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Research Theme: Oceans

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The hard science of soft substances: Julio Sepúlveda uses lipids to decode ancient ecosystems

The hard science of soft substances: Julio Sepúlveda uses lipids to decode ancient ecosystems

Julio Sepúlveda is a unique fossil-hunter. Rather than the hard exoskeletons of ancient organisms, Sepúlveda analyzes a softer biological component, fats. He looks at the distribution of organic molecules in nature from soils and sediments to lakes and the ocean, with a focus mostly on lipids, the molecular constituent of fat. He uses this data to not only reconstruct ancient environments but also to contribute to predictions for how our current climate might respond to similar environmental conditions.

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Muddy waters: First mapping of Greenland sedimentation rates shows a turbulent system

Muddy waters: First mapping of Greenland sedimentation rates shows a turbulent system

A new study has measured the sediment carried by Greenland’s rivers to the ocean, with implications for marine ecosystems, carbon in the ocean, and dynamics of the coastal zone. Led by INSTAAR researchers and published today in Nature Geoscience, the study is the first to quantify in detail the concentrations of sediment in rivers flowing from Greenland to the sea.

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Check out INSTAAR’s most talked-about recent research

As part of the new year, we took a look at the most talked-about INSTAAR papers in recent months. An Altmetric search showed the top 10 papers with INSTAAR authors that have figured most prominently in the news and in social media conversations.

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Season of intense melting in Antarctica offers insights into continent’s future

A single season of intense melting that affected Antarctica between 2001 and 2002 offers new insights into the southernmost continent's ecological future and the potential impact of climate change worldwide, according to observations collected in a series of papers and published in the journal BioScience.

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Submit papers for AAAR journal’s special issue about West Greenland environments

Submit papers for AAAR journal’s special issue about West Greenland environments

Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research (AAAR) has announced a Call for Papers for a special issue to be published in 2017: “Environmental Change and Impacts in the Kangerlussuaq Area, West Greenland”

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Geological Society of America awards John Andrews the Penrose Medal

INSTAAR Fellow John Andrews has been awarded the Penrose Medal, the highest honor from the Geological Society of America, for his original contributions to the science of geology.

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Less ice, more water: New research shows parts of Arctic Ocean rapidly shifting conditions

Less ice, more water: New research shows parts of Arctic Ocean rapidly shifting conditions

By the 2050s, parts of the Arctic Ocean once covered by sea ice much of the year will see at least 60 days a year of open water, according to a new modeling study led by Katy Barnhart of INSTAAR. Barnhart and her colleagues, including CIRES Fellow Jennifer Kay and INSTAAR Fellow Irina Overeem, set out to investigate the very local impacts of open water expansion patterns in the Arctic. Their work is published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. The researchers used climate model simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research-based Community Earth System Model to see how the number of open water, or sea-ice-free, days change from 1850 to 2100 in our planet’s northernmost ocean. They also wanted to understand when open water conditions in specific locations would be completely different from preindustrial conditions.

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INSTAAR at AGU: Talks, posters, and sessions at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting

INSTAAR faculty and graduate students will share new research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, 15 to 19 December. They will present new research on abrupt climate change, air quality and fracking, polar climate change, atmospheric chemistry, flood impacts, forests and snow, plants and soils, and past climates.

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Sustainable Deltas 2015 launches in Rotterdam

Sustainable Deltas 2015 launches in Rotterdam

A unique initiative, Sustainable Deltas 2015 (SD2015), launched today at the Deltas in Times of Climate Change II International Conference in Rotterdam. The aim of the initiative is to focus attention and research on the value and vulnerability of deltas worldwide, and enhance international and regional cooperation among scientists, policymakers and other stakeholders.

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INSTAAR at AGU: Talks, posters, and sessions at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting

INSTAAR faculty and graduate students will share their research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting (http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2013/) held in San Francisco, 9 to 13 December. They will present new research on abrupt climate change, atmospheric chemistry, geomorphology, rivers and oceans, forests and snow, plants and soils, past climates, flood monitoring, Antarctic volcanoes, coastal erosion, and emissions from energy production.

