Europe’s record heat melted Swiss glaciers

Europe’s record heat melted Swiss glaciers

SOURCE: Science DATE: August 5, 2019 SNIP: The sweltering heat wave that roasted much of Europe last month has since moved north, where it’s wreaking havoc on the Greenland ice sheet. But while all eyes are currently trained on the Arctic ice, scientists are finding that Europe’s coldest places have also suffered. According to initial findings from the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network (GLAMOS), Swiss glaciers experienced unusually high melt rates during the last heat wave, which occurred in late July, and an earlier heat wave that struck the continent in late June. Matthias Huss, a glaciologist with Swiss University ETH Zurich and head of GLAMOS, tweeted last week that the nation’s glaciers lost about 800 million metric tons of ice during the two heat waves alone. During the winter, the region received an above-average amount of snowfall, Huss pointed out. So the glaciers actually started the summer with a high level of snow cover and were doing “extraordinarily well” compared to the last few seasons, which have logged particularly strong losses, he noted. Scientists were hopeful that they’d end the season on a better note than the last few years. But once the first heat wave struck, the snow began to rapidly melt away. “Now, because of these two heat waves, we have tracked very fast downward,” Huss told E&E News. “And we are now at the average of the last 10 years, or even already a bit below.” Summers like this one, marked by extraordinary heat waves and high levels of melt, only exacerbate the problem. “Now we are really seeing almost every year another extreme year,” Huss...
Heat wave over Greenland causing massive ice melt

Heat wave over Greenland causing massive ice melt

SOURCE: CBC DATE: August 1, 2019 SNIP: The heat wave that smashed high temperature records in five European countries a week ago is now over Greenland, accelerating the melting of the island’s ice sheet and causing massive ice loss in the Arctic. Greenland, the world’s largest island, is a semi-autonomous Danish territory between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans that has 82 per cent of its surface covered in ice. The area of the Greenland ice sheet that is showing indications of melt has been growing daily, and hit a record 56.5 per cent for this year on Wednesday, said Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute. She says that’s expected to expand and peak on Thursday before cooler temperatures slow the pace of the melt. More than 10 billion tonnes of ice was lost to the oceans by surface melt on Wednesday alone, creating a net mass ice loss of some 197 billion tonnes from Greenland in July, she said. The scope of Wednesday’s ice melt is a number difficult to grasp. To understand just how much ice is being lost, a mere one billion tonnes — or one gigatonne — of ice loss is equivalent to about 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, the Danish Meteorological Institute said. And 100 billion tonnes corresponds to a 0.28 mm rise in global sea...
Alaskan glaciers melting 100 times faster than previously thought

Alaskan glaciers melting 100 times faster than previously thought

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: July 25, 2019 SNIP: A new way of measuring how some glaciers melt below the surface of the water has uncovered a surprising realization: Some glaciers are melting a hundred times faster than scientists thought they were. In a new study published today in Science, a team of oceanographers and glaciologists unpeeled a new layer of understanding of tidewater glaciers—glaciers that end in the ocean—and their dynamic processes. “They’ve really discovered that the melt that’s happening is fairly dramatically different from some of the assumptions we’ve had,” says Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder who was uninvolved with the study. Some of this calving and glacial melt is a normal process that glaciers undergo during seasonal transitions from winter to summer, and even through the summer. But a warming climate accelerates glacier melting across the globe, potentially through melting across the surface of the glacier, but also through underwater melting. Glaciers can extend hundreds of feet below the surface, explained Ellyn Enderlin, a glaciologist at Boise State University who was not involved with the study. Finding higher rates of submarine melting tells us that “glaciers are a lot more sensitive to ocean change than we’ve even thought.” Understanding the melting processes and calculating the amount of melt accurately is essential for planning for sea level...
Lake discovered 11,000ft high in the Alps, in ‘truly alarming’ sign of climate change

Lake discovered 11,000ft high in the Alps, in ‘truly alarming’ sign of climate change

SOURCE: Independent DATE: July 17, 2019 SNIP: A mountaineer has captured the formation of an “alarming” lake high in the French Alps after glacial snow melted in the intense heatwave that gripped central Europe in late June. Bryan Mestre was shocked to discover the large pool of water at an altitude of 11,100ft (3,400m) in the Mount Blanc mountain range – claiming the unusual sight was a worrying sign. Scientists have warned that heatwaves in Europe are becoming increasingly frequent, with the intense temperatures linked to climate change. “Time to sound the alarm,” said Mr Mestre. “Only 10 days of extreme heat were enough to collapse, melt and form a lake at the base of the Dent du Géant and the Aiguilles Marbrées.” He added: “This is truly alarming … glaciers all over the world are melting at an exponential speed.” Data released by the satellite agency showed Europe’s average ​temperatures were more than 2C above normal, and temperatures were between 6C and 10C above normal over most of France, Germany and northern Spain during the final days of the...
Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible

Glacial melting in Antarctica may become irreversible

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: July 9, 2019 SNIP: Antarctica faces a tipping point where glacial melting will accelerate and become irreversible even if global heating eases, research suggests. A Nasa-funded study found instability in the Thwaites glacier meant there would probably come a point when it was impossible to stop it flowing into the sea and triggering a 50cm sea level rise. Other Antarctic glaciers were likely to be similarly unstable. Recent research found the rate of ice loss from five Antarctic glaciers had doubled in six years and was five times faster than in the 1990s. Ice loss is spreading from the coast into the continent’s interior, with a reduction of more than 100 metres in thickness at some sites. The Thwaites glacier, part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, is believed to pose the greatest risk for rapid future sea level rise. Research recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found it was likely to succumb to instability linked to the retreat of its grounding line on the seabed that would lead to it shedding ice faster than previously expected. Alex Robel, an assistant professor at the US Georgia Institute of Technology and the study’s leader, said if instability was triggered, the ice sheet could be lost in the space of 150 years, even if temperatures stopped rising. “It will keep going by itself and that’s the worry,” he said. Modelling simulations suggested extensive ice loss would start in 600 years but the researchers said it could occur sooner depending on the pace of global heating and nature of the...