Claim: Arctic Ocean–climate change is flooding the remote north with light – and new species

Jørgen Berge, University of Tromsø; Carlos Duarte, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology; Dorte Krause-Jensen, Aarhus University; Karen Filbee-Dexter, Université Laval; Kimberly Howland, Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR), and Philippe Archambault, Université Laval

At just over 14 million square kilometres, the Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world’s oceans. It is also the coldest. An expansive raft of sea ice floats near its centre, expanding in the long, cold, dark winter, and contracting in the summer, as the Sun climbs higher in the sky.

Every year, usually in September, the sea ice cover shrinks to its lowest level. The tally in 2020 was a meagre 3.74 million square kilometres, the second-smallest measurement in 42 years, and roughly half of what it was in 1980. Each year, as the climate warms, the Arctic is holding onto less and less ice.

The effects of global warming are being felt around the world, but nowhere on Earth are they as dramatic as they are in the Arctic. The Arctic is warming two to three times faster than any other place on Earth, ushering in far-reaching changes to the Arctic Ocean, its ecosystems and the 4 million people who live in the Arctic.


This story is part of our Oceans 21 series
Five profiles open our series on the global ocean, delving into ancient Indian Ocean trade networks, Pacific plastic pollution, Arctic light and life, Atlantic fisheries and the Southern Ocean’s impact on global climate. All brought to you from The Conversation’s international network.


Some of them are unexpected. The warmer water is pulling some species further north, into higher latitudes. The thinner ice is carrying more people through the Arctic on cruise ships, cargo ships and research vessels. Ice and snow can almost entirely black out the water beneath it, but climate change is allowing more light to flood in.

Artificial light in the polar night

Light is very important in the Arctic. The algae which form the foundation of the Arctic Ocean’s food web convert sunlight into sugar and fat, feeding fish and, ultimately, whales, polar bears and humans.

At high latitudes in the Arctic during the depths of winter, the Sun stays below the horizon for 24 hours. This is called the polar night, and at the North Pole, the year is simply one day lasting six months, followed by one equally long night.

Researchers studying the effects of ice loss deployed moored observatories – anchored instruments with a buoy — in an Arctic fjord in the autumn of 2006, before the fjord froze. When sampling started in the spring of 2007, the moorings had been in place for almost six months, collecting data throughout the long and bitter polar night.

What they detected changed everything.

A man on a boat stands with a torch, looking into the polar night.
The polar night can last for weeks and even months in the high Arctic. Michael O. Snyder, Author provided

Life in the dark

At that time, scientists assumed the polar night was utterly uninteresting. A dead period in which life lies dormant and the ecosystem sinks into a dark and frigid standby mode. Not much was expected to come of these measurements, so researchers were surprised when the data showed that life doesn’t pause at all.

Arctic zooplankton — tiny microscopic animals that eat algae — take part in something called diel vertical migration beneath the ice and in the dead of the polar night. Sea creatures in all the oceans of the world do this, migrating to depth during the day to hide from potential predators in the dark, and surfacing at night to feed.

Organisms use light as a cue to do this, so they shouldn’t logically be able to during the polar night. We now understand the polar night to be a riot of ecological activity. The normal rhythms of daily life continue in the gloom. Clams open and close cyclically, seabirds hunt in almost total darkness, ghost shrimps and sea snails gather in kelp forests to reproduce, and deep-water species such as the helmet jellyfish surface when it’s dark enough to stay safe from predators.

For most of the organisms active during this period, the Moon, stars and aurora borealis likely give important cues that guide their behaviour, especially in parts of the Arctic not covered by sea ice. But as the Arctic climate warms and human activities in the region ramp up, these natural light sources will in many places be invisible, crowded out by much stronger artificial light.

Artificial light

Almost a quarter of all land masses are exposed to scattered artificial light at night, as it’s reflected back to the ground from the atmosphere. Few truly dark places remain, and light from cities, coastlines, roads and ships is visible as far as outer space.

Even in sparsely populated areas of the Arctic, light pollution is noticeable. Shipping routes, oil and gas exploration and fisheries extend into the region as the sea ice retreats, drawing artificial light into the otherwise inky black polar night.

A large ship covered in yellow lights illuminates the icy water.
Creatures which have adapted to the polar night over millions of years are now suddenly exposed to artificial light. Michael O. Snyder, Author provided

No organisms have had the opportunity to properly adapt to these changes – evolution works on a much longer timescale. Meanwhile, the harmonic movements of the Earth, Moon and Sun have provided reliable cues to Arctic animals for millennia. Many biological events, such as migration, foraging and breeding are highly attuned to their gentle predictability.

In a recent study carried out in the high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, between mainland Norway and the north pole, the onboard lights of a research vessel were found to affect fish and zooplankton at least 200 metres down. Disturbed by the sudden intrusion of light, the creatures swirling beneath the surface reacted dramatically, with some swimming towards the beam, and others swimming violently away.

