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NRC authors brief federal agencies on the state of polar regions
Date:4/4/2012

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 a
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Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Source:Eurekalert  

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