Computer model predicts vastly different ecosystem in Antarctica's Ross Sea in the coming century

NSF Press Release 14-028

Rising temperatures and changing wind patterns sure to affect predator-prey relationships, researchers say

Adelie penguins crossing ice floesAdelie penguins cross ice floes near a lead–or opening–in the sea ice at Cape Royds.

Credit and Larger Version

The Ross Sea, a major, biologically productive Antarctic ecosystem, “clearly will be extensively modified by future climate change” in the coming decades as rising temperatures and changing wind patterns create longer periods of ice-free open water, affecting the life cycles of both predators and prey, according to a paper published by researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

To make their predictions, the researchers used information drawn from the Regional Ocean Modeling System, a computer model of sea-ice, ocean, atmosphere and ice-shelf interactions.

While conceding that “predicting future changes in ecosystems is challenging,” the researchers note in a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, the changes predicted by the computer model have the potential to create “significant but unpredictable impacts on the ocean’s most pristine ecosystem.”

The wind and temperature changes, the authors note, will affect the ecological balance at the base of the Antarctic food web–including changes in distributions of algae, shrimp-like krill and Antarctic silverfish–which, in turn, may be expected to cause disruptions in the upper portions of the food web, including penguins, seals and whales, which depend on those species for food.

A team of four researchers from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) at the College of William and Mary and the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., jointly authored the paper.

Walker O. Smith, Jr., a professor at VIMS and the lead author of the study, said: “The model suggests that the substantial changes in the physical setting of the Ross Sea will induce severe changes in the present food web, changes that are driven by global climate change. Without a doubt the Ross Sea 100 years from now will be a completely different system than we know today.”

The research was funded by the Polar Programs (awards: 0838948 and 0944254) and the Ocean Sciences divisions in NSF’s Geosciences Directorate.

The U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) coordinates all U.S. research on the Southernmost Continent and in the Southern Ocean as well as providing the necessary logistical support for that science. NSF manages the USAP.

The researchers note that over the last 50 years the distribution and extent of Antarctic sea ice, or ice that floats on the ocean surface, have drastically changed. Among these changes are a documented decrease of sea ice in the Bellingshausen-Amundsen sector, but an increase of sea ice in the Ross Sea sector of Antarctica.

Observations show, they write, that “the duration of ice-free days on the Ross Sea continental shelf has decreased by over two months over the past three decades,” which may have had effects on the current balance of biological productivity and the roles of various creatures and microscopic plants in the ocean ecosystem.

But, they also note, “future projections of regional air temperature change, however, suggest that substantial warming will occur in the next century in the Ross Sea sector” while wind speeds are predicted to increase in some areas while decreasing in others.

“These changes are expected to reverse the sea-ice trends in the future; however the projected changes in heat content on the continental shelf and ecosystems dynamics that will occur as a result of such changes remain far from certain.”

The model, however, indicates that summer sea ice in the Ross Sea could decrease by more than half, or 56 percent, by 2050 and by more than three-quarters, or 78 percent, by 2100. At the same time, the summer mixing of shallow and deep waters in the region as a result of other changes is expected to decrease.

While increased open water would benefit diatoms, the preferred food source of many plant-eating predators such as krill, some krill species, such as crystal krill, prefer a habitat with more ice, which they use as a refuge from predators.

In turn, minke whales, Adelie and Emperor penguins and crabeater seals that feed on crystal krill would have less food available if the crystal krill population were reduced.

With less sea-ice cover, however, more humpback whales could enter the Ross Sea in the summer, increasing krill predation. Adelies, which prey on silverfish at the ice edge, would have to travel further from their nests and, as a result, be potentially more vulnerable to leopard seal predation.

While it is difficult to know specifically what changes the Ross Sea ecosystem will see, the model predictions, if they are accurate, suggest that they are likely to be far-reaching.

“Regardless of the exact nature of the alterations,” the researchers write, “substantial portions of the food web that depend on ice in their life cycles will be negatively impacted, leading to severe ecological disruptions.”

-NSF-

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John Robertson

In other words if it gets colder or warmer, animals will suffer.

DavidS

Just remember, it is your fault……yes you!

Gamecock

Cute, loveable penguins and seals will suffer.
‘While conceding that “predicting future changes in ecosystems is challenging,” the researchers note in a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, the changes predicted by the computer model have the potential to create “significant but unpredictable impacts on the ocean’s most pristine ecosystem.”’
In other words, they’ve got nothing. It’s the seriousness of the changes, and not their probability.