It’s difficult to predict the effect artificial light from ships newly navigating the ice-free Arctic will have on polar night ecosystems that have known darkness for longer than modern humans have existed. How the rapidly growing human presence in the Arctic will affect the ecosystem is concerning, but there are also unpleasant questions for researchers. If much of the information we’ve gathered about the Arctic came from scientists stationed on brightly lit boats, how “natural” is the state of the ecosystem we have reported?

Seen from a sea ice floe, a large ship on the horizon beams white light into the sky.
Research in the Arctic could change considerably over the coming years to reduce light pollution. Michael O. Snyder, Author provided

Arctic marine science is about to enter a new era with autonomous and remotely operated platforms, capable of operating without any light, making measurements in complete darkness.

Underwater forests

As sea ice retreats from the shores of Greenland, Norway, North America and Russia, periods with open water are getting longer, and more light is reaching the sea floor. Suddenly, coastal ecosystems that have been hidden under ice for 200,000 years are seeing the light of day. This could be very good news for marine plants like kelp – large brown seaweeds that thrive in cold water with enough light and nutrients.

Anchored to the sea floor and floating with the tide and currents, some species of kelp can grow up to 50 metres (175 feet) – about the same height as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London. But kelp are typically excluded from the highest latitudes because of the shade cast by sea ice and its scouring effect on the seabed.

Large greeny-brown and frilled fronds of seaweed snake across a gravelly seabed.
Badderlocks, or winged kelp, off the coast of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic. Ignacio Garrido/ArcticKelp, Author provided

These lush underwater forests are set to grow and thrive as sea ice shrinks. Kelp are not a new arrival to the Arctic though. They were once part of the traditional Greenlandic diet, and polar researchers and explorers observed them along northern coasts more than a century ago.

Some species of kelp may have colonised Arctic coasts after the last ice age, or spread out from small pockets where they’d held on. But most kelp forests in the Arctic are smaller and more restricted to patches in deeper waters, compared to the vast swathes of seaweed that line coasts like California’s in the US.

A scuba diver swims through kelp fronds.
A diver explores a four-metre-high sugar kelp forest off Southampton Island, Canada. Ignacio Garrido/ArcticKelp, Author provided

Recent evidence from Norway and Greenland shows kelp forests are already expanding and increasing their ranges poleward, and these ocean plants are expected to get bigger and grow faster as the Arctic warms, creating more nooks for species to live in and around. The full extent of Arctic kelp forests remains largely unseen and uncharted, but modelling can help determine how much they have shifted and grown in the Arctic since the 1950s.

A map of the Arctic Circle showing how kelp forests will expand further north as the world warms.
Known locations of kelp forests and global trends in predicted average summer surface temperature increase over next two decades, according to IPCC models. Filbee-Dexter et al. (2018), Author provided

A new carbon sink

Although large seaweeds come in all shapes and sizes, many are remarkably similar to trees, with long, trunk-like but flexible bodies called stipes. The kelp forest canopy is filled with the flat blades like leaves, while holdfasts act like roots by anchoring the seaweed to rocks below.

Some types of Arctic kelp can grow over ten metres and form large and complex canopies suspended in the water column, with a shaded and protected understorey. Much like forests on land, these marine forests provide habitats, nursery areas and feeding grounds for many animals and fish, including cod, pollack, crabs, lobsters and sea urchins.

A cloud of shrimp surrounds a large path of kelp.
Kelp forests offer lots of nooks and crannies and surfaces to settle on, making them rich in wildlife. Ignacio Garrido/ArcticKelp, Author provided

Kelp are fast growers, storing carbon in their leathery tissue as they do. So what does their expansion in the Arctic mean for the global climate? Like restoring forests on land, growing underwater kelp forests can help to slow climate change by diverting carbon from the atmosphere.

Better yet, some kelp material breaks off and is swept out of shallow coastal waters and into the deep ocean where it’s effectively removed from the Earth’s carbon cycle. Expanding kelp forests along the Earth’s extensive Arctic coasts could become a growing carbon sink that captures the CO₂ humans emit and locks it away in the deep sea.

What’s happening with kelp in the Arctic is fairly unique – these ocean forests are embattled in most other parts of the world. Overall, the global extent of kelp forests is on a downward trend because of ocean heatwaves, pollution, warming temperatures, and outbreaks of grazers like sea urchins.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not all good news. Encroaching kelp forests could push out unique wildlife in the high Arctic. Algae living under the ice will have nowhere to go, and could disappear altogether. More temperate kelp species may replace endemic Arctic kelps such as Laminaria solidungula.

A bright orange crab nestles in a thicket of dark brown seaweed.
A crab finds refuge on Laminaria solidungula – the only kelp species endemic to the Arctic. Ignacio Garrido/ArcticKelp, Author provided

But kelp are just one set of species among many pushing further and deeper into the region as the ice melts.

Arctic invasions

Milne Inlet, on north Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, sees more marine traffic than any other port in Arctic Canada. Most days during the open-water period, 300-metre-long ships leave the port laden with iron ore from the nearby Mary River Mine. Between 71 and 82 ships pass through the area annually, most heading to — or coming from ports in northern Europe.

