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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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