Archive | Snowpack & Ice

Permafrost Recedes 80 Miles in 50 Years

QUEBEC CITY, Feb. 22 (UPI) — Canadian scientists say the southern limit of permafrost in the James Bay area is now 80 miles farther north than it was 50 years ago.

University of Laval Professors Simon Thibault and Serge Payette said their research suggests if the trend continues, permafrost — permanently frozen ground — will soon disappear from the region.

The scientists said they measured the retreat of the permafrost border by observing hummocks known as “palsas” that form naturally over ice contained in the soil of northern peat bogs. Conditions in the mounds are conducive to the development of distinct vegetation — lichen, shrubs, and black spruce — making them easy to spot.

In an initial survey in 2004, the researchers examined seven bogs located between the 51st and 53rd parallels. They noted at that time only two bogs contained palsas, whereas aerial photos taken in 1957 showed palsas present in all of the bogs. A second assessment in 2005 revealed the number of palsas present in the two bogs had decreased during the course of one year by 86 percent and 90 percent, in that order.

While climate change is the most probable explanation for the phenomenon, the researchers said a lack of long term climatic data makes it impossible for the researchers to officially confirm the cause.

The study appeared in a recent issue of the journal Permafrost and Periglacial Processes.

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More Snow Forecast for Winter-weary States

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) — Large chunks of the United States were under weather alerts Monday with freezing rain, sleet and snow battering weather-weary states.

The National Weather Service issued storm warnings and weather advisories for Tuesday in sections of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, especially mountainous regions, CNN reported.

Other warnings and watches were posted in Tennessee, Kentucky, and parts of the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic states, weather officials said. Up to 3 inches of snow was expected by Monday in those areas.

Hundreds of flights in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta were canceled as the system moved in, CNN said.

A snow emergency was in effect in Washington, where Mayor Adrian Fenty said 4 more inches of snow could fall. The area had already received a season-record snowfall of 55.9 inches, preliminary NWS estimates indicate.

Officials in Kansas City reported more than 100 damaged vehicles littered highways around the city during a 2-hour period Sunday, the Kansas City Star reported. More than 50 injuries were reported, none of them critical.

CNN said one accident involved as many as 30 vehicles.

“You could be driving along and think everything is fine and then — boom — you hit a burst of snow,” said meteorologist Pat Cooper of the NWS office in Pleasant Hill, Mo. “Visibility’s almost zero, you brake, and then you get cars piling into each other.”

Officials from Fairfax and Arlington counties in Virginia issued appeals to help clear sidewalks so children could return to school Tuesday after the Presidents Day holiday, The Washington Post reported.

Howard County, Va., school officials said facilities there would be closed Tuesday.

“Some streets are still covered with ice, and others are too narrow,” schools Superintendent Sydney Cousin said. “The high piles of snow create real visibility issues.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Deep South to Get Rare, Measurable Snow

MOBILE, Ala., Feb. 12 (UPI) — The South from Texas to Georgia Friday braced for a potent storm, predicted to spread snow along the Interstate 20 corridor.

The storm could deliver enough precipitation to disrupt travel and cancel schools, officials said. said snow and sleet would fall on the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, including the cities of Mobile, Ala., and Tallahassee, Fla. Meanwhile, Montgomery, Ala., Atlanta; Columbia, S.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., and Wilmington, N.C., could receive 3-6 inches, said.

Hundreds of flights in and out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport were canceled ahead of the storm, CNN reported.

Louisiana officials closed state government offices in 42 parishes for Friday because of the storm.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport recorded 9.4 inches by Thursday night, the most snow recorded at the airport since 7.8 inches fell Jan. 15, 1964, CNN said.

In Washington, more than 250,000 federal workers were told to report to work Friday after having four days off because of a pair of storms, CNN said. A storm last weekend dumped more than 20 inches of snow on the Washington metro area, followed by a midweek storm that added a foot more. Other locations in the path of the midweek storm received up to 30 inches of snow.

Officials reopened Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport Thursday after closing the facilities to flights Wednesday afternoon.

