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Massive Glaciers Collapsing into Seas; Major Heat Surge Feared in Five Years


March 8, 2015
Pakalolo / The Daily Kos

The waters of the Arctic Ocean have warmed at a rapid pace relative to the rest of the world over recent years, and 2012 in particular was a year of exceptional melting and warmth in the arctic due to some extreme storms. 3,000-foot-thick glaciers have begun crumbling into the sea. A study in Geophysical Research Letters reports climate change is adding on average around 125 trillion Joules of heat to the oceans per second -- equal to the detonation of two Hiroshima -sized atomic bombs.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/02/19/1365572/-Mother-Earth-weeps-as-Arctic-Circle-Ice-Cap-slides-into-the-Sea

This Is What It Looks Like When a Planet Starts to Collapse:
The Largest Glacier Calving Ever Filmed




(December 14, 2012) -- This video from the award-winning documentary Chasing Ice captured a historic breakup at the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. On May 28, 2008, Adam LeWinter and Director Jeff Orlowski filmed a historic breakup at the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. The calving event lasted for 75 minutes and the glacier retreated a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. The height of the ice was about 3,000 feet, 300-400 feet above water and the rest below water.

Arctic Ice Crashes into Sea: Mother Earth Weeps as Arctic Circle Ice Cap Slides into the Sea
Pakalolo / The Daily Kos

(February 19, 2015) -- The Austfonna ice cap is located in northeastern Svalbard within the arctic circle north of Scandinavia. "Roughly 28% of the ice cap bed lies below sea level and over 200 km of its southern and eastern margin terminates in the ocean [Dowdeswell, 1986; Dowdeswell et al., 2008], with parts resting on a retrograde slope."

Like most glaciers that terminate at the sea, warm water from the Atlantic is making its way north to the Arctic ocean (including Berants sea) where the warmth helps to melt the underside of the glacier which in turn causes thinning resulting in rapid retreat. This process is also exacerbated by melt water and bedrock warming. This is changing the flow dynamics of the glacier.

The Earth Story describes the dynamic change as follows:
This glacier appears to have come ungrounded, flowing out to sea at a rapid pace and draining ice from the ice cap in the process. The ice cap is now thinning by an average of 25 meters per year.

The waters of the Arctic Ocean have warmed at a rapid pace relative to the rest of the world over recent years, and 2012 in particular was a year of exceptional melting and warmth in the arctic due to some extreme storms. The sudden movement in this glacier suggests that this pulse of heat has helped destabilize glaciers in the surrounding territory and it is happening at an exceptionally rapid pace.


The technical study concludes:
To date, the observed dynamical imbalance has propagated 50 km inland to within 8 km of the ice cap summit, producing widespread ice loss to the ocean. Currently, the glacier terminus rests on a broadly undulating bed; however, farther inland the bed deepens, providing the potential for future instability if further ungrounding occurs [Schoof, 2007].

The imbalance could have been triggered by a number of processes, including an internally generated surge, increased meltwater availability at the bed [Dunse et al., 2014], or enhanced ocean- or atmosphere-driven melting at the terminus; indeed, a combination of factors may have contributed [Nick et al., 2009; Jenkins, 2011]. Across Austfonna, however, there is a coherent pattern of ice margin thinning at all marine-based sectors, which is not apparent at land-terminating basins (Figure 1). This may suggest either a common ocean forcing or the influence of bed conditions specific to marine settings.

Additional evidence of anomalously warm waters offshore [Polyakov et al., 2005, 2013] and insignificantly increased atmospheric melting in recent years leads us to favor the former mechanism, rather than one linked to increased melt water delivery to the bed, although a definitive link would require dynamical modeling and measurements at the calving front.

Until then, it is unclear whether the moderate rates of thinning of other marine ice sectors are a prelude to similar widespread mass loss in these areas, or whether the large dynamical imbalance at basin 3 will be sustained over time. Nonetheless, the behavior recorded here demonstrates that slow-flowing ice caps can enter states of significant imbalance over very short timescales and highlights their capacity for increased ice loss in the future.



