Fire Earth

Mass die-offs from human impact and planetary response to the assault could occur by early 2016

Posts Tagged ‘Greenland ice sheet’

Massive Lake of Meltwater Discovered Under Greenland Ice

Posted by feww on December 23, 2013

Researchers discover a meltwater aquifer beneath the southern Greenland ice sheet

The aquifer, representing a previously unknown storage mode for water within the ice sheet, was discovered in 2011, when researchers drilled deep beneath the ice layer and found water flowing back to the surface despite the freezing air temperatures of -15ºC.

The aquifer covers an area of about 70,000 km², an area the size of Ireland, with depth to the top of the water table of 5 to 50m.

The liquid water is held in firn—partially compacted snow—which has the “capacity to store significant amounts of meltwater in liquid or frozen form,” researchers said, “and thus delay its contribution to sea level. Here we present direct observations from ground and airborne radar, as well as ice cores, of liquid water within firn in the southern Greenland ice sheet.”

Meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet significantly contributes to the  rise in sea levels. About half of Greenland’s mass loss has been attributed to meltwater runoff.

“Surface melt has been spreading and intensifying in Greenland, with the highest ever surface area melt and runoff recorded in 2012,” say the researchers.

A Surprise Discovery

“This discovery was a surprise,” said Prof Rick Forster the lead author from the University of Utah.

“Instead of the water being stored in the air space between subsurface rock particles, the water is stored in the air space between the ice particles, like the juice in a snow cone.”

Scientists are puzzled about the speed, direction and final destination of the meltwater.

“It depends on whether it is currently connected to a system that is draining into the ocean or if it is a bit isolated and completely acting as a storage source without a current connection,” said Forster.

“We don’t know the answer to this right now. It’s massive, it’s a new system we haven’t seen before – we need to understand it more completely if we are to predict sea level rise.”

The research is published in the journal, Nature Geoscience, Published online 22 December 2013.

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Greenland’s Surface Ice Melt

greenland melt extent 2013
An all-time record high temperature for Greenland may have been set in 2013, according to NSIDC.

greenland melt extent 2012-2013 -2
The graph above shows the daily percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet surface that has shown melt, as of August 19, 2013 (red), along with the daily surface melt extent for 2012 (blue) and the average melt extent for 1981 to 2010 (dashed line). Two peak extent days are noted.
Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center/Thomas Mote, University of GeorgiaHigh-resolution image

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Title: Extensive liquid meltwater storage in firn within the Greenland ice sheet
Authors: Richard R. Forster et al.
Abstract:

Mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet contributes significantly to present sea level rise. High meltwater runoff is responsible for half of Greenland’s mass loss. Surface melt has been spreading and intensifying in Greenland, with the highest ever surface area melt and runoff recorded in 2012. However, how surface melt water reaches the ocean, and how fast it does so, is poorly understood. Firn—partially compacted snow from previous years—potentially has the capacity to store significant amounts of melt water in liquid or frozen form, and thus delay its contribution to sea level. Here we present direct observations from ground and airborne radar, as well as ice cores, of liquid water within firn in the southern Greenland ice sheet. We find a substantial amount of water in this firn aquifer that persists throughout the winter, when snow accumulation and melt rates are high. This represents a previously unknown storage mode for water within the ice sheet. We estimate, using a regional climate model, aquifer area at about 70,000km2 and the depth to the top of the water table as 5–50m. The perennial firn aquifer could be important for estimates of ice sheet mass and energy budget.

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Wildfires Consume 120,000 Acres in Nebraska

Posted by feww on July 25, 2012

Red Flag Warnings, Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories are in effect from Kansas and Nebraska to Indiana

Another round of triple digit temperatures affect the central Plains, as National Weather Service warns  about the extreme conditions.

Temperatures are forecast to be 10-15 degrees above average in the central Plains and the Mid-Atlantic, as three wildfires consume at least 120,000 acres in Nebraska, destroying a dozen homes.

