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Scientists say frightening warming at the poles appears in strange times and places



This is a problem because the oldest and thickest sea ice drops 95 percent from 30 years ago. In 1985, about one-sixth of Arctic sea ice was thick multi-year ice, now probably one hundredth, Perovich said.

The Fairbanks marine mammal biologist in Alaska, Gay Sheffield, not only studied ice with the lowest record, but he also lived every day in Nome, far north on the Bering Sea.

"I left Nome and we have open water in December," Sheffield said at the American Geophysical Union conference in Washington. "This really affects us."


"Having this ice-free area underwent this massive environmental change," Sheffield said, adding that there were "multi-species deaths" of marine life. He said it included the first dead seal mass along the Bering Strait.

Ornithologist George Divoky, who has studied black guillemots at Cooper Island for 45 years, noticed something different this year. In the past, 225 pairs of nesting seabirds will arrive on the island. This past winter dropped to 85 pairs but only 50 laid eggs and only 25 managed to hatch. He blamed the lack of winter sea ice.

"It looks like a ghost city," Divoky said.

With overall melting, especially in the summer, flocks of wild caribou and deer fell by around 55 percent – from 4.7 million to 2.1 million animals – because of the warming and flies and parasites they caused, said report card co-author Howard Epstein of the University of Virginia .

Fairbanks researchers from the University of Alaska, Vladimir Romanovsky, said he was surprised by what happened to the eternal ice sheet that finally froze for years. This past year, Romanovsky discovered 25 places that were used to freeze in January, then February, but never froze this year.

Because of warming, the North Pole "sees the concentration of algal poisons moving north" infecting birds, mammals and shellfish into a public and economic health problem, said report card co-author Karen Frey.

And the warmer Arctic and melting sea ice have been linked to a shift in the jet stream that has brought extreme winter storms in the East in the past year, Osborne said.

But it's not just the North Pole. NASA's newest space-based radar, Icesat 2, has in the first few months found that the Dotson ice sheet in Antarctica has lost more than 120 meters in thickness since 2003, said radar scientist Ben Smith of the University of Washington.

Another study released in December by NASA found unusual melting in parts of East Antarctica, which scientists say is generally stable.

Four glaciers in the Vincennes Bay have lost nine feet of ice thickness since 2008, said NASA scientists Catherine Walker and Alex Gardner.

The loss of ice sheets in Antarctica can cause massive sea level rise.

"We are starting to see changes related to the sea," Gardner said. "Believe it or not, this is the first time we see it in this place."


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