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Greenland ice melting – a big contributor to sea level rise

Melting Greenland ice now source of 25% of sea level rise, researchers say, Japan Times, AFP-JIJI, JUN 27, 2017 Ocean levels rose 50 percent faster in 2014 than in 1993, with meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet now supplying 25 percent of total sea level increase compared with just 5 percent 20 years earlier, researchers reported Monday.

The findings add to growing concern among scientists that the global watermark is climbing more rapidly than forecast only a few years ago, with potentially devastating consequences.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world live in low-lying deltas that are vulnerable, especially when rising seas are combined with land sinking due to depleted water tables, or a lack of ground-forming silt held back by dams.

Major coastal cities are also threatened, while some small island states are already laying plans for the day their drowning nations will no longer be livable.

“This result is important because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)” — the U.N. science advisory body — “makes a very conservative projection of total sea level rise by the end of the century,” at 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 inches), said Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at the University of Oxford who did not take part in the research.

That estimate, he added, assumes that the rate at which ocean levels rise will remain constant.

“Yet there is convincing evidence — including accelerating losses of mass from Greenland and Antarctica — that the rate is actually increasing, and increasing exponentially.”….

“This is a major warning about the dangers of a sea level rise that will continue for many centuries, even after global warming is stopped,” said Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/27/world/science-health-world/melting-greenland-ice-now-source-25-sea-level-rise-researchers-say/#.WVGy2lMrJAY

June 28, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Vulnerable to Climate Change – Longyearbyen, Norway

From heatwaves to hurricanes, floods to famine: seven climate change hotspots

Global warming will not affect everyone equally. Here we look at seven key regions to see how each is tackling the consequences of climate change, Guardian, John Vidal, 23 June 17 “….

Longyearbyen, Norway

The temperature in Longyearbyen on the Svalbard archipelago about 650 miles from the North Pole, averaged about –4C in April. If that sounds cold, consider that it was nearly 8C warmer than the 30-year average for the time of year, and that April was no outlier. The average temperature for the whole of 2016 in Longyearbyen was near freezing. Usually it is –10C.

Thawing Arctic is turning oceans into graveyards

“No region on the planet is experiencing more dramatic climate change than the Arctic,” says Kim Holmén, international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, who has lived on and off in Svalbard for 30 years. Although he is unsure precisely why temperatures are rising so fast there, he says, “make no mistake, there has never been a run of temperatures like this ever recorded.”

Holmén works at the Zeppelin research station at Ny-Ålesund, where 11 countries study climate change, air quality and ice. “Water temperatures on Svalbard have increased 10C or more in my time here,” he says. The fjord, which used to be covered with ice one-metre thick in winter, no longer freezes over. “We see temperatures changing, snow melting earlier, new species of fish. We are seeing big unexpected changes.”

Longyearbyen, home to some 2,100 people, is on borrowed time, Holmén says. “There have been two avalanches there in the last year, both defined as 1,000-year events. These are the types of events we expect to see increasing. A whole part of Longyearbyen may have to be abandoned.

The remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard brings a relatively warm stream of water from the south into the fjords and inlets which moderates the climate enough that coastal areas witness an explosion of green in the summer. In contrast, a cool ocean current keeps the eastern coasts cold and snowy even during the summer.“The changes taking place now will influence [many other places]. The global climate is clearly influenced by the Arctic. There will be ramifications everywhere. We already see more precipitation in northern Scandinavia and low pressure weather systems taking a more northerly route.”

Holmén is backed by Julienne Stroeve, professor of polar observation at University College London. I first met her in 2012 on a Greenpeace ship which steamed north from Longyearbyen to within 300 miles of the pole across a sea that would normally be iced over. She spoke from Cambridge Bay in the Canadian high Arctic.

“2017 is already setting records,” she says. “There was a record low [ice cover] for March this year, so that makes six months in a row with record [or near record] low ice conditions. There are many ways the Arctic is changing. You see it in melt season starting earlier than it used to and taking longer to freeze up, in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the Arctic glaciers, the warming of permafrost temperatures, in increased coastal erosion, the northward migration of the tree line and species, and in how local communities can no longer keep their food in the ground because the thaw increased.”

Could a £400bn plan to refreeze the Arctic before the ice melts really work?

Both Stroeve and Holmén are by nature cautious scientists, not given to dramatic statements. But both say they are astonished, even scared, by the speed at which the Arctic changes are happening.

“Given our current emission rates of 35 to 40 gigatons [of carbon dioxide] per year we should see ice-free conditions in September in about 20 years,” says Stroeve.

Longyearbyen residents are getting used to more extreme weather and coming to terms with what it means for them. The town has created a new risk assessment map and an avalanche warning system. Some parts of the town may be deemed unsafe and will have to be moved. Others may be protected by snow fences or walls.

