New York City Prepares For Era of High Seas

new york city prepares for era of high seas_When major ice sheets thaw, they release enough fresh water to disrupt ocean currents world-wide and make the planet wobble with the uneven weight of so much meltwater on the move. Studying these effects more closely, scientists are discovering local variations in rising sea levels — and some signs pointing to higher seas around metropolitan New York.

Sea level may rise faster near New York than at most other densely populated ports due to local effects of gravity, water density and ocean currents, according to four new forecasts of melting ice sheets. The forecasts are the work of international research teams that included the University of Toronto, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., Florida State University and the University of Bristol in the U.K., among others.

Scientists are laboring to make their predictions more reliable. While they do, New York has become an urban experiment in the ways that seaboard cities can adapt to climate change over the next century. For their part, the city’s long-term planners are taking action but are trying to balance the cost of re-engineering the largest city in the U.S. against the uncertainties of climate forecasts.

“We can’t make multibillion-dollar decisions based on the hypothetical,” says Rohit Aggarwala, the city’s director of long-term planning and sustainability.

Still, prompted by a possibility of floods from higher seas, some university-based marine researchers and civil engineers are debating whether New York ought to protect its low-lying financial district, port, power grid and subways with storm surge barriers like the mobile bulwarks that safeguard London, Rotterdam, Netherlands, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Engineering concepts for multibillion-dollar barriers around New York harbor were discussed here this week during the H209 Water Forum, an international conference on coastal cities and climate change, held by the Henry Hudson 400 Foundation at the Liberty Science Center.

World-wide, cities in 40 countries depend on dikes or seawalls. The seaside of the Netherlands is protected by storm surge barriers big enough to be seen from space. In Venice, Italy, engineers are completing a $7 billion barrier to block high tides that flood the city 100 times a year. In New Orleans, construction crews have started a $700 million barrier to help prevent hurricane floods. In California, it could cost $14 billion to protect 1,100 miles of vulnerable urban coastline with reinforced sea walls and $1.4 billion a year to maintain them, the Pacific Institute reported in March.

Unlike New York, though, those urban areas were built at or below sea level. Moreover, most of them also are on land that is sinking, adding to the danger posed by higher oceans.

While most of New York is above sea level, its subways, telecommunications cables, fiber-optics networks, plumbing and power mains aren’t. “There is so much underground,” says urban water management consultant Piet Dircke at Arcadis, one of four engineering firms that recently developed concepts for a storm surge barrier here. “The economic impact of flooding could be huge.”

Indeed, some civil engineers argue the city already risks catastrophic storm flooding. “A storm surge is not really a global warming issue” for New York, says senior engineer Dennis Padron at Halcrow Inc., which helped design a 15-mile-long storm barrier in St. Petersburg. “It could happen tomorrow.”

Under certain conditions, a hurricane now could generate a 30-foot-high storm surge and flood 100 square miles of New York. If ice melts and sea level rises, that risk increases. “If you have 20 inches of sea level rise, the edges of lower Manhattan would flood 20 times a year,” says Douglas Hill, a consulting engineer at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. “It would look like Venice.”

To be sure, the city that never sleeps is rarely dry even now. Every day, transit crews pump 14 million gallons of water from city subways. Authorities recently installed $400 million of more powerful pumps. Last year, they started installing higher sidewalk grates — disguised as street art, bike racks and benches — to help keep storm water away from subway rails.

Since last summer, city planners have been persuading federal, state and regional agencies as well as private concerns to gradually upgrade vulnerable facilities here as part of routine capital upkeep. They are reassessing building codes, raising key equipment in flood zones and taking inventory of infrastructure at risk. But it can be hard to get some landlords to even move a fuse box from a damp basement to a more protected place. Any talk of storm surge barriers is premature, they say.

“Our burden of proof is somewhat higher,” says the city’s Mr. Aggarwala. “We have to be very clear that we do all the low-cost stuff first.”

In their efforts, Mr. Aggarwala and his colleagues have been guided by a panel of city-appointed climate experts from NASA and Columbia University, whose report predicts that by 2080 New York will have the climate Raleigh, N.C., has today. By their estimate, it will be about seven degrees Fahrenheit warmer and sea level may be two feet higher, unless polar ice sheets do melt.