U.S. Daily Highest Max Temperature Records set on July 24, 2012


Source: National Climatic Data Center

  • Excess Heat Warnings are in effect for all or parts of 7 states Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.
  • Heat Advisories are in effect for 14 states:  South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • Red Flag Warnings are in effect for parts of Montana, Nebraska and Kansas.

At least 24 high temperature records were broken and 34 tied in a dozen states Monday: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin, NCDC reported.

“The highest temperature readings of the day were reported at 109 degrees in Minneapolis, Kan., and Hebronville, Texas, tying previous records set in 2001 and 2009, respectively,” said NWS.

Other Global Disasters/ Significant Events

  • Greenland. Greenland’s massive ice sheet has thawed over an unusually large area, NASA has said.
    • The thawed area jumped from 40% of the ice sheet to 97% between   July 8 -11.
    • NASA scientists say they are ‘surprised‘ by the speed and scale of  this month’s thaw,  describing the phenomenon as ‘extraordinary.’
    • See also: Thought for the Day: A 2009 Forecast
  • Missouri. Gov. Nixon has declared a state of emergency due to the impact of continued severe heat and drought on agriculture and public health.
    • “Our farmers are suffering tremendous losses in crops and livestock, and we’re seeing more heat-related deaths and emergency room visits, particularly among seniors.” Nixon said. “In addition, we continue to see a high risk of fire from tinderbox conditions, and we are monitoring how the drought is affecting public water supplies and distribution.”
    • The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has reported 25 heat-related deaths between May 1 and July 22, with about 830 heat-related emergency visits to hospitals, reports said.
  • Assam, India.  “The death toll from ethnic violence in northeast India rose to 38 Wednesday after four days of clashes. At least 170,000 villagers have fled from their homes in the remote state of Assam,” said a report.
  • China. “Tens of thousands of people have been summoned to stand guard  protecting dikes in Jingzhou city (Pop: ~ 6.45 million), which lies downstream of the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province. Authorities declared more than 620 kms of river banks as risky along the Yangtze and its tributaries in the city.” Said a report.


Original Caption: Armed police patrol at the Three Gorges Dam, a gigantic hydropower project on the Yangtze River, in Yichang City, central China’s Hubei Province, July 24, 2012. Due to the downpours in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, China’s longest, the Three Gorges Dam experienced its largest flood peak this year on Tuesday, with a peak flow of 70,000 cubic meters of water per second. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

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Posted in Global Disaster watch, global disasters, global disasters 2012, global drought, global heating, global precipitation patterns, global Temperature Anomalies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Greenland Ice Sheet Losing Ice Mass

Posted by feww on March 24, 2010

Greenland Ice Sheet Losing Ice Mass on Northwest Coast: International Study

Greenland ice sheet lost about 1,604 km³ (385 cubic miles) of ice between April 2002 and February 2009, an amount equivalent to about 0.5 mm of sea-level rise each year, researchers say.

Greenland ice sheet has been losing an increasing amount of ice since 2000. Previously most of the loss was concentrated in its southern region, but now the loss is occurring in its northwest coast, a new international study says.


Click image to enlarge.


Greenland Melt Extent, 2005: Konrad Steffen and Russell Huff – Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado at Boulder

Researchers from Denmark Technical Institute’s National Space Institute in Copenhagen and the University of Colorado at Boulder say the ice-loss acceleration started moving up the northwest coast of Greenland in late 2005. “The team drew their conclusions by comparing data from NASA’s Gravity and Recovery Climate Experiment satellite system, or GRACE, with continuous GPS measurements made from long-term sites on bedrock on the edges of the ice sheet.”

