Concept: Winter solstice
Recent boreal winters have exhibited a large-scale seesaw temperature pattern characterized by an unusually warm Arctic and cold continents. Whether there is any physical link between Arctic variability and Northern Hemisphere (NH) extreme weather is an active area of research. Using a recently developed index of severe winter weather, we show that the occurrence of severe winter weather in the United States is significantly related to anomalies in pan-Arctic geopotential heights and temperatures. As the Arctic transitions from a relatively cold state to a warmer one, the frequency of severe winter weather in mid-latitudes increases through the transition. However, this relationship is strongest in the eastern US and mixed to even opposite along the western US. We also show that during mid-winter to late-winter of recent decades, when the Arctic warming trend is greatest and extends into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, severe winter weather-including both cold spells and heavy snows-became more frequent in the eastern United States.
Rapid warming in the Arctic could influence mid-latitude circulation by reducing the poleward temperature gradient. The largest changes are generally expected in autumn or winter but whether significant changes have occurred is debated. Here we report significant weakening of summer circulation detected in three key dynamical quantities: (i) the zonal-mean zonal wind, (ii) the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) and (iii) the amplitude of fast-moving Rossby waves. Weakening of the zonal wind is explained by a reduction in poleward temperature gradient. Changes in Rossby waves and EKE are consistent with regression analyses of climate model projections and changes over the seasonal cycle. Monthly heat extremes are associated with low EKE and thus the observed weakening might have contributed to more persistent heat waves in recent summers.
Being an obligate parasite, juvenile common cuckoos Cuculus canorus are thought to reach their African wintering grounds from Palearctic breeding grounds without guidance from experienced conspecifics but this has not been documented. We used satellite tracking to study naïve migrating common cuckoos. Juvenile cuckoos left breeding sites in Finland moving slowly and less consistently directed than adult cuckoos. Migration of the juveniles (N = 5) was initiated later than adults (N = 20), was directed toward the southwest-significantly different from the initial southeast direction of adults-and included strikingly long Baltic Sea crossings (N = 3). After initial migration of juvenile cuckoos toward Poland, the migration direction changed and proceeded due south, directly toward the winter grounds, as revealed by a single tag transmitting until arrival in Northwest Angola where northern adult cuckoos regularly winter. Compared to adults, the juvenile travelled straighter and faster, potentially correcting for wind drift along the route. That both migration route and timing differed from adults indicates that juvenile cuckoos are able to reach proper wintering grounds independently, guided only by their innate migration programme.
Successive cold winters of severely low temperatures in recent years have had critical social and economic impacts on the mid-latitude continents in the Northern Hemisphere. Although these cold winters are thought to be partly driven by dramatic losses of Arctic sea-ice, the mechanism that links sea-ice loss to cold winters remains a subject of debate. Here, by conducting observational analyses and model experiments, we show how Arctic sea-ice loss and cold winters in extra-polar regions are dynamically connected through the polar stratosphere. We find that decreased sea-ice cover during early winter months (November-December), especially over the Barents-Kara seas, enhances the upward propagation of planetary-scale waves with wavenumbers of 1 and 2, subsequently weakening the stratospheric polar vortex in mid-winter (January-February). The weakened polar vortex preferentially induces a negative phase of Arctic Oscillation at the surface, resulting in low temperatures in mid-latitudes.
Wild geese wintering in western Europe were declining by the 1930s probably due to loss of natural habitat and over exploitation through hunting, although the causes will never be known. Refuge provision and hunting restrictions from the 1950s enabled numbers to recover. Improved monitoring systems enabled the description of progressive increases and extensions of wintering range since that time, especially amongst those goose populations that increasingly exploited agricultural landscapes. This introductory article sets the scene for the special issue on the increasing interactions and conflicts created by recent increases in the range and abundance of wild geese throughout the northern hemisphere, especially with regard to agricultural damage, but including issues associated with air flight safety, human and animal health, ecosystem effects and conflicts with other biodiversity objectives. It also provides the context for finding common solutions to problems, presenting experiences from regional-, national- and flyway-coordinated management to find solutions to conflict.
In February the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends influenza viruses to be included in influenza vaccines for the forthcoming winter in the Northern Hemisphere. These recommendations are based on data collected by National Influenza Centres (NICs) through the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) and a more detailed analysis of representative and potential antigenically variant influenza viruses from the WHO Collaborating Centres for Influenza (WHO CCs) and Essential Regulatory Laboratories (ERLs). This article provides a detailed summary of the antigenic and genetic properties of viruses and additional background data used by WHO experts during development of the recommendations of the 2013-2014 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine composition.