“What is happening here is a very obvious case of climate change with consequences for animals, plants and humans,” says Holmén. It is happening across the Arctic much faster than we thought possible, and I expect now to see an ice-free Arctic in 20 or so years.”….https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/23/from-heatwaves-to-hurricanes-floods-to-famine-seven-climate-change-hotspots?CMP=share_btn_tw

June 24, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

As Greenland Ice Sheet thaws, old nuclear missile site Camp Century is revealed

Mother Jones 12th June 2017, Over the last century, many glaciers have pulled back farther than humans
have ever previously witnessed. While the retreat of glaciers, and changes
in the cryosphere more generally (which includes ice sheets and
permafrost), can be seen as purely symbolic representations of the
unwavering march of climate change, they are shifting geography as they
melt and thaw, leaving dangerous implications behind.

Camp Century is only one such instance. Built underneath the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet
in 1959 by the the US Army Corps of Engineers as part of Project Iceworm,
the project was designed to create a network of mobile nuclear missile
launch sites in Greenland. Intended to study the deployment and potential
launch of ballistic missiles within the ice sheet, the base was eventually
abandoned and decommissioned in 1967.
http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/06/camp-century-global-warming/

June 21, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, weapons and war | Leave a comment

In Greenland, abandoned nuclear base could be unearthed by global warming

Climate Change Could Uncover An Abandoned Arctic Nuclear Base, HuffPost Canada  |  By Sarah Rieger, 05/25/2017

Climate change is causing record levels of ice to disappear from the Arctic, and the melt is unearthing something that was supposed to stay buried for centuries — an abandoned U.S. nuclear base.

The US army’s top secret arctic city Under the Ice! “Camp Century” Restored Classified Film 

Camp Century was built in Greenland in 1959 during the peak of the Cold War. The subterranean base held between 85 and 200 soldiers year-round. The base was built under the pretense that it would be a centre for scientific experiments on the icecap and a space to test construction techniques in Arctic conditions.

The base was really part of “Project Iceworm,” a top secret U.S. army program that intended to build a network of missile launch sites under the ice sheet.

The camp was essentially a small town under the ice. When abandoned in 1967, the trenches and buildings — including houses, a town store and even a hospital — were left behind, too.

The engineers stationed there also abandoned a nuclear generator that was “minimally” decommissioned, as they assumed it would be “‘preserved for eternity‘ by perpetual snowfall,” according to a 2016 study by Geophysical Research Letters. Other than the nuclear reaction chamber, all of the infrastructure and nuclear waste at the site was left intact.

The researchers weren’t totally off-base with their belief that the site wouldn’t melt. The camp was established on what’s known as the “dry snow zone” of the Greenland ice sheet, where almost no surface melting was known to occur at the time.

According to NASA’s Earth Science Communications Team, geoscientists in the ’60s believed that the climate could only change on a large timescale, over thousands of years. It wasn’t until 1979 that it was proven that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would result in significant negative changes to the earth’s climate.

Climate change is hitting the Arctic hard. Surface ice melt in Northern Canada grew by 900 per cent between 2005 and 2015, a recent study found, and melting glaciers have begun to release pollutants like DDT and PCBs into the environment.

If the ice melts at Camp Century, it will release an abundance of PCBs as well as other physical, chemical, biological and radiological wastes (including thousands of barrels of diesel) that could eventually be swept to Canada through the same Arctic currents that bring spectacular icebergs to Newfoundland’s coast every year……..http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/05/23/climate-change-arctic_n_16792324.html

May 26, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, wastes | Leave a comment

USA signs up to Arctic agreement for action on climate change

Tillerson, at Arctic meeting, signs document affirming need for action on climate change, LA Times, William Yardley, 11 May 17, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed his name Thursday to a document that affirms the need for international action against climate change, adding further uncertainty to the direction of climate policy under the Trump administration.

The document, signed by Tillerson and seven foreign ministers from Arctic nations meeting this week in Fairbanks, Alaska, says the participants concluded their meeting “noting the entry into force of the Paris agreement on climate change and its implementation, and reiterating the need for global action to reduce both long-lived greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants.”

Called the Fairbanks Declaration, the document says the leaders signed it “recognizing that activities taking place outside the Arctic region, including activities occurring in Arctic states, are the main contributors to climate change effects and pollution in the Arctic, and underlining the need for action at all levels.”

The Trump administration has been in conflict for months over what to do about U.S. involvement in the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord, which commits nearly 200 nations to establishing goals to reduce emissions that lead to climate change.

Trump has repeatedly questioned climate science, calling climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and vowing during his campaign to “cancel” the Paris agreement……..

Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon, is among those who have argued that the U.S. should keep its commitment.

