Warm waters tripled the amount of ice lost in these Antarctic glaciers — and that’s bad for sea level rise

Warm waters tripled the amount of ice lost in these Antarctic glaciers — and that’s bad for sea level rise

SOURCE: The Verge DATE: September 26, 2017 SNIP: Between 2008 and 2012, warmer than usual waters caused four glaciers in Western Antarctica to flow toward the sea faster than any other glacier on the continent. The glaciers also lost more than three times the amount of ice than usual, according to new research. All these changes are bad news for Antarctica — and us. As grounded glaciers melt, sea levels around the world rise. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) found that 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual waters in the area doubled the glaciers’ speed toward the sea, and more than tripled the amount of ice they lost — up to 33 feet a year, from 7 to 10 feet a year. Today’s study is the first one to show that warmer waters aren’t just affecting floating ice — they’re already also causing melting in those grounded glaciers that have the potential to raise sea levels, says study co-author Catherine Walker, a NASA postdoctoral fellow at JPL. “This is the first time that we could see something directly affecting glaciers that are on land, that are in contact with the ocean but not floating,” Walker tells The...
As ice thaws, rock avalanches on Southeast Alaska mountains are getting bigger

As ice thaws, rock avalanches on Southeast Alaska mountains are getting bigger

SOURCE: Alaska Dispatch News DATE: September 19, 2017 SNIP: A study of rock avalanches in the western part of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve found that the likelihood of large slides covering about 2 square miles has at least doubled in the last five years. As the climate has warmed, characteristics of the region’s rock avalanches have changed, says the study, published in Landslides, the journal of the International Consortium on Landslides. “They’re bigger, and they’re traveling farther,” said lead author Jeffrey Coe, a U.S. Geological Survey landslide expert based in Colorado. The likely reason, says the study, is thaw of the ice that fills the mountains’ rock cracks, crevices and fractures, referred to as “rock-permafrost,” abetted by melt of the region’s glaciers and the particular structures of the slopes. The rock-permafrost helps hold steep slopes intact, so thaw or even softening of that ice destabilizes the rock, Coe said. “You can get ice degradation below freezing,” he said. Glacial thinning is likely a secondary factor, he said. Thinned glaciers are less effective at propping up mountain faces, he said. “In many places, you have a de-buttressing effect of the ice loss,” he said. The study correlates the increasing size of Glacier Bay rock avalanches to a long-term warming trend. The large avalanches began about two years after the area’s annual maximum temperature shifted above freezing, the study points...
Scientists discover 91 volcanoes below Antarctic ice sheet

Scientists discover 91 volcanoes below Antarctic ice sheet

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: Aug 12, 2017 SNIP: Scientists have uncovered the largest volcanic region on Earth – two kilometres below the surface of the vast ice sheet that covers west Antarctica. The project, by Edinburgh University researchers, has revealed almost 100 volcanoes – with the highest as tall as the Eiger, which stands at almost 4,000 metres in Switzerland. “If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica’s ice sheets,” said glacier expert Robert Bingham, one of the paper’s authors. “Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea.” The discovery is particularly important because the activity of these volcanoes could have crucial implications for the rest of the planet. If one erupts, it could further destabilise some of the region’s ice sheets, which have already been affected by global warming. Meltwater outflows into the Antarctic ocean could trigger sea level rises. “We just don’t know about how active these volcanoes have been in the past,” Bingham said. However, he pointed to one alarming trend: “The most volcanism that is going in the world at present is in regions that have only recently lost their glacier covering – after the end of the last ice age. These places include Iceland and Alaska.” “Theory suggests that this is occurring because, without ice sheets on top of them, there is a release of pressure on the regions’ volcanoes and they become more...
As glaciers melt, ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ watches its history seep away

As glaciers melt, ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ watches its history seep away

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: Aug 10, 2017 SNIP: Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in southeast Iceland is one of the country’s top attractions. It is also a vivid warning of the glacier’s predicted disappearance, a devastating consequence of climate change in a nation where these slow-moving rivers of ice are a cultural and social touchstone. It looks centuries old, but the lagoon only appeared in the mid-1930s when the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started to retreat. Declared a nature reserve in July, it is now the country’s deepest lake and growing bigger every day. Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap and the source of Breiðamerkurjökull, is thinning rapidly due to rising global temperatures and could be completely gone in 200 years, scientists say. Other glaciers may vanish much earlier. “All glaciers in Iceland are retreating at an unprecedented pace,” said Oddur Sigurðsson, a geologist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) who has studied them for 30 years. The ice contains “a thousand years of history” about volcanoes and the climate, he noted, encapsulating “the entire history of Icelanders”. “We expect the glaciers will completely disappear within 200 years, so we are losing five years of history every year,” he said. “Their history is something we must retrieve before they...
Greenland Ice Sheet Likely Contains High Levels Of Anthropogenic Pollutants

Greenland Ice Sheet Likely Contains High Levels Of Anthropogenic Pollutants

SOURCE: Clean Technica DATE: Aug 6, 2017 SNIP: The Greenland ice sheet is likely to be heavily contaminated with various globally emitted pollutants — such as PCBs, mercury, lead, PAHs, etc. — according to new research published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. So, despite its image as a relatively pristine environment, Greenland is already heavily contaminated by industrial activity, which means that, as the ice sheet there thaws, surrounding waters are going to experience an influx of dangerous pollutants. This isn’t too surprising, as much recent research has shown that the Arctic, owing to various patterns of atmospheric circulation, is now home to very high levels of industrially emitted mercury pollution. Other seemingly remote parts of the world, such as the Himalaya mountains, are also known to now be home (in the ice, snow pack, etc.) to very high levels of industrial pollutants. Lead researcher, Dr Aviaja Hauptmann of the University of Greenland, commented: “Globally emitted contaminants accumulate in the Arctic and are stored in the frozen environments of the cryosphere, essentially meaning they have become reservoirs of toxic...