OP – The Blog

December 13th, 2011

Global Warming – and Snow

Posted By Kevin Schafer

Nesting in the Snow, Gentoo Penguin

The conventional wisdom is that climate change is heating the poles first, and then the rest of the planet. So you’d think we’d be sweltering here in Antarctica. Far from it: in the past week it has been snowing almost constantly, making it hard on the penguins who should be well into their nesting cycle by now, with chicks due any day. But with heavy sea ice, and piles of snowfall, they are struggling, like this Gentoo penguin, still sitting on eggs despite being nearly buried in snow. They may make it, but as the days roll on – the chance of successfully raising chicks this season seems more unlikely.

In fact, this is exactly what is predicted by climate scientists: unusual swings of temperature, and heavy, unseasonal precipitation.

In any case, this picture was not a complicated one. I deliberately over-exposed by 2/3 stop to keep the whites bright and locked focus on the bird’s eye to make sure it was sharp, above all else. It is a portrait of a wonderful bird, facing challenges far beyond its control.

We have another few days here aboard the National Geographic Explorer before starting back across the Drake Passage (luckily, our southbound crossing was a breeze).

Nikon D3 with 70-200mm lens

 

Please leave a comment

  1. Fabrizio Giudici Says:

    Actually, just saying “temperatures will unusually swing” hardly makes a scientific prediction. Everybody would be able to do that, without using big science. A scientific prediction would be a more precise model, capable to better explain all the “swings”: how deep they are, where and when they occur. So far, scientists failed to prepare such a model. In fact, the “conventional wisdom” that you mentioned about “poles heating first” has been spread by AGW scientists themselves a decade ago.

  2. Guido Guidi Says:

    Well, I’ve been there in 1997 with the Italian Antartic Expedition Program (PNRA). It snowed like hell for two weeks, then the wind came and blowed almost everything away. You know what? We were in december. At that time, as a meteorologist, I thought that it could be some sort of ‘weird’ anctartic weather being probably right. Now I read that 14 years later the same thing happen due to global warming ‘as predicted’. Maybe you should know that the only serious study concerning precipitations in Antarctica stated that despite different predictions, no significant changes occurred downthere.
    gg

  3. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Thank you both for your comments, and your expertise on the subject of climate. I did not mean to stir up as debate about the science of global warming – a subject I cannot discuss with any authority. In fact, I only tried to say that despite any expectation that the Antarctic Peninsula would be dry and warm – we found it surprisingly cold and snowy. The penguins, meanwhile, endure as best they can…

  4. K D Sandmann Says:

    While the exact impact and extent maybe debatable you do not need to be several hundred years old to see the changes in our world.
    The local impact we have is obvious – the bigger picture not so much.

    While one may reason the earth is big, able to adjust and compensate…… I personally would rather not have to rely upon this reasoning.

    Snap a picture because you never know :-\
    .02 & IMHO

  5. Chandira Says:

    I agree with KD, I’m only 39, and can say that the weather has changed significantly in England from when I was a kid! It is noticeable.

    Great photo, and thanks for the tip on keeping the snow bright.

  6. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Thanks Chandira : always good to hear from you. I have seen dramatic changes in the annual ice pack extent in the Arctic over the past 30 years, but as I said – I’m no scientist. The point of my post was simply that whatever the trend, it was a VERY snowy season in Antarctica this year…

  7. Kevin Schafer Says:

    KD – Thanks for the comment. I was simply struck by the irony that the penguins – buried in snow – were probably HOPING for a little warming this year!

  8. Chandira Says:

    Thanks Kevin, sorry you didn’t get the light you were looking for in your post above, too! Irony I don’t think escapes animals, either sometimes. :)

Leave a Comment

We welcome constructive comments and discussion. To keep the conversation polite, we will remove comments that we feel are disruptive, including abusive language and personal attacks against a contributor or another commenter. Repeated offenses may result in a permanent restriction from commenting.