The Fairbanks Declaration does not affirm that the U.S. will honor the Paris accord. Nor does it explicitly state that human activity is causing climate change.

And Tillerson’s spoken remarks at the meeting made clear that the administration is divided. After vowing that the U.S. would “continue to be vigilant in protecting the fragile environment in the Arctic,” Tillerson said this about current U.S. climate policy:

“In the United States, we are currently reviewing several important policies, including how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change. We’re appreciative that each of you has an important point of view and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns. We’re not going to rush to make a decision. ……..

No part of the world is warming faster than the Arctic.

Summer sea ice regularly shrinks to record lows, coastlines are eroding and wildfires are getting worse. Even the frozen tundra, a critical natural storage tank for carbon emissions, is no longer so frozen. Scientists reported this week that it is warming so rapidly that it now is emitting more carbon than it captures.

The Fairbanks Declaration includes several other references to climate change and taking action to mitigate it or adapt to it. It refers to “reiterating the importance of climate science to our understanding of the changing Arctic region and our activities in the Arctic environment.”……http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-arctic-council-20170511-story.html

May 13, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, politics international, USA | 1 Comment

Arctic Council meeting: USA might be confronted by Arctic Nations concerned about climate change

Arctic Nations May Confront U.S. on Climate Change Leaders of the Arctic Council could rebuff U.S. position, Scientific American, By Margaret Kriz HobsonClimateWire on May 10, 2017, FAIRBANKS, Alaska—Diplomats from eight Arctic nations are facing a standoff today over the Trump administration’s efforts to downplay the importance of climate change in an Arctic Council ministerial statement marking the end of the United States’ two-year council chairmanship.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the top foreign ministers from the world’s seven other Arctic nations are due to arrive in Fairbanks today for tomorrow’s Arctic Council ministerial meeting.

During that meeting, the top government officials are scheduled to sign a final statement highlighting the accomplishments of the U.S. chairmanship, as well as Finland’s plans for its upcoming term as head of the council.

But foreign policy staff arriving in Fairbanks early this week said they have not yet signed off on the wording of the ministerial statement proposed by the White House in advance of the meeting. They disagree with Trump administration efforts to weaken the references to climate change and the Paris climate accord.

The officials are meeting with U.S. officials this morning to hammer out the final language of the ministerial statement. Like all Arctic Council actions, that statement must be reached on a consensus basis. Along with the United States, the council is made up of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden.

At issue is the abrupt change in the U.S. position on the Paris Agreement since the November election. Former President Obama made climate change the top issue when the United States took the lead of the Arctic Council in 2015.

President Trump, however, has sidelined Arctic policy issues and largely ignored the Arctic Council climate priorities of his predecessor. Trump has dismissed the science backing climate change and proposed to open the American Arctic to oil and gas drilling. His White House is currently embroiled in debate over whether the United States should continue to participate in the Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, most of the other members of the Arctic Council have been emphasizing their commitment to reducing greenhouse gases under the Paris agreement.

The five Nordic countries recently issued a statement strongly affirming the Paris accord and vowing to take the lead on climate and energy policies. At the same time, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supported the Paris Agreement on the floor of the Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario, and called climate action “particularly important amongst Arctic nations.”…….https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/arctic-nations-may-confront-u-s-on-climate-change/

May 12, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, politics international | Leave a comment

The disappearing Arctic ice, and its consequences

The hard truth, however, is that the Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone. Efforts to mitigate global warming by cutting emissions remain essential. But the state of the Arctic shows that humans cannot simply undo climate change. They will have to adapt to it

The Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone On current trends, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by 2040 http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21721379-current-trends-arctic-will-be-ice-free-summer-2040-arctic-it-known-today?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/climatechangethearcticasitisknowntodayisalmostcertainlygone Apr 29th 2017

 THOSE who doubt the power of human beings to change Earth’s climate should look to the Arctic, and shiver. There is no need to pore over records of temperatures and atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations. The process is starkly visible in the shrinkage of the ice that covers the Arctic ocean. In the past 30 years, the minimum coverage of summer ice has fallen by half; its volume has fallen by three-quarters. On current trends, the Arctic ocean will be largely ice-free in summer by 2040.

Climate-change sceptics will shrug. Some may even celebrate: an ice-free Arctic ocean promises a shortcut for shipping between the Pacific coast of Asia and the Atlantic coasts of Europe and the Americas, and the possibility of prospecting for perhaps a fifth of the planet’s undiscovered supplies of oil and natural gas. Such reactions are profoundly misguided. Never mind that the low price of oil and gas means searching for them in the Arctic is no longer worthwhile. Or that the much-vaunted sea passages are likely to carry only a trickle of trade. The right response is fear. The Arctic is not merely a bellwether of matters climatic, but an actor in them (see Briefing).