Cruise ships, coast guard vessels, pleasure yachts, research icebreakers, cargo supply ships and rigid inflatable boats full of tourists also glide through the area. Unprecedented warming and declining sea ice has attracted new industries and other activities to the Arctic. Communities like Pond Inlet have seen marine traffic triple in the past two decades.

Ships anchored offshore in icy water with small group of passengers standing on a point of land.
Passengers from a cruise ship arrive in Pond Inlet, Nunavut. Kimberly Howland, Author provided

These ships come to the Arctic from all over the world, carrying a host of aquatic hitchhikers picked up in Rotterdam, Hamburg, Dunkirk and elsewhere. These species — some too small to see with the naked eye — are hidden in the ballast water pumped into on-board tanks to stabilise the ship. They also stick to the hull and other outer surfaces, called “biofouling.”

Some survive the voyage to the Arctic and are released into the environment when the ballast water is discharged and cargo loaded. Those that maintain their hold on the outer surface may release eggs, sperm or larvae.

Many of these organisms are innocuous, but some may be invasive newcomers that can cause harm. Research in Canada and Norway has already shown non-native invasive species like bay and acorn barnacles can survive ship transits to the Arctic. This raises a risk for Arctic ecosystems given that invasive species are one of the top causes for extinctions worldwide.

Expanded routes

Concern about invasive species extends far beyond the community of Pond Inlet. Around 4 million people live in the Arctic, many of them along the coasts that provide nutrients and critical habitat for a wide array of animals, from Arctic char and ringed seals to polar bear, bowhead whales and millions of migratory birds.

As waters warm, the shipping season is becoming longer, and new routes, like the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route (along Russia’s Arctic coast), are opening up. Some researchers expect a trans-Arctic route across the North Pole might be navigable by mid-century. The increased ship traffic magnifies the numbers and kinds of organisms transported into Arctic waters, and the progressively more hospitable conditions improve their odds of survival.

Prevention is the number one way to keep invasive species out of the Arctic. Most ships must treat their ballast water, using chemicals or other processes, and/or exchange it to limit the movement of harmful organisms to new locations. Guidelines also recommend ships use special coatings on the hulls and clean them regularly to prevent biofouling. But these prevention measures are not always reliable, and their efficacy in colder environments is poorly understood.

The next best approach is to detect invaders as soon as possible once they arrive, to improve chances for eradication or suppression. But early detection requires widespread monitoring, which can be challenging in the Arctic. Keeping an eye out for the arrival of a new species can be akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, but northern communities may offer a solution.

Researchers in Norway, Alaska and Canada have found a way to make that search easier by singling out species that have caused harm elsewhere and that could endure Arctic environmental conditions. Nearly two dozen potential invaders show a high chance for taking hold in Arctic Canada.

Among these is the cold-adapted red king crab, native to the Sea of Japan, Bering Sea and North Pacific. It was intentionally introduced to the Barents Sea in the 1960s to establish a fishery and is now spreading south along the Norwegian coast and in the White Sea. It is a large, voracious predator implicated in substantial declines of harvested shellfish, sea urchins and other larger, slow moving bottom species, with a high likelihood of surviving transport in ballast water.

Another is the common periwinkle, which ruthlessly grazes on lush aquatic plants in shoreline habitats, leaving behind bare or encrusted rock. It has also introduced a parasite on the east coast of North America that causes black spot disease in fishes, which stresses adult fishes and makes them unpalatable, kills juveniles and causes intestinal damage to birds and mammals that eat them.

Tracking genetic remnants

New species like these could affect the fish and mammals people hunt and eat, if they were to arrive in Pond Inlet. After just a few years of shipping, a handful of possibly non-native species have already been discovered, including the invasive red-gilled mudworm (Marenzellaria viridis), and a potentially invasive tube dwelling amphipod. Both are known to reach high densities, alter the characteristics of the seafloor sediment and compete with native species.

An orange ship sits in icy water with a rocky slope behind it.
A cargo ship passes through Milne Inlet, Nunavut. Kimberly Howland, Author provided

Baffinland, the company that runs the Mary River Mine, is seeking to double its annual output of iron ore. If the expansion proceeds, up to 176 ore carriers will pass through Milne Inlet during the open-water season.

Although the future of Arctic shipping remains uncertain, it’s an upward trend that needs to be watched. In Canada, researchers are working with Indigenous partners in communities with high shipping activity — including Churchill, Manitoba; Pond Inlet and Iqaluit in Nunavut; Salluit, Quebec and Nain, Newfoundland — to establish an invasive species monitoring network. One of the approaches includes collecting water and testing it for genetic remnants shed from scales, faeces, sperm and other biological material.

A group of people sit on shore learning to use sampling equipment.
Members of the 2019 field team from Pond Inlet and Salluit filter eDNA from water samples collected from Milne Inlet. Christopher Mckindsey, Author provided

This environmental DNA (eDNA) is easy to collect and can help detect organisms that might otherwise be difficult to capture or are in low abundance. The technique has also improved baseline knowledge of coastal biodiversity in other areas of high shipping, a fundamental step in detecting future change.

Some non-native species have already been detected in the Port of Churchill using eDNA surveillance and other sampling methods, including jellyfish, rainbow smelt and an invasive copepod species.

