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Polar Science News from May 2006

Go-ahead for Aurora Borealis
The German Science Council Wissenschaftsrat has announced national endorsement and the go-ahead for development and eventual construction of the European Research Icebreaker Vessel AURORA BOREALIS. The project, originally proposed by the European Polar Board, has been positively reviewed by the German Wissenschaftsrat - a scientific commission appointed by the German Federal President. The Wissenschaftsrat's recommendation calls for six million Euros to be made available immediately from the German government to solve important technical questions. The total cost of the vessel is estimated at 355 Million Euros for which Germany is expected to contribute over 30% proportion of the construction costs. (May 30, 2006)
Read more Alfred Wegener Institute
Polar ice melt dramatically
New satellite images show that the Earth is melting dramatically at both the north and the south poles. While the melting of the Greenland ice sheet in the Arctic has been expected, surprisingly to many the melting of the Antarctic has been shrinking despite increasing snowfall. According to Dr. Isabella Velicogna with the University Of Colorado, for the first time it is safe to say that the Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass, and at a significant rate. (May 30, 2006)
Read more VOA News
Antarctic ozone hole may be history in 2050
According to a team of Japanese scientists, the ozone hole over the Antarctic is likely to begin contracting in the future and may disappear by 2050 because of a reduction in the release of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting gases. The findings are based on a series of numerical simulations carried out by Eiji Akiyoshi of the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tokyo. (May 22, 2006)
Read more Daily Democrat
Bird flu hunt in Alaska
The search for the first wild bird carrying a deadly flu virus to North America has started near Alaska's largest city Anchorage. Biologists are trying to net and test two types of shorebirds that are both known to visit regions where flocks have caught the dangerous H5N1 virus. (May 22, 2006)
Read more Yahoo
Polar bears are "doomsday prophets"
Even though there is no clear evidence that the polar bear is threatened by extinction, groups pushing for higher protection of animals use the polar bears as the "doomsday prophets" of climate change, says Nunavut's manager of wildlife, Dr. Mitch Taylor. The polar bear example makes a great story because it touches peoples feelings. However, the reality is much more complex, says Taylor. (May 17, 2006)
Read more CBC News
Contaminants linked to renal lesions in polar bears
East Greenland polar bears contain the highest recorded concentrations of organohalogen contaminants (OHCs) which is more than any mammalian species in the world. According to a new study, these air- and sea borne chemicals could explain the reason why this subpopulation has developed renal lesions. Among the 75 polar bears examined in the study, seven different types of renal lesions were found. (May 17, 2006)
Read more Newswise
Grizzly-polar bear found in Canada
A DNA test has confirmed the first documented case of a grizzly-polar bear hybrid roaming in the wild. An Inuit tracker from Canada's northwest territories suspected the American hunter he was guiding had shot a hybrid bear last month. The bear had white fur and brown patches and it had the long claws and slightly humped back of a grizzly. According to polar bear biologist Ian Stirling, the theoretical possibility of a hybrid has been known for long. But it's the first time a hybrid bear has been discovered in the wild. (May 15, 2006)
Read more CNN
Record low Arctic winter ice cover
Satellite measurements show that the area covered by Arctic winter sea ice reached an all-time low in March. Scientists say the decline highlights an alarming new trend. If the cycle continues, the Arctic ocean could lose all of its ice much earlier than expected, possibly already by 2030. (May 15, 2006)
Read more Guardian
Humans not to blame for Mammoth death
A new study published in the current issue of Nature concludes that the extinction of mammoths 10.000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age was not due to over hunting caused by human expansion. Instead the die-off can be explained by a complex sequence of events between 13.000 and 10.000 years ago. The study is based on bones from bison, wapiti, moose, wild horses, mammoths and humans recovered from Alaska and the Yukon Territory. (May 15, 2006)
Read more Discovery
Project to save historic Antarctic huts
The historic huts, which served as the bases for celebrated polar explorers like Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton during their expeditions in Antarctic, are in danger of destruction. However, a comprehensive conservation project is under way to save the huts. It is the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and its New Zealand sister trust that are determined to save the wooden buildings still filled with original supplies and equipment. Even though Scott’s and Shackleton’s expeditions were British, the greater part of the money donated so far has come from outside Britain. (May 15, 2006)
Read more Times Online
Freezing Antarctica formed 41 millions ago
According to a new study of the seabed off the tip of South America, the freezing of Antarctica was formed 41 million years ago after the Pacific and Atlantic oceans linked up. The researchers Howie Scher at the University of Rochester in New York, and Ellen Martin, of the University of Florida, have analyzed tiny fish teeth from the bottom of the seabed in the Drake Passage, which separates South America from the Antarctic. By looking at the chemical fingerprints of the ocean locked inside the teeth, they found that the two continents moved apart about 7 million years before glaciers took hold in the polar region. (May 2, 2006)
Read more The Guardian
Greenhouse gases still building up
According to the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there has been a continuing increase in carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the air last year, even though methane leveled off. The annual greenhouse gas index shows a continuing, steady rise in the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. (May 2, 2006)
Read more CNN
Polar bear officially threatened species
For the first time, the polar bear has been listed as threatened with distinction by the world's bio diversity agency. The polar bears are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction based on forecasts that their population will decline by 50% to 100% over the next 50 to 100 years. The explanation is that they need ice floes in order to hunt seals and other prey. However, the ice is melting rapidly these years due to global warming. (May 2, 2006)
Read more BBC