The Big Melt is Getting Bigger

Several big news dailies featured top-of-the-fold photographs of the most recent evidence of greater than expected ice melt in the arctic, which will lead inexorably to rising oceans and population dislocation of massive proportions.

One story is about new discoveries in the east antarctic.  A major glacier, characterized as the bath plug for much of the continental snow and ice is melting faster than previously known, from below.

Climate Change totten-infographic

Read all in Washington Post

The other story was at the opposite end of the globe, in Greenland where a team of scientists has been dropped in to take measurements of the size and flow of an enormous snow-river

in the  the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on Earth, [which] will drive up sea levels in the coming decades. The full melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet.

Very good graphic display of what is happening and why knowing more about it is so important.

Arctic Sea Ice Melt — Like Leaving the World’s Refrigerator Door Open

Sea ice 1979 v 2012


Before the GOP climate deniers die there won’t be enough ice in the Arctic to shake a good martini in, though that will be the least of their, and our, problems.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported Monday that the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to 1.58 million square miles and is likely to melt more in the coming weeks. That breaks the old record of 1.61 million square miles set in 2007.

While melting Arctic ice, by itself, won’t significantly move sea levels -as melting Antarctic or Greenland ice, running off of landmass into the ocean, will– plenty of other problems will occupy inventive minds.  The melt, while the cause of some events,  described below, is also the result of other causes, which are having results other than ice melt.

“Why do we care?,” Abdalati, an ice scientist, asked. “This ice has been an important factor in determining the climate and weather conditions under which modern civilization has evolved.”

Scientists sometimes call the Arctic the world’s refrigerator and this is like leaving the fridge door open, Scambos said.

“This is kind of a knob on global weather,” Wagner said. “We don’t know the impact yet” of fiddling with it.

Scientists say Arctic sea ice helps moderate temperatures further south in the winter and summer. A study earlier this year in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters linked some of the factors behind Arctic sea ice loss to higher probabilities of extreme weather “such as drought, flooding, cold spells and heat waves.”

Read more at SF Gate


Reflectivity in Greenland Ice Sheet Declining; Melting Speeding

Mitt Romney will not believe this, so it would be a good thing — if you believe it– that he not be elected President.


… new findings show that the reflectivity of the Greenland ice sheet, particularly the high-elevation areas where snow typically accumulates year-round, have reached a record low since records began in 2000. This indicates that the ice sheet is absorbing more energy than normal, potentially leading to another record melt year — just two years after the 2010 record melt season.

“In this condition, the ice sheet will continue to absorb more solar energy in a self-reinforcing feedback loop that amplifies the effect of warming,”

Greenland Ice at Tipping Point

Ice 4x Size of Manhattan Breaks off Greenland Glacier

A 100-square-mile block of ice 600 feet thick has calved off one of the largest ocean-bordering glaciers in Greenland. The Arctic hasn’t lost a chunk of ice that big since 1962.

“In the early morning hours of August 5, an ice island four times the size of Manhattan was born in northern Greenland,” oceanographer Andreas Muenchow of University of Delaware said in a press release August 6. “The freshwater stored in this ice island could keep the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for more than two years. It could also keep all U.S. public tap water flowing for 120 days.”

Read More at Wired Science

How big?  Very big.  Very thick.  Very rare.

For great from-space views of glaciers in their natural states go here.

Greenland Rising

Thought you’d like to know….

The ice is melting so fast in Greenland that the giant island is rising noticeably as the weight is lifted. In some spots, the land is rising 1 inch per year.

A vast ice cap covers much of Greenland, in some places up to 1.2 miles (2 km) thick. The ice, in place for eons, presses down the land, making the elevation at any given point lower than it would be sans ice.

Scientists have documented on Greenland and elsewhere that when longstanding ice melts away, the land rebounds. Even the European Alps are rising as glaciers melt.

Now, scientists at the University of Miami say Greenland’s ice is melting so quickly that the land underneath is rising at an accelerated pace.

Live Science

2 Trillion Tons of Ice — Gone

“New satellite data presented by NASA scientists shows the loss of an estimated 2 trillion tons of ice from Greenland, the Antarctic and the North Poll: proof positive of global warming’s dramatic effects, they claimed.

“‘More than half of the loss of landlocked ice in the past five years has occurred in Greenland, based on measurements of ice weight by NASA’s GRACE satellite,’ said NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke, in a report by the Environmental News Network.

The Greenland melting, added Luthcke, appears to be accelerating.

One immediate effect of this progressive melting is a spike in the intensity and frequency of massive wildfires in the American West, according to one expert who says more than half of the region could be claimed by fire in the next century.

Tom Swetnam, a leading fire ecologist at the University of Arizona, told CBS’s 60 Minutes that a temperature increase in the West of just one degree had contributed to a four-fold increase in fires in the area.”

Raw Story

One thing I haven’t seen talked about is where the ex ice has gone to. Is it ocean water, and thus accounts for the sea rise? Is it atmospheric water and does that contribute to, or diminish heat entrapment? If in the atmosphere what determines its distribution and does the greater load in some places contribute to the increased rain we are seeing? Does a greater load have an effect on the major wind patterns?