Steve C

From the sound of it, those penguins should be grateful they don’t live inside a model.

pottereaton

” . . . the changes predicted by the computer model have the potential to create “significant but unpredictable impacts on the ocean’s most pristine ecosystem.”
And there you have the central problem of thermophobic climate science nicely detailed in one sentence.
They are predicting the “unpredictable?” If they are “unpredictable,” how do they know they will be “significant?”
Word games.

Stacey

Yea yea yea and penguins can fly?

KNR

While my model says that given with are due a alien invasion this all a waste of time.
Its worse then we thought , more research cash please , and if my aunt had bollo*** they been my uncle . Classic worthless but scary climate ‘science ‘ research. And once again the professionals in this area fail to match the standard demanded of an undergraduate handing in an essay in other areas.
There joke alright , just not the funny kind.

So much snark rides the tip of my tongue that it is hanging down to the floor.
I have to shake my head at the juxtaposition of, ‘Observations show, they write, that “the duration of ice-free days on the Ross Sea continental shelf has decreased by over two months over the past three decades,”’ with, ‘But, they also note, “future projections of regional air temperature change, however, suggest that substantial warming will occur in the next century in the Ross Sea sector.”’
“Observations” is a more correct term than “your lying eyes,” but I tend to trust my lying eyes more than “projections.”
The meteorologist Bob Copland said that forecasts are like fish in your refrigerator, any longer than three days into the future and they start to stink. I think the same maxim often holds for “projections.”

Predictably unpredictable, significantly. Poor penguins.

Mike McMillan

And then there’s that ozone hole, too.

SineWave

“The model, however, indicates that summer sea ice in the Ross Sea could decrease by more than half, or 56 percent, by 2050 and by more than three-quarters, or 78 percent, by 2100.” Statements like this are so useless I can’t believe people still write them. Why not just report on the assumptions and observations and let people draw their own conclusions? Rhetorical question, of course.

cnxtim

I really don’t mind anyone speculating, just don’t do it on my taxpayer dollar, or feed your fanciful notions to kids as facts!

DesertYote

As I read this, what almost left my mouth would have been very NSF W.

Rob Dawg

The model, however, indicates that summer sea ice in the Ross Sea could decrease by more than half, or 56 percent, by 2050 and by more than three-quarters, or 78 percent, by 2100.
Easily testable in a very few years. Far fewer years than any “response” would require. 1-2% per year is a relatively noise insensitive prediction. I’ll grab a bag of popcorn and wait for the BBC series.

Lew Skannen

“Computer model predicts”… that is as far as I got.

DesertYote

“While it is difficult to know specifically what changes the Ross Sea ecosystem will see, the model predictions, if they are accurate, suggest that they are likely to be far-reaching.”
I think we have entered the twilight zone 🙁

R2Dtoo

If changes are unpredictable, how do they know changes will be severe and significant. I can’t believe a paper like this can get published.

Luke Warmist

“Walker O. Smith, Jr., a professor at VIMS and the lead author of the study, said: “The model suggests……”
“The model, however, indicates that summer sea ice in the Ross Sea could decrease by more than half, or 56 percent, by 2050…….”
…yet another sci-fi exercise pushed off as research.

Chuck L

“To make their predictions, the researchers used information drawn from the Regional Ocean Modeling System, a computer model of sea-ice, ocean, atmosphere and ice-shelf interactions.”
‘Nuff said – I’m not going to waste any more time on this bilge.

DCaldwell

I do a lot of economic modeling in healthcare.
If I can use any set of assumptions I like, I can construct a model that will show any conclusion I like.

Bob Diaz

Lots of failed predictions began with, “Computer model predicts …” I’m not impressed.

Liz

Wouldn’t all the trash that they have left at the stations impact the pristine nature of the place faster than any warming?
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/trash-threatens-fragile-antarctic-environment-16230923/?no-ist

Jim Bo

A mindset that we have reached some zenith in climate evolution that must be maintained at any cost evidences, IMHO, the inherent narcissism driving this ideological madness.

Bill Illis

I’ve heard that the Regional Ocean Modelling System has a perfect operational record and has never made a mistake or distorted information.
Okay, who is writing these models and why should we believe anything produced by them.