A Major Surge in Atmospheric Warming
Is Probably Coming in the Next Five Years

Pakalolo / The Daily Kos

(March 3, 2015) -- My heart stopped for a few moments when I read this article from Motherboard. I pay attention to what is happening with our precarious position that we are in when it comes to climate change. I pay so much attention that at times I can't sleep due to what is happening to our air conditioners, the Arctic and Antarctica.

I want to know and I need to know just as much as some of my health issues need to be known so that I know what I am up against and can either adapt or die. But still, I was hoping we would have more time to try to put the brakes on this slow moving train wreck. Instead, all hell is going to break loose I fear.

In 2011, a paper in Geophysical Research Letters tallied up the total warming data from land, air, ice, and the oceans. In 2012, the lead author of that study, oceanographer John Church, updated his research. What Church found was shocking: in recent decades, climate change has been adding on average around 125 trillion Joules of heat energy to the oceans per second.

How to convey this extraordinary fact? His team came up with an analogy: it was roughly the same amount of energy that would be released by the detonation of two atomic bombs the size dropped on Hiroshima.

In other words, these scientists found that anthropogenic climate is warming the oceans at a rate equivalent to around two Hiroshima bombs per second.

But as new data came in, the situation has looked worse: over the last 17 years, the rate of warming has doubled to about four bombs per second. In 2013, the rate of warming tripled to become equivalent to 12 Hiroshima bombs every second.

So not only is warming intensifying, it is also accelerating. By burning fossil fuels, humans are effectively detonating 378 million atomic bombs in the oceans each year -- this, along with the ocean's over-absorption of carbon dioxide, has fuelled ocean acidification, and now threatens the entire marine food chain as well as animals who feed on marine species. Like, er, many humans.

According to a new paper from a crack team of climate scientists, a key reason that the oceans are absorbing all this heat in recent decades so well (thus masking the extent of global warming by allowing atmospheric average temperatures to heat more slowly), is due to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), an El Nino-like weather pattern that can last anywhere between 15-30 years.

In its previous positive phase, which ran from around 1977 to 1998, the PDO meant the oceans would absorb less heat, thus operating as an accelerator on atmospheric temperatures. Since 1998, the PDO has been in a largely negative phase, during which the oceans absorb more heat from the atmosphere. . . .

So at some point in the near future, the PDO will switch from its current negative phase back to positive, reducing the capacity of the oceans to accumulate heat from the atmosphere.

That positive phase of the PDO will therefore see a rapid rise in global surface air temperatures, as the oceans' capacity to absorb all those Hiroshima bomb equivalents declines -- and leaves it to accumulate in our skies. In other words, after years of slower-than-expected warming, we may suddenly feel the heat.

So when will that happen? No one knows for sure, but at the end of last year, signs emerged that the phase shift to a positive PDO could be happening right now.

In the five months before November 2014, measures of surface temperature differences in the Pacific shifted to positive, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is the longest such positive shift detected in about 12 years.

Although too soon to determine for sure whether this is, indeed, the beginning of the PDO's switch to a new positive phase, this interpretation is consistent with current temperature variations, which during a positive PDO phase should be relatively warm in the tropical Pacific and relatively cool in regions north of about 20 degrees latitude.

In January 2015, further signs emerged that the PDO is right now in transition to a new warm phase. "Global warming is about the get a boost," ventured meteorologist Eric Holthaus.

Recent data including California's intensifying drought and sightings of tropical fish off the Alaskan coast "are further evidence of unusual ocean warming," suggesting that a PDO transition "may already be underway a new warm phase."

While it's still not clear whether the PDO is really shifting into a new phase just yet, when it does, it won't be good. Scientists from the UK Met Office's Hadley Center led by Dr. Chris Roberts of the Oceans and Cryosphere Group estimate in a new paper in Nature that there is an 85 percent chance the faux 'pause' will end in the next five years, followed by a burst of warming likely to consist of a decade or so of warm ocean oscillations.


So what does all this mean? According to this report, "What this means, if the UK Met Office is right, is that we probably have five years (likely less) before we witness a supercharged surge of rapid global warming that could last a decade, further destabilizing the climate system in deeply unpredictable ways."

Our representatives in congress are having snowball fights, perhaps in a few years the world will demand that all fossil fuels stay in the ground. Hopefully, we will have time to figure out how to survive this looming catastrophe.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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