Efforts are underway to expand the network across the Arctic as part of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Invasive Alien Species Strategy to reduce the spread of invasive species.

The Arctic is often called the frontline of the climate crisis, and because of its rapid rate of warming, the region is beset by invasions of all kinds, from new species to new shipping routes. These forces could entirely remake the ocean basin within the lifetimes of people alive today, from frozen, star-lit vistas, populated by unique communities of highly adapted organisms, to something quite different.

The Arctic is changing faster than scientists can document, yet there will be opportunities, such as growing carbon sinks, that could benefit the wildlife and people who live there. Not all changes to our warming world will be wholly negative. In the Arctic, as elsewhere, there are winners and losers.

Jørgen Berge, Vice Dean for Research, Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø; Carlos Duarte, Adjunct Professor of Marine Ecology, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology; Dorte Krause-Jensen, Professor, Marine Ecology, Aarhus University; Karen Filbee-Dexter, Research Fellow in Marine Ecology, Université Laval; Kimberly Howland, Research Scientist/Adjunct University Professor, Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR), and Philippe Archambault, Professor & Scientific Director of ArcticNet, Université Laval

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Jim
December 15, 2020 6:31 am

Evolution not needed here. Adaptability will prevail as it always does. Survival of the fittest will no doubt be forever present.

Curious George
Reply to  Jim
December 15, 2020 8:29 am

The Arctic has been covered with Laurentide ice until some 20,000 years ago. The ice has to be brought back! Any change is detrimental.

Ian Magness
December 15, 2020 7:06 am

Priceless: “The full extent of Arctic kelp forests remains largely unseen and uncharted, but modelling can help determine how much they have shifted and grown in the Arctic since the 1950s.”
So, let’s fabricate a nice regional map with computer fantasy kelp populations shall we?
Anyhow – and please can WUWT’s more knowledgeable readers chip in here – I thought that, whereas southerly giant kelp populations are perennial, more northerly populations (i.e. what must be being discussed here) are of bull kelp, which dies off each year. At least, I think that’s what a misspent youth watching “national treasure” David Attenborough programmes told me. So, if an annual marine plant absorbs carbon on growing early in the year, surely it must release it when it dies off late in the year? How then is Arctic kelp a carbon sink?
Please somebody please do tell.

Ian Magness
Reply to  Ian Magness
December 15, 2020 7:50 am

Damn, should have entitled my post “Kelp needed”.

Ulises
Reply to  Ian Magness
December 16, 2020 11:50 am

Good question.

The study :
“Kelp are fast growers, storing carbon in their leathery tissue as they do. So what does their expansion in the Arctic mean for the global climate? Like restoring forests on land, growing underwater kelp forests can help to slow climate change by diverting carbon from the atmosphere.

Better yet, some kelp material breaks off and is swept out of shallow coastal waters and into the deep ocean where it’s effectively removed from the Earth’s carbon cycle. ”

That a growing forest temporarily stores carbon, is nothing new. That dislocated plant material piles up in the deep ocean as a permanent carbon sink, is new to me. Seems fantasy. Standard assumption is that all organic material is decomposed, while sinking, or at last at he bottom. Only skeletons (carbonates) remain as carbon storage.

Jim Gorman
December 15, 2020 7:20 am

I don’t want to minimize this but there are a lot of mights, maybe’s, could, possible’s in this article. Very little in the way of affirmative answers, let alone how everything survived smaller ice before in history.

It’s amazing ow these articles simply say Global Warming is bad just because something might happen or God forbid change might occur in the world. They need to recognize that we don’t have an earth sized time machine where we can return to a “better” world. The earth is going to change with or without humans, get over it.

We can step out of our front door and be hit with a meteor, killed by a run-a-way vehicle, contract a terminal disease, or just forget what we went out for. Humans can cope with these and go about their regular everyday life. Same with climate change, it happens, go on about your life.

commieBob
December 15, 2020 7:21 am

We now understand the polar night to be a riot of ecological activity.

When I first went to the arctic, many decades ago, I was told that there was teeming life under the ice.

oeman 50
December 15, 2020 7:30 am

Huh? Hidden under the ice for 200,000 years? I was under the impression the north pole was accessible by boat in the early 20th century.

MarkW
Reply to  oeman 50
December 15, 2020 7:42 am

The models prove that the arctic was never open until man started pumping out CO2.
Therefore the records of voyages into the arctic must be lies, probably concocted on behalf of evil oil companies who through the use of time travel, bribed those captains to fabricate their sailing logs.

Philo
Reply to  MarkW
December 17, 2020 8:31 am

Climate models don’t PROVE anything. They SUGGEST possible avenues of actual research.

The records of pre-1900 voyages are real, documentary evidence of
Arctic changes in the northern climate. They have been verified by continuing cyclical changes in Arctic conditions over centuries. That is data that can’t be gathered any other way.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  oeman 50
December 15, 2020 8:20 am

yes
But hockey stick/adjustocene

Sara
Reply to  oeman 50
December 15, 2020 9:06 am

Yeah, I thought that whole area was open water when the Vikings left Greenland and migrated over to Minnesota from the northeastern part of the Arctic Ocean down through Hudson’s Bay.