When the sun never sets: diverse activity rhythms under continuous daylight in free-living arctic-breeding birds
- Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
- Published over 7 years ago
Circadian clocks are centrally involved in the regulation of daily behavioural and physiological processes. These clocks are synchronized to the 24 h day by external cues (Zeitgeber), the most important of which is the light-dark cycle. In polar environments, however, the strength of the Zeitgeber is greatly reduced around the summer and winter solstices (continuous daylight or continuous darkness). How animals time their behaviour under such conditions has rarely been studied in the wild. Using a radio-telemetry-based system, we investigated daily activity rhythms under continuous daylight in Barrow, Alaska, throughout the breeding season in four bird species that differ in mating system and parental behaviour. We found substantial diversity in daily activity rhythms depending on species, sex and breeding stage. Individuals exhibited either robust, entrained 24 h activity cycles, were continuously active (arrhythmic) or showed ‘free-running’ activity cycles. In semipalmated sandpipers, a shorebird with biparental incubation, we show that the free-running rhythm is synchronized between pair mates. The diversity of diel time-keeping under continuous daylight emphasizes the plasticity of the circadian system, and the importance of the social and life-history context. Our results support the idea that circadian behaviour can be adaptively modified to enable species-specific time-keeping under polar conditions.
Marine environments are inherently dynamic, yet marine predators are often long-lived and employ strategies where consistency, individual specialization, routine migrations, and spatial memory are key components to their foraging and life-history strategies. Intrinsic determinates of animal movements are linked to physiological and life-history traits (e.g. sex, colony, experience), while extrinsic influences occur as the result of an animal’s interactions with either other animals or the environment (e.g. prey availability, weather, competition). Knowledge of the factors affecting animal movements is critical to understand energetic bottlenecks and population dynamics. Here, we attempt to understand the interaction of some of these factors on the winter distributions of a surface-feeding seabird in the North Pacific. Between 2008 and 2011, we tracked 99 black-legged kittiwakes breeding at St. Paul and St. George in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska using geolocation loggers. We tested for colony and sex differences in winter distributions, and individual spatial fidelity over two consecutive winters of 17 individuals. Then we linked tracking data to associated environmental conditions as proxies of prey availability (e.g. sea surface temperature, mesoscale eddies, chlorophyll a, and wind) to understand their influence on kittiwake space use at an ocean basin scale.
Many migratory bird species show high levels of site fidelity to their wintering sites, which confers advantages due to prior knowledge, but may also limit the ability of the individual to move away from degrading sites or to detect alternative foraging opportunities. Winter site fidelity often varies among age groups, but sexual differences have seldom been recorded in birds. We studied a population of individually colour-marked sanderlings wintering in and around the Tejo estuary, a large estuarine wetland on the western coast of Portugal. For 160 individuals, sighted a total of 1,249 times between November 2009 and March 2013, we calculated the probability that they moved among five distinct wintering sites and how this probability is affected by distance between them. To compare site fidelity among age classes and sexes, as well as within the same winter and over multiple winters, we used a Site Fidelity Index (SFI). Birds were sexed using a discriminant function based on biometrics of a large set of molecularly sexed sanderlings (n = 990). The vast majority of birds were observed at one site only, and the probability of the few detected movements between sites was negatively correlated with the distance among each pair of sites. Hardly any movements were recorded over more than 15 km, suggesting small home ranges. SFI values indicated that juveniles were less site-faithful than adults which may reflect the accumulated knowledge and/or dominance of older animals. Among adults, females were significantly less site faithful than males. A sexual difference in winter site fidelity is unusual in shorebirds. SFI values show site-faithfulness is lower when multiple winters were considered, and most birds seem to chose a wintering site early in the season and use that site throughout the winter. Sanderlings show a very limited tendency to explore alternative wintering options, which might have implications for their survival when facing habitat change or loss (e.g., like severe beach erosion as can be the case at one of the study sites).
In partially migratory populations, individuals from a single breeding area experience a range of environments during the non-breeding season. If individuals show high within- and among- year fidelity to specific locations, any annual environmental effect on individual life histories could be reinforced, causing substantial demographic heterogeneity. Quantifying within- and among- individual variation and repeatability in non-breeding season location is therefore key to predicting broad-scale environmental impacts on the dynamics of partially migratory populations. We used field resightings of colour-ringed adult European shags known to have bred on the Isle of May, Scotland, to quantify individual variation and repeatability in winter location within and among three consecutive winters. In total, 3797 resightings of 882 individuals were recorded over 622 km of coastline, including the Isle of May. These individuals comprised over 50% of the known breeding population, and encompassed representative distributions of ages and sexes. The distances from the Isle of May at which individuals were resighted during winter varied substantially, up to 486 km and 136 km north and south respectively and including the breeding colony on the Isle of May. However, resighting distances were highly repeatable within individuals; within- and among-winter repeatabilities were >0.72 and >0.59 respectively across the full September-March observation period, and >0.95 and >0.79 respectively across more restricted mid-winter periods. Repeatability did not differ significantly between males and females or among different age classes, either within or among winters. These data demonstrate that the focal shag population is partially migratory, and moreover that individuals show highly repeatable variation in winter location and hence migration strategy across consecutive winters. Such high among-individual variation and within-individual repeatability, both within and among winters, could lead to substantial life history variation, and therefore influence population dynamics and future conservation management strategies.