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Ice-free Arctic Ocean may have amped up temperatures during the Pliocene

Ice-free Arctic Ocean may have amped up temperatures during the Pliocene

A new study involving Giff Miller, Jim White, and former students and postdocs suggests that an ice-free Arctic Ocean may have amped up temperatures during the Pliocene Epoch. Year-round ice-free conditions across the Arctic Ocean could explain why the Earth was substantially warmer during the Pliocene Epoch than it is today, despite similar concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to the research published online in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

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World’s melting glaciers making large contribution to sea rise

World’s melting glaciers making large contribution to sea rise

While 99 percent of Earth’s land ice is locked up in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the remaining ice in the world’s glaciers contributed just as much to sea rise as the two ice sheets combined from 2003 to 2009, says a new study led by Clark University and involving INSTAAR Fellow Tad Pfeffer.

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INSTAAR-mentored high school student wins Regional Special Award at Intel Science Fair

INSTAAR-mentored high school student wins Regional Special Award at Intel Science Fair

High school junior Monro Obenauer won a special award from the Colorado Geological Survey at last month's prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Mentored by INSTAAR grad student Stephanie Higgins, Obenauer's research was on eroding islands in Bangladesh.

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New study ties warm North Atlantic water to heating Arctic

New study ties warm North Atlantic water to heating Arctic

North Atlantic water flowing into the Arctic Ocean is warmer than it has been in at least 2,000 years, which is likely amplifying global warming in the Arctic, says a new international study involving INSTAAR fellow Tom Marchitto. The team believes that the rapid warming of the Arctic and recent decrease in sea ice extent are tied to the enhanced heat transfer from the North Atlantic Ocean.

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James Syvitski elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

James Syvitski elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union

James Syvitski was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for "bringing new insights to the disciplines of oceanography, river and fjord processes, and sediment transport". Fellowship is bestowed on less than 0.1% of the total AGU membership of about 58,000 in any given year and recognizes scientists who have attained acknowledged eminence in the Earth and space sciences.

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Brighter sun may cool the tropical Pacific Ocean

A research team led by Tom Marchitto has found evidence supporting an important role for the Sun in regional-scale climate variability. They found that slow variations in solar output have nudged the circulation of the tropical Pacific Ocean toward states resembling El Niño and La Niña.

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INSTAAR-led study of Alaskan coastal retreat wins partnering award

INSTAAR-led study of Alaskan coastal retreat wins partnering award

Bob Anderson, Irina Overeem and Cameron Wobus led a research team that won the 2009 partnering award from the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP).

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Portions of Arctic coastline eroding, no end in sight

Portions of Arctic coastline eroding, no end in sight

Researchers have found that the northern coastline of Alaska midway between Point Barrow and Prudhoe Bay is eroding by 30 to 45 feet a year because of a "triple whammy" of declining sea ice, warming seawater and increased wave activity. The 12-foot-high bluffs topple into the Beaufort Sea during the summer months, where the coastal seawater melts them in a matter of days, sweeping the silty material out to sea.

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James Syvitski to receive the Royal Society of Canada’s A.G. Huntsman Medal

James Syvitski to receive the Royal Society of Canada’s A.G. Huntsman Medal

James Syvitski has been awarded one of the top honors in oceanography, the Royal Society of Canada's A.G. Huntsman Medal, as presented by the President of the Academy of Science.

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New supercomputer for earth modeling research

New supercomputer for earth modeling research

James Syvitski led the effort to install a new supercomputer at INSTAAR that will vastly extend the ability of scientists across the globe to model and predict many important aspects of Earth's surface processes, from glacial melting and flooding to coastal erosion and tropical ocean storms. The new computer cluster is the heart of the NSF-funded Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS).

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Video of Alaska’s eroding Arctic coast

Andy Revkin has posted a time-lapse video of Alaska’s rapidly eroding Arctic coast by INSTAAR and USGS researchers on his New York Times Dot Earth Blog.

