Polar Ice | Arctic in Context

This post is second in the three part Polar Ice series. The first part described the continent of Antarctica. This part describes the Arctic region at the north pole. Part three will describe the impacts that climate change seems to have on each region.

What region is defined as the Arctic? That depends on who you ask. As noted in this map, there are three generally accepted definitions. The most common definition from scientists is the region north of the Arctic Circle above 66.5˚ latitude. North of that latitude, the sun does not set on the summer solstice or rise on the winter solstice. A second common definition is the area where the average temperature for July is less than 10˚C or 50˚F. The third is the area north of the tree line. All three are indicated with arrows on the map.

Starting at the North Pole, follow the vertical line on the map toward the bottom. It is the 0˚ Prime Meridian and passes through Greenwich, England. Go to the left on 90˚W to pass through Canada, St. Louis, Central America, and the Galapagos Islands off the west coast of South America. The line toward the top of the map goes through the central  Pacific. Go to the right on 90˚E to pass through Russia, eastern India, and the Indian Ocean.

The north coast of Russia, islands to the north of Canada, northern Scandinavia, and Iceland are designated as an arctic maritime climate. They have very cold and stormy weather in the winter with snowfall totals from 60-120 cm (2-4 ft). Regions closer to the pole and the interior of Greenland have yearlong ice cover. Unlike the Antarctic which has most of its ice grounded on solid land, the Arctic has most of its ice floating on the sea. This map is a generalized view and does not represent any particular date of the year. Click to embiggen.

© Anthropolis Productions Limited 2002

© Anthropolis Productions Limited 2002 | Click to embiggen

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Polar Ice | Antarctica in Context

The Earth’s polar regions are not familiar places to most people. Flat maps often show them as a distorted place at the top and bottom. Globes need to be examined more closely to see them. The support of the globe is in the way. My goal is to help make the polar regions more familiar, to point out features, and to identify things important to climate research. There will be three posts in the Polar Ice series. This post has a focus on the Antarctic. The next one will focus on the Arctic. The third will compare the Arctic and Antarctic regions noting important changes related to climate change.

Antarctica is 1.4 times larger in area than the United States. A small part of Antarctica, the size of Denmark, is snow and ice free. The 3300 km Transantarctic Mountain Range divides Antarctica in East and West parts. Starting from the South Pole, travel along the Prime Meridian to the north or top of the image, you will eventually pass through Greenwich, England. Travel along the 90˚W meridian and you will pass through the Galapagos Islands, Central America, and up the Mississippi River valley through St. Louis, Missouri. Travel the 90˚E meridian and pass through the Indian Ocean, east of India, China, western Mongolia, and Russia. The 180˚ meridian passes through the Pacific Ocean, goes west of Hawaii, and traverses the east Siberian region.

British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey | Click to embiggen

The continent is classified as a desert with less than 10″ (254 mm) of equivalent liquid from the snowfall. The interior gets less than 2″ (50 mm). Coastal areas can receive as much as 8″ (200 mm) of precipitation. None of the snow melts and has built up into a layer averaging over 1800 meters thick. The maximum is 4776 m (3 miles). Because of the tremendous weight of snow and ice, it tends to flow toward lower elevation and to the sea.

The ice flows occur at nearly all of the perimeter of Antarctica to some relatively small scale. Two places have especially large regions where these flows create shelves of thick ice out over the water. They are the Ross and the Ronne ice shelves seen in the map above. The following cross-sectional diagram shows how they extend and calve off icebergs into the sea. Icebergs are much more submerged than indicated in the diagram.

The NASA Scientific Visualization Studio released this animation showing the ice flow and underlying bedrock beneath the ice sheet.

No single government rules Antarctica. Eight nations claim some territory. There are 29 nations which have research stations.

Wikimedia Commons | Click to embiggen



http://lima.usgs.gov/ A zoomable map of the Antarctic from years of Landsat imagery.