But such forecasts can be overtaken by new data. “You have to continually update plans as the models get better and the knowledge gets better and the unknowns become known,” Mr. Aggarwala says.

Scientists are still trying to gauge how much of the Greenland ice sheet may melt and how quickly the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might respond to rising temperatures due to greenhouse-gas emissions. “When an ice sheet melts, sea level change is not uniform,” says climatologist Jonathan Bamber at the U.K.’s University of Bristol who studies Antarctic ice sheets.

Generally, sea level today varies from place to place. The North Atlantic normally is two feet lower than the northern Pacific, because Atlantic sea water is colder, denser and saltier. This summer, weakened currents and persistent winds, for instance, caused sea level along the U.S. eastern seaboard to be two feet higher than normal, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week.

By taking such factors into account, researchers earlier this year calculated that melting Greenland glaciers could shift ocean currents enough to make sea level along New York’s 570 miles of shoreline an additional 20 inches higher than seas elsewhere. “It will cause the sea level along the coastal region of the Northeast U.S. to rise faster,” says climate modeler Aixue Hu at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

So far, city planners are biding their time. “We are not planning for the worst case yet, but we are thinking about what happens if Greenland melts more quickly,” says Adam Freed, the city’s deputy director of long-term planning.

For Mr. Aggarwala, any changes in climate are best countered by incremental adjustments as science and circumstances demand. “If we have to shut the stock exchange for a day because water is running down Wall Street, that’s not unprecedented,” Mr. Aggarwala says. “A major snowstorm can do that. The key challenge is how quickly we can recover.” By Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall Street Journal.

Himalayan Nations Eye Melting Glaciers At Climate Meeting

himalayan nations eye melting glaciers at climate meeting_Nepal’s prime minister opened the first climate change conference of Himalayan nations on Monday with a warning about the dangers of melting glaciers, floods and violent storms for the region.

With 1.3 billion people dependent on the water that flows down from the melting Himalayan glaciers, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said cross-border cooperation was essential in tackling the impact of climate change.

“The threats and risks of climate change have manifested themselves in the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, rising sea levels and violent storm surges,” he said as he opened the talks in Kathmandu.

“More frequent extreme weather events have affected agricultural production across the region.

“The potentially catastrophic impact on lives and livelihoods has assumed a huge importance in our international relations.”

South Asian environment officials have gathered in Kathmandu for the conference, aimed at highlighting the problems facing the region ahead of a key climate change summit in Copenhagen in December.

Environmental campaigners refer to the Himalayas as the “third pole” and say the melting glaciers are the biggest potential contributors to rising sea levels after the north and south poles.

But this is the first time Himalayan governments have come together to lobby for ambitious emission reduction targets at the Copenhagen summit, which aims to seal a new international climate change accord.

Nepalese lawmaker Lucky Sherpa told the conference mountain communities in the Himalayan nation were already feeling the effects of climate change, with cattle and sheep herders having to seek grazing at higher altitudes.

“Climate change poses the highest threat to those indigenous people who have contributed the least to carbon emissions,” she said, calling for greater assistance for affected mountain communities.

Glaciers in the Himalayas, a 2,400-km range that sweeps through Pakistan, India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, provide headwaters for Asia’s nine largest rivers, a lifeline for people who live downstream.

Andreas Schild, director general of the Himalayan research institute the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), said the melting glaciers could no longer be seen as a local issue.

“Copenhagen is a unique chance to put the Himalayan-Hindu Kush region on the international agenda,” he said.

The two-day meeting of South Asian nations ends today with a closing statement to be entitled “A Vision on the Way Forward to Copenhagen.”

However, few nations have sent ministers to the talks, which will likely affect the impact of any statement that emerges. Regional power India is represented by environment secretary Vijai Sharma, a civil servant.

Mohan Munasinghe, vice chairman of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, said South Asian governments must begin working together to tackle flooding and water management problems.

“The Himalayas are the source of the world’s seven largest rivers and supply water to 40 percent of its population,” he told delegates. “We cannot afford to fail.” China Daily.