The current period of global warming that Earth is undergoing is caused by certain gases in the atmosphere, notably carbon dioxide. These admit heat, in the form of sunlight, but block its radiation back into space, in the form of longer-wavelength infra-red. That traps heat in the air, the water and the land. More carbon dioxide equals more warming—a simple equation. Except it is not simple. A number of feedback loops complicate matters. Some dampen warming down; some speed it up. Two in the Arctic may speed it up quite a lot.

One is that seawater is much darker than ice. It absorbs heat rather than reflecting it back into space. That melts more ice, which leaves more seawater exposed, which melts more ice. And so on. This helps explain why the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet. The deal on climate change made in Paris in 2015 is meant to stop Earth’s surface temperature rising by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the unlikely event that it is fully implemented, winter temperatures over the Arctic ocean will still warm by between 5° and 9°C compared with their 1986-2005 average.

The second feedback loop concerns not the water but the land. In the Arctic much of this is permafrost. That frozen soil locks up a lot of organic material. If the permafrost melts its organic contents can escape as a result of fire or decay, in the form of carbon dioxide or methane (which is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2). This will speed up global warming directly—and the soot from the fires, when it settles on the ice, will darken it and thus speed its melting still more.

Dead habitat walking

 A warming Arctic could have malevolent effects. The world’s winds are driven in large part by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. If the Arctic heats faster than the tropics, this difference will decrease and wind speeds will slow—as they have done, in the northern hemisphere, by between 5 and 15% in the past 30 years. Less wind might sound desirable. It is not. One consequence is erratic behaviour of the northern jet stream, a circumpolar current, the oscillations of which sometimes bring cold air south and warm air north. More exaggerated oscillations would spell blizzards and heatwaves in unexpected places at unexpected times.

Ocean currents, too, may slow. The melting of Arctic ice dilutes salt water moving north from the tropics. That makes it less dense, and thus less inclined to sink for the return journey in the ocean depths. This slowing of circulation will tug at currents around the world, with effects on everything from the Indian monsoon to the pattern of El Niño in the Pacific ocean.

The scariest possibility of all is that something happens to the ice cap covering Greenland. This contains about 10% of the world’s fresh water. If bits of it melted, or just broke free to float in the water, sea levels could rise by a lot more than today’s projection of 74cm by the end of the century. At the moment, the risk of this happening is hard to assess because data are difficult to gather. But loss of ice from Greenland is accelerating.

What to do about all this is a different question. Even if the Paris agreement is stuck to scrupulously, the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, together with that which will be added, looks bound eventually to make summer Arctic sea ice a thing of the past. Some talk of geoengineering—for example, spraying sulphates into the polar air to reflect sunlight back into space, or using salt to seed the creation of sunlight-blocking clouds. Such ideas would have unknown side-effects, but they are worth testing in pilot studies.

The hard truth, however, is that the Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone. Efforts to mitigate global warming by cutting emissions remain essential. But the state of the Arctic shows that humans cannot simply undo climate change. They will have to adapt to it.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Solar power taking over in First Nation Above the Arctic Circle

Meet the First Nation Above the Arctic Circle That Just Went Solar https://www.desmog.ca/2017/03/28/meet-first-nation-above-arctic-circle-just-went-solar  By Matt Jacques • Tuesday, March 28, 2017 Across Canada’s north, diesel has long been the primary mode of providing year-round electricity to remote communities — but with the advent of small-scale renewables, that’s about to change.

Northern communities were already making strides toward a renewable energy future, but with $400 million committed in this year’s federal budget to establish an 11-year Arctic Energy Fund, energy security in the north has moved firmly into the spotlight.

This level of support shows positive commitment from the Canadian government on ending fossil fuel dependency in Indigenous communities and transitioning these communities to clean energy systems,” said Dave Lovekin, a senior advisor at the Pembina Institute.

Burning diesel not only pollutes the atmosphere, but getting it into remote communities is often inefficient in and of itself: it’s delivered by truck, barge or, sometimes when the weather doesn’t cooperate, by plane.

There are more than 170 remote indigenous communities in Canada still relying almost completely upon diesel for their electricity needs.

But, for some, at least, that’s beginning to change. Take the community of Old Crow (Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation), above the Arctic circle in the Yukon.

Despite its northern latitude, and near total darkness between December and February, a 2014 Government of Yukon pilot study demonstrated that solar represents a major untapped renewable resource for the community. Now Old Crow has a number of small-scale solar panel installations, including an 11.8 kilowatt array at the Arctic Research Centre — but its sights are set higher. Plans for a 330 kilowatt solar plant are well underway. A 2016 feasibility study estimated that this large-scale installation could offset 17 per cent of the community’s total diesel use, or up to 98,000 litres of fuel each year.