Box of Rocks

So if you cook a penguin does it taste like chicken?

jorgekafkazar

“Computer Model Predicts…” zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Steve from Rockwood

The models are crushing the turtles…

Alan Robertson

Premise: Swap Penguins for Polar Bears and then tell scary stories…

Chad Wozniak

NSF says . . . ’nuff said. BS signed, sealed and delivered.

David in Michigan

It’s time once again to turn to that fountain f wisdom, Yogi Berra:
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

David Ball

And another penguin flew by,…….

Rob Dawg

Meta observation. “I predict” or “We predict” are no longer used. “The model” or the “simulation” or … Almost as if… I don’t need to finish this thought.

Dan Murphy

Off topic – but their paper deserves a bit of that – the Astronomy Picture of the Day for today is a HD video of the sun during the month of January of this year. The video takes about 2:21 and it is simple fascinating. One of the best videos of the sun I have ever seen. And much more interesting than this paper.
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

pat

12 March: Windor Star Blog: Dalson Chen: Lecture on climate change cancelled due to winter weather
You may be tempted to snicker at the irony that a discussion on climate change at the University of Windsor was called off due to Wednesday’s wild weather.
But plant biologist Catherine Potvin’s afternoon lecture was only one of many special events and regularly scheduled activities that were shut down by the sudden snowstorm…
http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2014/03/12/lecture-on-climate-change-cancelled-due-to-weather/
12 March: Windsor Star: U of W to host lecture on climate change
UPDATE as of 10 a.m. Mar. 12: Lecture cancelled due to weather.
http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2014/03/12/windsor-sets-new-snowfall-record-with-more-likely-to-come/

dccowboy

cnxtim says:
March 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm
I really don’t mind anyone speculating, just don’t do it on my taxpayer dollar, or feed your fanciful notions to kids as facts!
===============================
The problem here is that the politicos will take this ‘speculation’ and treat it as gospel proof that we need to give them more of our money and surrender more of our freedom of choice so they can ‘fix’ the problem and save us.

Fred

All these papers should be published with Amazon under science fiction then at least we can classify them as entertainment

pat

12 March: Greenfield Reporter: AP: Draft report: Computer models disagree on impact of climate change on Colorado precipitation
DENVER — A draft report on climate change says computer models disagree on whether Colorado’s precipitation will increase or decrease as temperatures rise.
The report, released Wednesday, says most projections indicate less snow will accumulate in Colorado’s mountains because warming trends are causing it to melt earlier in the season.
The report was prepared for the Colorado Water Conservation Board by the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. The board is accepting public comment through April 11.
The report is posted at http://tinyurl.com/o6mfku7
The report says computer models project Colorado temperatures will rise 2.5 to 5.5 degrees by mid-century, compared with a 1971-2000 baseline.
http://www.greenfieldreporter.com/view/story/05a673a263214760977673b4b16f69c5/CO–Climate-Change-Colorado

pat

wish i could find these sceptics getting all the MSM attention!
12 March: UK Telegraph: Emily Gosden: No serious voice in government denies climate change, Greg Barker claims
Tory climate change minister insists there is consensus behind the science of climate change, despite accusations that some of his colleagues are sceptics
On Tuesday Mr Barker told MPs there was “increasing acceptance of the basic science of climate change” and accused the media of giving undue prominence to climate science sceptics.
“I think the number of people who are refusing to accept that the climate is changing or that man has a role in that are diminishing and I think are given disproportionate airtime on the media,” he said.
He said the media should not present sceptics’ arguments as “equally valid” when in fact they were a “relatively small minority amongst the climate scientist community”.
However, he acknowledged that people were now “more ready to in particular to question the cost” of responding to climate change.
That’s not least because, as we go up the trajectory of emissions reduction, you get beyond the low-hanging fruit, the easy wins, and you get to some more challenging and potentially costly or potentially more cost effective solutions, and that will excite debate,” he said.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/10691190/No-serious-voice-in-government-denies-climate-change-Greg-Barker-claims.html

pat

throwing carbon under the bus!
13 March: BusinessSpectator: Reuters: China cites Australia in carbon market baulk
China is reconsidering plans for a carbon tax as local air pollution trumps concerns over climate change and some rich nations back away from imposing a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, a top official said…
A carbon tax is increasingly controversial among lawmakers, said Zhu, adding that an environment tax would be easier to push through without carbon in the mix.
The carbon and air pollution taxes would target mostly the same sources, and in difficult economic times China is wary of hitting companies with too many costly regulations.
Zhu also referred to the fact that Australia, under a new conservative government, is trying to abolish its carbon tax, while a price on carbon has been blocked in the United States…
http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2014/3/13/carbon-markets/china-cites-australia-carbon-market-baulk

Sceptical lefty

Come on guys! Computer models of unbounded, chaotic systems are NOT useless. A lot of people rely on them for their salaries.

