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Monthly Archives: August 2013 − News & Stories


White whales imitate human voice

The observation was made more than 30 years ago, but it still attracted considerable attention when it was published proberly recently in a recognized scientific magazine: White whales, also called Belugas, are able to imitate the human voice with surprising accuracy. This is at least what a young White whale did in an American zoo: accurately enough to confuse nearby people until the whale was identified as the source of the “voice”.

Due to its different physiology, a Beluga is believed to go through a considerabe process of learning and practice before it can produce something similar to a human voice.

Similar observations have been made elsewhere, but in this case even sound recordings were secured.

White whales in Woodfjord. They did not say much, but nevertheless a stunning sight.

f6o_Reinstrandodden_07Aug13_115

Source: Current Biology

Fewer polar bear dens in Kong Karls Land

Kong Karls Land is a group of small islands in eastern Spitsbergen and a very important denning place for polar bears. In the past, up to 50 dens have been found within certain areas.

In recent years, however, the development is more fluctuative, with a negative overall trend. Last spring, only 2 dens were found during a count carried out by the Norwegian Polar Institute. The direct reason appears to be a lack of sea ice. The amount and timing of sea ice has become significantly more variable, with a strong negative trend which is expected to continue in the future.

Sea ice is necessary to reach the islands and to raise the offspring successfully. The femails that used to den on Kong Karls Land may have used other areas for denning this year.

Female polar bear with satellite tracker, attached with collar.

Polar bear

Source: Norwegian Polar Institute

Methane from arctic permafrost: accelerator of global warming?

A recent publication in the scientific magazine Nature describes the possbility of a release of large volumes of methane within a geologically very short period of a few decades from arctic shelf seas. According to this scenario, methane hydrates from the sea bottom could be destabilized once the Arctic Ocean is periodically completely ice-free during the late arctic summer, in September. This is something that may happen as soon as 2015, as the ice development in recent years indicates. The paper mentions up to 50 billion tons of methane that might be released into the atmosphere, an amount that would certainly have dramatic consequences for the global climate system.

The paper is currently matter of hot debate in scientific circles. Not all scientists agree with the hypothesis of a catastrophic methane release from the sea bottom in the near future.

Arctic permafrost-soil in Isfjord, Spitsbergen

Methane from arctic permafrost

Source: The Guardian

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