Before you do anything else, you must watch this magnificent storytelling of the annual flooding from the Mendenhall Glacier…

Melting Ice & Snow

MELTING ICE & SNOW

Melting glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have a direct and profound impact on sea-level rise.

Greenland’s ice sheet is losing mass about six times faster than it was a few decades ago. In the past fifty years, the sheet has already shed enough to add about half an inch of water to the world’s oceans. In just this last summer’s heat wave, meltwater — equivalent to over 4 million swimming pools — sloughed into the ocean in a single day.

Antarctica, that frigid expanse of land at the Earth’s Southern pole, is covered by 90% of the planet’s ice. If all of its ice were to melt, sea levels would rise by 190 feet. It is melting at an alarming rate, with the rate of thaw tripling over the past decade and losing 2.71 trillion tons of ice between 1992 and 2017 with half of these losses occurring in the past five years, shrinking to record low levels

Melting ice is not limited to the poles and is happening around the world: Alaska’s sea ice has all melted; the glaciers of the Himalayas are melting twice as fast as they were in 2000; the Patagonian icefields are a fraction of their previous size. Iceland marked its first loss of a glacier to climate change with a funeral, and the Swiss followed suit with a funeral for the Pizol glacier in the Alps. 

And, then there is our own ice melt.

Diana Six, an entomologist at the U. of Montana, recently returned from a trip to Montana’s Glacial National Park, where the 97/98˚heat had decimated the ice. In despair, she said, “I don’t think people realize that climate change is not just a loss of ice. It’s all the stuff that’s dependent on it. The water is too warm for the fish. At some of the lower elevations, glacier lilies were shriveled, lupins didn’t even open. The flowers should extend for another three weeks but they’re already gone. Any insects or birds that depend upon them, like bees or hummingbirds are in trouble, their food is gone. Bird populations have just baked. There have been total losses of a lot of baby birds this year. You see these ospreys and eagles sitting on top of the trees in their nests and those young, they just can’t take the heat.”

CURRENT NEWS

Why Warmer Winters Won’t Make You Happier, According to Psychologists

By Jeva Lange 01/29/24
Does everything actually suck right now? Or is it just the end of January? It can be difficult to tell. We’re officially in the thick of what Americans consider to be the worst time of…
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Antarctica is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth. Are tourists making it worse?

By Christopher Muther 01/05/24
Boston resident Stephen Monk recalls the sound vividly. He was kayaking with fellow passengers while on a cruise to Antarctica. Suddenly, the instructor told the group to stop, remain still, and listen.
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This Antarctic Octopus Has a Warning About Rising Sea Levels

By Delger Erdenesanaa 12/21/23
Scientists have long wondered whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is a ticking time bomb in terms of sea level rise. New evidence from the DNA of a small octopus that lives in the Southern…
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Scientists uncover a surprising phenomenon in the Himalayas that might be slowing the effects of climate change

By Allison Chinchar 12/12/23
Glaciers in the Himalayas are melting rapidly, but a new report showed an astonishing phenomenon in the world’s tallest mountain range could be helping to slow the effects of the global climate crisis.
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Local cooling and drying induced by Himalayan glaciers under global warming

By Franco Salerno and others 12/04/23
Understanding the response of Himalayan glaciers to global warming is vital because of their role as a water source for the Asian subcontinent. However, great uncertainties still exist on the climate drivers of past and…
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New maps show where snowfall is disappearing

By Eric Zerkel 11/25/23
Snowfall is declining globally as temperatures warm because of human-caused climate change, a new analysis and maps from a NOAA climate scientist show.
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Why collapsing glaciers are ruining your beach house plans

By Hayes Brown 11/20/23
In the movie “Superman” (the original 1978 one with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor), the plot revolves around a scheme to transform property in California that’s miles…
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Two Studies on Greenland Reveal Ominous Signs for Sea Level Rise

By Delger Erdenesanaa 11/09/23
Greenland’s mountain glaciers and floating ice shelves are melting faster than they were just a few decades ago and becoming destabilized, according to two separate studies published this week.
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Oregon Cascades, Western states losing glaciers, new analysis finds

By Alex Baumhardt 10/29/23
Across the contiguous Western U.S., glaciers are slowly disappearing, according to a new analysis by researchers at Portland State University and the U.S. Geological Survey. The study was published in the journal Earth System Science…
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Antarctica is melting and we all need to adapt, a trio of climate analyses show