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Global sea-level rise may be lower than predicted

Tad Pfeffer and colleagues Joel Harper (U of Montana) and Shad O'Neel (Scripps UCSD, former INSTAAR) have calculated that global sea level rise by the end of this century will be less than six feet.

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Formation of deep fjords simpler than previously thought

Researchers used a numerical model of ice-sheet behavior to discover that a single feedback loop explains a long-standing geomorphic enigma: why do fjords often extend to depths well below sea level and cut deeply into continental edges?

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Glaciers and ice caps to dominate sea-level rise through 21st century

Mark Meier led a team of INSTAAR and Russian scientists who found that Earth's mountain glaciers and small ice caps are contributing more to global sea-level rise than previously anticipated--more than the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets combined.

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John Andrews chosen for GSA Distinguished Career Award

John Andrews has been chosen to receive the Distinguished Career Award with the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of the Geological Society of America for his legacy in Quaternary geology and geomorphology.

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Atmospheric CO2 pulses at the end of last ice age originated from the deep ocean

Tom Marchitto, Scott Lehman, Jaqueline Flückiger, and colleagues have identified a mechanism for the enormous carbon dioxide increase in Earth's atmosphere at the end of the last ice age: abrupt changes in deep ocean circulation. The team analyzed sediment cores from the North Pacific, discovering two large CO2 "burps."

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Glaciers adding more to global sea-level rise than ice sheets

Research by INSTAAR scientists shows that small glaciers and ice caps have been contributing more to rising sea levels in recent years than the large Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

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First ship-borne measurements of ozone fluxes to the ocean

First ship-borne measurements of ozone fluxes to the ocean

Members of INSTAAR's Atmospheric Resarch Lab have worked with colleagues to obtain the first ship-borne direct measurements of ozone fluxes to the ocean.

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No pervasive Holocene ice-rafted debris (IRD) signal in northern North Atlantic?

John Andrews, Anne Jennings, and colleagues have assembled marine core records of ice-rafted debris (IRD) off North Iceland, East Greenland, and Labrador that are at odds with an earlier and oft-cited study showing a pervasive ~1.5 thousand year periodicity of IRD delivery during the Holocene (last ~11,400 years).

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Earth’s past suggests polar melting may raise sea level sooner than expected

Gifford Miller was a member of two research teams that combined paleoclimate evidence from the Last Interglacial period with climate and ice sheet modeling to infer that Earth's warming temperatures are on track to melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets sooner than previously thought and ultimately lead to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet.

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Ozone and the Oceans

Shelly Sommer created a poster display for the Discovery Science Center, a hands-on science center in Fort Collins, that describes a project, led by Detlev Helmig, to measure ozone fluxes over the oceans.

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New marine substrates database for U.S. Atlantic continental margin

Chris Jenkins and colleagues at the USGS released the first regional coverage of the usSEABED database, a large compilation of samples data on marine substrates for the US Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles out from the coast), for the Atlantic margin.

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Millenial-scale changes in Pacific surface temperature, Patagonian ice extent studied

Joe Stoner participated in a German-led study of marine sediments from the Chilean continental margin that show a clear "Antarctic" timing of sea surface temperature changes.

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INSTAAR grad student visits Japan with NSF EAPSI program

INSTAAR graduate student Jocelyn Turnbull spent 8 weeks in Japan working on a carbon cycle research project with the greenhouse gas group at Tohoku University in Sendai.

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Long-term North Atlantic oceanographic variability and solar forcing

John Andrews led a six-person team to reconstruct a high-resolution paleoceanographic history off North Iceland for the past 12,000 years.

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Postglacial flooding of the Bering Land Bridge: An animation

William Manley used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to create a movie showing how the Bering Land Bridge evolved after the Last Glacial Maximum, about 21,000 years ago.

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Abrupt changes in Asian monsoon over last 11,000 years linked to North Atlantic climate

Anil Gupta (Indian Institute of Technology), David Anderson (INSTAAR & NOAA Paleoclimatology), and Jonathan Overpeck (U of Arizona) developed a new centennial-scale proxy record of the southwestern monsoon winds spanning the Holocene period (last ~11,000 years).

