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 →

Harper bureaucracy orders no alarms, no surprises

By Margaret Munro Postmedia News, Sep 16 2010

Federal bureaucrats are going to extraordinary lengths to create a “zero-surprise environment” for the Harper government, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

Media requests that used to be handled by government experts and communication staff across Canada now require a small army in Ottawa to answer, say the documents obtained this week under the access-to-information law. Continue reading →

Save the planet in 10 not-so-easy steps

BY MARGARET MUNRO, POSTMEDIA NEWS

JUNE 16, 2012

As Canada’s environment minister, Peter Kent, joins the thousands of delegates on the road to next week’s Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil, the message from leading scientists and environmentalists is grim.

The world and its seven billion human inhabitants continue “to speed down” an unsustainable path and must change course to avoid what has been described as “global suicide.”

“If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and ‘decoupled,’ then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said last week as he released the latest global environmental outlook in the run up to the summit.

“Earth systems are being pushed towards their biophysical limits, with evidence that these limits are close and in some cases have been exceeded,” the 525-page report warns. Continue reading →