By Rebecca Hersher 10/27/23
A trio of new scientific analyses about the loss of ice in Antarctica paint a picture of a continent in trouble. Sea ice is disappearing, gigantic portions of the West Antarctic ice sheet are crumbling…
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Meltdown of West Antarctic Ice Sheet unavoidable, study says

By Gloria Dickie 10/24/23
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet will continue to melt this century regardless of how much the world slashes planet-warming emissions, research from the British Antarctic Survey has found, locking in further sea level rise over…
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Humans have ‘lost control,’ no amount of emission cut will slow down melting of Antarctica ice shelves: Study

By Moohita Garg 10/24/23
The coming decades will likely witness a substantial acceleration in the melting of West Antarctica's ice shelves, even if the world cuts down on planet-warming emissions, warns new research.
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KEY RESOURCES

What Greenland’s melting ice sheet means for you

12/28/23
Recent studies of Greenland’s enormous ice sheet are helping to illuminate our planet’s past and present — in ways that inform our vision of our future. Several of the articles included below are especially engaging…

Hidden Water: The Suicide Basin Outburst Flood

08/10/23
On a sunny day in July 2011, the Mendenhall River in Juneau, Alaska began to flood. The water inundated roads, backyards, and a nearby campground, taking the community by surprise.

Ice Sheets

01/29/22
The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing significant amounts of land-based ice as a result of human-caused global warming. Data from NASA's GRACE and GRACE Follow-On satellites show that the land ice sheets in…

Five Facts to Help You Understand Sea Ice

10/20/21
One way that scientists monitor climate change is through the measure of sea ice extent. Sea ice extent is the area of ice that covers the Arctic Ocean at a given time. Sea ice plays…

Climate Change Indicators: Snow and Ice

05/18/21
The Earth’s surface contains many forms of snow and ice, including sea, lake, and river ice; snow cover; glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets; and frozen ground. Climate change can dramatically alter the Earth’s snow-…

New Study Identifies Mountain Snowpack Most “At-Risk” from Climate Change

03/01/21
CPO-funded scientists theorize why snowpack in coastal regions, the Arctic, and the Western U.S. may be among the most at-risk for premature melt from rising temperatures

Polar Tales: The Future of Ice, Life, and the Arctic (2020)

02/24/21
The Arctic is the ground zero of climate change, and the polar bear is on the front line. Filled with groundbreaking photography that reveals the breathtaking landscapes of the Arctic and the transformations of the…

Antarctica: The Waking Giant (2020)

02/24/21
Winner of three 2020 International Photography Awards and named Photographer of the Year from the Tokyo International Awards, explorer Sebastian Copeland's stunning photography delivers unparalleled access to the least explored continent on Earth and galvanizes…

Rate of mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet will exceed Holocene values this century

10/08/20
The Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) is losing mass at a high rate1. Given the short-term nature of the observational record, it is difficult to assess the historical importance of this mass-loss trend.

Widespread Biological Response to Rapid Warming on the Antarctic Peninsula

10/01/20
First Peninsula-wide assessment of biological sensitivity to recent warming.

The Ice at the End of the World (2019)

03/28/20
A riveting, urgent account of the explorers and scientists racing to understand the rapidly melting ice sheet in Greenland, a dramatic harbinger of climate change.

Operation IceBridge mission

09/10/19
NASA’s Operation IceBridge images Earth's polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system.

MORE NEWS

New Research Forecasts More Dire Sea Level Rise as Greenland’s Ice Melts

By Elena Shao   08/29/22  
The melting of the Greenland ice sheet could eventually raise global sea levels by at least 10 inches even if humans immediately stop burning the fossil fuels that are warming the planet to dangerous levels,…
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Six ways loss of Arctic ice impacts everyone

08/15/22  
Polar ice caps are melting as global warming causes climate change. We lose Arctic sea ice at a rate of almost 13% per decade, and over the past 30 years, the oldest and thickest ice…
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Climate change’s impact intensifies as U.S. prepares to take action

By Chris Mooney and Others   08/11/22  
For residents of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, the United States’ recent success in clinching a major piece of climate change legislation may feel like too little, too late. Over the past 40 years, as…
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Coastal glacier retreat linked to climate change

