Antarctic sea ice in dizzying decline since 2014: study

This January 2017 photo provided by Ted Scambos shows sea ice on the ocean surrounding Antarctica during an expedition to the Ross Sea. (AP)
Updated 02 July 2019
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Antarctic sea ice in dizzying decline since 2014: study

  • The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land, while Antarctica is a continent surrounded by oceans, where icebergs are less constrained

WASHINGTON: After mysteriously expanding for decades, Antarctica’s sea ice cover melted by an area four times greater than France in just a few years and now stands at a record low, according to a study published Monday.
Scientists already knew Antarctica was thawing at an increasing rate, like the Arctic, because of accelerating discharge from glaciers, the rivers of ice that push up slowly against the shore.
But between 1979 and 2014, they observed a phenomenon that was both intriguing and reassuring: the sea ice cover was expanding.
From 2014 to 2017, however, “the Antarctic lost almost as much as the Arctic” over almost 40 years, NASA climatologist Claire Parkinson told AFP, and the trend has continued ever since.
From a peak area of 12.8 million square kilometers, the sea ice cover receded two million square kilometers for reasons that remain unknown.
“It went from its 40-year high in 2014, all the way down in 2017 to its 40-year low,” said Parkinson, whose findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The team analyzed microwave measurements from NASA and military satellites over the period to build up the most precise picture to date of the historic sea ice cover, measuring only area but not thickness.

Neither the reason for the earlier expansion nor the current decline are well understood.
Competing hypotheses exist, pinning the changes on everything from the hole in the ozone layer to shifting winds and ocean currents, but it’s far from clear cut.
“None of the hypotheses are good in my opinion,” said Douglas Martinson, an oceanographer from Columbia University, one of the paper’s peer reviewers.
But he cautioned against trying to apply findings from the Arctic to the Antarctic, saying it would be “like comparing apples to army trucks.”
The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land, while Antarctica is a continent surrounded by oceans, where icebergs are less constrained.
Unlike the Arctic, Antarctica is not warming and remains the coldest place on Earth, as well as its largest source of freshwater.
Its mountains are covered in ice are capable of raising the level of the oceans by 57 meters, according to a 2013 study.
Chris Rapley, a climate scientist from the University College of London, said the previous gains did not in any way undermine the thesis of global warming.
“It simply demonstrates that in a complex, interconnected system, counter-intuitive outcomes can occur — at least for a while.
“We have a tendency to seek simplistic explanations of cause and effect, when in reality the situation is much more complicated and nuanced.”


Rare footage of Brazil tribe threatened by loggers: activists

Grab of a video shot by Midia India on August 2018 and released by Survival International activits of a purportedly uncontacted member of a Brazilian indigenous tribe hunting in the Amazon rainforest near Sao Luis, Maranhao, Brazil. (AFP)
Updated 29 min 54 sec ago
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Rare footage of Brazil tribe threatened by loggers: activists

  • Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon rainforest and indigenous peoples in order to benefit loggers, miners and farmers who helped get him elected

RIO DE JANEIRO: Rare footage of purportedly uncontacted members of a Brazilian indigenous tribe hunting in the Amazon rainforest was released Monday by activists who warn the group could be wiped out by logging.
The 58-second clip filmed in the northern state of Maranhao shows members of the Awa tribe, which Survival International says has been frequently attacked by loggers who have been emboldened by pro-business President Jair Bolsonaro.
“Only a global outcry stands between them and genocide,” said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, which published the video that had been shot by a member of neighboring indigenous tribe Guajajara. The footage was shot in August, the NGO said.
“Loggers have already killed many of their relatives and forced others out of the forest.
“President Bolsonaro and his friends in the logging industry would like nothing more than for those who still survive to be eliminated.”
In the footage, a young man holding a machete in the rainforest appears to sniff the blade before he looks toward the person filming him. Seconds later he and other members of the tribe carrying spears run away.
“We didn’t have the Awa’s permission to film, but we know that it’s important to use these images because if we don’t show them around the world, the Awa will be killed by loggers,” said Erisvan Guajajara of Midia India, an indigenous film-making association.
Members of the Guajajara tribe belong to the Guardians of the Amazon group, which aims to protect isolated indigenous people.
While most Awa have been contacted, some are known to still live uncontacted in an area of rainforest that is being “rapidly destroyed,” Survival International said.
Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon rainforest and indigenous peoples in order to benefit loggers, miners and farmers who helped get him elected.
Bolsonaro, whose anti-environment rhetoric has included a pledge to end “Shiite ecologist activism,” has questioned the latest official figures showing deforestation increased 88 percent in June compared with the same period last year.
He uses the word “Shiite” as a synonym for radicalism rather than denoting a branch of Islam.
“We are experiencing a real environmental psychosis,” Bolsonaro said Sunday.
Bolsonaro also accused foreign journalists Friday of wanting Brazil’s estimated 800,000 indigenous people to remain in a “prehistoric state, without access to technology, science and the thousand wonders of modernity.”