Humpback, Fin Whales Return To Waters Off Montauk

humpback_To the delight of local whale watchers, humpback and fin whales have returned to waters off Montauk where they had been largely absent for several years.

“That was a big one!” exclaimed Dylan Kay, 8, of Ridgewood, N.J., as a fin whale surfaced less than a hundred feet from the bow of the 140-foot long Viking Starship.

Tuesday, Kay and 78 other passengers from Long Island, New York City and beyond peered out excitedly over the boat’s railing as it rode the gently rolling swells southeast of Montauk Point. Despite occasional bouts of seasickness, the sight of the mammoth mammals’ gleaming flanks had most riders rushing from one side of the boat to the other.

Lured by food

Researchers suspect food – including an abundance of herring – may have lured the cetaceans back to local waters. In recent months, dozens of whales, dolphins and porpoises have been spotted just a dozen miles offshore, including some individual humpback whales that normally frequent New England waters.

“The feeding areas off here have been extraordinarily productive,” said Artie Kopelman, an adjunct associate marine sciences professor at Dowling College and president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island, which organizes the whale watch trips from Montauk.

Tuesday, volunteers from Kopelman’s group scanned the ocean for signs of whales, such as the far-off blast of water from a blow hole, then jotted down the location, water temperature and ocean depth where they were seen.

“It’s like a puff of smoke,” said Phil Austin, 55, a volunteer from Ridge who has been on nearly 40 whale-watching trips. “The higher it goes, and the wider it goes, helps you define what kind of whale it is.”

Fin whales – which grow up to 75 feet long, making them the second-largest whale species – are the most abundant type in Long Island waters. But observers this year have seen a number of smaller minke whales, and dozens of humpbacks on their way up to the Gulf of Maine.

“A mix of our resident animals have been spending at least some of their year down there,” said Mason Weinrich, executive director and chief scientist at the Whale Center of New England in Gloucester, Mass. “That indicates to me that there is food there . . . any animal is going to make a decision based on prey, how much they can get in one place versus somewhere else.”

Lots of fin whales

No humpbacks were spotted Tuesday. But after a slow start, fin whales showed up one by one as the boat moved east into deeper water. By midafternoon, Kopelman and the crew counted 15 fin whales – including a mother and her calf – four minke whales, and even a small shark of undetermined species.

It was a decent tally, but paltry compared with 1987, when Kopelman said they counted 200 fin whales on one trip. But as the sightings off Long Island dropped, so did the number of passengers. The Viking Fleet, which operates the boats, stopped running local cruises in 2002, although it continued offering three-day trips to watch humpback whales out in the Great South Channel, at the southern tip of the Gulf of Maine.

This summer Viking and Kopelman’s group restarted the six-hour tours after fishermen reported a resurgence of fin and humpback whales in Long Island waters. “As long as the whales show up, it’s good for our whale-watching business, said Capt. Carl Forsberg.

Their return electrified passenger Binnie Pasquier of Northport. “To think that we live on this congested little island, and then out here there is this natural beauty,” said Pasquier, 55, who left the house at 5:30 a.m. to make sure she didn’t miss the boat. “There’s such a thrill that it’s right here.” By Jennifer Smith,

Climate Change: Melting Ice Will Trigger Wave Of Natural Disasters

climate change_Scientists are to outline dramatic evidence that global warming threatens the planet in a new and unexpected way – by triggering earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches and volcanic eruptions.

Reports by international groups of researchers – to be presented at a London conference next week – will show that climate change, caused by rising outputs of carbon dioxide from vehicles, factories and power stations, will not only affect the atmosphere and the sea but will alter the geology of the Earth.

Melting glaciers will set off avalanches, floods and mud flows in the Alps and other mountain ranges; torrential rainfall in the UK is likely to cause widespread erosion; while disappearing Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets threaten to let loose underwater landslides, triggering tsunamis that could even strike the seas around Britain.

At the same time the disappearance of ice caps will change the pressures acting on the Earth’s crust and set off volcanic eruptions across the globe. Life on Earth faces a warm future – and a fiery one.

“Not only are the oceans and atmosphere conspiring against us, bringing baking temperatures, more powerful storms and floods, but the crust beneath our feet seems likely to join in too,” said Professor Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre, at University College London (UCL).