Steve Z.
Reply to  oeman 50
December 15, 2020 9:12 am

Re: “Hidden under the ice for 200,000 years?”

The author forgot about the last inter-glacial period – the Eemian.

123,000 years ago, it is quite possible the Arctic had less ice than it has now.

Eemian temperatures at their peak were 2-3 degrees F warmer than today. It is actually possible that the Arctic was ice free during that period.

fred250
Reply to  Steve Z.
December 15, 2020 11:07 am

There is actually much more sea ice now than in any time over the last 8000-10,000 years,…

….. except the period of recovery from the LIA extreme high extents.

https://notrickszone.com/2020/12/14/modern-icelands-climate-is-colder-with-more-ice-than-any-other-time-in-the-last-8000-years-except-the-1800s/

PCman999
Reply to  Steve Z.
December 16, 2020 10:39 pm

I think your temps are off. The Eemian was supposed to be warmer than the period about 8000yrs ago when the Sahara was a great plain or savannah, which was warmer than the Minoan peak, which was warmer than the Roman peak, which was warmer than the Medieval peak, which was warmer than our current little bit of Eden. Based on growing conditions, even just the Medieval peak was about 1 or 2° C higher than today’s puny excuse for a climate apocalypse.

Old Retired Guy
December 15, 2020 7:42 am

Appears another paper by people who don’t know what they don’t know.

Russell Cook
Reply to  Old Retired Guy
December 15, 2020 9:44 am

And/or are oblivious to what they just said:

“The tally in 2020 was … the second-smallest measurement in 42 years … Each year, as the climate warms, the Arctic is holding onto less and less ice.”

If the tally this year is the second smallest, then clearly this year’s extent is BIGGER that some prior year, thus the claim about the Arctic holding onto less and less ice EACH YEAR is demonstrably false by the article author’s own self-admission. As many WUWT readers know, the alleged lowest coverage was in 2012 and that the ice extent rose significantly during the next two years, fell by a noticeable amount in ’15 & ’16m then rose in ’17 and stayed nearly the same in ’18, then fell some distance in ’19. At least according to the interactive chart at NSIDC. So, it could be said the article author’s claim about ice extent falling each year due to warming is massively problematic.

But … the area is flooded with light? Define “flooded,” relative to nighttime areas that are genuinely flooded with light.

fred250
Reply to  Russell Cook
December 15, 2020 11:12 am

This year was strongly affected by a pool of “not-as-cold” WEATHER that sat over the Arctic for a considerable period of time. That anomaly has all but dissipated leaving just a small patch over the Bering Strait.

I suspect we may see Arctic sea ice right up with the 15 year mean by the end of the re-freeze period.

Latitude
December 15, 2020 7:48 am

” The tally in 2020 was a meagre 3.74 million square kilometres, the second-smallest measurement in 42 years, and roughly half of what it was in 1980.”

almost 4 times the size of Egypt……and half what is was when they were predicting a coming ice age…and the bottom coldest part of the AMO…that flows directly into it

Mack
Reply to  Latitude
December 15, 2020 9:35 am

And, according to the DMI, it’s already hit 12 million km2 and growing rapidly. Only a couple of Wadhams to go and it’ll hit the mean. In other words, nothing unusual outside of natural decadal variability is going on. Next!

fred250
Reply to  Mack
December 15, 2020 11:18 am

precisely .

Still ONE HECK OF A LOT of sea ice up there. !

December 15, 2020 7:51 am

Artificial light caused by climate change ???
What BS !

Steven Miller
December 15, 2020 7:56 am

“Even in sparsely populated areas of the Arctic, light pollution is noticeable”, from the article.

This is terrible, all over the arctic we now have “light polution”. And it is much worse in other parts of the world! Call the UN, all sources of “artificial must be banned before it is too late and that includes fire unless it was caused by lightning or some other natural cause; then it is OK. Candles and lanterns are definately out, and LEDs… don’t make me laugh.

Boulder Skeptic
Reply to  Steven Miller
December 15, 2020 8:02 pm

The UN is doing their best to ban light pollution. But not directly. They want to impose carbon taxes and make everyone use really expensive (unaffordable to most in the world) “green ” energy, and keep the poorest in the world from having coal fired energy. So, it won’t be long until we are all at the low light pollution levels of North Korea.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-HvptC9WmcZs/T5fWmMYuIdI/AAAAAAAACXM/TK8VXOdJQ6c/s1600/north-korea-at-night-satillite-photo-no-lights%2B-%2Bimage%2Bchartercities.org.jpg

/sarc (in case it wasn’t obvious)

Peter W
December 15, 2020 7:56 am

Think of all the environmental disasters the warmth of 6,000 years ago must have caused! How did the Arctic ever survive them? Even the relatively little warmth of 1,000 years ago when the Norse settled Greenland and were raising oats, barley and rye on over 200 farms there must have been disastrous. Thankfully, the next ice age is approaching, and will take care of all these problems when the Arctic Ocean will likely be frozen solid all year long. It is certainly good to know that we have the Milankovitch Cycles working for us to correct all this terrible Global Warming.

