Environment

Iceland Reforestation

A warming climate is helping efforts in Iceland to restore the forests that once thrived before the seafaring Vikings colonized the island and razed its forests more than 1,000 years ago.

Nearly 97 percent of the native birch were felled to make way for farming as well as to build homes for the European settlers.

Iceland’s cool climate and volcanic eruptions have hampered efforts in the past to restore the forests.

But climate change is now allowing the birch to be planted along with non-native lodgepole pines and Sitka spruces, which grow more quickly.

Those species were also chosen for their ability to capture carbon and help Iceland mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions.

Global Warming

Early Collapse of Arctic Sea Ice

Earth’s already-beleaguered northern icecap suffered another blow this month with the early collapse of a barrier that kept some of Arctic’s most durable ice in place.

The ice arch across the Nares Strait, which separates Greenland from Ellesmere Island in Canada’s far northeast, gave way two months earlier than usual, said Laurence Dyke, a paleoglaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.

“On May 10, this arch disintegrated, leaving the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic vulnerable to being swept south where it will melt away,” Dyke told Seeker. “Over the last two weeks, the area of broken ice has expanded massively to the north, and lots of Arctic sea ice is flowing southwards through the Nares Strait.”

The channel and the Lincoln Sea, at the northern tip of Greenland, are normally covered by a sheet of ice several meters thick until around July, Dyke said. Usually, ice sheets that cover the strait are anchored to land and don’t move, blocking the passage of sea ice through the strait.

But as heat-trapping fossil-fuel emissions like carbon dioxide build up in the atmosphere, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. And this year, land-anchored ice in the strait failed to form amid the record warmth and record low sea ice coverage recorded across the Arctic. That left only an arch of ice at the northern end of the strait, where it joined the Lincoln Sea — the structure that gave way earlier this month.

“This is especially important as the Lincoln Sea contains the last bastion of old, thick multi-year sea ice,” Dyke said.

This image shows the boundary between permanent and seasonal sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, northwest of Greenland

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Environment

California – Record for Lowest Snowpack Ever

California’s mountain snowpack will do little to slake the thirsty state this summer — only the tallest peaks are dusted with snow, and the most recent survey showed the driest snowpack in more than 100 years.

The Sierra Nevada snowpack typically supplies 30 percent of California’s water. But this year, the snowpack’s water content was just 5 percent of the average amount in the northern Sierra Nevada and 6 percent of the average in the central and southern Sierra Nevada during a snow survey by the water resources department on March 30. Today, at four key survey sites, they found no snow at all.

The snowpack’s previous record low, 25 percent of the average, was set during an earlier severe drought in 1977 and was repeated in 2014. The statewide snow records officially start in 1950, but in some areas, the records reach back to 1909, Rizzardo said.

Horsetail Falls, near California’s Lake Tahoe, seen here in March 2015, is usually covered in snow at this time of year.

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