“Maybe the Earth is trying to tell us something,” added McGuire, who is one of the organisers of UCL’s Climate Forcing of Geological Hazards conference, which will open on 15 September. Some of the key evidence to be presented at the conference will come from studies of past volcanic activity. These indicate that when ice sheets disappear the number of eruptions increases, said Professor David Pyle, of Oxford University’s earth sciences department.

“The last ice age came to an end between 12,000 to 15,000 years ago and the ice sheets that once covered central Europe shrank dramatically,” added Pyle. “The impact on the continent’s geology can by measured by the jump in volcanic activity that occurred at this time.”

In the Eiffel region of western Germany a huge eruption created a vast caldera, or basin-shaped crater, 12,900 years ago, for example. This has since flooded to form the Laacher See, near Koblenz. Scientists are now studying volcanic regions in Chile and Alaska – where glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking rapidly as the planet heats up – in an effort to anticipate the eruptions that might be set off.

Last week scientists from Northern Arizona University reported in the journal Science that temperatures in the Arctic were now higher than at any time in the past 2,000 years. Ice sheets are disappearing at a dramatic rate – and these could have other, unexpected impacts on the planet’s geology.

According to Professor Mark Maslin of UCL, one is likely to be the release of the planet’s methane hydrate deposits. These ice-like deposits are found on the seabed and in the permafrost regions of Siberia and the far north.

“These permafrost deposits are now melting and releasing their methane,” said Maslin. “You can see the methane bubbling out of lakes in Siberia. And that is a concern, for the impact of methane in the atmosphere is considerable. It is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.”

A build-up of permafrost methane in the atmosphere would produce a further jump in global warming and accelerate the process of climate change. Even more worrying, however, is the impact of rising sea temperatures on the far greater reserves of methane hydrates that are found on the sea floor.

It was not just the warming of the sea that was the problem, added Maslin. As the ice around Greenland and Antarctica melted, sediments would pour off land masses and cliffs would crumble, triggering underwater landslides that would break open more hydrate reserves on the sea-bed. Again there would be a jump in global warming. “These are key issues that we will have to investigate over the next few years,” he said.

There is also a danger of earthquakes, triggered by disintegrating glaciers, causing tsunamis off Chile, New Zealand and Newfoundland in Canada, Nasa scientist Tony Song will tell the conference. The last on this list could even send a tsunami across the Atlantic, one that might reach British shores.

The conference will also hear from other experts of the risk posed by melting ice in mountain regions, which would pose significant dangers to local people and tourists. The Alps, in particular, face a worryingly uncertain future, said Jasper Knight of Exeter University. “Rock walls resting against glaciers will become unstable as the ice disappears and so set off avalanches. In addition, increasing meltwaters will trigger more floods and mud flows.”

For the Alps this is a serious problem. Tourism is growing there, while the region’s population is rising. Managing and protecting these people was now an issue that needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency, Knight said.

“Global warming is not just a matter of warmer weather, more floods or stronger hurricanes. It is a wake-up call to Terra Firma,” McGuire said. By Robin McKie, The Observer.

Jordan: How Best To Save The Dead Sea?

how best to save the dead sea_Jordan’s plan to save the shrinking Dead Sea by channelling more water to it from the Red Sea could have a detrimental environmental impact, environmentalists have warned. However, not doing anything could lead to an environmental, economic and human catastrophe, say experts. Two water-related projects are currently being proposed in Jordan: the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project aims to save the Dead Sea by siphoning off at least 2.5 billion cubic metres (cu. m) of water from the Red Sea and pumping it to the Dead Sea.

The Jordan National Red Sea Water Development Project (JRSP) aims to address the country’s chronic potable water shortage by pumping water from the Red Sea through pipelines to a yet-to-be-built nuclear-run desalination plant that will produce some 700 million cu. m of drinking water a year when fully operational. There is some overlap between the two projects as both require water to be pumped out of the Red Sea. Experts say JRSP and the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project can be carried out simultaneously.
However, environmentalists are concerned that they could produce more problems than they alleviate. “You need to study the effect of taking out 2.5 billion cubic metres of water from the Red Sea annually [for the Red Sea-Dead Sea project] – which means 60 cu. m per second. Pumping this quantity of water will definitely affect the current of the Gulf of Aqaba and its coral reefs,” Munqeth Mehyar, chairman and co-director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), said.

