July 26 News: Melting Arctic Sea Ice Makes Life Hard For Baby Harp Seals


According to new research, as ice in the Arctic melts, baby harp seals are pushed off their breeding grounds and often end up stranded, injured, or dead. [Christian Science Monitor]

Researchers have delivered more bad news for the harp seal — this time for male babies.

Harp seals, with their wide, amused-looking black eyes and earless, white faces, are often poster children for the toll that climate change is taking on the world. As the Arctic ice melts, the little animals are pushed off their ice breeding grounds, often becoming stranded and turning up dead or injured along the American East Coast. Now, new research shows that infant male harp seals are particularly vulnerable to those strandings.

“Changes in percent ice cover are impacting the number of strandings we are seeing,” said Brianne Soulen, a biologist at the University of North Texas and co-author on the paper, published in PLOS ONE. “The inclusion of sex information allowed us to discover that males are stranding more than females.”

A Canadian oil company is still unable to stop a series of leaks at a tar sands operation in Alberta. The leaks have contaminated a vast area of boreal forest and killed birds, mammals and amphibians. [Wall Street Journal]

Even though a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary gets business transporting coal via rail, Warren Buffet predicted that coal use in the U.S. will decline gradually, over “years and years.” [Businessweek]

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) called for more natural gas pipelines that reduced methane leakage to 1 percent, and said he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would be working to draft bipartisan national legislation natural gas. Wyden also described a proposal that would allow states to regulate fracking underground, while the federal government would handle reporting and disclosure requirements. [National Journal, The Hill]

The House passed a bill yesterday that would give states more jurisdiction over the management of coal ash, a coal combustion byproduct that can be environmentally damaging when put in landfills. [AP]

Halliburton, the oil services company that yesterday agreed to plead guilty of destroying evidence related to the 2010 BP spill, has also been contacted about antitrust concerns surrounding the company’s dominant position in the pressure pumping market central to the practice of fracking. [Reuters]

UPS says that if it runs its long-haul trucking fleet on natural gas, it could save 40 percent in fuel costs and cut emissions. [Bloomberg]

The North Carolina House failed to pass a bill that would encourage fracking. [News & Observer]

Peak snowpack in Oregon’s McKenzie River could drop by has much as 56 percent due to climate change, according to a new study. [The Oregonian ]

A team of chemists and biologists from NOAA are setting out on a month-long voyage to research how marine ecosystems along the U.S. West Coast are responding to ocean acidification. [LA Times]

The White House and climate advocates in and out of Congress will use the August recess to talk about the threats posed by climate change, and to call out Republicans who doubt climate science. [Politico]

A bipartisan energy efficiency bill that might get floor debate next week depends more on amendments that would gut proposed carbon pollution rules and approve the Keystone pipeline than the bill itself. [The Hill]

Research shows Asian-Americans, a fast-growing ethnic group in the U.S., are more likely to consider themselves environmentalists than the rest of the U.S. population. [Grist]

Scientists have discovered a palm oil plant gene that would enable farmers to recognize and plant only the most productive seeds, reducing the need to expand their plantations into the rainforest. [Guardian]

Weeks of sunny weather and an increase in solar photovoltaic panel installations has led to a record level of power generation from solar in Britain this summer. [Guardian]

29 Responses to July 26 News: Melting Arctic Sea Ice Makes Life Hard For Baby Harp Seals

  1. Spike says:

    I’d missed this paper referred to on Neven’s blog that shows that Pilocene levels of Arctic warmth and equable temperatures can only be reproduced accurately with a sea ice free Arctic.

    “Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations recently reached 400 parts per million for the first time since the Pliocene Epoch, three million years ago. During this era, Arctic surface temperatures were 15-20 degrees Celsius warmer than today’s surface temperatures.”

  2. Paul Magnus says:

    We are in a slow motion environmental disaster… must see vid

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Buffett Says Coal’s Decline in U.S. to Be Gradual Yet Permanent

  4. Paul Magnus says:

    Animal conflits (n human) always seem to go up especially in record extremes….

    Tourists warned after French woman and her dog are attacked by gang of six feral cats
    A woman walking her dog in one of France’s most attractive tourist areas was the victim of a ‘nightmare’ attack

  5. BobbyL says:

    Here is an article that makes good sense to me.

    “For Obama to make progress on climate change, he must focus on getting other nations to cut their emissions.”

    “Yet so far practically nobody is talking about the single most important test for Obama’s plan: international leverage.”

    “In 1990, the U.S. couldn’t stop global warming on its own, but it could unilaterally set the tone for the world. That never happened, and today the global problem is much bigger and harder to manage.”

