The Arctic’s grand reveal

The Arctic’s grand reveal

SOURCE: University of Alaska Fairbanks DATE: December 12, 2019 SNIP: “This green line looks like the death of permafrost — it’s flatlining,” Louise Farquharson said to an audience of a few dozen scientists. Her reserved tone hid a bombshell message — by 2035 permafrost thaw may continue on its own, disregarding the processes that have kept it frozen for thousands of years. Farquharson is a research associate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. She is an expert on permafrost, the parts of the ground that stay frozen for at least two consecutive years. Permafrost thaw causes the ground surface to sink, which leads to infrastructure damage, accelerates microbial activity and releases carbon and other gases into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming even more. Most experts suggest permafrost thaw will continue and even speed up as we go into the next century. However, calculated rates of thaw may be far lower than what will really happen. According to Farquharson, a key accelerating factor in permafrost thaw has been dramatically underestimated. “It’s the Arctic’s ‘grand reveal,’” Farquarson said. “We thought we saw what was happening, then it really stepped out from behind the curtain.” This factor is called talik, thawed zones in permafrost areas. The mixture of wet, frigid dirt is commonly associated with Arctic thermokarst lakes that form when enough ice-rich permafrost thaws to create a body of water. The talik beneath these lakes significantly contributes to the thawing process. Just as icewater melts faster than a lone cube of ice, the waterlogged ground accelerates thawing of the permafrost around it. Normally talik has been thought of as...
Climate change: Greenland ice melt ‘is accelerating’

Climate change: Greenland ice melt ‘is accelerating’

SOURCE: BBC DATE: December 10, 2019 SNIP: Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than it was in the 1990s. The assessment comes from an international team of polar scientists who’ve reviewed all the satellite observations over a 26-year period. They say Greenland’s contribution to sea-level rise is currently tracking what had been regarded as a pessimistic projection of the future. It means an additional 7cm of ocean rise could now be expected by the end of the century from Greenland alone. This threatens to put many millions more people in low-lying coastal regions at risk of flooding. It’s estimated roughly a billion live today less than 10m above current high-tide lines, including 250 million below 1m. “Storms, if they happen against a baseline of higher seas – they will break flood defences,” said Prof Andy Shepherd, of Leeds University. “The simple formula is that around the planet, six million people are brought into a flooding situation for every centimetre of sea-level rise. So, when you hear about a centimetre rise, it does have impacts,” he told BBC News. Whereas in the early 90s, the rate of loss was equivalent to about 1mm per decade, it is now running at roughly 7mm per decade. Imbie team-member Dr Ruth Mottram is affiliated to the Danish Meteorological Institute. She said: “Greenland is losing ice in two main ways – one is by surface melting and that water runs off into the ocean; and the other is by the calving of icebergs and then melting where the ice is in contact with the ocean. The long-term contribution from these two processes is...
Greenland ice losses rising faster than expected

Greenland ice losses rising faster than expected

SOURCE: Phys.org DATE: December 10, 2019 SNIP: Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than in the 1990s and is tracking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s high-end climate warming scenario, which would see 400 million more people exposed to coastal flooding by 2100. A team of 96 polar scientists from 50 international organisations have produced the most complete picture of Greenland ice loss to date. The Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) Team combined 26 separate surveys to compute changes in the mass of Greenland’s ice sheet between 1992 and 2018. Altogether, data from 11 different satellite missions were used, including measurements of the ice sheet’s changing volume, flow and gravity. The findings, published today in Nature today, show that Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992—enough to push global sea levels up by 10.6 millimetres. The rate of ice loss has risen from 33 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 254 billion tonnes per year in the last decade—a seven-fold increase within three decades. The assessment, led by Professor Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds and Dr. Erik Ivins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Professor Shepherd said: “As a rule of thumb, for every centimetre rise in global sea level another six million people are exposed to coastal flooding around the planet.” “On current trends, Greenland ice melting will cause 100 million people to be flooded each year by the end of the century, so 400 million in total due to...
The Arctic may have crossed key threshold, emitting billions of tons of carbon into the air, in a long-dreaded climate feedback

The Arctic may have crossed key threshold, emitting billions of tons of carbon into the air, in a long-dreaded climate feedback

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: December 10, 2019 SNIP: The Arctic is undergoing a profound, rapid and unmitigated shift into a new climate state, one that is greener, features far less ice and emits greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, according to a major new federal assessment of the region released Tuesday. The consequences of these climate shifts will be felt far outside the Arctic in the form of altered weather patterns, increased greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea levels from the melting Greenland ice sheet and mountain glaciers. The findings are contained in the 2019 Arctic Report Card, a major federal assessment of climate change trends and impacts throughout the region. The study paints an ominous picture of a region lurching to an entirely new and unfamiliar environment. Especially noteworthy is the report’s conclusion that the Arctic already may have become a net emitter of planet-warming carbon emissions due to thawing permafrost, which would only accelerate global warming. Permafrost is the carbon-rich frozen soil that covers 24 percent of the Northern Hemisphere’s land mass, encompassing vast stretches of territory across Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland. There has been concern throughout the scientific community that the approximately 1,460 billion to 1,600 billion metric tons of organic carbon stored in frozen Arctic soils, almost twice the amount of greenhouse gases as what is contained in the atmosphere, could be released as the permafrost melts. [T]he report concludes permafrost ecosystems could be releasing as much as 1.1 billion to 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. This is almost as much as the annual emissions of Japan and Russia in 2018,...
Russia finds market for its vast reserves of Arctic coal

Russia finds market for its vast reserves of Arctic coal

SOURCE: The Barents Observer DATE: November 1, 2019 SNIP: It was not alternative and green power that was discussed when Indian Minister of oil, natural gas and steel Dharmendra Debendra Pradhan visited Russia last month. The minister was on a four-day tour in the Russian Far East and he had with him a powerful delegation of leaders from the country’s biggest industrial companies. It was coal that was on top of Mr Pradhan’s agenda as he sat down with Russian government officials and business representatives. “Our negotiations must end with a successful project decision on the development of metallurgic coal, that is to be exported from Russia,” the minster said in a meeting with the Russian Ministry of the Far East and Arctic. According to Pradhan, India needs about 70 million tons of high-quality coal for its aluminum and steel industry. Pradhan and the Indian business leaders are looking towards the Russian Arctic, where they will find all the carbon-rich rocks they ever might need. Several new major mining projects are under development in the remote northern region. Among them is the projects of company Vostok Coal in the Taymyr Peninsula. Vostok Coal plans to extract an annual 30 million tons of anthracite, a high-quality coal, from its fields in Taymyr. Since 2016, the company has prepared the ground for a huge industrial project that includes several open pits and the building of seaports, roads and other infrastructure. Coal India Limited is the largest coal-producing company in the world. It produces more than 500 million tons of raw coal per year and accounts for for more than 80 percent...