Anything that affects our community, we want to have control over. That’s our goal with this project is to have ownership over the facility,” said William Josie, director of Natural Resources for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. “We burn a lot of fuel up here per capita and we’re trying to reduce that.”

Josie said his community is excited to build further solar capacity.

This has been in the works for a long time, and it’s just the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s the first solar project of this size in the Yukon with community ownership.”

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has a self-governing final agreement in place with the Government of Canada, the Government of the Yukon and the Council of Yukon First Nations. So too does the Kluane (Burwash Landing/Destruction Bay) First Nation in the southwestern Yukon, which is taking another approach to delivering a similar level of renewable energy capacity.

A major $2.4 million wind power generation project is set to be installed in 2018. Three refurbished 95 kilowatt turbines will deliver just under 300 kilowatts of total power and are estimated to offset 21 per cent of the community’s total diesel use.

One of the big things for the community is to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Diesel is neither of those two,” explains Colin Asseltine, general manager of the Kluane Community Development Corporation. “We’re looking at what we can possibly do to reduce our carbon footprint and move off-grid.”

The wind project will expand on the earlier successes in the community. Since 1998, Burwash Landing has used biomass for district heating, and began selling solar power back into the grid not long after installing a 48 kilowatt array in 2003. Along the way, they have been collecting the data required to inform the next steps and increase the impact of the community’s investment in renewable energy.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, decentralised | Leave a comment

New and worrying studies on Greenland ice

New study shows worrisome signs for Greenland ice https://www.skepticalscience.com/worrisome-signs-for-greenland-ice.html  14 April 2017 by John Abraham

As humans put more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide, ice around the planet melts. This melting can be a problem, particularly if the melting ice starts its life on land. That’s because the melt water flows into the oceans, contributing to rising sea levels. Right now there are three main reasons that sea levels are rising. First, as ocean waters heat, they expand. Second, melting of ice in Antarctica flows into the ocean. Third, melting of ice on Greenland flows into the ocean. There is other melting, like mountain glaciers, but they are minor factors.

Okay, so how much is melting of Greenland contributing to sea level rise? Estimates are that about 270 gigatons of water per year are melting. The melting of an ice sheet like that atop Greenland can occur from the surface as air temperatures and sunlight warm the upper layer of ice. It can also occur from the edges as ice shelves collapse and fall into the oceans in large chunks.

For ice-shelf collapse, there’s a complex process that occurs at the bottom of the ice. Part of the ice is floating out over water and part of it is grounded on land. Warm water can get underneath the ice, lift it up, and melt the ice from below.

The bedrock underneath the ice sheet is not flat or gradually changing. There are undulations that rise and fall and change the water-ice-ground connection. Topology called “retrograde” can make it easier for ice to melt and can increase the rate of ice shelfcollapse. So, scientists have a real interest in learning about the topology of the land underneath ice sheets so they can better predict ice collapse and sea level rise.

This brings us to a new study published by the American Geophysical Union in a journal called Geophysical Letters Review. The scientists use gravitometry to obtain a high-quality picture of the land underneath a very fast moving part of Greenland ice called the Jacobshavn Isbrae. Basically, the scientists flew gravity sensors across the ice at low altitudes and low velocity. These sensors are called accelerometers and they can be used to determine the x, y, and z gravity components. The measurements of the gravity allowed them to attain the local height of the subsurface with greater accuracy than previously known.

As stated in the paper, the motivation for this work was clear:

the fjord bathymetry and glacier bed topography of the lower portion of Jacobshavn Isbrae have remained poorly known. At least not sufficiently to provide reliable information for ice sheet numerical models. 

They found that the trough underneath the ice was not symmetrically shaped; the northern part of the trough was deeper than the southern part.

Click here to read the rest

April 17, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Global warming hitting Sub-Arctic wastelands, permafrost, more severely than expected

Sub-Arctic wastelands is more vulnerable than thought, scientists say, http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/subarctic-wastelands-is-more-vulnerable-than-thought-scientists-say/news-story/1a825e5872728267754c4544148ba57a   APRIL 11, 2017FROZEN, sub-Arctic wastelands loaded with planet-heating greenhouse gases are more susceptible to global warming than previously understood, scientists warned on Monday.

Even stabilising the world’s climate at 2C above pre-industrial levels — the daunting goal laid down in the 196-nation Paris Agreement — would melt more than 40 per cent of permafrost, or an area nearly twice the size of India, they reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

That could take centuries or longer, but would eventually drive up global temperatures even further as more gases escaped into the air.

Sometimes called a climate change time bomb, the northern hemisphere’s 15 million square kilometres of increasingly misnamed permafrost contains roughly twice as much carbon — mainly in the form of methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) — as Earth’s atmosphere.

Currently, the atmosphere holds about 400 parts per million of CO2, 30 per cent more than when warming caused by human activity started in the mid-19th century.

