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November 18 2013

17:44

Stan Paterson - Obituary

Glaciologist who mined ice cores that charted 100,000 years of the world's climate
    




April 26 2012

19:21

Greenland and the Great Ice Dilema


The Greenland Ice Sheet is melting fast, says a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute Research in Environmental Sciences. This is largely (if not entirely) due to the massive releases of meltwater, which come from surface lakes. The supraglacial lakes are draining more frequently, which very well may affect the rise of the sea level.

In the summer, meltwater gathers on the surface of the ice sheet. When a large enough lake forms, the ice beneath it cracks, forming what some call a “vertical drainpipe.” Massive amounts of water get sucked down beneath the ice sheet.
More meltwater is being sucked through the ice than before due to global warming. Estimates are that enough water to fill 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools funnels down through the ice bed, turning the ice-bed surface into a “slip ‘n’ slide” which quickens the ice sheet’s presumed inevitable slide into the ocean. This will cause sea levels to rise dramatically, which could be catastrophic, particularly to those living near the coast.

There is hope that this won’t happen, however. An alternate scenario suggests the lake draining through the ice bed just might carve out sub-glacial “sewers,” which would channel the water directly to the ocean. This would prevent the ice sheet’s slide into the ocean, at least in the near future.

So what can you do to help slow down global warming and similar environmental issues? One  place to start is at home. Consider installing solar panels and become part of the new energy economy by generating energy that doesn’t require burning fossil fuels.

Hopefully the Greenland ice sheet will remain intact for many more years to come.

Photo Credit: Blmiers2 via Flicker Creative Commons

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June 28 2011

22:18

Shifting Ocean Currents Drive Accelerating Ice Melt of Antarctic Ice Shelf


Shifting currents are eating away at the Pine Island Ice ShelfShifting ocean currents appear to be accelerating ice melt of the Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf in western Antarctica.

According to research published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University have recorded ocean currents driving at and underneath the ice shelf, carving out an expanding cavity from underneath the glacier, creating a growing impact 50 percent greater than when scientists began monitoring the region in the early 1990′s.

Researchers estimate that 2.5 miles of glacier now slide into the sea annually.

In a summary report, scientists say the rapid rate of deterioration of the Pine Island Glacier could significantly impact coastlines around the globe:

“Pine Island Glacier, among other ice streams in Antarctica, is being closely watched for its potential to redraw coastlines worldwide. Global sea levels are currently rising at about 3 millimeters (.12 inches) a year. By one estimate, the total collapse of Pine Island Glacier and its tributaries could raise sea level by 24 centimeters (9 inches).”

The accelerating trend of ice can’t be accounted for solely from the modest 0.2 degree Celsius increase in surrounding ocean temperature observed at Pine Island over the past fifteen years. Scientists point to evidence of stronger winds in the Southern ocean that are shifting currents, pushing warmer waters from the tropics toward the ice shelf. That warmer water pushes further underneath the glacier, leading to the observed rate of destabilization and the growing chasm underneath.

Authors of the report cite the phenomenon impacting western Antarctica as further indication of the “multiplier effect” climate change has on regional ecosystems. Eric Rignot, a senior scientist a the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory who participated in the study, explained in a statement coinciding with the publication of the research:

“The main reason the glaciers are thinning in this region, we think, is the presence of warm waters,” said Rignot. “Warm waters did not get there because the ocean warmed up, but because of subtle changes in ocean circulation. Ocean circulation is key. This study reinforces this concept.”

Additional sources and further reading:
Climatewire (subscription required)

 

Image credit: NASA, courtesy Flickr

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March 03 2011

19:00

A Big Surprise Beneath the Ice

A new study shows that ice melts far more extensively at the base of the Antarctic ice sheet, miles below the surface, than scientists had thought. The findings raise the possibility that melt water may even help govern the behavior of glaciers.
Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01
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