08/01/22  
More of the world's coastal glaciers are melting faster than ever, but exactly what's triggering the large-scale retreat has been difficult to pin down because of natural fluctuations in the glaciers' surroundings. Now, researchers at…
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Greenland Lost a ‘Not Normal’ Amount Of Ice Last Weekend

By Nexus Media   07/21/22  
So much ice melted in northern Greenland last weekend that the newly melted water could cover the entire state of West Virginia with one foot of water. Yes, you read that correctly. Even given the…
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‘Unknown Territory’: Antarctic Glaciers Melting at Rate Unprecedented in 5,500 Years: Study

By Julia Conley   06/10/22  
The glaciers—one of which, the Thwaites, has been called the "doomsday glacier" by climate scientists because of its potential to raise sea levels—are positioned in a way that allows increasingly warm ocean water to flow…
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How humid air, intensified by climate change, is melting Greenland ice

By Kasha Patel   06/02/22  
Jason Box waited for the skies to clear. The climatologist’s team was already in southern Greenland to begin their research project, but he was stuck in Nuuk, the country’s capital, because weather delayed his travels.…
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Scientists in Antarctica discover a vast, salty groundwater system under the ice sheet – with implications for sea level rise

By Matthew Siegfries & Others   05/05/22  
A new discovery deep beneath one of Antarctica’s rivers of ice could change scientists’ understanding of how the ice flows, with important implications for estimating future sea level rise.
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Antarctic ice shelves are shattering. How fast will seas rise?

By Alejandra Borunda   03/29/22  
All scientist Erin Pettit could see when she looked at the satellite photos of the ice shelf in front of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica was the giant crack that stretched across most of…
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NASA Finds 2022 Arctic Winter Sea Ice 10th-Lowest on Record

By Roberto Molar Candanosa   03/22/22  
Arctic sea ice appeared to have hit its annual maximum extent on Feb. 25 after growing through the fall and winter. This year’s wintertime extent is the 10th-lowest in the satellite record maintained by the…
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On the Great Lakes, scientists are making a ‘Winter Grab’ of rare data

By Susan Cosier   02/18/22  
On a brutally cold day here earlier this week, Kirill Shchapov stood 200 meters off the shore of Lake Michigan, using a green auger to drill into a glistening ice sheet that stretched to the…
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Winter Olympic Sites Are Melting Away because of Climate Crisis

By Andrea Thompson   02/16/22  
The number of places on Earth with the right combination of natural climate and geography for the Olympic Winter Games is already inherently limited. But as global temperatures rise from the burning of fossil fuels,…
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Mountain glaciers may have less ice than estimated, straining freshwater supply

By Kasha Patel and Ellen Francis   02/07/22  
Warm conditions in January, including a scorching heat wave with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit in some locations, melted almost all snow cover on some of Chile’s Olivares Glaciers and Volcan Overo in Argentina. With…
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An Extraordinary Iceberg Is Gone, but Not Forgotten

By Henry Fountain   01/26/22  
Perhaps you remember iceberg A68a, which enjoyed a few minutes of fame back in 2017 when it broke off an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. Hardly your everyday iceberg, it was one of the…
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Shifting Snow in the Warming U.S.

01/19/22  
Winter is the fastest warming season for most of the U.S. Warmer air holds more moisture, which can fall as snow when temperatures are below freezing. Between 1970-2019, snowfall decreased in the spring and fall…
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There Was Way Too Much Lightning in the Arctic Last Year

By Brian Kahn   01/05/22  
That the Arctic is a hot mess due to climate change is well-established at this point. But it’s always nice to have a reminder of just how out of whack things are getting, isn’t it?
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Climate change has destabilized the Earth’s poles, putting the rest of the planet in peril

By Sarah Kaplan   12/14/21  
The ice shelf was cracking up. Surveys showed warm ocean water eroding its underbelly. Satellite imagery revealed long, parallel fissures in the frozen expanse, like scratches from some clawed monster. One fracture grew so big,…
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Rising From the Antarctic, a Climate Alarm

By Henry Fountain and Jeremy White   12/13/21  
The immense and forbidding Southern Ocean is famous for howling gales and devilish swells that have tested mariners for centuries. But its true strength lies beneath the waves.
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Ice shelf holding back keystone Antarctic glacier within years of failure