“We estimate that four million square kilometres — give or take a million — will disappear for every additional degree of warming,” said co-author Sebastian Westermann, a senior lecturer at the University of Oslo.

“That’s about 20 per cent higher than previous estimates,” he said.

Human-induced global warming has already caused the planet to heat up by 1C, and is on track to add at least another 2C by century’s end unless global emissions are slashed in the coming decades, the UN’s climate science panel has concluded.

BACK TO BASICS   Those calculations do not include the possible impact of melting permafrost. The most recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) “talks mainly about the uncertainties,” and discounts the likelihood that gases released from melting soils will significantly add to warming by 2100.

But climate models — which vary depending on predicted levels of greenhouse gas emissions — are all over the map in forecasting the future of permafrost.

To sidestep some of these uncertainties, a team of scientists led by Sandra Chadburn of the University of Leeds used a “back to basics” approach based on observations.

“Our method allows for a projection of how much permafrost will be lost at what temperature — but it doesn’t tell us how long that will take,” said Westermann.

The findings should serve as a benchmark for future climate change models, he added.

“If climate models show something very different, scientists will have to explain why it is not in agreement with the observations.”

Permafrost is found in a wide belt between the Arctic Circle to the north and boreal forests to the south, across northern Europe, Russia, Alaska and Canada.

It can vary in depth from a few metres to more than 100, but most carbon stocks are thought to reside fairly close to the surface.

Roughly 35 million people live in the permafrost zone, some in large cities where buildings risk collapsing in the next two decades as the ground softens.

April 12, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

In a radical change of pattern, Arctic warm water is being pushed to the surface

Climate change is literally turning the Arctic ocean inside out, WP,  April 6 There’s something special — and very counterintuitive — about the Arctic Ocean.

Unlike in the Atlantic or Pacific, where the water gets colder as it gets deeper, the Arctic is upside-down. The water gets warmer as it gets deeper. The reason is that warm, salty Atlantic-originating water that flows into the Arctic from the south is more dense, and so it nestles beneath a colder, fresher surface layer that is often capped by floating sea ice. This state of “stratification” makes the Arctic Ocean unique, and it means that waters don’t simply grow colder as you travel farther north — they also become inverted.

But in a paper in Science released Thursday, a team of Arctic scientists say this fundamental trait is now changing across a major part of the Arctic, in conjunction with a changing climate.

“I first went to the Arctic in about 1969, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Eddy Carmack, a researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and one of the study’s authors. “Back then we just assumed the Arctic is as it is and it will be that way forevermore. So what we’re seeing in the last decade or so is quite remarkable.”

In a large area that they term the eastern Eurasian basin — north of the Laptev and East Siberian seas, which in turn are north of Siberia — the researchers found that warm Atlantic water is increasingly pushing to the surface and melting floating sea ice. This mixing, they say, has not only contributed to thinner ice and more areas of open water that used to be ice covered, but it also is changing the state of Arctic waters in a process the study terms “Atlantification” — and these characteristics could soon spread across more of the Arctic ocean, changing it fundamentally.

The study was led by Igor Polyakov of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, in collaboration with a team of 15 researchers from the United States, Canada, Russia, Poland, Germany and Norway.

To understand the work, it’s important to first note the extensive and rapid shrinkage of Arctic sea ice of late in an area to the north of Siberia. The area, known as the eastern Eurasian basin, is seeing thinner ice and more months of open water. Arctic sea ice is a linchpin of the Earth’s climate system………https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/04/06/scientists-say-the-unique-arctic-ocean-is-being-transformed-before-our-eyes/?utm_campaign=crowdfire&utm_content=crowdfire&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_term=.40ec22cba221#350509998-tw#1491570060364

April 10, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Greenland’s coastal ice slowly melting away

Some of Greenland’s coastal ice will be permanently lost by 2100, Glaciers and ice caps can no longer capture meltwater, Science Daily ,March 31, 2017

Source
Ohio State University
Summary:
The glaciers and ice caps that dot the edges of the Greenland coast are not likely to recover from the melting they are experiencing now, a study has found.

The glaciers and ice caps that dot the edges of the Greenland coast are not likely to recover from the melting they are experiencing now, a study has found.

Researchers report in the current issue of the journal Nature Communications that melting on the island passed a tipping point 20 years ago. The smallest glaciers and ice caps on the coast are no longer able to regrow lost ice.

The current study suggests that the melting of Greenland’s coastal ice will raise global sea level by about 1.5 inches by 2100.

The find is important because it reveals exactly why the most vulnerable parts of Greenland ice are melting so quickly: the deep snow layer that normally captures coastal meltwater was filled to capacity in 1997. That layer of snow and meltwater has since frozen solid, so that all new meltwater flows over it and out to sea.