Photo: Google Maps A map of Jordan and the surrounding region highlighting the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project and the Disi aquifer, a strategic water resource for Jordan He warned of the negative impacts that could result from mixing marine water from the Red Sea with the Dead Sea water, known to be rich in minerals.

Dead Sea water levels declining

The Dead Sea is considered the lowest point on earth – about 400 metres below sea level. Its water is 10 times more saline than ocean water, and its distinctive chemical composition and fresh/salt water interface have created a unique ecology of international importance. But the Dead Sea and its environment are changing as a result of a sharp decrease in water inflow from the River Jordan, which has been increasingly diverted for agricultural and industrial use. Recent figures from the Ministry of Water and Irrigation show that inflows to the Dead Sea are just 10 percent of what they were in the 1960s.

The Dead Sea has lost more than one third of its water surface in the past few decades due to evaporation and industrial use, according to the World Bank. Its water level is dropping by nearly a metre a year, a rate at which scientists say it could dry up within the next 50 years if action is not taken. The declining water level has far-reaching environmental, social and economic consequences for the Dead Sea region and beyond.

The response has been the Red Sea-Dead Sea project proposal which consists of a 250km canal or pipe extended from the port city of Aqaba in Jordan through the Wadi Araba area to the southern Dead Sea, costing US$12 billion. A World Bank-funded environmental impact assessment of the Red Sea-Dead Sea project is currently under way.

Desalination project proposed

The Jordanian government has said it will go ahead with the project to save the Dead Sea, whatever the cost. However, because of delayed international aid to kick-start it, the government wants to begin with the JRSP project to pump water from the Red Sea through pipelines, for desalination.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons A man takes advantage of the Dead Sea’s famed high salinity. The area attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year “We took a small part of the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project and decided to start with a desalination project as soon as possible because Jordan is facing a serious water problem and we must provide an urgent solution to our plight,” Fayez Batayneh, director of the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project at Jordan’s Water and Irrigation Ministry, said.

Announced in May, JRSP will be undertaken by private companies with the support of the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation and the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission. It will be built in five phases needing 25-30 years to complete. Water generated by the plant will be delivered to the Aqaba area initially and eventually to the capital, Amman. Brine from the desalination process will be discharged in the Dead Sea, helping to limit its decline.

Water and Irrigation Ministry officials said chemicals used in the desalination process would be neutralized before being released into the sea. Environmentalists such as FoEME chairman Mehyar have warned of the environmental impact of the JRSP desalination project. “This project is not environmentally friendly. Pumping this amount of water requires one of the largest pumping stations in the world. It would be run by nuclear energy or a specially constructed electric station. This will lead to increased emissions,” said Mehyar.

Alternative solutions?

Some environmentalists have urged the government to look into alternative methods to saving the Dead Sea. Jordanian Environment Society (JES) President Mohammad Masalha said reducing the amount of water pumped out of the River Jordan, which flows into the Dead Sea, could help save the Dead Sea. But government officials said it was difficult to persuade Israel and Syria to reduce the amounts of water they pump out of the River Jordan.

Batayneh, director of the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project, said there was no other alternative but to go ahead. He said two studies were being conducted by French and English companies to “determine the most appropriate economic, environmental and technical methods to go ahead with the project”.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons There are an increasing number of sink holes in the southern shores of the Dead Sea as a result of shrinking water levels Mehyar and Batayheh said aborting the project would lead to an environmental and human catastrophe. They said there were an increasing number of sink holes in the southern shores of the Dead Sea as a result of shrinking water levels.

Sink holes

Sink holes are natural depressions in the land’s surface caused by the removal of underlying soil or bedrock by water. Varying in size from less than a metre to several hundred metres in diametre and depth, they swallow up whatever was resting on them previously. Dozens of farmers and their families have had to be evacuated from areas close to the Dead Sea after an increasing number of sink holes appeared, some five meters wide and equally deep.