By Paul Voosen   12/13/21  
An alarming crackup has begun at the foot of Antarctica’s vulnerable Thwaites Glacier, whose meltwater is already responsible for about 4% of global sea level rise. An ice sheet the size of Florida, Thwaites ends…
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Greenland ice sheet experiences record loss to calving of glaciers and ocean melt over the past year

By Kasha Patel   11/23/21  
Greenland has had a quite a year. For the first time in its history, rain fell at its summit. In August, it experienced one of the latest-occurring melt events in recent memory. This also became…
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Icy ‘Glue’ May Control Pace of Antarctic Ice-Shelf Breakup

By Carol Rasmussen   10/12/21  
Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the University of California, Irvine, have discovered an ice process that may have caused a Delaware-size iceberg to break off Antarctica’s immense Larsen C ice…
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NASA satellites show how clouds respond to Arctic sea ice change

By Roberto Molar Candanosa, NASA   09/23/21  
Clouds are one of the biggest wildcards in predictions of how much and how fast the Arctic will continue to warm in the future. Depending on the time of the year and the changing environment…
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Scientists scramble to harvest ice cores as glaciers melt

By Cassandra Garrison, Clare Baldwin and Marco Hernandez   09/14/21  
Scientists are racing to collect ice cores – along with long-frozen records they hold of climate cycles – as global warming melts glaciers and ice sheets. Some say they are running out of time. And,…
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Ghostly Satellite Image Captures the Arctic ‘Losing Its Soul’

By Gemma Tarlach   08/27/21  
“We started hearing a noise, like breaking, or coins falling,” says Marco Tedesco, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. He makes a loud, sustained crunching sound, recreating what he and his team heard,…
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Mount Shasta barely has any snow this year. Will it ever come back?

By Kurtis Alexander   08/25/21  
But this summer, the north state’s tallest peak is looking a little frail. Its slopes are drab and dusty, and most of the snow has melted away. Locals say they haven’t seen the mountain so…
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The amount of Greenland ice that melted on Tuesday could cover Florida in 2 inches of water

By Rachel Ramirez   07/30/21  
Greenland is experiencing its most significant melting event of the year as temperatures in the Arctic surge. The amount of ice that melted on Tuesday alone would be enough to cover the entire state of…
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Top US scientist on melting glaciers: ‘I’ve gone from being an ecologist to a coroner’

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan   07/21/21  
Diana Six’s love of the outdoors began before she could form words, run, or collect the bugs and fungi that were precious to her as a child. A tough home life eventually led her to…
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Greenland suspends oil exploration because of climate change

07/16/21  
 The left-leaning government of Greenland has decided to suspend all oil exploration off the world’s largest island, calling it is “a natural step” because the Arctic government “takes the climate crisis seriously.”
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Thawing Permafrost has Damaged the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and Poses an Ongoing Threat

By David Hasemyer   07/11/21  
Thawing permafrost threatens to undermine the supports holding up an elevated section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, jeopardizing the structural integrity of one of the world’s largest oil pipelines and raising the potential of an oil…
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Opinion: The Arctic’s ice is thinning faster than expected. It’s an ominous sign.

By Editorial Board   06/06/21  
Polar Bears struggling on thin Arctic ice is perhaps the most iconic image associated with climate change. Human-caused global warming is extreme near the poles, where the temperature is rising much faster than elsewhere. The…
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Melting of Greenland ice may accelerate as glaciers get shorter – study

By Tom Balmforth   05/18/21  
As the central-western Greenland ice sheet melts, it is also shrinking in height, with its surface exposed to warmer temperatures at lower altitudes that contributes further to melting, according to research published here on Monday…
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Melting ice in Antarctica could trigger chain reactions, bringing monsoon rains to the ice cap, study says

By Allison Chinchar   05/17/21  
The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, found that as Earth continues to heat up, the land underneath the Antarctic ice sheet will become more exposed. As a result of that process, wind patterns…
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Dry Soils And Drought Mean Even Normal Snowpack Can’t Keep Up With Climate Change In The West

By Michael Elizabeth Sakas   05/17/21  
Domonkos, the Colorado Snow Survey supervisor, gets to work measuring how much snowpack is left from the winter to runoff into streams, rivers and reservoirs this summer. These mountains trap snow in a natural reservoir.…
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Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier: How Doomed Are We?

