Tag: Arctic

This City In Alaska Is Warming So Fast, Algorithms Removed The Data Because It Seemed Unreal

Last week, scientists were pulling together the latest data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly report on the climate when they noticed something strange: One of their key climate monitoring stations had fallen off the map.

All of the data for Barrow, Alaska — the northernmost city in the United States — was missing.

No, Barrow hadn’t literally been vanquished by the pounding waves of the Arctic Sea (although it does sit precipitously close).




The missing station was just the result of rapid, man-made climate change, with a runaway effect on the Arctic.

The temperature in Barrow had been warming so fast this year, the data was automatically flagged as unreal and removed from the climate database.

It was done by algorithms that were put in place to ensure that only the best data gets included in NOAA’s reports.

They’re handy to keep the data sets clean, but this kind of quality-control algorithm is good only in “average” situations, with no outliers. The situation in Barrow, however, is anything but average.

If climate change is a fiery coal-mine disaster, then Barrow is our canary. The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth, and Barrow is in the thick of it.

With less and less sea ice to reflect sunlight, the temperature around the North Pole is speeding upward.

The missing data obviously confused meteorologists and researchers, since it’s a record they’ve been watching closely, according to Deke Arndt, the chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch.

He described it as “an ironic exclamation point to swift regional climate change in and near the Arctic.

Just this week, scientists reported that the Arctic had its second-warmest year — behind 2016 — with the lowest sea ice ever recorded.

The announcement came at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and the report is topped with an alarming headline: “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.

Changes in the Arctic extend beyond sea ice. Vast expanses of former permafrost have been reduced to mud. Nonnative species of plants, types that grow only in warmer climates, are spreading into what used to be the tundra.

Nowhere is this greening of the Arctic happening faster than the North Slope of Alaska, observable with high-resolution clarity on NOAA satellite imagery.

The current observed rate of sea ice decline and warming temperatures are higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years, and likely longer than that,” the NOAA report says.

At no place is this more blatantly obvious than Barrow itself, which recently changed its name to the traditional native Alaskan name Utqiagvik.

In just the 17 years since 2000, the average October temperature in Barrow has climbed 7.8 degrees. The November temperature is up 6.9 degrees.

The December average has warmed 4.7 degrees. No wonder the data was flagged.

The Barrow temperatures are now safely back in the climate-monitoring data sets. Statisticians will have to come up with a new algorithm to prevent legitimate temperatures from being removed in the future.

New algorithms for a new normal.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Greenland Sharks Beginning To Shed Their Secrets On Longevity

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Greenland sharks, the longest living vertebrates on Earth, which can be found off the northern coast of Ireland, could hold the secret to long life, geneticists mapping their DNA have predicted.

The sharks, which live for up to 400 years, are believed to have unique genes that could help explain not only their remarkably long life span but also life expectancy in other vertebrates including humans.




Prof Kim Praebel of UiT, the Arctic University of Norway, described the sequencing of the DNA from Greenland sharks at a symposium of the University of Exeter this week.

Many living Greenland sharks are so old that they pre-date the industrial revolution and the introduction of intensive commercial fishing.

With collaborators, Prof Praebel is searching for unique genes which could hold the secret to the shark’s longevity.

They have obtained Greenland shark DNA from tiny clippings from the fin of sharks, which are caught on a line live, tagged and released.

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The team has sequenced the full mitochondrial genome (complete DNA information) of almost 100 Greenland sharks, which includes individuals born in the 1750s.

The genetic sequences have helped them understand whether the Greenland shark has evolved specific metabolic adaptations towards extreme longevity, he said.

Their research that suggested the sharks may be up to 400 years old was published in the leading journal Science last year. They are now attempting to find the genes that hold the secret to why the sharks live so long.

They believe the Greenland shark’s extreme life span makes it so unique that there is a case for giving it a special conservation status, he added.

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“This is the longest living vertebrate on the planet. Together with colleagues in Denmark, Greenland, USA, and China, we are currently sequencing its whole nuclear genome which will help us discover why the Greenland shark not only lives longer than other shark species but other vertebrates,” he said.

“The results will help us understand more about the biology of this elusive species.”

Its “long-life” genes could shed light on why all vertebrates have a limited life span, and what dictates the life expectancy of different species including humans, Prof Praebel told the Fisheries Society of the British Isles.

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Greenland sharks do not seem to succumb to diseases that kill related species much earlier.

Little is known about the biology and genetics of the Greenland shark which is found in deep waters in the Atlantic ocean from Canada to Norway including north of Ireland and Britain.

It is a member of the sleeper shark family that has existed for around 110 million years.

The oldest and largest Greenland shark at just over five meters analyzed by the scientists was estimated to be 392 years, plus or minus 120 years, ie at least 272-years- old.

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To determine when key indicator proteins were laid down, the scientists deployed radiocarbon dating – a method that relies on determining within a material the levels of a type of carbon, known as carbon-14, that undergoes radioactive decay over time.

The DNA study has shed new light on its behaviour, and how it is related to other members of its species living thousands of kilometres away, Prof Praebel added.

It is still not known where and how the Greenland shark reproduces, but it may prefer to mate in “deep hidden fjords of the Arctic”.

With adult female Greenland sharks known hit sexual maturity only once they reach more than four metres in length, the scientists found that females have to clock up an age of around 150 years before they can produce young.

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Equally, there are still far from understanding how and why this elusive species, which feeds on seals and fish, lives so much longer than other sharks and vertebrate species.

Other shark species living in the same regions as the Greenland shark live between 30 and 50 years.

Tissues, bones, and genetic data from the shark will also help measure the impact of climate change on the population, when and how contaminants and chemical pollution from industry began to affect the oceans, and the extent to which commercial fishing over hundreds of years has affected the shark population.

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Pass it on: Popular Science