The uplift rates of about 4 centimeters  were discovered close to the Thule Air Base on Greenland’s northwest coast between October 2005 to August 2009. “Although the low resolution of GRACE—a swath of about 155 miles, or 250 kilometers across—is not precise enough to pinpoint the source of the ice loss, the fact that the ice sheet is losing mass nearer to the ice sheet margins suggests the flows of Greenland outlet glaciers there are increasing in velocity, said the study authors.” The report said

“When we look at the monthly values from GRACE, the ice mass loss has been very dramatic along the northwest coast of Greenland,” said CU-Boulder physics Professor and study co-author John Wahr, also a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

“This is a phenomenon that was undocumented before this study,” said Wahr. “Our speculation is that some of the big glaciers in this region are sliding downhill faster and dumping more ice in the ocean.”

“These changes on the Greenland ice sheet are happening fast, and we are definitely losing more ice mass than we had anticipated, ” said Isabella Velicogna of the University of California-Irvine, who also is a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We also are seeing this ice mass loss trend in Antarctica, a sign that warming temperatures really are having an effect on ice in Earth’s cold regions.”

Click here for the rest of the report and a computer simulation of Greenland Ice Melt.

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Posted in Ice Mass, ice-loss, ice-loss acceleration, polar ice, sea level rise | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

350 or 450ppm? Neither, Actually!

Posted by feww on June 18, 2008

Submitted by Dione, CASF Member

What would the future be like for my daughter?

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about science books
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love her

What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for
But I know that one and one is two

What a wonderful world this would be

[From a Herman's Hermits song, Wonderful World, lyrics by Cooke/Alpert/Adler. Lyrics may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!]

Creating A Sustainable Future (CASF) received an emotional email from a young mother, “Kay,” who wishes to remain anonymous. Kay has a 6-year-old daughter and lives with her family in NW United States. Kay says she is not high on science, “in all probability the Herman’s Hermits famous song, ‘don’t know much about history, biology, science books, geography, trigonometry, algebra, and slide rule’ was written about me!”

She says her knowledge of climatology is even poorer than her French(!) “But I do know that I love my daughter and husband and ‘what a wonderful world this would be’ if we could rein in the greenhouse gases, and reverse the global warming.”

“I have read a number of articles about CO2 pollution in the atmosphere including a few written by the famed NASA scientist, Dr J. Hansen … but he is a government scientist …”

She wants to know the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere and asks which of the 350, 450, or higher levels of CO2 pollution would be a “safe” level, and whether our reply could be put simply so that a “layperson” could understand the answer.

Hi, Kay – thanks for visiting our blog and email!

The CASF members believe even the lower atmospheric CO2 levels of 350ppm CO2 are unsafe! Here are the reasons why. Our findings put as simply as we could:

  1. Our climate models show that when the atmospheric CO2 levels leaped over the 330ppmv “threshold” in the mid 1970s it triggered a positive feedback loop, which is now impacting the climate. [The atmospheric CO2 inventory has risen by about 17 percent since then.]
  2. The “acid test,” if you’ll excuse the pun, of the accuracy of our models lies in the future, namely how much worse the environmental impacts will be in the 2008-2010 period. If the impacts of CO2 pollution worsened significantly, by a factor of 20% or more, by 2010 (we have a system for quantifying the adverse effects, see Index of Human Impact on Nature for an introduction), as we expect them to do so, then we know our models are accurate.
  3. The catch? By 2010 it would be too late to do anything to slow down the runaway positive feedback system [other than say a prayer for the dead!]
  4. While the preindustrial levels of 260-270ppm were [and they probably still would be ] “safe,” the longer term environmental impacts of CO2 at levels of about 290-300ppm, even if those levels were achievable [assume some miraculous means were introduced to wipe the slate clean,] in the current climatic state are uncertain!
  5. Based on the above, we recommend an immediate shift to zero-emissions, the benefits of which, although by no means immediate, would far outweigh the ultimate cost of playing Russian roulette with climate change.

We hope the above helps. Feel free to visit us anytime!