It’s bad news, but not immediate cause for panic, said Ohio State University glaciologist Ian Howat, part of the international research team that made the discovery.

The findings apply to the comparatively small amount of ice along the coast only, he explained — not the Greenland Ice Sheet, which is the second largest ice cache in the world………

The Greenland Ice Sheet is subject to the same danger, Howat said, but to a much lesser degree than the isolated bits of ice on its edges.

The real value of the study is that provides “more evidence of rapid change and how it happens,” he added.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170331120333.htm

April 1, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Rapid spread of ocean acidification in the Arctic

International team reports ocean acidification spreading rapidly in Arctic Ocean, EurekAlert, 28 Feb 17, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE  Ocean acidification (OA) is spreading rapidly in the western Arctic Ocean in both area and depth, according to new interdisciplinary research reported in Nature Climate Changeby a team of international collaborators, including University of Delaware professor Wei-Jun Cai.

The research shows that, between the 1990s and 2010, acidified waters expanded northward approximately 300 nautical miles from the Chukchi slope off the coast of northwestern Alaska to just below the North Pole. Also, the depth of acidified waters was found to have increased, from approximately 325 feet to over 800 feet (or from 100 to 250 meters).

ocean-acidification

“The Arctic Ocean is the first ocean where we see such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans,” said Cai, the U.S. lead principal investigator on the project and Mary A.S. Lighthipe Professor of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at UD.

“The rapid spread of ocean acidification in the western Arctic has implications for marine life, particularly clams, mussels and tiny sea snails that may have difficulty building or maintaining their shells in increasingly acidified waters,” said Richard Feely, NOAA senior scientist and a co-author of the research. Sea snails called pteropods are part of the Arctic food web and important to the diet of salmon and herring. Their decline could affect the larger marine ecosystem.

Among the Arctic species potentially at risk from ocean acidification are subsistence fisheries of shrimp and varieties of salmon and crab.

Other collaborators on the international project include Liqi Chen, the Chinese lead principal investigator and scientist with the Third Institute of Oceanography of State Oceanic Administration of China; and scientists at Xiamen University, China and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, among other institutions…….

Arctic ocean ice melt in the summer, once found only in shallow waters of depths less than 650 feet or 200 meters, now spreads further into the Arctic Ocean.

“It’s like a melting pond floating on the Arctic Ocean. It’s a thin water mass that exchanges carbon dioxide rapidly with the atmosphere above, causing carbon dioxide and acidity to increase in the meltwater on top of the seawater,” said Cai. “When the ice forms in winter, acidified waters below the ice become dense and sink down into the water column, spreading into deeper waters.”https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/uod-itr022717.php

March 1, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, oceans, Reference | Leave a comment

Future sea level rise studies by NASA project – Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG)

sea-ice-meltingfOMG measurements of Greenland give us a glimpse of future sea rise https://www.skepticalscience.com/omg-greenland-sea-level-rise.html 24 February 2017 by John Abraham  If you meet a group of climate scientists, and ask them how much sea levels will rise by say the year 2100, you will get a wide range of answers. But, those with most expertise in sea level rise will tell you perhaps 1 meter (a little over three feet). Then, they will immediately say, “but there is a lot of uncertainty on this estimate.” It doesn’t mean they aren’t certain there will be sea level rise – that is guaranteed as we add more heat in the oceans. Here, uncertainty means it could be a lot more or a little less.

Why are scientists not certain about how much the sea level will rise? Because there are processes that are occurring that have the potential for causing huge sea level rise, but we’re uncertain about how fast they will occur. Specifically, two very large sheets of ice sit atop Greenland and Antarctica. If those sheets melt, sea levels will rise hundreds of feet.

Parts of the ice sheets are melting, but how much will melt and how fast will the melting occur? Are we talking decades? Centuries? Millennia? Scientists really want to know the answer to this question. Not only is it interesting scientifically, but it has huge impacts on coastal planning.

One reason the answer to this question is illusive is that melting of ice sheets can occur from above (warm air and sunlight) or from below (warm ocean waters). In many instances, it’s the melting from below that is most significant – but this melting from below is really hard to measure.

With hope we will have a much clearer sense of ice sheet melting and sea level rise because of a new scientific endeavor that is part of a NASA project – Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG). This project has brought together some of the best oceanographers and ice experts in the world. The preliminary results are encouraging and are discussed in two recent publications here and here.

In the papers, the authors note that Greenland ice loss has increased substantially in recent decades. It now contributes approximately 1/3 to total sea level rise. The authors want to know whether this contribution will change over time and they recognize that underwater processes may be the most important to study. In fact, they note in their paper:

Specifically, our goal is improved understanding of how ocean hydrographic variability around the ice sheet impacts glacial melt rates, thinning and retreat.