By Jeff Goodell   05/12/21  
Two new papers offer radically different predictions of the glacier’s future — and thus for the future of low-lying cities around the world. Here’s how to understand the divergent projections
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Receding glaciers causing rivers to suddenly disappear

By Jenna Kunze   05/03/21  
As glaciers around the world recede rapidly owing to global warming, some communities are facing a new problem: the sudden disappearance of their rivers. River piracy, or stream capture, is when water from one river…
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Melting ice: What’s the big deal?

By Stuart Braun   04/30/21  
The melting of the polar ice caps has often been portrayed as a tsunami-inducing Armageddon in popular culture. In the 2004 disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, the warming Gulf Stream and North Atlantic currents…
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Antarctic ice-sheet melting to lift sea level higher than thought, study says

By Harvard University   04/30/21  
Global sea level rise associated with the possible collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been significantly underestimated in previous studies, meaning sea level in a warming world will be greater than anticipated, according…
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Glacier Is Surging Down Denali Mountain in Alaska

By Chelsea Harvey   04/12/21  
Muldrow Glacier, perched on the side of Alaska’s highest peak, is on the move for the first time in more than 60 years. Scientists noticed last month that the 39-mile stretch of ice had begun…
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Guest post: The fate of Antarctic ice shelves at 1.5C, 2C and 4C of warming

By Dr. Ella Gilbert   04/08/21  
Antarctica’s ice shelves – the floating tongues of ice formed where the ice sheet meets the ocean – are especially useful indicators of a warming climate. Sandwiched between the atmosphere and ocean, they can be melted from above or below.
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Our greatest libraries are melting away

By David Farrier   04/07/21  
In the mid-1960s, scientists working at a secret U.S. nuclear base in Greenland made an astonishing discovery: Ice has memory. As they excavated a nearly mile-long core of ice from Camp Century, the name of…
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Hunting Ghost Particles Beneath the World’s Deepest Lake

By Anton Troianovski   03/30/21  
 A glass orb, the size of a beach ball, plops into a hole in the ice and descends on a metal cable toward the bottom of the world’s deepest lake.
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Ancient leaves preserved under a mile of Greenland’s ice – and lost in a freezer for years – hold lessons about climate change

By Andrew Christ and Paul Bierman   03/16/21  
In 1963, inside a covert U.S. military base in northern Greenland, a team of scientists began drilling down through the Greenland ice sheet. Piece by piece, they extracted an ice core 4 inches across and…
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New Study Identifies Mountain Snowpack Most “At-Risk” from Climate Change

03/01/21  
As the planet warms, scientists expect that mountain snowpack should melt progressively earlier in the year. However, observations in the U.S. show that as temperatures have risen, snowpack melt is relatively unaffected in some regions…
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Arctic ice loss forces polar bears to use four times as much energy to survive – study

By Phoebe Weston   02/24/21  
Polar bears and narwhals are using up to four times as much energy to survive because of major ice loss in the Arctic, according to scientists. Once perfectly evolved for polar life, apex predators are…
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A lopsided January

02/02/21  
Arctic sea ice extent for January 2021 tracked below average, with the monthly average finishing sixth lowest in the satellite record. While air temperatures were well above average on the Atlantic side of the Arctic,…
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Arctic warming and diminishing sea ice are influencing the atmosphere

01/29/21  
Researchers have resolved for the first time, how the environment affects the formation of nanoparticles in the Arctic. The results give additional insight into the future of melting sea ice and the Arctic atmosphere. Until…
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Global ice loss is catching up to worst-case scenario predictions

By Sophie Hirsh   01/29/21  
Melting ice sheets is one of the most cliché signifiers of global warming and the climate crisis — but clichés originate in the truth, after all, and ice sheets are still melting. In fact, new…
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Earth is now losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. And it’s going to get worse.

By Chris Mooney and Andrew Freedman   01/25/21  
Global ice loss has increased rapidly over the past two decades, and scientists are still underestimating just how much sea levels could rise, according to alarming new research published this month.
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Southern Ocean waters are warming faster than thought, threatening Antarctic ice

By Andrew Freedman   01/22/21  
The Southern Ocean is one of the most important yet least explored and understood regions of the planet when it comes to determining how global warming may affect the future of humanity, thanks to its…
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The state of the climate in 2021

By Isabelle Gerretsen   01/10/21  
After the turbulent year of 2020, BBC Future takes stock on the state of the climate at the beginning of 2021.
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