There are around 800 sink holes on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea that have appeared over the past decade and nearly 1,200 on the Israeli and Palestinian side. “A lot of farmland is being abandoned. Farms are being destroyed. Even houses and factories have been evacuated because of the sink holes,” said Mehyar. IRINnews.

Oil Threat To Australia Wildlife

oil threat_Environmentalists have warned that an oil slick caused by an accident on a rig in the Timor Sea is threatening wildlife in Australian waters.

Oil has been flowing from the West Atlas platform for three weeks. Safety authorities have been using chemicals to try to break up the spill but warn it could be at least two more weeks before the leak is plugged.

Up to 400 barrels of oil per day have been pouring into the Timor Sea to Australia’s north. An emergency rig has arrived from Singapore to repair the damage and aircraft and boats have been dousing the slick with dispersants.

Fragile environment

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has said that this has helped to contain the spread of oil, the bulk of which remains around the drilling platform thanks, in part, to benign weather conditions.

Officials have stated that the slick is about 170km (100 miles) from the Australian coast. Environmental groups believe the contamination poses a significant threat to wildlife and is heading towards land.

Piers Verstegen, from the Conservation Council of Western Australia, says the spill – off the north coast of the Kimberley region where whales congregate – is an ecological disaster.

“Humpback whales, an endangered species, go to that area and that region to calf and give birth and this oil spill is happening just off the Kimberley coast,” Mr Verstegen said.

“The oil, as far as we are aware, is travelling towards the Kimberley coastline but it is definitely affecting areas that are used by these whales and dolphins.”

Fishermen have reported seeing endangered flatback turtles covered in oil. There have also been claims that fish and sea-snakes have been poisoned.

Conservationists believe that, in its rush to exploit abundant natural resources, Australia risks inflicting irreparable damage on its fragile environment. By Phil Mercer, BBC News.

Albatrosses Set Breeding Record

albatrosses set breeding record_A small group of light-mantled sooty albatrosses has set a new breeding record. The birds have created a colony on King George Island, one of the South Shetland Islands located in Antarctica.

This new breeding colony is the southernmost breeding location of any albatross species ever recorded. Researchers spotted two confirmed nests on the island, one containing eggs and the other nestlings, and three more possible nests.

The light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) is a medium-sized albatross that has a circumpolar distribution around the Southern Ocean.

It is the most abundant albatross in Antarctic waters and is known to range further south than other albatross species, often flying as far south as the border of the Antarctic pack ice during long-distance foraging trips.

However, it was only thought to nest on sub-Antarctic islands, lying at latitudes between 46 and 53 degrees South.

That was until Simeon Lisovski and Hans-Ulrich Peter of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, in Germany and colleagues Karel Weidinger and Vaclav Pavel of Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic discovered a new breeding colony of the birds at Fildes Peninsula on King George Island, at a latitude of 62 degrees and 12 minutes South.

In the summer season spanning 2008 and 2009, a research group led by Dr Peter saw light-mantled sooty albatrosses landing on a large 140m-high flat-topped rocky outcrop on the island.

“On Christmas day I got an unexpected call via the radio that two colleagues could observe some light-mantled sooty albatrosses landing on a very small jutty at the scarp of the rock,” says Lisovski.

So Lisovski, Weidinger and Pavel kept observing the birds, until in February this year they discovered adults at two nests. They also saw three more sitting adults, suggesting three further nests, though they couldn’t climb the rocky outcrop to confirm this.

The new breeding colony is some 1,520km away from the nearest known breeding colony of light-mantled sooty albatrosses, which is on the island of South Georgia, the team reports in the journal Polar Biology.

It is unclear why the birds are breeding so far south. Climate change could be creating warmer and more benign conditions for the birds, the researchers speculate, though it is not yet clear whether this is the case.

Whatever the cause, the birds are likely to have a much smaller breeding window in the Antarctic. Light-mantled sooty albatross chicks need 70 days to hatch and another 70 to become independent.

So even if they start nesting early in November, when there is no snow, the chicks will not be ready to fly until April, leaving them vulnerable to extreme weather events. By Matt Walker, Earth News