Effigy Mounds | Winter vs Summer Views

Jim in IA:

A summer/winter comparison…

Originally posted on Our View From Iowa:

Joe emailed last week and asked if I wanted to hike Effigy Mounds National Monument with him on Friday December 12. My calendar looked open. We agreed on a place to meet and made our plan. It is a two hour drive from where we live to reach the park. It is along the bluffs on the west bank of the Mississippi River in far northeast Iowa upriver from the old small towns of Marquette and McGregor. McGregor has only 850 residents now. In the 1870s, it swelled to 5,500 and was one of the busiest shipping ports west of Chicago. Then, the railroads came. Steamboat travel and shipping declined.

The day dawned quite foggy and about 33˚. The weather forecast called for the fog to remain most of the day. We ventured forth anyway. It had been many years since Joe was last in the park. He took the day…

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Space Debris | Junk Orbiting Near & Far

The NASA Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center released this video on October 28, 2014. The animation shows the orbits of the known debris 10 cm or larger. The database includes over 21,000 objects in that size range. There is more information below the video.

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Pipeline Across Iowa? | Why I Oppose It

Jim in IA:

Iowa residents have an opportunity to speak out.

Originally posted on Our View From Iowa:

An oil pipeline is proposed to bisect the entire state of Iowa from the northwest to the southeast corner. The route is superimposed over a map of our Iowa rivers. Public information meetings are scheduled. Iowa residents can express their opinions at those meetings. I plan to attend and voice my opposition to the proposal.


Click to embiggen

Some of the cities near the proposed route…


The proposed route would deliver crude oil to an existing pipeline at Pakota, Illinois. From there, it parallels and crosses the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers down to the gulf coast in Texas. The company also plans to ship crude by rail to the east coast.


Why Do I Oppose This Plan?

  • Fossil fuel use around the globe is driving increased Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. That in turn is raising our average global temperatures. Global warming is an issue we should be doing more to…

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Winter | What Might the U.S. Expect?

The winter of 2013-2014 was unusually cold for the eastern 2/3 of the continental United States. Iowa endured the 9th coldest in 142 yrs. What might we expect for this coming winter? To help answer that question, the scientists at the Climate Prediction Center published their latest outlook on November 20. It is an interesting read at this link. I will summarize.

The Jet Stream is a huge river of air in the upper atmosphere. It guides weather systems around the globe. Colder Arctic air is kept north of the Jet in the northern hemisphere. Warmer air is to the south of it. One type of flow is called zonal where the Jet tends to travel in a general west to east direction across the globe like this first image below from January 31, 2014.

Notice Alaska is north of the Jet in the cold air. It enters the California coast and sweeps across the country. Entering the coast, it tends to bring needed moisture from the Pacific. The eastern states are in a normal zone of cold, some snow, and clouds. In the summer months, the zonal flow is farther to the north across Canada giving more of the U.S. warm temperatures and pleasant weather.

San Francisco State University | http://virga.sfsu.edu/


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Death of a Dove

It had been quite a while since I last used the window cleaning tools to reach those on the second floor. Maybe I would get around to it soon. But, no hurry.

There was a loud thud on the window. Birds will often do that as they come and go at our feeders. Sure enough, there was a faint outline of a bird in flight on the glass. A Dove was dead on the patio below. A few small feathers stuck to the glass where it made impact. I could barely make out some other features on the glass.


That night, with the room lights off, I put the camera on a tripod pointing at the impact spot from the inside to the darkness outside. I set the camera for a 6 second time exposure. There is another window to the right of this one. I reached out and painted the crash site from the right side with a small flashlight during the 6 seconds.

What a surprise. A leg extended down. Curved wings showed up clearly. The neck was twisted badly and probably broke upon impact. Some minor editing cleaned up the dirty window surrounding the outline. But, there it was, almost like a photograph of the crash.

I’m glad I wasn’t in a hurry to wash that window.