We're Beginning to See Hints That Ocean Circulation is Changing: International Polar Year Director

melting sea ice photo

photo: IPY

Over the past year we've seen increasing evidence that the effects of climate change in both the Arctic and Antarctic are occurring more quickly than predicted. As a sort year-in-review, the International Polar Year has released The State of Polar Research, 2007-2008. If you've been following TreeHugger's coverage of polar climate change some of this will be familiar, but here are some of IPY's findings:Antarctica, Greenland Melting Increases
The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass, contributing to sea level rise.Warming in Antarctica is much more widespread than was previously thought; the rate of ice loss in Greenland also appears to be increasing.

Researchers also found that in the Arctic, during the summers of 2007 and 2008, the minimum extent of year-round sea ice decreased to its lowest level since satellite records began 30 years ago. IPY expeditions recorded an unprecedented rate of sea-ice drift in the Arctic as well. Due to global warming, the types and extent of vegetation in the Arctic shifted, affecting grazing animals and hunting.

Freshening Antarctic Bottom Water
Global warming is affecting Antarctica in ways not previously identified: Above average warming is occurring in the Southern Ocean; freshening of bottom water near Antarctica, the result of increased ice melt there, could affect ocean circulation.

IPY director David Carlson was quoted by AFP as saying,

We're beginning to get hints of change in ocean circulation, that'll have a dramatic impact on the global climate system.

Modern Deep-Sea Octopus Ancestors Still Live in Southern Ocean
There's some other research coming out of IPY that's interesting: Many present deep-sea octopuses originate from common ancestor species still living in the Southern Ocean. North Atlantic storms are major sources of heat and moisture for the polar regions. The Southern Ocean has a much more colorful and diverse range of life present than previously identified, with some species migrating poleward in response to global warming.

Read the full IPY report: The State of Polar Research
Global Climate Change
It's Official: Human Activity is Warming Both the Arctic and Antarctic
Two Trillion Tons of Land Ice Melted Since 2003
West Antarctic Glacier Disintegrating Rapidly: First Hand Account

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