UNH Researchers Find Wildfires Can Alter Arctic Watersheds for 50 Years

Climate change has contributed to the increase in the number of wildfires in the Arctic where it can dramatically shift stream chemistry and potentially harm both ecosystems and humans. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found that some aftereffects, like decreased carbon and increased nitrogen, can last up to five decades and could have major implications on vital waterways.

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A Rapidly Changing Arctic

A new study by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and their international colleagues found that freshwater runoff from rivers and continental shelf sediments are bringing significant quantities of carbon and trace elements into parts of the Arctic Ocean via the Transpolar Drift—a major surface current that moves water from Siberia across the North Pole to the North Atlantic Ocean.

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How Stable is Deep Ocean Circulation in Warmer Climate?

If circulation of deep waters in the Atlantic stops or slows due to climate change, it could cause cooling in northern North America and Europe – a scenario that has occurred during past cold glacial periods. Now, a Rutgers coauthored study suggests that short-term disruptions of deep ocean circulation occurred during warm interglacial periods in the last 450,000 years, and may happen again.

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