Category Archives: Glaciers

Melting ice cap triggering earthquakes in Greenland

As a follow up to yesterday’s post regarding an ice-free Arctic, there is this regarding the land-bound ice of Greenland melting so fast that it is now starting to cause earthquakes.

The Guardian reports that the Melting ice cap triggering earthquakes:

The Greenland ice cap is melting so quickly that it is triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break off.

Scientists monitoring events this summer say the acceleration could be catastrophic in terms of sea-level rise and make predictions this February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change far too low.

He had flown over the Ilulissat glacier and “seen gigantic holes in it through which swirling masses of melt water were falling. I first looked at this glacier in the 1960s and there were no holes. These so-called moulins, 10 to 15 metres across, have opened up all over the place. There are hundreds of them.”

This melt water was pouring through to the bottom of the glacier creating a lake 500 metres deep which was causing the glacier “to float on land. These melt-water rivers are lubricating the glacier, like applying oil to a surface and causing it to slide into the sea. It is causing a massive acceleration which could be catastrophic.”

The glacier is now moving at 15km a year into the sea although in surges it moves even faster. He measured one surge at 5km in 90 minutes – an extraordinary event.

Veli Kallio, a Finnish scientist, said the quakes were triggered because ice had broken away after being fused to the rock for hundreds of years. The quakes were not vast – on a magnitude of 1 to 3 – but had never happened before in north-west Greenland and showed potential for the entire ice sheet to collapse.

Dr Corell said: “These earthquakes are not dangerous in themselves but the fact that they are happening shows that events are happening far faster than we ever anticipated.”

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An ice-free Arctic in just 23 years?

Big fucking surprise. Or not. Look… how many times do we have to see these words over and over? “Sooner than expected”, “much worse than previously thought”. I’ve said it before, this is happening at a pace far faster than even the worst predictions. We have got to start thinking of climate change as RIGHT FUCKING NOW. This is NOW. This is not 100 years from now. This is not great grand children or the next generation. FUCK. Stop eating meat. Stop driving. Stop consuming. FUCKING STOP.

I hate humanity and truthfully, I think I’m starting to take pleasure in seeing people suffer from weather related catastrophes. If only that suffering were more focused on the U.S. and other primary contributors of atmospheric carbon. It’s harsh I know but FUCK. How stupid, shortsighted and selfish can we be?

Comparison of sea ice area on September 5, 1979 and September 5, 2007.

Sea ice area in early September has declined 42% in the 28 years since 1979.
Image credit: University of Illinois Polar Research Group.

Jeff Masters over at Wunderground discusses the issue:

None of our computer climate models predicted that such a huge loss in Arctic ice would occur so soon. Up until this year, the prevailing view among climate scientists was that an ice-free Arctic ocean would occur in the 2070-2100 time frame. The official word on climate change, the February 2007 report from the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that without drastic changes in greenhouse gas emissions, Arctic sea ice will “almost entirely” disappear by the end of the century. This projection is now being radically revised. Earlier this year, I blogged about a new study that predicted abrupt losses of Arctic sea ice were possible as early as 2015, and that we could see an ice-free Arctic Ocean as early as 2040. Well, the Arctic Ocean has suffered one of the abrupt losses this study warned about–eight years earlier than this most radical study suggested. It is highly probable that a complete loss of summer Arctic sea ice will occur far earlier than any scientist or computer model predicted. In an interview published yesterday in The Guardian Dr. Mark Serreze, and Arctic ice expert with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said: “If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice, then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children’s lifetimes.” While natural fluctuations in wind and ocean circulation are partly to blame for this loss of sea ice, human-caused global warming is primarily to blame. In the words of Dr. Serreze: “The rules are starting to change and what’s changing the rules is the input of greenhouse gases. This year puts the exclamation mark on a series of record lows that tell us something is happening.”

The implications
The melting of the Arctic sea ice will not raise ocean levels appreciably, since the ice is made up of frozen sea water that is floating in the ocean. Sea ice melt does contribute slightly to sea level rise, since the fresh melt water is less dense than the salty ocean water it displaces. According to Robert Grumbine’s sea level FAQ, if all the world’s sea ice melted, it would contribute to about 4 millimeters of global sea level rise. This is a tiny figure compared to the 20 feet of sea level rise locked up in the ice of the Greenland ice sheet, which is on land.

