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Polar Science News from April 2006

Million-year-old ice cube drilled in Antarctica
Japanese scientists have drilled a million-year-old ice core from 3 kilometers beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. According to the project leader, Hideaki Motoyama of the National Institute of Polar Research, the ice is the oldest ever to be retrieved. The ice core can reveil new and important knowledge about climate change now and in the past. It will also help predict the climate in the future. The scientists have spent more than two years at the Dome Fuji station in Antarctica preparing the operation and drilling the ice core. (April 28, 2006)
Read more CNN


Orphan walrus linked to melting
Two years ago, Arctic researchers measured an unusually warm mass of water during an icebreaker cruise in the Canada Basin. The water was as warm as 44 degrees Fahrenheit and may have rapidly melted seasonal sea ice. During the cruise the researchers also found nine lone and possibly abandoned walrus calves in the area. The discovery was very surprising because walrus mothers tend to stay with their calves for about two years. However, the researchers now conclude that it was rising ocean temperatures that forced the walrus mothers to leave their baby's and follow the retreating ice edge to colder waters. (April 28, 2006)
Read more Boston.com
Antarctic lakes linked by channels
For the first time, scientists have discovered the channels that link hundreds of under-ice lakes beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. They found that natural "plumbing" can form under the ice, linking under-ice lakes that are hundreds of miles apart. These channels may allow water to gush suddenly from one lake to another. The discovery comes just before a Russian team is poised to tap into the largest of the sub glacial lakes, Lake Vostok. (April 28, 2006)
Read more National Geographic
Greenhouse gas less harmful than thought
Climate seems to be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought, a new study concludes. Gabriele Hegerl, a climate scientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and her team has measured climate sensitivity by studying temperature changes in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 700 years. The results refute recent research suggesting that the climate may be susceptible to extreme increases in temperature. (April 28, 2006)
Read more National Geographic
Arctic fossil can be missing link
American palaeontologists have found an interesting fossil in the Canadian Arctic which can provide a key to how fish evolved into land animals. The finding give researchers a fascinating insight into this crucial stage in the evolution of life on Earth. Details of the "missing links" fossil have been published in the prestigious journal Nature. The 383 million-year-old specimens are described as crocodile-like animals with fins instead of limbs that probably lived in shallow water. (April 6, 2006)
Read more BBC
Polar explorers turn into robots
A new trend is on it's way in Antarctica: robots capable of driving hundreds of kilometres and doing scientific experiments alone. The vision was unveiled by US scientists and engineers at a major science meeting in Vienna recently. They have built a solar-powered prototype and tested it in Greenland, where it has 'exceeded expectations'. Subject to funding, they envisage building and deploying a fleet of five robots by the end of next year. (April 6, 2006)
Read more BBC
Antarctic birds are breeding later
Antarctic seabirds may be breeding later in response to climate change, a new scientific study suggest. French researchers have analyzed records stretching back to the 1950s and conclude that the breeding delays are linked to changes in the East Antarctic sea ice. Bird species are arriving at their colonies an average of nine days later and laying eggs on average two days later than they did in the 1950s. Details are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. (April 6, 2006)
Read more BBC
Warmer air over Antarctica
According to an analysis of 30 years of weather balloon data, the air over Antarctica is warming even faster than in other parts of the world. While surface warming has been reported in parts of Antarctica, this is the first report of broad-scale climate change across the whole continent, says researchers of the British Antarctic Survey in the journal Science. The data show a warming of 0.9 degree to 1.3 degree Fahrenheit per decade over the last 30 years. The paper says the average worldwide temperature has risen only 0.2 degree per decade in that time. (April 6, 2006)
Read more CNN