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East Coast Braces for Second Blizzard

NEW YORK, Feb. 10 (UPI) — The snowstorm that dumped as much as a foot of snow in some parts of the U.S. midsection bore down Wednesday on the East Coast, forecasters said.

The white stuff and accompanying gusty winds were expected to cause hellish travel conditions from Washington to Boston, reported.

The snowstorm was expected to change from a wintry mix along a line from the Chesapeake Bay to southern New Jersey into a blizzard, with conditions deteriorating along the Interstate 95 corridor, forecasters said.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered schools closed Wednesday, The New York Times reported. Public school districts in nearly every major city along the East Coast from Baltimore through Boston followed suit, as did dozens of county school districts.

At the blizzard’s height, strong winds were expected to whip the falling snow, creating extremely poor visibility conditions for extended time periods, said. Strong winds were forecast from the Carolinas to the central Appalachian Mountains, resulting in severe blowing and drifting snow.

At least a foot of snow was expected to fall far northern Maryland to southern Connecticut.

Several major airlines announced they canceled many, if not all, of their Wednesday flights out of airports in Washington, New York, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other East Coast cities, the Times said. Amtrak officials said the train would operate its Northeast regional service but warned of service disruptions.

In Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives announced Tuesday no votes would be taken for the remainder of the week because of the storm. Federal government offices were closed Wednesday, officials said.

Before leaving the Midwest, the storm wreaked havoc in the air and on the ground in Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit. Hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago’s two airports, and Southwest Airlines suspended all flights for 24 hours until the storm’s expected end Wednesday, the Times said.

Officials said a Chicago-area woman was struck and killed Tuesday by a private snow plow near her home, the Chicago Tribune reported. She apparently was crossing the street when she was struck by a Chevrolet Silverado with an attached plow that was backing out of a private parking lot it was clearing. Officials said the snow plow driver received two citations in the incident.

In Michigan, state police advised drivers to take it slow if they must travel because of poor road conditions, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Michigan authorities blamed the storm for at least one death, a Ypsilanti woman whose car was struck by a garbage truck Wednesday.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Southwest U.S. Ice Age Climate Studied

TUCSON, Jan. 26 (UPI) — A U.S. geoscientist says she’s found the abrupt changes in ice age climate known to have occurred in Greenland also occurred in the southwestern United States.

University of Arizona Professor Julia Cole says her finding is the first to document the simultaneous events.

“It’s a new picture of the climate in the Southwest during the last ice age,” said Cole. “When it was cold in Greenland, it was wet here, and when it was warm in Greenland, it was dry here.”

The researchers studied natural climate archives recorded in a stalagmite in a limestone cave in southern Arizona.

Cole said the stalagmite yielded a nearly continuous, century-by-century climate record spanning 55,000 to 11,000 years ago. During that time ice sheets covered much of North America and the U.S. Southwest was cooler and wetter than it is now.

Cole and her colleagues found the Southwest alternated between wet and dry periods during the period studied, with each climate regime lasting from a few hundred years to more than 1,000 years.

“These changes are part of a global pattern of abrupt changes that were first documented in Greenland ice cores,” she said. “No one had documented those changes in the Southwest before.”

The research that included co-author Gideon Henderson of Britain’s University of Oxford is to appear in the February issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Climate Panel Apologizes for Glacier Error

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 21 (UPI) — The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Switzerland apologized for a report asserting the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.-affiliated body, conceded the 2007 claim by the Nobel Prize-winning panel of climate scientists was “poorly substantiated.”

The data actually indicate the disappearance will likely be around 2350 if global warming trends continue, 315 years later than 2035, Pachauri said.

The incorrect date appears in an error-riddled paragraph of a 938-page report.

The paragraph also misstates the total land area covered by Himalayan glaciers, claiming it is 193,000 square miles when it is actually about 13,000 square miles, said geography Professor Graham Cogley of Trend University in Peterborough, Ontario, one of four scientists who addressed the issue in a letter to be published in the Jan. 29 issue of the journal Science.

The glaciers would have to melt 10 times faster than they are now to disappear by 2035, he said.

The scientists who identified the mistakes say the report relied on news accounts that appear to have transposed 2350 as 2035, ClimateWire reported.

