At long last: John Cook from Skeptical Science rejoins the Climate Show team for the first show of 2013. He hooks up with Glenn and Gareth to review Australia’s big heatwave, and stays around to dig into the new Greenpeace report on dirty energy, discuss Obama’s inauguration speech and Boris Johnson’s climate blunder, the latest scary news on sea level rise and the implications for the future. Plus much much more…
Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.
If global warming continues, the study projects that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years as it would be without climate change. “Now this doesn’t mean there will be 12 times more hot summers in Europe than today — it actually is worse,” Coumou points out. For the new records set in the 2040s will not just be hot by today’s standards. “To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date,” explains Coumou. “And this is just the global average — in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater.”
A new report commissioned by Greenpeace says the world could be locked into dangerous levels of global warming if 14 planned fossil fuel projects get the go ahead. The projects in the Point of No Return report include the expansion of Indonesian and Australian coal exports, a tripling of production from the Canadian tar sands and extensive offshore drilling in Brazilian waters.All in all, the 6,340 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020, more than the total output of the US. RTCC news, full report pdf.
But if Obama has his way that’s all about to change: Youtube video here.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says his top hopes for 2013 are to reach a new agreement on climate change and to urgently end the increasingly deadly and divisive war in Syria.
Dispatch from London…. Shock! Horror! Boris says something really stupid! He says this week’s snow casts doubt on Climate science. Of course, as Leo Hickman points out in The Guardian he’s only trolling BUT it still matters because he could be Britain’s PM one day…
The researchers found that the natural relationship displays a strong rise in sea level for CO2 increase from 180 to 400 parts per million, peaking at CO2 levels close to present-day values, with sea level at 24 +7/-15 metres above the present, at 68 per cent confidence limits.
A catastrophic rise in sea level before the end of the century could have a hitherto unforeseen side effect. Melting icebergs might cool the seas around Greenland and Antarctica so much that the average surface temperature of the planet falls by a degree or two. This is according to unpublished work by climate scientist James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.
Sprinkling billions of tonnes of mineral dust across the oceans could quickly remove a vast quantities of climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a new study. The proposed “geoengineering” technique would also offset the acidification of the oceans and could be targeted at endangered coral reefs, but there’s a downside — it would require a mining effort on the same scale as the world’s coal industry and would alter the biology of the oceans.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are embarking on an £800,000 project to replicate photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into sugars to help them grow.
The process will be used to create hydrogen, which can be used as a zero-emission fuel for cars, or converted into green electricity.
It is hoped the method, which involves placing tiny solar panels on microbes to harness sunlight and drive the production of hydrogen, will be a more efficient way of converting the sun’s energy than currently exists.
In this guest post, Professor Jason Box of the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland (yes — he has a new job!) explains the genesis of the Dark Snow Project, a unique crowd-funded scientific expedition to Greenland planned for later this year. If you’ve got a few dollars to spare and want to make a contribution to improving the sum of human knowledge in a place that’s proving crucial to the future of the planet, this is a great way to do it.
Birth of an idea
On my way to my 23rd Greenland expedition, sitting in New York’s LaGuardia airport terminal, completing a 25 June, 2012 blog post about Greenland’s declining reflectivity, I noticed that the crowd in the waiting area were captivated by TV news coverage of the record setting Colorado wildfires. While my recently published work had linked Greenland’s reflectivity (aka albedo, Latin for whiteness) decline with the warming of the previous decade, what remains unresolved is the relative importance wildfire soot that further darkens the ice, acting as a multiplier of the feedback process.
From LaGuardia, I rang fellow Colorado native and NASA JPL snow optics expert Dr. Tom Painter to ask if snow samples plus modern microscopy and chemistry could identify wildfire soot from Colorado?
“Tom, given samples, is it possible to discriminate wildfire soot with that from industrial sources?”
“Yes,” he said.
Before the flight boarded we had decided it would be a good idea to sample Greenland’s ice and snow for wildfire soot. All we had to do was muster the resources to get to the ice sheet’s highest elevations where the satellite data showed a conspicuous pre-melt reflectivity decline.
