AMHERST, Mass. The U.S. National Research Council this week released a synthesis of reports from thousands of scientists in 60 countries who took part in the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-08, the first in over 50 years to offer a benchmark for environmental conditions and new discoveries in the polar regions.
University of Massachusetts Amherst geosciences researcher and expert in the paleoclimate of the Arctic, Julie Brigham-Grette, co-chaired the NRC report, "Lessons and Legacies of the IPY 2007-08" with leading Antarctic climate scientist Robert Bindschadler of NASA.
Among the major findings is that global warming is changing the face of Antarctica and the Arctic faster than expected. For example, in 2007 scientists documented a 27 percent loss of sea ice in a single year, Brigham-Grette says. Also, ice sheets around the poles are now showing evidence of serious retreat, expected to continue and perhaps accelerate over coming centuries as warm ocean currents melt the ice front faster than anyone had grasped before. Sea level rise from melting polar ice sheets is today slowly affecting every shoreline on the planet.
"As a result of this work, we have a new benchmark. Seven of 12 Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves are either gone or now in severe decline," she adds. "This type of information makes the report all the more important because the changes we expect to see in the next few decades are going to be incredible."
As co-authors, she and Bindschadler testified last week before representatives of the National Science Foundation, its Office of Polar Programs, NASA, NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Naval Research, the State Department and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. Additional briefings could be scheduled if there are questions or responses to the NRC from Congress, Brigham-Grette says.
Worldwide, scores of oceanographers, meteorologists, geologists, climate scientists, ecologists and
|Contact: Janet Lathrop|
University of Massachusetts at Amherst