  6. Joan Savage says:

    In what might otherwise be a trivial-pursuit article on the future of British royalty, out popped an insight about climate change.

    “Today most serious problems—such as climate change, economic instability, access to food and water, migration, crime, and terrorism—are both borderless and long term, so national governments, with their narrow domestic focus, their increasingly irrelevant party ideologies, and their short terms in office, have less and less real impact on the world we live in.” – Simon Anholt
    in The Daily Beast (newsweek).

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    Yes. Climate changes should have be front and center of his first term.

  8. Paul Magnus says:

    So societal collapse is a real threat right across the board in developing and developed nations.

    Anyone know of any details on what the risks and probabilities are for this?

    I think they are quite high and we will probably see this occurring on a large scale within the decade.

    So we be looking at strategies to address adaption to here this based on its likely hood?

  9. prokaryotes says:

    This is an isolated event… and i see no convincing evidence which links this to temperatures.

    This is just a claim without any hard evidence, article quote:
    “It is thought the attack may be related to the high summer temperatures perhaps making the cats more aggressive than usual.”

    It could be for many reasons why this happend, lack of food, tainted food or water, illness… any yes maybe the heat ticked a threshold for violent behavior (as many psychological studies conclude), but was this the case here, we don’t know this based from the data presented.

  10. prokaryotes says:

    16/2013: Monthly update for June 2013

    The June wind production confirms the general positive trend experienced during 2013.
    The total wind production in June 2013 was 13 % above budget with favourable wind conditions in Italy, particularly in Sardinia. Production from Germany, Denmark, Spain and especially Poland was below expected level, primarily due to poor wind conditions.
    Net wind production showed an increase of 33% compared to June 2012. Year-to-date figures have increased by 34% compared to the 2012 level.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Heat wave scorches east China / Image: People from Hangzhou, seek relief from heat in subway station Qiaosi

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s only ‘slow motion’ for us. For the planet this ecological disaster is proceeding very rapidly. The Masters can still up the pace, so to say, by, for example, fighting a last-ditch thermo-nuclear war as the Collapse deepens-and who’s to say that they are incapable of that?

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The world well knows what US ‘international leverage’ means, ie ‘Do as I say, or else, not what I do (because I have a Manifest Destiny)’. The USA doesn’t call the shots anymore, and the efforts to do so are radically counter-productive, probably deliberately so. Time to drop the Imperial Manner, and work with other countries for the benefit of all.

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    The Rolling Stone article about Jason Box reports the Jakobshavn glacier is moving 170 feet a day.

    I wrote about the Jakobshavn glacier in 2007, and have been following it for 8 years. I went and looked up what the numbers were:

    So, it went from 113 feet a day in 2005 to 135 a day in 2007 ….. 22 feet a day faster.
    In 2 years, the Jakobshavn Glacier has increased it’s speed by nearly 20%.”

    So in 8 years, the Jakobshavn Glacier has increased it’s speed by just under 50%.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    The Jason Box article in Rolling Stone

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    The author of this paper is focusing on the East Siberian shelf , he posting a short piece today in Washington Post. :

    What is actually happening is that the summer sea ice now retreats so far, and for so long each summer, that there is a substantial ice-free season over the Siberian shelf, sufficient for solar irradiance to warm the surface water by a significant amount – up to 7C according to satellite data. That warming extends the 50 m or so to the seabed because we are dealing with only a polar surface water layer here (over the shelves the Arctic Ocean structure is one-layer rather than three layers) and the surface warming is mixed down by wave-induced mixing because the extensive open water permits large fetches. So long as some ice persisted on the shelf, the water mass was held to about 0C in summer because any further heat content in the water column was used for melting the ice underside. But once the ice disappears, as it has done, the temperature of the water can rise significantly, and the heat content reaching the seabed can melt the frozen sediments at a rate that was never before possible. The authors who so confidently dismiss the idea of extensive methane release are simply not aware of the new mechanism that is causing it.

  17. Paul Magnus says:

    Didn’t say it was caused by global warming.

    Whats that argument thats use… no single weather event is per say is caused by GW, but the trend and the context indicate much, right.

    It would be interesting to see if there is a pattern emerging in this respect with the recent heat waves. Certainly in the past there has be a link.

    There are many ways that the extreme weather affects animal behaviour and their interaction with humans. Not just the direct link to irritability due to the warm conditions.

    For example the heat may mean that more (wild) animals come in to contact with humans if their water or food sources are low in the wild. We see this here in BC with bears and cougars on a seasonal bias and that pattern is clear (anecdotally).

    Again in the NW we can see, Bear hibernation patterns can be confused due to the disruptive seasons etc again causing some conflict situations.

  18. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Cats tolerate much higher temps than people or dogs, up to 52C, ME