7.5% reflectivity decline in July for the upper elevations ice sheet, corresponding with 50 exajoules more solar energy absorption by the ice sheet for this month between 2000 and 2012. For the June-August [summer] period, the ice sheet is now absorbing an additional 1.5 times the total US annual energy consumption. Part of the reflectivity decline is due to the effect of heat, rounding ice crystals, reducing light scattering. Another component is soot. But we don’t know if the effective importance of soot is 1%, 10%, or 50%.
2012, another summer for the record books
By the end of summer 2012, ranking air temperature data from long term weather station records revealed all time records for warmest summer (June-August) at:
Nuuk in Southwest Greenland in the period of record (PoR) since 1873 [unofficially in the continuous record since 1840]
Upernavik in Northwest Greenland in the PoR since 1873.
Summit in central ice sheet Greenland in the PoR since 1988
…and so on for several other stations (Aasiaat, Narsarsuaq) with records beginning in the 1950s and 60s.
As reported by NASA on 24 July, we witnessed the most extensive surface melting over the Greenland ice sheet surface in the continuous satellite passive microwave record that begins in 1978. On 11 July, 98% of the ice sheet surface was melting. This was unprecedented in the satellite observational record and despite claims from the peanut gallery of an event in 1885, there is no evidence of this in the summer air temperature data! See here. Previous maximum melt extents peaked at 65%. Satisfying for me was publishing an accurate prediction of complete surface melting mere weeks before it happened. The prediction was straightforward after finding, in a surface energy budget study, insufficient snowpack ’cold content’ to resist without melting another summer similar to those of the past decade. Melting was right around the corner.
Although I was in Greenland 25 June – 24 July, 2012, because I was overloaded with existing commitments at Store Gletscher, I didn’t realise the goal of sampling high elevation snow for soot.
Another dot, connected
After returning from Greenland, it didn’t take long for me and intern Nathaniel Henry to identify smoke clouds near and over Greenland in NASA satellite-based laser scans of the atmosphere from the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) sensor.
The forensics were becoming more compelling. This discovery was reported widely1.
Needed: boots on the ground
The ultimate proof to test our hypothesis that wildfire smoke is contributing in important ways to Greenland’s reflectivity decline depends on the field samples. What we see in satellite imagery are subject to one’s interpretation, hard data speak for themselves.
Please help us make the goal of obtaining the surface samples a reality in our first-of-a-kind crowd-funded Greenland expedition. Make a donation, large or small, in one of the following ways:
Greenland’s extraordinary summer is far from over. The ice island that broke off the Petermann glacier tongue last month — now dubbed PII-2012 — is edging its way out into the Nares Strait between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, as this satellite image, snipped from NASA’s fabulous daily Arctic Mosaic shows. For updates on events in Nares Strait, check out Dr Andreas Muenchow’s Icy Seas blog — he’s up there at the moment. Elsewhere on the great ice sheet, melting continues apace. Jason Box reports that ice sheet albedo has dipped again into record levels for the time of year, and there are reports of further extensive surface melting at the end of July. Box also reports that a recent update of the Greenland temperature record shows that current temperatures are unprecedented in at least the last 172 years. There’s also excellent coverage of the summer at Greenland melting.
Meanwhile, and rather unsurprisingly, New Zealand’s little band of climate deniers are insisting that there’s nothing special going on up North. And, equally unsurprisingly, they’re totally wrong.
Here’s the latest albedo chart for the whole ice sheet, from Box’s Meltfactor blog:
Although the albedo (surface reflectivity) recovered after the extensive surface melting mid-month, it dipped again into early August, keeping albedo well below previous years1. This correlates nicely with an update to Box et al’s long term summer air temperature series for Greenland:
Current summer temperatures are well above previous levels, and are clearly contributing to both the reduction in albedo and the extreme ice mass losses reported in recent years.
And so to New Zealand’s outpost of denial, Richard Treadgold’s blog, where the climate litigant and prolix blogger waxes indignant about a Scientific Americannews story, and describes Greenland’s extraordinary July melt event as:
…not unusual – it occurs about every 150 years.
A strange definition of unusual, you might think. He goes on to put the event in its wider context.
…this slight mid-summer melting is not because of anything we’ve done and there is no need for alarm.
This “slight mid summer melting” was enough to wash out bridges and roads as rivers draining the ice sheet rose well above historic flood levels, but let’s set that to one side and look at the meat of his post. Treadgold visits Wikipedia to obtain a figure for the size of the Greenland ice sheet, then jumps on a number in the SA article and calculates how long it will take to melt the entire ice sheet. He arrives at a figure of 67,222 years and uses it pontificate about just how small a problem it really is. Sadly for Treadgold, his fact-checking is letting him down again.