Sara
Reply to  Peter W
December 15, 2020 9:11 am

Yeah but what about when the continents were drifting around and splitting apart and migrating to here and there?

That must have been a horrifying disruption to whatever ocean waters were up there in the Arctic before all those continents settled down and sat still.

Just think about it: plesiosaurs roaming around, looking for food and not even able to find a Tully monster, never mind a whale or two. Oh, wait – wrong time period. Never mind!!!

Charles Higley
December 15, 2020 8:15 am

“The tally in 2020 was a meagre 3.74 million square kilometres, the second-smallest measurement in 42 years, and roughly half of what it was in 1980.”

I call BS and cherry-picking. 1978 was the coldest of the last cold phase. 1980 would be right in that window. So, comparing a warmer period to a colder period, is anyone surprised that there was more ice in the colder period? Wow. Very misleading.

griff
Reply to  Charles Higley
December 15, 2020 8:56 am

In fact we now have consolidated records from all sources going back (so far) to the 1860s. and even in the 30s last century, we don’t see as low an extent as we see in 2020.

so provably 2020 was the second lowest extent since at least 1860.

fred250
Reply to  griff
December 15, 2020 10:49 am

Yes we do have data that the Arctic is WARMER THAN NOW than for all but the last couple of hundred years

https://notrickszone.com/2020/12/14/modern-icelands-climate-is-colder-with-more-ice-than-any-other-time-in-the-last-8000-years-except-the-1800s/

Starting at the COLDEST PERIOD in 10,000 years is a pretty dumb cherry-pick, only worthy of the lowest CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER… ie YOU.

fred250
Reply to  griff
December 15, 2020 10:53 am

isn’t it ABSOLUTELY GREAT NEWS that the Arctic has RECOVERED slightly from the COLDEST PERIOD in 10,000 years, hey griff

Not only is the land surface GREENING, but the seas are also springing BACK to life after being TOO COLD and frozen over for much of the last 500 or so years (coldest period of the Holocene)

The drop in sea ice slightly toward the pre-LIA levels has opened up the food supply for the nearly extinct Bowhead Whale, and they are returning to the waters around Svalbard.

https://partner.sciencenorway.no/arctic-ocean-forskningno-fram-centre/the-ice-retreats–whale-food-returns/1401824

The Blue Mussel is also making a return, having been absent for a few thousand years, apart from a brief stint during the MWP.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0959683617715701?journalCode=hola

Many other species of whale are also returning now that the sea ice extent has dropped from the extreme highs of the LIA. Whales cannot swim on ice. !

https://blog.poseidonexpeditions.com/whales-of-svalbard/

Great thing is, that because of fossil fuels and plastics, they will no longer be hunted for whale blubber for lamps and for whale bone.

Hopefully the Arctic doesn’t re-freeze too much in the next AMO cycle, and these glorious creatures get a chance to survive and multiply.

Try not to HATE Arctic sea life so much that you want it buried and forced out by EXTREME high levels of sea ice, like during the Little Ice Age.

Boulder Skeptic
Reply to  fred250
December 15, 2020 8:10 pm

Yeah, but what about polar bears? When Al Gore was a kid, there were 10,000 of them. Now there are only about 30,000 left!

/sarc

comment image

fred250
Reply to  griff
December 15, 2020 10:55 am

Hey griff, did you know that in 1922 there was no sea ice around Svalbard EVEN IN WINTER !!!

Or you could just continue to DENY Arctic sea ice history so you can keep up your mindless panic.

Phil.
Reply to  fred250
December 16, 2020 8:18 am

fred250 December 15, 2020 at 10:55 am
Hey griff, did you know that in 1922 there was no sea ice around Svalbard EVEN IN WINTER !!!

And at the same time Wrangell Island was surrounded by sea ice throughout the summer.

fred250
Reply to  Phil.
December 16, 2020 12:13 pm

Poor phlip..

NO ICE ON THE SHORES OF SVALBARD IN WINTER.

Get over it !

fred250
Reply to  Phil.
December 16, 2020 12:18 pm

There is sea ice on both Wrangell Island and Svalbard right now..

You seem to be trying to make a pointless meaningless point.. AS ALWAYS.

Phil.
Reply to  fred250
December 18, 2020 6:48 am

No that’s your province. You constantly cherry-pick Svalbard in the winter of 1922 to suggest that the whole Arctic was warmer than now. In rebuttal the very cold summers in the vicinity of Wrangell at that time indicate that that was not the case. By the way it’s not summer in the Arctic now.

fred250
Reply to  griff
December 15, 2020 11:16 am

Even HadCrud4 shows the Arctic no warmer now than in the 1930s and 40s

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Backed up by data from Hansen and from Jones.

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fred250
Reply to  griff
December 15, 2020 11:30 am

This graph is probably the most logical historic sea ice extent graph of the last 120 years,

with the drop down to low extents in the 1930s40, similar but maybe a tad higher than now.