Best wishes
Dione, FEWW Moderators and rest of CASF Team

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dione

Posted in Climate Change, energy, environment, food, Global Warming, health, politics, Tourism, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Vanishing Lakes

Posted by feww on April 18, 2008

Source: Media Relations

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Washington (UW) have for the first time documented the sudden and complete drainage of a lake of meltwater from the top of the Greenland ice sheet to its base.

From those observations, scientists have uncovered a plumbing system for the ice sheet, where meltwater can penetrate thick, cold ice and accelerate some of the large-scale summer movements of the ice sheet.

According to research by glaciologists Sarah Das of WHOI and Ian Joughin of UW, the lubricating effect of the meltwater can accelerate ice flow 50- to 100 percent in some of the broad, slow-moving areas of the ice sheet.


WHOI glaciologist Sarah Das stands in front of a block of ice that was raised up 6 meters by the sudden drainage of a meltwater lake in Greenland. (Photo by Ian Joughin, UW Polar Science Center)” Image may be copyrighted. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

“We found clear evidence that supraglacial lakes—the pools of meltwater that form on the surface in summer—can actually drive a crack through the ice sheet in a process called hydrofracture,” said Das, an assistant scientist in the WHOI Department of Geology and Geophysics. “If there is a crack or defect in the surface that is large enough, and a sufficient reservoir of water to keep that crack filled, it can create a conduit all the way down to the bed of the ice sheet.”

But the results from Das and Joughin also show that while surface melt plays a significant role in overall ice sheet dynamics, it has a more subdued influence on the fast-moving outlet glaciers (which discharge ice to the ocean) than has frequently been hypothesized. (To learn more about this result, read the corresponding news release from UW.)

The research by Das and Joughin was compiled into two complementary papers and published on April 17 in the online journal Science Express. The papers will be printed in Science magazine on May 9. Full press release Copyright ©2007 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, All Rights Reserved.

Posted in geology, Geophysics, glaciers, hydrofracture, Oceanography | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Only Zero Emissions Would Avert Dangerous Warming

Posted by feww on October 15, 2007

The following is a response to an article in the New Scientist titled Zero emissions needed to avert ‘dangerous’ warming. The response was submitted by The Management School of Restorative Business. The original article is posted below.

RE: Zero emissions needed to avert ‘dangerous’ warming

MSRB concurs with the overall conclusion of the University of Victoria report that the only way to stabilize the temperature is by total elimination of industrial emissions.

However, according to our model, even with the total elimination of industrial emissions effected immediately the temperature would stabilize above 3.2oC probably by 2025.

Further, their timeline appears to be too optimistic. According to our model the global warming “tipping point” occurred in mid 2006, beyond which all changes are irreversible [in the short run.] We expect to experience catastrophic climatic events starting by 2009-2010. By as early as 2015, we believe dramatic ecosystems collapses including ozone holes, global heating, extreme climatic events, toxic pollution, depletion of food and natural resources, unethical conduct, war and disease pandemics would result in the depopulation of most of our population clusters.

The world entered a double exponential* phase in 1980, when Earth’s “torching energy,” exceeded 9.51 terawatts {q[torch] > 9.51TW.} According to MSRB model the countdown toward the Earth’s “Terminal Energy” had started. The q[torch] for the first half 2007 averaged at 16.8TW. See http://msrb.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/the-point-of-no-return/ and http://msrb.wordpress.com/stop-burning-earth/

*[Note: Double exponential functions grow even faster than exponential functions.]

Apart from the obvious political reasons, most climate models are fundamentally flawed because they (i) use tired old formula to “predict” the future changes based on empirical analysis, (ii) base their calculations on the “official” data, (iii) are “one-dimensional” and therefore unable to model accurately or forecast the behavior of sophisticated, highly interdependent systems such as Earth’s ecosystems.

The best [and the only intelligent] course of action on global and national levels would be an immediate “powerdown” to the “safe” energy consumption levels of about 60EJ, while allocating most of the resources to creating low-energy communities that provide food, shelter, education and safety for as many people as possible.