The biggest concern about Arctic sea ice loss is the warmer average temperatures it will bring to the Arctic in coming years. Instead of white, reflective ice, we will now have dark, sunlight-absorbing water at the pole, leading to a large increase in average temperature. Warmer temperatures will accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which holds enough water to raise sea level 20 feet. The official word on climate, the 2007 IPCC report, predicted only a 0.6-1.9 foot sea level rise by 2100, due to melting of the Greenland ice sheet and other factors. I believe these estimates will need to be revised sharply upwards in light of the unexpectedly high Arctic sea ice loss this summer.

One more point–global warming skeptics often criticize using computer model climate predictions as a basis for policy decisions. These models are too uncertain, they say. Well, the uncertainty goes both way–sometimes the models will underestimate climate change. We should have learned this lesson when the ozone hole opened up–another case where the models failed to predict a major climate change. The atmosphere is not the well-behaved, predictable entity the models try to approximate it as. The atmosphere is wild, chaotic, incredibly complex, and prone to sudden unexpected shifts. By pumping large amounts of greenhouse gases into the air, we have destabilized the climate and pushed the atmosphere into a new state it has never been in before. We can expect many more surprises that the models will not predict. Some of these may be pleasant surprises, but I am expecting mostly nasty surprises.

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The melting of the Equator’s glaciers causing significant problems

CNN/AP reporting on the melting of the Equator’s glaciers. It’s estimated that the 3 highest peaks of Africa will loose all of their ice in the next 2 to 5 decades. And it’s not just in Africa or along the Equator of course, almost all of the 300 largest glaciers being monitored are in retreat and I’ll predict that in the next five years the experts will say that the rate of melting is much faster than previously thought.
The effects of climate change on human populations and entire ecosystems is now becoming a very real part of every day life.

NARO MORU, Kenya (AP) — Rivers of ice at the Equator — foretold in the 2nd century, found in the 19th — are now melting away in this new century, returning to the realm of lore and fading photographs.

From mile-high Naro Moru, villagers have watched year by year as the great glaciers of Mount Kenya, glinting in the equatorial sun high above them, have retreated into shrunken white stains on the rocky shoulders of the 16,897-foot peak.

Climbing up, “you can hear the water running down beneath Diamond and Darwin,” mountain guide Paul Nditiru said, speaking of two of 10 surviving glaciers.

Some 200 miles due south, the storied snows of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tropical glaciers first seen by disbelieving Europeans in 1848, are vanishing. And to the west, in the heart of equatorial Africa, the ice caps are shrinking fast atop Uganda’s Rwenzoris — the “Mountains of the Moon” imagined by ancient Greeks as the source of the Nile River.

The total loss of ice masses ringing Africa’s three highest peaks, projected by scientists to happen sometime in the next two to five decades, fits a global pattern playing out in South America’s Andes Mountains, in Europe’s Alps, in the Himalayas and beyond.

Almost every one of more than 300 large glaciers studied worldwide is in retreat, international glaciologists reported in October in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. This is “essentially a response to post-1970 global warming,” they said.

Hardships may spread even to Nairobi, Kenya’s metropolis. Most of this country’s shaky electric grid relies on hydropower, and much of that is drawn from waters streaming off Mount Kenya. In a U.N. study issued in early November, scientists predicted that the glacial rivers of Mount Kenya and the rest of east Africa may dry up in 15 years.

“The repercussions on people living down the slopes will be terrible,” said Kenyan environmentalist Grace Akumu.

Scientists say such repercussions would multiply across a world where human settlements have come to depend on steady runoffs from healthy glaciers — in Peru and Bolivia, India and China. And it would extend beyond that, they say, to coastal settlements everywhere, as oceans rise from heat expansion and the melting of land ice.

The October journal report, by European and North American glaciologists, estimates that glacier melt contributed up to one-third of the 1-to-2-inch rise in global sea levels in the past decade. And that contribution is accelerating. Since 2001, they report, dying glaciers apparently have doubled their runoff into the world’s rising seas.

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