The Scientific American article Treadgold is so keen to denigrate includes a figure for annual ice sheet mass loss of 36 gigatonnes. I have been unable to trace where this comes from2, but it is way out of line with current estimates of ice sheet mass loss. Had Treadgold read down that Wikipedia page a little, he would have discovered that it reports annual volume losses of between 239 and 195 km3 from 2003-2008. Project those numbers forward, and Greenland’s ice sheet has only got about 15,000 years to go — only 25% of Treadgold’s projection, but still quite a long time.
Unfortunately, the current picture is worse than that. The 2011 Arctic Report card covers the 2010 melt season, and gives us two ways to look at Greenland’s mass balance — the surface mass balance, running at -344 Gt/year in 2010, and GRACE satellite measurement of total ice sheet mass, showing a loss of -430 Gt in the year. Plug those numbers into the total mass of the ice sheet3, and you get 7,000 and 5,600 years respectively. Now that’s what I’d call rapid melting.
But even that’s likely to be unrealistically slow, because we know that mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet has been accelerating. 2011 was at least as bad as 2010, and 2012 is pretty much certain, given the evidence of this extraordinary summer, to have been even worse. This is not good news, not something that can be dismissed as “a hoax, a fraud, a betrayal, a cheat, a perfidy, a sham and a swindle”, as Treadgold’s thesaurus would have it. No, it’s a profound change to the surface of the planet, brought on by warming caused by human emissions, and unless we’re very lucky, the cascade of consequences are going to make life very difficult for our civilisation for the foreseeable future.
The best coverage of the Petermann event, as on most matters to do with the Arctic summer and sea ice melting season is to be found at Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice blog. It’s well worth reading the comments under the Petermann post there, to get a really informative picture of what’s being going on. Here’s a description by Dr Andreas Muenchow1 of what the calving would have been like:
I described the Petermann calving to some media folks as a gentle and very quiet affair similar to a rubber duckie pushed out to sea from the deck of a flat pool.
Some duckie, some pool…
Further south, the the “root” of the Jakobshavn Isbrae has enlarged significantly, with the calving front of Greenland’s most productive glacier retreating further into the ice sheet. The “blink” image I’ve cobbled together (left) shows day 203 of this year compared with day 202 of last year2. The difference is large and very obvious. Greenland specialist Dr Jason Box was flying out of Ilulisat shortly after the retreat earlier this month, and snapped the photo below out of the window of his plane. As he commented on Facebook, it looks like the glacier has divided into two streams.
Up at the summit of the Greenland ice sheet at 3,200 metres, a new high temperature record of 3.6ºC was set on July 16, hard on the heels of four days in row of temperatures above freezing, from July 11 to 14. Considering that temperatures above zero had only been recorded four times in the preceding 12 years, this amounted a remarkable heatwave, and triggered an astonishing melt record.
This NASA graphic shows how the melting surface, shown in shades of red, spread over the whole surface of the ice sheet from July 8 to July 12. This amounts to “the largest extent of surface melting observed in three decades of satellite observations”, according to NASA. The last such melting event occurred in 1889, and ice cores show that they occur every 150 to 250 years. However, given the steady increase in melt area over the last decade, and the precipitous drop in ice sheet albedo (see below), especially at high altitudes, it may not be 150 years before such a melt happens again.
The last time I looked at this extraordinary summer in Greenland, it was to reportJason Box‘s view that “it is reasonable to expect 100% melt area over the ice sheet within another similar decade of warming”. It took two weeks to come true. Forgive me if I find that alarming.
Andreas provides great coverage of the Petermann glacier at his blog — perhaps unsurprisingly, as he’s on his way up there to recover instrumentation soon.
Jason Box reports that the Greenland ice sheet darkening recorded in satellite albedo1 measurements is setting new records this summer, especially at high altitudes. Box recently blogged that ice sheet reflectivity this summer “has been the lowest since accurate records began in March, 2000″.