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John Andrews honored with special sessions at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

The Geological Society of America honored John Andrews' tremendous impact on the Quaternary sciences at the annual meeting with two special sessions entitled "Quaternary Sciences from Land to Sea: In Honor of John T. Andrews."

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Sea-level changes: How Alaska affects the world

Mark Meier and Mark Dyurgerov have written a commentary for Science magazine that discusses the contributions of glacier melting in Alaska to global sea level rise.

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Ice Age rearrangement of ocean pH

David Anderson and David Archer (Univ Chicago) have reconstructed carbonate-ion concentration—and hence pH—of the glacial oceans, using the extent of calcium carbonate dissolution observed in foraminifer faunal assemblages.

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Global sea levels likely to rise higher in 21st century than previously predicted

Mark Meier and Mark Dyurgerov calculate that global sea levels likely will rise more by the end of this century than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001.

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Artifacts in Alaskan cave shed new light on first human migrations into the New World

Artifacts in Alaskan cave shed new light on first human migrations into the New World

Archaeological investigations at site 49-PET-408 provide new insights into the character and timing of the first human migrations into the New World. Excavations and analysis are being conducted by an interdisciplinary team of researchers including Native peoples and federal resource managers, led by INSTAAR Fellow E. James Dixon. The analyses reveal that humans were using marine resources and transporting exotic types of stone throughout the region 9,200 years ago.

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Science team studying environmental problems on Alaska’s North Slope

James Syvitski, William Manley, Mark Dyurgerov, and Scott Peckham are participating in an extensive research project "Alaska North Slope Climate Impact Assessment." Led by CU-Boulder's Amanda Lynch, the project is designed to better understand, support and enhance local decision-making processes in the face of climate variability and potential environmental disasters.

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Vikings set sail from the Smithsonian

Astrid Ogilvie participated in a Smithsonian traveling exhibition on Viking exploration.

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In The News

Sea ice loss and wave action trigger rapid ice shelf disintegrations in the Antarctic

A new study finds that when Antarctica’s massive ice shelves lack a protective buffer of sea ice, ocean swells from the north flex the shelves and can weaken their stabilizing seaward edge. Regular inundation by summer meltwater as the seaward edge breaks away can also contribute to rapid ice shelf disintegration.

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Government sea level rise report released after charges of censorship

INSTAAR researchers created data for the long-delayed study that examines the potential for rising seas to damage national parks.

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National parks could face flooding from sea level rise, storm surge

The National Park Service has released its first-ever report on how the impact of sea level rise and flooding from storms could impact coastal national parks around the country, based on data created by INSTAAR researchers. The report had been edited to remove references to the human impact on climate change, causing Democrats to call for an investigation into scientific integrity under Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

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National parks report on climate change finally released, uncensored

Backing away from attempts at censorship, the National Park Service today released a report charting the risks to national parks from sea level rise and storms. The scientific report is designed to help 118 coastal parks plan for protecting natural resources and historic treasures from the changing climate. Drafts of the report obtained earlier this year by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting showed park service officials had deleted every mention of humans causing climate change. But the long-delayed report, published today without fanfare on the agency’s website, restored those references. INSTAAR researchers created the data on 118 coastal parks used in the report.

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Ice-free Arctic summers could hinge on small climate warming range

A range of less than one degree Fahrenheit (or half a degree Celsius) of climate warming over the next century could make all the difference when it comes to the probability of future ice-free summers in the Arctic, new CU Boulder research shows. The findings, which were published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that limiting warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) would reduce the likelihood of an ice-free Arctic summer to 30 percent by the year 2100, whereas warming by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) would make at least one ice-free summer certain.

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Arctic sea ice at 1.5 and 2 °C

In the Paris Agreement, nations committed to a more ambitious climate policy target, aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 °C rather than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Climate models now show that achieving the 1.5 °C goal would make a big difference for Arctic sea ice.

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