Greenland Fires Ignite Climate Change Fears

Greenland Fires Ignite Climate Change Fears

SOURCE: AGU Eos DATE: Aug 11, 2017 SNIP: In a real clash of fire and ice, a massive wildfire in southern Greenland has captured the world’s attention. Although the current fire’s cause remains a mystery, peat from thawed permafrost could be its fuel, said Jessica McCarty, a geographer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who specializes in geospatial analysis of wildfires. Permafrost, or permanently frozen soil, lies under multiple meters of an “active” soil layer that thaws seasonally. But in certain areas, when ice within the thawing permafrost layer melts, it can expose peat, a material that forms after decomposing plants get smashed down for centuries. The peat is made up of organic matter, most notably carbon, McCarty said. Given how readily it burns, she added, it’s almost like one giant charcoal briquette. If the fire is being fueled by thawed permafrost, there may be underlying climate change implications, McCarty continued. “The climate change [connection] is that there would be no fires here in Greenland if there were no fuel, and the only way that there’s fuel is if the permafrost is [thawed].” “Personally, this is very disturbing to me,” McCarty said, because the fire indicates significant permafrost degradation “sooner than [scientists] thought it would happen.” Researchers project significant permafrost loss in Greenland by the end of the century. Not 2017, she...
There’s a Wildfire Burning in West Greenland Right Now

There’s a Wildfire Burning in West Greenland Right Now

SOURCE: Climate Central and Think Progress DATE: Aug 7, 2017 UPDATE: There are actually two wildfires burning in Greenland. SOURCE: Wild Fire Today SNIP: It’s not just the American West and British Columbia burning up. A fire has sparked in western Greenland, an odd occurrence for an island known more for ice than fire. A series of blazes is burning roughly in the vicinity of Kangerlussuaq, a small town that serves as a basecamp for researchers in the summer to access Greenland’s ice sheet and western glaciers. The largest fire has burned roughly 3,000 acres and sent smoke spiraling a mile into the sky, prompting hunting and hiking closures in the area, according to local news reports. There’s no denying that it’s weird to be talking about wildfires in Greenland because ice covers the majority of the island. Forests are basically nonexistent and this fire appears to be burning through grasses, willows and other low-slung vegetation on the tundra that makes up the majority of the land not covered by...
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...
Forget That Big Iceberg–A Smaller One in the Arctic Is More Troubling

Forget That Big Iceberg–A Smaller One in the Arctic Is More Troubling

SOURCE: Scientific American DATE: July 31, 2017 SNIP: The world saw headlines about one of the largest icebergs ever calved a few weeks ago. But a smaller one on the other end of the globe might have bigger consequences. The chunk of ice, which broke free in the Arctic last week, is more worrisome to climate scientists who are watching one of Earth’s largest glaciers shed pieces in a way that stands to raise sea levels. Movement of the Petermann Glacier has sped up in recent years, dumping land-based ice into the ocean at a faster rate and drawing more ice down from the center of Greenland, said Laurence Dyke, a researcher at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Meanwhile, the ice shelf that braces it and slows the rate of flow is disintegrating as climate change transforms the region. “You could call it the canary in the coal mine. If that big glacier there is changing quickly, and it is, it’s a worrying sign for what’s happening in the rest of Greenland,” he...
A major glacier in Greenland might be breaking apart

A major glacier in Greenland might be breaking apart

SOURCE: Grist and Icy Seas DATE: July 26, 2017 SNIP: “I am disturbed by new ocean data from Greenland every morning before breakfast these days.” — Andreas Muenchow A major glacier in Greenland might be breaking apart. That’s the buzz this week in the polar science community after a big new iceberg emerged at Petermann Glacier in far northwest Greenland. Scientists first spotted an extensive network of cracks in Petermann earlier this year. The worry is that those cracks may widen during the next few weeks, the warmest part of the short Greenland summer. — Eric...