This Week in Ice, Oct. 10-14

I’m posting a littler earlier this week—so much has happened in ice.

Adelies C

A highlight of our SNOWBIRDS Transect research cruise was watching the Adélie penguins, by far the most entertaining and—I have to say it—cute creatures I’ve ever seen. One couldn’t help but be enchanted and amused by these little fellows as they bob their heads and chatter, waddle-running on little legs and belly-scooting across the pack ice, tumbling over their own feet and each other.

So, it’s gut-wrenching to read that in a colony of around 36,000 Adélie penguins, only two chicks have survived. The others starved to death. Sea ice conditions in that area forced adult penguins to travel much farther to find food. Next week, environmental groups and officials will meet to discuss the creation of a Marine Protected Area off eastern Antarctica, prohibiting fishing of krill, thereby helping relieve stress on some penguin colonies and other marine life.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the Maud Rise polynya, also known as the Weddell polynya, which opened up in the Weddell Sea about a month ago. A polynya is an area of open water within the ice pack.

The Maud Rise polynya, which I read has grown to about 80,000 square km (30,000 square miles), is currently about the size of South Carolina, Maine, Lake Superior, Tasmania, or Switzerland, depending on where you read this news–which finally hit the mainstream this week.

It’s the dark blue patch near the top of the image.

maud 1

It looks a bit like a whale or shark…

maud 2

I believe this image is from Sentinel 1.

News reports say scientists are “puzzled” or “mystified” about what’s causing it, since the polynya is far from the sea edge. However, the Antarctic Report notes that the seamount (underwater mountain) for which the polynya is named rises 3,500 m deep to 1,700 m deep, creating eddies, which bring warmer water closer to the surface.

Such openings in sea ice affect our global climate. And here’s a (fun?) related story.

There is no doubt that as the planet warms, the sea ice extent is changing and/or acting in unexpected and troubling ways. Glaciers, too, are affected.

Satellite imagery has shown an upside-down canyon forming beneath the Dotson Ice Shelf. This video from the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling explains this process well:

 

Meanwhile, massive iceberg B-44, which calved (= broke off) from the Pine Island Glacier in September, has developed new cracks.

pine

So, it’s been a big week in ice—and, hopefully, one that makes you think.

To finish off, here’s something as mesmerizing as it is fascinating:

 

As always, I am not a scientist, just a writer/illustrator and science communicator passionately in love with sea ice. I welcome input and corrections by polar scientists as I learn more about this remarkable and vital part of our planet, and then bring this knowledge to a wider audience. 

4 thoughts on “This Week in Ice, Oct. 10-14

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