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Matches recorded temperatures well,

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also matches historic descriptions comment image

But that is all just a fluctuation in the recovery from the extreme anomalous highs of the LIA.

fred250
Reply to  griff
December 15, 2020 12:31 pm

There have been two distinct periods of EXTREME, ANOMALOUSLY HIGH Arctic sea ice extent..

They are around the mid-late 1970s and an extended period during the Little Ice Age, as shown by the Icelandic sea ice records.

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The climate change DENIERS, like griff, will always choose one of the EXTREME HIGH EXTENTS as their starting/reference point.

Boulder Skeptic
Reply to  griff
December 15, 2020 8:37 pm

Meanwhile, since we’re specifically on the topic of polar sea ice extent, Antarctic sea ice is doing just fine, thank you very much. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center (Boulder, CO), sea ice extent around Antarctica has been above the 1981-2010 median level since mid-August this year and often in the upper interdecile range.

I thought this was “global” warming?!?! Or, is the Antarctic inconvenience just weather while the Arctic is climate to you? Just asking for a friend…

Pat from Kerbob
December 15, 2020 8:18 am

So, like everywhere else on earth, warmer is better and means more life.

Bruce Cobb
December 15, 2020 8:47 am

“Not all changes to our warming world will be wholly negative. In the Arctic, as elsewhere, there are winners and losers.”
Whoop- Whoop- Whoop! Danger! Denier! Approach with caution. May be armed with facts!

Old Woman from the North
December 15, 2020 8:54 am

Not a physicist or geologist among them. Ecology seems to attract very emotional people who extrapolate freely.

Monster
December 15, 2020 9:00 am

“ This is called the polar night, and at the North Pole, the year is simply one day lasting six months, followed by one equally long night.”

Um, no.

Not even remotely close to true. If the author cannot get this simplest fact right, why should I believe anything in the article?

Sara
December 15, 2020 9:13 am

Just a question: why is it that the impression I get from some of these articles is that people who write them are looking for any excuse for a panic attack?

That’s what it seems like to me, as though a lack of real disasters like the Honshu quake and tsunami simply wasn’t enough for them.

That’s just sad.

December 15, 2020 9:40 am

“At that time, scientists assumed the polar night was utterly uninteresting. A dead period in which life lies dormant and the ecosystem sinks into a dark and frigid standby mode.”

That’s just silly. Haven’t they watched “30 days of night”? Everyone knows that’s when the vampires come out.

Petit_Barde
December 15, 2020 9:51 am

“Overall, the global extent of kelp forests is on a downward trend because of ocean heatwaves, pollution, warming temperatures, and outbreaks of grazers like sea urchins.”

Thus warming tempertures reduces kelp forests and this is BAD.

“Unsurprisingly, it’s not all good news. Encroaching kelp forests could push out unique wildlife in the high Arctic. Algae living under the ice will have nowhere to go, and could disappear altogether.”

But warming temperatures increase kelp forests and this is BAD.

Just two question for this bunch of clowns :
– how did the kelp forest managed to survive during the holocene optimum, with 4 to 8°C higher temperatures in the Arctic than today ?
– same question for the “unique wildlife in the high Arctic” supposedly andangered by the kelp increase due to warming temperatures.

Climate believer
December 15, 2020 10:14 am

” Shipping routes, oil and gas exploration and fisheries extend into the region as the sea ice retreats, drawing artificial light into the otherwise inky black polar night.”

How does that work then?

Sea ice retreats in the summer when there’s almost constant daylight, no need for artificial light. There is no shipping routes in the inky black polar night, as many climate expeditions keep finding out to their consternation.
A quick check on marinetraffic.com shows 1 lonely fishing vessel, the Revel Viking, operating in an inland waterway in Svalbard, and a coastal patrol vessel. Not much extending going on there.

fred250
December 15, 2020 10:58 am

The Arctic has been WARMER than current for all but the last couple of hundred years.

https://notrickszone.com/2020/12/14/modern-icelands-climate-is-colder-with-more-ice-than-any-other-time-in-the-last-8000-years-except-the-1800s/

Its great to see the Arctic RECOVERING slightly from the ANOMALOUSLY high sea ice extent of the LIA

LIFE RETURNS when the whole place isn’t frozen solid.

Louis Hunt
December 15, 2020 1:35 pm

From this article: “The Arctic is warming two to three times faster than any other place on Earth…”

But according to research published by Cowtan and Way in 2014, the Arctic is warming “eight times faster than the rest of the planet.” So what happened after 2014? Is climate change in the Arctic decelerating?

Jan E Christoffersen
Reply to  Louis Hunt
December 15, 2020 3:19 pm

Louis,

They are comparing Arctic Ocean warming “two to three times faster” than global ocean and land warming. Very misleading comparison.

fred250
Reply to  Louis Hunt
December 15, 2020 5:40 pm

Apart from the 2015 El Nino/ Big Blob event (effect almost gone now)

The Arctic has not warmed AT ALL this century !!

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Dave Fair
Reply to  fred250
December 15, 2020 6:45 pm

That graph, in and of itself, proves CO2 controls nothing.

Louis Hunt
Reply to  fred250
December 15, 2020 9:16 pm

UAH measures land/surface warming, not ocean warming, right? If that graph shows 8 times more warming than the rest of the planet, then there doesn’t appear to be anything to worry about in the Arctic or elsewhere. Eight times zero is zero.