Mac the Knife

‘The Models predict’ less antarctic ice in the future while we are 25 percent above normal now.
Are they predicting a return to normal??? When do they predict ‘normal’??

joelobryan

“The model, however, indicates that summer sea ice in the Ross Sea could decrease by more than half, or 56 percent, by 2050 and by more than three-quarters, or 78 percent, by 2100. ”
It’s all GIGO.
The CAGW giga-idiot Steyer no doubt also approves of Geocentrism vs. Heliocentrism. An Inquisition déjà vu from the intellectually dishonest Left Coast ( aka San Francisco).

shano

I thought climate catastrophogists tended to ignore the Antarctic because it might bring attention to the fact that overall ice volume had been increasing in defiance of their favorite models. Now I’m not a penguin so my opinion will automatically be suspect (ad hom). If penguins were terribly worried about a little warming or cooling they certainly wouldn’t live on an ice shelf. I’m sure they huddle together and have a good group chuckle when pale featherless eco-hucksters nearly die by freezing when they come to visit except for the fact that their oil polluting ships cause penguins life sustaining krill and fish to relocate. Do you know how hard it is to move when your feet are practically tied together? Every time they talk about the antarctic they look like fools. Fools are funny at first but soon become sad as desperation sets in.

Cold in Wisconsin

Why do people waste time, paper and precious electrons bothering to report this stuff? What are the chances that someone is going to refer back to this study in one century and reflect on whether this prediction was true? And how about 9th grade science class when they told us not to extrapolate? What are they thinking?

drbob

… the researchers write, “substantial portions of the food web that depend on ice in their life cycles will be negatively impacted, leading to severe ecological disruptions.” … taking this as a given, imagine, then, the massive ecological destruction that must have ensued at the beginning of the Holocene interstadial … and, worse yet, the Bolling warming – 12 degrees centigrade in 100 years! – absolute ecological armageddon, no doubt …

Londo

It is almost as Hollywood, or Pixar rather. You have a script, a computer and an audience. Is this a mix of Monster Inc and The Day After Tomorrow. These guys definitely have a future, in drama but it sure as hell isn’t science.

GlynnMhor

It’s models all the way down…

ROM

Now lets see’
# They are predicting what temperatures will do in Antarctica in 50 to 100 years time.
# They are predicting what the winds will do in Antarctica in 50 to 100 years time.
# They are predicting what Antarctic ocean currents will do in 50 to 100 years time.
# They are predicting what Antarctic sea Ice will do in 50 to 100 years time.
# They are predicting what the ladder of life, the ocean food web from the bacterial life on up through krill levels of Antarctic Ocean life will do in 50 to 100 years time.
# They are predicting what the Antarctic fish species will do in 50 to 100 years time.
# They are predicting what the higher forms of Antarctic life, the penguins, the seals, the whales and etc will do in 50 to 100 years time.
# They are predicting all this for the least known, least explored, least researched, fifth largest out of the seven continents on this earth with a resident population of Zero and a temporary summer population of about 5000 souls.
# They are predicting this Antarctic future 50 to 100 years on their Play Station models while never having to leave their offices or look out of the windows.
# They call this “Climate Science”.

RMF

“pat says:
March 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm
wish i could find these sceptics getting all the MSM attention!
12 March: UK Telegraph: Emily Gosden: No serious voice in government denies climate change, Greg Barker claims
Tory climate change minister insists there is consensus behind the science of climate change, despite accusations that some of his colleagues are sceptics
On Tuesday Mr Barker told MPs there was “increasing acceptance of the basic science of climate change” and accused the media of giving undue prominence to climate science sceptics.”
The “basic science of climate change” and the “science” of climate change, have never been the issue. We all agree more or less with basic principles of fluid dynamics, heat transfer, physics, chemistry and biology.
The issue is the methods, interpretations, and the unwillingness –and often outright refusal– to interrogate their own methods and interpretations; and to reconcile the differences between projections and observations, and contradictory data. These failures erode the science and degrade the findings to the point that it often cannot be recognized as science at all.