, 2015  In this ... the basis of product, type, application, disease ... in this report are consumables, services, software. ... are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, and validation ... report are diagnostics development, drug discovery and ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... ALBANY, New York , November 4, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... According to a new market report published by Transparency ... Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2015 - 2022", ... value of US$ 30.3 bn by 2022. The market ... during the forecast period from 2015 to 2022. Rising ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... SAN DIEGO , Nov. 25, 2015 ... that management will participate in a fireside chat discussion ... New York . The discussion is ... Time. .  A replay will ... Contact:  Media Contact:McDavid Stilwell  , Julie NormartVP, Corporate ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Asia-Pacific (APAC) ... research organisation (CRO) market. The trend of outsourcing ... lower margins but higher volume share for the ... and scale, however, margins in the CRO industry ... (CRO) Market ( ), finds that ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... SAN DIEGO , Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, ... Jaffray Healthcare Conference in New York on ... Dr. Helen Torley , president and CEO, will provide a ... New York at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. ... communication and investor relations, will provide a corporate overview. --> ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) closed ... events for pharmaceutical manufacturing: 2015 Annual Meeting. The conference took place in Philadelphia, ... number of attendees in more than a decade. , “The 2015 Annual ...
Breaking Biology Technology: