Federal government ices polar briefings

Ice floes float in Baffin Bay above the Arctic circle as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent on July 10, 2008. ~ JONATHAN HAYWARD CP

Ice floes float in Baffin Bay above the Arctic circle as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent on July 10, 2008.
~ JONATHAN HAYWARD CP

Federal scientists who keep a close eye on the Arctic ice cap would like to routinely brief Canadians about extraordinary events unfolding in the North. But newly released federal documents show the Harper government has been thwarting their efforts.

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Hungry polar bears robbing Arctic bird colonies

A female polar bear and her two cubs made short work of the eggs in this East Bay Island eider colony in Nunavut. The eiders make their nests on the ground. PHOTO: SUPPLIED: STEVE MARSON

A female polar bear and her two cubs made short work of the eggs in nests on the ground in this East Bay Island eider colony in Nunavut. PHOTO: STEVE MARSON

Published: February 4, 2014

There were more than 300 nests in the bird colony when the polar bear arrived.

When it meandered off with a belly full of eggs only 24 nests remained, say scientists who witnessed the  “near total” destruction of nests on the bird colony off Baffin Island.

It was far from an isolated event, the team from Environment Canada and Carleton University reported Tuesday. Continue reading

Giant camel remains discovered in Canadian Arctic

Artists' illustration of the cames that roamed  the High Arctic 3.5 million years ago. Credit ~ J. Csotonyi

Artists’ illustration of the cames that roamed the High Arctic 3.5 million years ago. Credit ~ J. Csotonyi

 03/05/2013

When Natalia Rybczynski unearthed the first few bone fragments on a windswept ridge in Canada’s High Arctic, she knew she was onto something big.

Rybczynski, a paleobiologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, recalls thinking: “This is something kind of off the charts.”

It turns out she had uncovered the remains of the first camel ever found in the High Arctic. Continue reading

Canada losing its Arctic PEARL

The Polar Environmental Atmospheric Research Laboratory at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island as it emerged out of months of winter darkness in early March. The station, one of the world’s premier observatories for tracking the health of Arctic atmosphere, but has run out of money because of cuts to climate science programs. Photo credit Pierre Fogal

Sat Mar 24 2012  Vancouver Sun

By Margaret Munro

Atmospheric scientist Pierre Fogal headed north in February to help check on Earth’s protective ozone layer high in the Arctic stratosphere.

But he spent much of his time on his knees dealing with burst water pipes and frozen sewer lines at Canada’s beleaguered Arctic research station.

Then this week, the electrical system malfunctioned, says Fogal, site manager for PEARL, the Polar Environmental Atmospheric Research Laboratory at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island.

The station, now limping along at half power and a chilly 10 C inside, is one of the world’s premier observatories for tracking the health of the Arctic atmosphere. The station houses millions of dollars worth of scientific equipment used to monitor the ozone layer, greenhouse gases and pollution swirling around the polar vortex. Continue reading

Plenty of plastics in Canada’s Arctic birds

Mar 6 2011

By Margaret Munro
Postmedia News

When biologist Jennifer Provencher headed to the Arctic, she signed on to help assess how seabird diets are changing as temperatures climb in the North.

She never expected to find plastics on the menu. But she and her colleagues at the Canadian Wildlife Service are pulling remarkable amounts of trash from birds in some of the remotest spots on Earth.

Fulmars are strong flyers that skim the surface swallowing tasty tidbits, and 84 per cent of the ones the researchers examined from two Arctic colonies had plastics in their guts. Continue reading

Melt ponds fueling massive underice Arctic algal blooms

Small melt ponds are forming over vast expanses of the Arctic allowing fueling phytoplankton blooms beneath the metre-thick ice. Photo by Gert van Dijken, Stanford University.

Margaret Munro, Postmedia News

June 25, 2012

The most intense phytoplankton bloom recorded on Earth occurred under the Arctic ice last summer — a finding that has stunned seasoned polar scientists.

“The ice was over a metre thick,” says Kevin Arrigo at Stanford University, leader of the international team that reported Thursday finding the massive bright green algal bloom beneath the ice.

It turns out that first-year polar ice — long considered impenetrable to sunlight — can create ideal conditions for growing phytoplankton, the single-celled plants crucial to the Arctic food chain.

“It’s like the perfect environment,” says Arrigo. Continue reading

Government scientists put in spin cycle

Apr 23 2012

By Margaret Munro  Postmedia News

Government media minders are being dispatched to an international polar conference in Montreal to monitor and record what Environment Canada scientists say to reporters.

The scientists will present the latest findings on everything from seabirds to Arctic ice, and Environment Canada’s media office plans to intervene when the media approaches the researchers, Postmedia News has learned.

Media instructions, which are being described as a heavy-handed attempt to muzzle and intimidate scientists, have been sent to Environment Canada researchers attending the International Polar Year conference that started on Sunday and runs all week.

“If you are approached by the media, ask them for their business card and tell them that you will get back to them with a time for (an) interview,” the Environment Canada scientists were told by email late last week. Continue reading