Here’s the latest “noodle plot”2 (regularly updated here) for the ice sheet between elevations of 2,000 and 2,500 metres. 2012 (the black line) is well down into new record territory:
What I expect we will see if these low albedo conditions persist is 100% surface melting over the ice sheet. This would be a first in observations. It may not happen this year, but the trajectory the ice sheet is on, along with amplified Arctic warming, will have the ice sheet responding by melting more and more.
To see this darkening in action, have a look at the MODIS image of the west Greenland ice sheet here. You can see the surface melt spreading inland and upwards, grey ice dotted with blue lakes. Add another interesting, if depressing, graph to the panoply of information on the Arctic summer. The sea ice doesn’t look too good either…
In other Greenland-related news, a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Liu et al3, Younger Dryas cooling and the Greenland climate response to CO2 (Science Daily, PNAS abstract), looks at the ice sheet temperature record inferred from the oxygen isotope measurements taken from ice cores, and concludes that they may overestimate the extent of the Younger Dryas cooling. This is interesting stuff for those who have been following the Easterbrook story, because Don places great store by the ice core temperature record. He was wrong before this paper hit the presses, but he’s even wronger now!
High albedo = very white, lots of reflection; low albedo = darker, more heat absorbed
Looks like a spaghetti graph to me. What is it with climate people and pasta?
Zhengyu Liu, Anders E. Carlson, Feng He, Esther C. Brady, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Bruce P. Briegleb, Mark Wehrenberg, Peter U. Clark, Shu Wu, Jun Cheng, Jiaxu Zhang, David Noone, and Jiang Zhu. Younger Dryas cooling and the Greenland climate response to CO2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 25, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1202183109 – PDF here.
It’s a first! Glenn, Gareth and John manage to record a show that clocks in at under an hour — but it’s still packed with interesting stuff. We’ve got news about a new Australasian hockey stick — a paleoclimate reconstruction that demonstrates that the last three decades are the warmest in the last 1,000 years, a look under an Antarctic ice shelf, more methane research, and good news from Greenland. John Cook from Skeptical Science looks at the misuse of temperature records from the Sargasso Sea, and we look at electric planes and boats and the latest version of the solar “leaf”. And… Glenn announces his imminent move to the UK, but never fear, the show will go on — just as soon as he sets up his computer in London (which might be a couple of months).
Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.
Scientists from the University of Melbourne used 27 natural climate records, including tree rings, corals and ice cores to create the first large-scale temperature reconstruction for the region over the past 1000 years.
Potential Instability in West Antarctic Ice Sheet from Newly Discovered Basin Size of New Jersey: Science Daily
The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, may start to melt rapidly in this century and no longer act as a barrier for ice streams draining the Antarctic Ice Sheet: press release.
Sea-level rises ‘may not be as high as worst-case scenarios have predicted’: Guardian.
Store Glacier at Extreme Ice Survey. (Jason Box tells me that he will be posting images of his Greenland fieldwork to a public Picasa page when he gets somewhere with reasonable bandwidth).
Debunking the sceptic [37:15]
John Cook from skepticalscience.com talks about sceptic misuse of a Sargasso Sea temperature record, and Mark Boslough and Lloyd Keigwin debunking the cherries picked in the process…
As the northern hemisphere starts to warm (rather rapidly in the USA), climate watchers’ thoughts turn to melting ice, and to tell us what happened last year and what might be in store this summer, Glenn and Gareth welcome back Greenland expert Jason Box from the Byrd Polar research Centre at Ohio State University. It’s a wide ranging and fascinating discussion, not to be missed. John Cook looks at the differences between sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, and we have news coverage of the new HadCRUT4 global temperature series, summertime in winter in the USA, worrying news about sea level from the Pliocene, a new report on climate change in the Pacific, and new developments in solar power and biofuels.
Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.
International Falls, Minnesota hit 78°F yesterday, 42° above average, and the 2nd hottest March temperature on record in the Nation’s Icebox. The record of 79°F was set the previous day. Remarkably, the low temperature for International Falls bottomed out at 60°F yesterday, tying the previous record high for the date. I’ve never seen a station with a century-long data record have its low temperature for the date match the previous record high for the date. Yesterday was the seventh consecutive day that International Falls broke or tied a daily record. That is spectacularly hard to do for a station with a century-long weather record. The longest string of consecutive records being broken I’m aware of is nine days in a row, set June 2 – 10, 1911 in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with weather records going back to 1905.) International Falls has a good chance of surpassing nine consecutive records this week.
