Lakes expanding ‘dangerously’ in Everest glacier

It’s perhaps no surprise, once you read it.  The sad surprise is that so many, even though all the leaves are falling, still proclaim “there is no autumn!  It’s nothing but a hoax.”

“A decade or so ago, there were individual ponds on the Khumbu glacier but in the past five years or so they have begun to get larger and join up,” said Ann Rowan, who led the field study team from the universities of Sheffield and Leeds.

Climate Glacier Melt

Dr Rowan’s team has been studying the behaviour of debris-covered glaciers, focusing on Khumbu.

“Particularly, on the left hand side of the lower reaches of the glacier, there is a series of about seven or eight large ponds that are now starting to link and form a big chain,” she told the BBC.

“There is water flowing from the upper part of the glacier through the series of these ponds and that is going to encourage them to join up.

“At present, the glacier appears to be disintegrating, and may form a few large and potentially hazardous lakes on the glacier surface.”

Not only are the lakes dangerous because of what they signal, but because of what they are becoming — soon large enough to blow through natural and artificial water controls and cause catastrophe to the human communities in the way.

BBC Science and Environment

Why? Because:

 Average levels of carbon dioxide exceeded 400 parts per million in the early months of 2015, a rise of 43 percent over pre-industrial levels. according to The World Meteorological Organization, in an annual accounting of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere… WaPo

And besides the glaciers, what is going on?

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2015 was the highest for September in the 136-year period of record, at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F), surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F). This marks the fifth consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set and is the highest departure from average for any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880. NOAA

Glacier Leaping

The Mendenhall glacier, 14 miles from downtown Juneau, Alaska is doing more than looking blue and pretty while slowly slipping into the sea.  It seems to be lifting its skirts and preparing for a run, in fact. There is even a name for this, which happens nearby many glaciers as water accumulation, in the warming climate, builds up faster then the old channels can release it: jokulhlaup, is an Icelandic word usually translated as “glacier leap.”

As water builds up in [a] basin and seeks an outlet, it can actually lift portions of the glacier ever so slightly, and in that lift, the water finds a release. Under the vast pressure of the ice bearing down upon it, the water explodes out into the depths of Mendenhall Lake and from there into the river.

NY Times

Home on the Mendhenhall River is surrounded by water on Thursday, July 21, 2011.

Home on the Mendhenhall River is surrounded by water on Thursday, July 21, 2011.

This would be totally cool to see, if not for one thing:  400,000 tourists a year come to Juneau to have a look at the glacier.  It is sort of a ‘drive by’ glacier as one local calls it; no interminable mushing though sub zero temperatures or dropping out of the sky in flimsy 4 seater airplanes.  Nope: walk, snap a photo, leave.  Except for this jumping business.  It’s not just a little spray, or slight gob.  It’s ‘ an estimated 10 billion gallons‘ pouring out in three days.  Calculated into CFS (cubic feet per second), the typical way river flow is measured, this is about 5,000 cfs — the Colorado, down river from the Glenn Canyon dam.  Not terrifying, unless impeded by boulders, or buildings in downtown Juneau.

And it is happening enough, and strongly enough, (here and here) that the city fathers can smell terror coming on.

This summer, glacier-monitoring intensified. A pressure transducer to gauge water buildup, partly paid for by the city, was installed in a deep crack on the edge of the basin, with a satellite link sending back real-time data about the glacier’s hidden waterworks. A time-lapse camera was also positioned at the main pooling site for the first time to track bulges in the ice that could suggest dammed-up water.

No word yet from Alaska’s former governor whether she thinks this is due to a) the Russians, B) Climate Change or C) Liberal News Media.  She might do a write in option D) It’s Not Happening, because people wading through 3 feet of water is proof of nothing….


Mendenhall Glacier: Then (1894) and Now (2008)

Mendenhall Glacier: Then (1894) and Now (2008)


Glaciers Dropping By Hundreds of Feet

Nick Kristoff departs his usual beat to remind us once again (not yet enough it appears) of the effects of climate change — high mountain glacier melt.

[David] Breashears first reached the top of Everest in 1983, and in many subsequent trips to the region he noticed the topography changing, the glaciers shrinking. So he dug out archive photos from early Himalayan expeditions, and then journeyed across ridges and crevasses to photograph from the exact same spots.

The pairs of matched photographs, old and new, are staggering. Time and again, the same glaciers have shrunk drastically in every direction, often losing hundreds of feet in height.

“I was just incredulous,” he told me. “We took measurements with laser rangefinders to measure the loss of height of the glaciers. The drop was often the equivalent of a 35- or 40-story building.”

See particularly the comparison photos of the Kyetrak glacier in Tibet. As Kristoff says:

We Americans have been galvanized by the oil spill on our gulf coast, because we see tar balls and dead sea birds as visceral reminders of our hubris in deep sea drilling. The melting glaciers should be a similar warning of our hubris — and of the consequences that the earth will face for centuries unless we address carbon emissions today.

See the Asia Society show he refers to.

On Thin Ice

PBS NOW ran an hour long show on big glacier melt — at the head of the Ganges in India, and Glacier Park, Montana. A bit of an odd mix of adventure and easy to digest scientific observations, but worth a quiet hour. The take away — we are in very bad shape. The source of the Ganges may be gone in 20 years or so — and it won’t just affect poor Indians.

Thin Ice

Where the Glacier Once Reached

Where the Glacier Once Reached

Winter Glacier Calving