Is there a similar graph for ocean temperatures in the Arctic?

fred250
Reply to  Louis Hunt
December 16, 2020 3:05 am

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Hope that’s right… been a long day.

Ulric Lyons
December 15, 2020 2:12 pm

The warm phase of the AMO driving the warmer Arctic Ocean, is normal during each centennial solar minimum. Rising CO2 forcing according to the consensus of IPCC circulation models increases positive NAO conditions, that can only cool the AMO and Arctic.

Geoff Sherrington
December 15, 2020 3:26 pm

These authors are not hard science people, they are arts romantic people. Such people tend to use imagination before observation, ignore measurements that spoil their sci-fi novels and so on with patterns of arty behaviour that can be seen, getting worse over the last few decades.
Example 1. The authors choose to discuss the flux of light in the sea at various times and places. Where are the measurements? Are we meant to believe that the man-made light that gets under water around ships, oil wells etc is on a par with Nature’s output? I have not run the figures but it is possible that artificial light under water is so tiny compared to sunlight, moonlight, even aurora light that it is not a factor large enough to be considered.
Show the numbers, or refrain from pseudo science. The world is awash with it.
Example 2. What is meant by their sub-header “A new carbon sink”? They seem to discuss well known, conventional biological science, using trash terms to show younger readers how woke they are. There is no valid word phrase “fairly unique.” That is as ignorant as “fairly pregnant” when one is or is not, absolutely. Other phrases like “remarkably similar” come from authors on the same mental spectrum. In science, similarity is usually expressed statistically by methods like factor analysis and correlation coefficients. If similarity is found, scientists tend not to add the sci-fi word “remarkably” because inter alia, that term needs to be quantified as to how remarkable as perceived by whom using which analysis. Geoff S

Old Retired Guy
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
December 15, 2020 5:01 pm

I’ll repeat my earlier comment, with an addendum. These people don’t know what they don’t know.

And what they don’t know is most anything having to do with science.

And I’ll add my new email signature line.

You know how stupid the average person is, right? Well half of them are stupider than that!
– George Carlin

Sara
December 15, 2020 4:06 pm

I’m confused: Seasonal changes are normal. Summer into winter and back into summer. There’s no set pattern to those seasonal changes, other than when they take place. So what part of ‘normal” do the people who create these (rather confusing) articles not understand?

I’m only confused because I see nothing unusual in any seasonal changes since my mother took a photo of me with a puppy on my shoulder and I used to hang laundry on a clothesline to earn my allowance. It’s warm in the Spring, warm and rainy;’ then flowers sprout and bloom. Then Summer gets warmer and sometimes, it rains and sometimes there’s a tornado or hail. Then Autumn shows up and the trees shut off chlorophyll production and the leaves turn color and hit the ground, and there may be rain or not. And then Winter arrives and it’s cold, and sometimes we have snow, sometimes we don’t.

Why is that so hard for those people to understand? And when will they understand that they have absolutely no control over what happens on this planet?

December 15, 2020 10:48 pm

The main value of this article are the comments. Especially those of fred250. Thanks for this!
May be you could engage him, in favour of a text on his own, Anthony?

fred250
Reply to  einanderer
December 16, 2020 3:13 am

chuckle, no thanks.

Coeur de Lion
December 16, 2020 4:19 am

Griff would have won my bet this year – £100 says more than four Wadhams at the solstice. It’s open again this year.

Phil.
Reply to  Coeur de Lion
December 16, 2020 8:34 am

It would indeed be remarkable if that were not the case (it was so this year), perhaps you mean the equinox?

Editor
December 16, 2020 6:58 am

The effects of light from the surface on sea creatures at night is well known and has been used by fishermen all around the world. Off the coast of Portugal, fishermen go out at night in small wooden boats and hang lanterns over the side on poles to attract squid.

In the Caribbean, one’s deck lights attract all kinds of interesting sea critters to surface near the boat. At St John, USVI, our deck lights attracted many different species and after a while, their predators. The predators included the fish eating bat — the Greater Bulldog Bat (Noctilio leporinus) — which would swoop across the bay just at the edge of our light pool and snatch a fish drawn to the surface by our lights. It took me about fifty tries to catch the bat on (digital) film to identify it as bird or bat. Very cool.

tygrus
December 16, 2020 2:39 pm

The loss of arctic sea ice extent each year is called summer. A significant downward trend of the maximum & minimum extents can be seen. The antarctic extent has seen the opposite, a trend to slightly increase since 1979 for most of the time.
Observing a different behaviour in sea life is the first step, does it have any effect on growth, survival or reproduction? The third step would be to observe a direct change in population … still waiting.

Ofcourse, if you can’t measure or don’t have the same method of data collection methods used in history .. you can make these wild guesses & use models tuned with your assumptions to prove those assumptions (with circular reasoning) and to make more wild speculations. The underlying variability and lack of equilibrium drives our climate and changes to fauna & flora. The assumption of a steady state prior to industrialization is a fallacy.

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