“6th, 7th Consecutive Days of Record-Warmth Likely Updated: Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 12:37 PM CDT Published : Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 7:38 AM CDT Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago – In what meteorologists are calling a ’historic and unprecedented’ streak, the Chicago area should hit the sixth day in a row of record warm temperatures on Monday, even on the last day of winter.”
Even if humankind manages to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends, future generations will have to deal with sea levels 12 to 22 meters (40 to 70 feet) higher than at present, according to research published in the journal Geology.
…until recently there has been limited reliable detailed scientific information available to [Pacific Island] countries. A major new report recently released by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO is helping to fill this gap. It provides the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date of climate change in the Pacific region.
The 530 page, two-volume scientific report called ’Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research’ shows clear evidence of how the climate in the Pacific has changed and may change in the future.
Arctic average surface air temperature remained high in 2011, ~1.5 C above the 1981-2000 baseline
shift in the Arctic [Ocean] system since 2006
persistent decline in the thickness and extent of the summer sea ice cover, and a warmer, fresher upper ocean.
As a result of increased open water area, biological productivity at the base of the marine food chain has increased
sea ice-dependent marine mammals continue to lose habitat.
increases in the greenness of tundra vegetation
increases in permafrost temperature
more downward sensible heat and positive albedo feedback, reduced sea ice
loss of habit for walrus and polar bears.
less duration of solid platform for seal to ‘pup’
Possibly linked to recent changes in wind patterns, ozone concentrations in the Arctic stratosphere during March 2011 were the lowest ever recorded during the period beginning in 1979.
Higher temperatures in the Arctic and unusually lower temperatures in some low latitude regions are linked to global shifts in atmospheric wind patterns.
Links to ’Weird Weather’
While oceanic and atmospheric patterns such as El NiÃ±o, La NiÃ±a, and the North Atlantic Oscillation have been blamed for the spate of unusual weather recently, there’s now a new culprit in the wind: Arctic amplification…
new Arctic amplification (enhanced Arctic warming relative to that in mid-latitudes) news from: Francis and Vavrus (2012), Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L06801, doi:10.1029/2012GL051000
a slower eastward progression of Rossby waves in the upper-level flow
1) weakened zonal winds,
2) increased wave amplitude.
may cause more persistent weather patterns in mid-latitude
A persistent and strong negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index was responsible for southerly air flow along the west of Greenland, which caused anomalously warm weather in winter 2010-11 and summer 2011.
Greenland ice sheet mass loss has accelerated in the past decade responding to combined glacier discharge and surface melt water runoff increases.
During summer, absorbed solar energy, modulated at the surface primarily by albedo, is the dominant factor governing surface melt variability in the ablation area.
Using satellite observations of albedo and melt extent with calibrated regional climate model output, we determine the spatial dependence and quantitative impact of the ice sheet albedo feedback in twelve summer periods beginning in 2000.
We find that while the albedo feedback is negative over 70 % of the ice sheet, concentrated in the accumulation area above 1500 m, positive feedback prevailing over the ablation area accounts for more than half of the overall increase in melting.
Over the ablation area, year 2010 and 2011 absorbed solar energy was more than twice as large as in years 2000—2004.
Anomalous anticyclonic circulation, associated with a persistent summer North Atlantic Oscillation extreme since 2007 enabled three amplifying mechanisms to maximize the albedo feedback:
(1) increased warm (south) air advection along the western ice sheet increased surface sensible heating that in turn enhanced snow grain metamorphic rates, further reducing albedo;
(2) increased surface downward solar irradiance, leading to more surface heating and further albedo reduction; and
(3) reduced snowfall rates sustained low albedo, maximizing surface solar heating, progressively lowering albedo over multiple years.
The summer net radiation for the high elevation accumulation area approached positive values during this period.
while negative feedback has been reducing impact of warming, the surface radiation budget has gotten more positive, seems a threshold is about to be crossed! All what is needed more is another decadal trend increase like the last decade, THIS IS LIKELY! It is reasonable to predict that we will observe mid summer (mid July) melting over 100% of the ice sheet surface. Max melt extent was ~65% in 2010.
The area and duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2011 were the third highest since 1979.
The area of marine-terminating glaciers continued to decrease, though at less than half the rate of the previous 10 years.