In plain English, they want to know how water flow around Greenland affects the ice melt.

Their experiments are measuring a number of key attributes. First, yearly changes in the temperature of ocean water near Greenland. Second, the yearly changes to the glaciers on Greenland that extend into the ocean waters. Third, they are observing marine topography (the shape of the land underneath the ocean surface).

The sea floor shape is quite complicated, particularly near Greenland. Past glaciers carved deep troughs in the sea floor in some areas, allowing warm salty water to reach huge glaciers that are draining the ice sheet. As lead OMG investigator Josh Willis said:

What’s interesting about the waters around Greenland is that they are upside down. Warm, salty water, which is heavy, sits below a layer of cold, fresh water from the Arctic Ocean. That means the warm water is down deep, and glaciers sitting in deep water could be in trouble.

As the warm water attacks marine glaciers (glaciers that extend into the ocean), the ice tends to break and calve, retreating toward land. In some cases, the glaciers retreat until their grounding line coincides with the shore. But in other cases the undulating surface allows warm water to wear the glacier underside for long distances and thereby increase the risk of large calving events.

Oftentimes, when glaciers near the coast break off they uncork other ice that can then more easily flow into the oceans.

Click here to read the rest

February 27, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, oceans, Reference | Leave a comment

Effect of air pollution might have masked mid-20th Century sea ice loss

Air pollution may have masked mid-20th Century sea ice loss https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170223124327.htm February 23, 2017

Source:
American Geophysical Union
Summary:
sea-ice-meltingfHumans may have been altering Arctic sea ice longer than previously thought, according to researchers studying the effects of air pollution on sea ice growth in the mid-20th Century.

Humans may have been altering Arctic sea ice longer than previously thought, according to researchers studying the effects of air pollution on sea ice growth in the mid-20th Century. The new results challenge the perception that Arctic sea ice extent was unperturbed by human-caused climate change until the 1970s.

Scientists have observed Arctic sea ice loss since the mid-1970s and some climate model simulations have shown the region was losing sea ice as far back as 1950. In a new study, recently recovered Russian observations show an increase in sea ice from 1950 to 1975 as large as the subsequent decrease in sea ice observed from 1975 to 2005. The new observations of mid-century sea ice expansion led researchers behind the new study to the search for the cause.

The new study supports the idea that air pollution is to blame for the observed Arctic sea ice expansion. Particles of air pollution that come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels may have temporarily hidden the effects of global warming in the third quarter of the 20th Century in the eastern Arctic, the researchers say.

These particles, called sulfate aerosols, reflect sunlight back into space and cool the surface. This cooling effect may have disguised the influence of global warming on Arctic sea ice and may have resulted in sea ice growth recorded by Russian aerial surveys in the region from 1950 through 1975, according to the new research.

“The cooling impact from increasing aerosols more than masked the warming impact from increasing greenhouse gases,” said John Fyfe, a senior scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada in Victoria and a co-author of the new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

To test the aerosol idea, researchers used computer modeling to simulate sulfate aerosols in the Arctic from 1950 through 1975. Concentrations of sulfate aerosols were especially high during these years before regulations like the Clean Air Act limited sulfur dioxide emissions that produce sulfate aerosols.

The study’s authors then matched the sulfate aerosol simulations to Russian observational data that suggested a substantial amount of sea ice growth during those years in the eastern Arctic. The resulting simulations show the cooling contribution of aerosols offset the ongoing warming effect of increasing greenhouse gases over the mid-twentieth century in that part of the Arctic. This would explain the expansion of the Arctic sea ice cover in those years, according to the new study.

Aerosols spend only days or weeks in the atmosphere so their effects are short-lived. The weak aerosol cooling effect diminished after 1980, following the enactment of clean air regulations. In the absence of this cooling effect, the warming effect of long-lived greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide has prevailed, leading to Arctic sea ice loss, according to the study’s authors.

The new study helps sort out the swings in Arctic sea ice cover that have been observed over the last 75 years, which is important for a better understanding of sea ice behavior and for predicting its behavior in the future, according to Fyfe.

The new study’s use of both observations and modeling is a good way to attribute the Arctic sea ice growth to sulfate aerosols, said Cecilia Bitz, a sea ice researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle who has also looked into the effects of aerosols on Arctic ice. The sea ice record prior to satellite images is “very sparse,” added Bitz, who was not involved in the new study.

Bitz also points out that some aerosols may have encouraged sea ice to retreat. Black carbon, for instance, is a pollutant from forest fires and other wood and fossil fuel burning that can darken ice and cause it to melt faster when the sun is up — the opposite effect of sulfates. Also, black carbon emissions in some parts of the Arctic are still quite common, she said.


Story Source:

Materials provided by American Geophysical Union.

February 25, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, oceans, Reference | Leave a comment