The Management School of
Restorative Business (MSRB)

Related Links:

Original Article:

http://environment.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn12775&print=true

Zero emissions needed to avert dangerous warming
16:56 11 October 2007
NewScientist.com news service
Catherine Brahic

Only the total elimination of industrial emissions will succeed in imiting climate change to a 20C rise in temperatures, according to omputer analysis of climate change. Anything above this target has been identified as “dangerous” by some scientists, and the limit has been adopted by many policymakers.

The researchers say their study highlights the shortcomings of governmental plans to limit climate change.

A warming of 20C above pre-industrial temperatures is frequently cited as the limit beyond which the world will face “dangerous” climate change. Beyond this level, analysis suggests the continents will cease to absorb more carbon dioxide than they produce. As the tundra and other regions of permafrost thaw, they will spew more gas into the atmosphere, adding to the warming effect of human emissions.

The end result will be dramatic ecological changes, including widespread coastal flooding, reduced food production, and widespread species extinction.

Established model

In January 2007, the European Commission issued a communication stating that “the European Union’s objective is to limit global average temperature increase to less than 20C compared to pre-industrial levels”.

Andrew Weaver and colleagues at the University of Victoria in Canada say this means going well beyond the reduction of industrial emissions discussed in international negotiations.

Weaver’s team used a computer model to determine how much emissions must be limited in order to avoid exceeding a 20C increase. The model is an established tool for analysing future climate change and was used in studies cited in the IPCC’s reports on climate change.

They modelled the reduction of industrial emissions below 2006 levels by between 20% and 100% by 2050. Only when emissions were entirely eliminated did the temperature increase remain below 20C.

A 100% reduction of emissions saw temperature change stabilise at 1.50C above the pre-industrial figure. With a 90% reduction by 2050, Weaver’s model predicted that temperature change will eventually exceed 20C compared to pre-industrial temperatures but then plateau.

Stark contrast

The researchers conclude that governments should consider reducing emissions to 90% below current levels and remove what is left in the atmosphere by capturing and storing carbon (see Chemical ‘sponge’ could filter CO2 from air).

There is a stark contrast between this proposal and the measures currently being considered. Under the UN’s Kyoto protocol, most developed nations have agreed to limit their emissions to a minimum of 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. What happens beyond this date is the subject of ongoing debate and negotiation.

The European Union nations have agreed to limit their emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and support dropping global emissions to 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.

“There is a disconnect between the European Union arguing for a 20C threshold and calling for 50% cuts at 2050 – you can’t have it both ways,” says Weaver, who adds: “If you’re going to talk about 20C you have got to be talking 90% emissions cuts.”

Vanishing point

Tim Lenton, a climatologist at the University of East Anglia in the UK, agrees that even the most ambitious climate change policies so far proposed by governments may not go far enough. “It is overly simplistic assume we can take emissions down to 50% at 2050 and just hold them there. We already know that that’s not going to work,” he says.

Even with emissions halved, Lenton says carbon dioxide will continue building up in the atmosphere and temperatures will continue to rise. For temperature change to stabilise, he says industrial carbon emissions must not exceed what can be absorbed by Earth’s vegetation, soil and oceans.

At the moment, about half of industrial emissions are absorbed by ocean and land carbon “sinks”. But simply cutting emissions by half will not solve the problem, Lenton says, because these sinks also grow and shrink as CO2 emissions change.

“People are easily misled into thinking that 50% by 2050 is all we have to do when in fact have to continue reducing emissions afterwards, all the way down to zero,” Lenton says.

Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters ( DOI: 0.1029/2007GL031018 )

Fair Use Notice: See Article 107, CHAPTER 1, TITLE 17 of U.S. Copyright Code

Posted in collapse, double exponential phase, ecosystems, environment, fossil fuels, Global Warming, lifestyle, Zero emissions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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