In situ measurements revealed near record-setting mass losses concentrated at higher elevations on the western slope of the ice sheet, and at an isolated glacier in southeastern Greenland.
Total ice sheet mass loss in 2011 was 70% larger than the 2003-09 average annual loss rate of -250 Gt y-1. According to satellite gravity data obtained since 2002, ice sheet mass loss is accelerating.
’holistic’ glacier study, Store Glacier, 70 N W Greenland…the idea is to observe the system not just make and analyze this or that measurement
in-situ crevasse widening measurements x 2
water filled crevasse depth measurements x 2
continuous GPS x 3
seismometers x 3
time lapse cameras
tidal modulation of flow dynamics
multi-beam swath sonar repeat survey of sub marine glacier front
hydrographic surveying (temperature, salinity, current; vs depth)
heat and water mass budget
acoustic doppler current profiler
aircraft and satellite remote sensing data
Debunking the sceptic [1:01:50]
John Cook from skepticalscience.com talks about Antarctic sea ice:
Jason Box has provided startling photographs which document the ice area detachment, four times the size of Manhattan Island, that occurred on 4 August, 2010 from the Petermann glacier in northwest Greenland. Photos taken in 2009 are matched with photos of the same area taken on 24 July this year. Here’s an aerial oblique front-on view taken by Jason Box Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University on 5 August 2009:
And here’s the ‘after photo’ to pair with it taken by Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University, Wales, on 24 July 2011:
A side oblique view of the same glacier front was taken on the 24 July 2009 by a time-lapse camera set by Jason Box:
And here’s the 24 July 2011 matching photo of the same view taken by Alun Hubbard:
Immediate reaction from Alun Hubbard who took the recent photographs: “Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the breakup, which rendered me speechless … What the breakup means in terms of inland ice acceleration and draw-down of the ice sheet remains to be seen, but will be revealed by the GPS data recovered, which we are now processing at Aberystwyth.”
In response to the question: How abnormal is this event? Jason Box notes: “The August 2010 ice calving at Petermann is the largest in the observational record for Greenland. Falkner et al. (2011) scoured the observations and found no evidence of an event this large in scattered observations since 1876. Johannessen et al. (2011) identified the next largest observed Petermann calving event ocurring in 1991, being 58% as large as the 2010 event.”
Box adds more general comment on Greenland glacier movement:
In a December 2010 AGU presentation abstract here, Jason Box concluded that of 38 glacier surveyed, it was only at the 6 glaciers with ice shelves* that a significant statistical link between land and sea surface temperatures and area change was evident. The physical reasoning why ice shelves respond to land and sea surface temperature change is that ice shelves are constrained to near sea-level, where temperature variations are most influential to surface melting. The surface slope of ice shelves is ~0. Glaciers climb within a few km (steeply) into colder parts of the atmosphere where surface melt rates decrease quickly. Water ponding on the surface, being much darker than a bare ice surface, concentrates solar energy, enhancing melt rates. A water filled depression, acting under gravity, has unlimited capacity to hydraulically jack through cracks in the glacier, provided it is kept filled with water. During the 24 h Arctic summer, the condition of unlimited water supply can be maintained on a glacier for weeks on end. Other factors such as tidal flexure and wind stress can be the straw that breaks the glaciers back.
(*) ice shelves: Petermann; Zachariae; Nioghalvfjerdsbrae/79; Ostenfeld; Jakobshavn; and Ryder
Box says melting ice at the front of a glacier speeds the ice movement into the sea. ’…the loss of the ice at the front is very important in terms of reducing the back resistance, the flow resistance is being reduced on these glaciers by losing ice at the front so they will accelerate in the future,’ he says.
Matching this expectation, Box says there is currently another ’enormous crack or rift’ developing on the Petermann Glacier, and the next piece is liable to break off at any time during the remaining days of this melt season or next year. ’In northern Greenland I think we’re just starting to see the… glaciers just start to react to the strong warming that has taken place,’ he says.
Although the Arctic seems far-removed from everyday developments in the United States, Box notes that what happens there will eventually affect those in lower latitudes. ’People should care because climate change in the Far North is occurring faster than down where we live… and what happens in the Far North affects us via sea level.’ He noted that Hurricane Irene may have caused more damage via coastal flooding since sea levels have already risen by about a foot along the East Coast during the past century.