But the gaffes don’t undermine the IPCC report’s main conclusion — that evidence for global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activities are driving the climate shift, the scientists said.

Ben Santer, a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., called the error a “breakdown” in the peer-review process.

But “focusing on a mouse and ignoring the elephant would be a mistake,” he told reporters, especially since independent assessments by the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. government and other sources echo the IPCC’s overall findings.

The controversy comes as the IPCC begins work on its next major report, due in 2013.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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Canada Seeks National Polar Policy as Arctic Scientists Lack Funding

EDMONTON, Alberta, Jan. 13 (UPI) — Canada needs a national polar policy to fund studies in the Arctic — one of fastest changing landscapes on Earth, a University of Alberta researcher said.

Canadian scientists find it increasing difficult to find money to monitor glaciers, sea ice and animals affected by the melting environment in the Arctic, John England said Wednesday in an online edition of the journal Nature.

“The capacity to support researchers in remote field sites has plummeted,” England said, adding, “There simply isn’t enough money for the air support that Canadian scientists need to get people and supplies into the wilderness.”

The underfunded and important Polar Continental Shelf Program needs to be linked with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, which is the main funding body for science in Canada, he said.

“Now is an opportune time to apply pressure to change this,” England said, noting Canada has a responsibility to lead in stewardship of the Arctic.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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85 Photos from 1908 Arctic Expedition on eBay

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Jan. 11 (UPI) — A Connecticut man said he hopes to get up to $8,000 on eBay for a rare find in his attic — 85 photographs from a 1908 expedition to the Arctic.

Francis Boucher of New Haven said the photo album, which had been passed down to him by his parents, spent years in a trunk in his attic until he stumbled upon it about two weeks ago and decided to research its origins, The New Haven (Conn.) Register reported Monday.

“This time, I started really looking at their historical value,” he said. “I was surprised and kind of excited. It’s one of those things you stick in a box and forget about.”

“The book documents Harry Whitney’s expedition with the Inuit Eskimo to the north and south of Etah (Greenland), along the Arctic frontier and overwintering in Annoatok,” he wrote in an e-mail announcing his auction. “The images portray what real big-game hunting and survival in the wilderness was all about, making today’s reality TV look like child’s play.”

The auction had reached a high bid of $1,612 as of Monday evening.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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Polar Bears Near Shore As Ice Vanishes

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Jan. 8 (UPI) — A 27-year study of polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea showed them spending more time on land and open water as ice disappeared, officials said.

Between 1979 and 1987, 12 percent of bear sightings were associated with no ice. Between 1997 and 2005, however, 90 percent of bear sightings were associated with no ice, said Karyn Rode, a polar bear biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, Alaska.

As sea ice disappeared, more bears were seen near shore in the southern Beaufort Sea, Rode said in a recent issue of the journal Arctic. Many scientists blame the warmer temperatures associated with climate change for the disappearance of the sea ice.

The number of bears sighted steadily near shore increased from 138 bears between 1979 and 1987, to 271 bears between 1988 and 1996, and 468 bears between 1997 and 2005, Rode said.

The bear observations and ice conditions were recorded as part of a bowhead whale survey conducted annually in the southern Beaufort Sea.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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Avalanches Kills Five, Leaves Three Missing in Switzerland

BERN, Switzerland, Jan. 4 (UPI) — Five people died and three people are still missing as a result of avalanches in Switzerland, authorities say. reported Monday that four people died, including a Swiss Air Service rescue worker, in Switzerland’s Diemtig Valley after an avalanche hit a group of skiers Sunday.

After an initial avalanche struck the skiers at the region south of Bern, Switzerland, rescue officials attempting to save the victims were struck by a second avalanche.

Authorities confirmed four people, included a doctor in the rescue party, died in the avalanches and eight others were hospitalized with various injuries.

A search is under way for three missing individuals, reported.

Meanwhile, another man died Sunday after being buried by an avalanche in Switzerland’s Valais canton, said the BBC, quoting Tribune de Geneve.

A second individual buried in Sunday’s avalanche was able to free himself from the snow.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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