’Ice is nature’s thermometer, and if it melts away, we know that something has occurred. Ice doesn’t pay attention to politics, it reacts to temperature and that’s it.’
Climatologist Jason Box, interviewed earlier this year by Gareth on The Climate Show #7 (interview begins 21 minutes in), is preparing to take part in an act of civil disobedience in coming days. The purpose is to try to convince President Obama that approving the extension of a controversial oil sands pipeline – the proposed $7 billion, 1,702-mile Keystone XL from Alberta to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and further to the Gulf Coast– would be the equivalent of what is described as lighting a fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. Box is among the 2000 so far signed up to line the fences of the White House, where peaceful arrests are not uncommon. They’ll begin gathering on Saturday and rotate through in waves of 75 to 100 daily for two weeks. Box is booked for a three-day stint at the tail end.
Earlier this month, Box joined 19 other prominent U.S. scientists in writing a letter to the President, adding their voices to those urging him to reject plans to construct the pipeline.
’The tar sands are a huge pool of carbon, but one that does not make sense to exploit…Adding this on top of conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control.
’When other huge oil fields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the Earth’s climate system and to its oceans. Now that we do know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy–and that we leave the tar sands in the ground.’
The step from letter writing to civil disobedience is a big one, and Box has thought about it seriously, as is explained in a good article in SolveClimate News:
’OK, so what’s next is what I keep asking myself,” Box said about his evolution as a scientist. “I’ve achieved what I set out to do with climatology. Am I just going to just keep studying the melting ice in Greenland? Then I’d just be treading water instead of swimming.”
By participating in the protest, he might liberate other climate scientists to take a stand, he said. If Hansen, who has fashioned a distinguished career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, can lead such a charge among the older guard, Box figures he might be an inspiration for mid-career scientists with potentially more to lose.
Still, Box struggles with that longtime inner voice that tells scientists not to take sides, utter opinions or wave around signs with pithy messages as activists do at rallies.
Yes, he admits to being a bit apprehensive about being confronted by climate deniers who might accuse him of being part of a vast Al Gore conspiracy. But he’s not worried enough to cancel his September flight.
In his own words:
“If our elected leaders aren’t acting, then we’re going to have to get more involved with our democracy. This is about motivating decision-makers to do their job. I’d like to think that scientists engaging skilfully with words and reason could start to change this problem … This is a moral movement and a moral issue. It’s unethical for us to stand by while the greed of others results in the destruction of our biosphere.
“I feel I’m on the high ground defending this position and that I have reason on my side. The question is, will anybody listen?”
Heaven knows what the answer to that question will finally be. And heaven knows whether reason has any power to influence human activity in the fevered world of American politics. But we applaud Box and the other 2000 demonstrators for their willingness to ensure that the warning of the consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels is sounded loud and clear.
Highlight of this week’s show is a fascinating — and sobering — interview with Greenland expert Professor Jason Box. His perspective on current events in the Arctic — from the dangers of permafrost methane, through rapid warming over Greenland and the potential impacts on sea level is essential listening and viewing. And he can surf, too. Glenn and Gareth discuss warm weather in New Zealand during a La NiÃ±a summer, drought in the Amazon and the complex interactions between climate and weather extremes, food production and political stability. John Cook from Skeptical Science debunks the favourite sceptic arguments about ice at both poles, and in the solutions segment we discuss the recent WWF report on renewable energy, and the new all-electric Porsche Boxster.
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From The Guardian: The World Bank has given a stark warning of the impact of the rising cost of food, saying an estimated 44 million people had been pushed into poverty since last summer by soaring commodity prices. Robert Zoellick, the Bank’s president, said food prices had risen by almost 30% in the past year and were within striking distance of the record levels reached during 2008.
Feature interview: One the world’s leading experts on Greenland and its ice sheet: Jason Box, Assoc. Prof., Department of Geography, Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA, currently on sabbatical as a visiting professor, University of California, Santa Cruz. We’re talking to him a few weeks before he makes his first trip of the year to Greenland.
Arctic sea ice has recovered? Harrison Schmitt: ’Artic (sic) sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage’ Heartland: ’in April 2009, Arctic sea ice extent had indeed returned to and surpassed 1989 levels.” (No it hasn’t)