The surface of the whole of the Greenland Glacier has turned to slush, only good for gelato or an ice sherbet, but not fit to be called a GLACIER any more..
Satellite data shows that the warm spells of the last month, melted nearly the entire surface of Greenland’s ice cap. The melt is unusual because normally less than half of the ice sheet ever presents some form of melting at the surface. And it melts only at the surface. And only during the end of the summer. And mostly at the lowest elevations of the glacier etc…
Yet this year the thaw was total, stunningly swift and immediately widespread. And it extended all the way high up on the Greenland’s glacial peaks and almost reached the total of 100% of the GREENLAND GLACIER surface for the first time ever.
Specifically the alarm went off on the 8th of July this year, when more than 40% of the Greenland glacier ice surface was photographed as being totally wet and melting with steam and water runoff. This process intensified and by 12th of July, the fraction of wet ice had soared to 97% (see image). The snowpack turned to slush even at the 3.2 kilometre-high Summit Station, at the apex of Greenland’s ice sheet. Kaitlin Keegan of Dartmouth College says she found a layer of melted ice at the surface when she arrived at the station on 13 July.
Total Greenland Glacier Thaw –Image: Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory and Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI and Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory
“We were all surprised,” says Thomas Mote, a climatologist at the University of Georgia. In 30 years of satellite observations, the greatest extent of surface melt was recorded a decade ago, when about 75 per cent of the surface was wet.
Most major Climatologists say, that there is a huge cause for immediate concern.
Because all new data and climate as well as ice morphology models show that Greenland’s ice cap, the world’s second largest, was on track to hit a point of no return in 2040… Yet this development shows that we might have reached the POINT OF NO RETURN three decades early…
And it all happened back in 2010. Because back on 4 August 2010, the Petermann glacier in Greenland sounded a huge warning. A gigantic slab of ice the size of Manhattan broke off and the glacier retreated 15 kilometres, leaving it further inland than it had ever been – since Greenland glacier observations began a century ago. An ice island, the size of Manhattan, spanning 100 km2 and holding 5 billion tonnes of ice, broke free and drifted out to sea, melting thoroughly.
For a scientific assessment of this huge event, please watch this video: http://www.newscientist.com/videoredirect?bcpid This is how the process began: Melting at the surface of the ice forms huge whirlpools of relatively warm fresh water that bore holes into the floating sheet. The scientists believe this process is accelerating the ice’s demise. In places, the meltwater bores holes through the ice right down to the bottom of the ice tongue. Surfacing seals are proof that some of the holes – called moulins – pierce to bottom of the ice. Box, who in addition to posting his instruments on the ground is surveying the ice by helicopter, says the view from above is one of “innumerable turquoise pools, from puddles to lakes – thousands of them”. When the huge section of ice breaks off, it could be like uncorking a bottle. A smaller ice tongue will provide less resistance for the glacier as it flows out to sea, which ultimately will accelerate sea level rise around the world…
As with all glaciers that terminate over water, big chunks of ice regularly break off the Petermann ice tongue, a process which is normally compensated for by the snow that falls on the upper reaches of the glacier. But the sheer amount of ice that could break away in a single event is concerning the scientists – five billion tonnes of ice is equivalent to nearly half of the glacier’s usual annual flow. The researchers are unsure what exactly is causing the break-up. A chunk of 1 billion tonnes of ice broke off last year and there has been an acceleration in the flow of ice over the past few years. They think a number of factors are involved including melt water lubricating the glacier’s underbelly, warmer ocean currents that are melting the ice from below, and warmer air temperatures that are melting it from above. “Ocean warming currents are circulating around the fjord and eroding the underbelly of Petermann glacier at an incredible rate,” says Hubbard.
Greenland’s Ice Sheet melting is not preventable due to the anthropogenic forcing of greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, CFCs etc. Some nations expect the Greenland Ice Dome to collapse in 10 years after the Arctic Ocean and North Pole become time ice free in September 2015. A significant and sustained melt water accumulation within ice sheet and melt water penetration to the ice sheet’s base is required for Greenland ice sheet detachment from the underlying bedrocks.
July 2012 melting is unprecedented but a necessary transition before the cold and dry moraine-forming stable ice sheet converts itself to the warm and wet aggregate-forming dynamic ice sheet with rapid erosion forces that produces sorted sand deposits (cavitation), erratic boulder fields (plucking), giant’s cauldrons (kolking), nuns mountains (plucking and kolking), sand ridges (cavitation, deposition, ice splitting and suction) before its final demise at Heindrich Ice Berg Calving Event Minus One (H-1).
The risk of Polar Ice Cap collapses is disputed by the Western Group of Nations (principally the US and the EU based academia). It is supported by many marine littoral states of for varied reasons. Glaciologists of Chile and Argentina persuaded the United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon this risk back in 2007. The Larsen B Ice Shelf collapse in 2002 resulted from excessive melt water pockets that divided and suddenly broke up the glacier.
World Indigenous Nations Summit made the rapid glaciations-deglaciations as the Closing Appeal to conclude the United Nations Year of Indigenous Peoples on 10th December 1992 based on the First Nations of Americas ethnoclimatology. It is supported by some Pacific Ocean and South East Asian nations as these nations recall permanent sea level jumps having occurred in their history.
Al Gore in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” raised the prospect of failure of Greenland’s ice sheet due to melt water accumulation within its ice sheet. Roland Emmerlich’s films “A Day After Tomorrow” and “2012″ are suggested actually to illustrate climatic and isostatic adjustments from the destabilised ice sheets that drove earthquakes, supervolcanoes, lava floods, sea level jump and subsequent severe climatic freezes after ocean filled with ice during Heindrich Ice Berg Calving Event (H0) during the Younger Dryas.
Various countries are planning or in process of moving their capitals and settling people away from the seaside. The prospects of territorial losses have led countries to draft plans for resettlement of the internally displaced people and irrigation schemes in upland territories where riparian discharges are currently used in low lying river deltas that are prone to the flooding. Sea defences of cities and nuclear power stations are being built. The fusion of coastal sand banks to create continuous coastal dike to dam the Mediterranean have been planned by the Arab Republic of Egypt in case of such an eventuality. However, some low lying countries have little or no territories that would survive a major sea level surge and these countries have responded in four ways to ameliorate the risk:
Territorial Land Exchange Treaties are made where countries worried about their low lying terrain exchange some of their low lying land or sea bed exploration rights to the higher terrain elsewhere.
Territorial Purchase Treaties are made between countries where the low lying county buys land from a country that has land mass that is perceived to stay dry ground even if there is an ice sheet collapse. An example of this kind of treaty is The Territorial Purchase Treaty of 2011 between the low lying Republic of Kiribati and the Republic of Fiji to resettle the Kiribatis to Fiji by year 2025.
National Expatriation Treaties are made between countries where the citizens of the low lying country move to the new host country and become their citizens in case of sea level rise. An example of this kind of treaty is The National Expatriation Treaty between the low lying Republic of Tuvalu and Australia which has agreed to provide the refuge for the former country if ocean rises.
Joint Citizenship Treaties are made between countries where the citizens of the low lying country are issued a joint citizenship in the form of dual passports of the cosignatories. An example of this type of treaty is The Joint Citizenship Treaty between the low lying Republic of Niue and Australia.
Recognizing the failure of our common will as civilization to address Climate Change effectively, some people are getting their Noah’s Ark ready.
What about you?
All is quiet on the Northern glacier front…
And especially quiet on the UN front…
That huge warning from the melted Petermann glacier of Greenland back in 2010, went unheeded. All was quiet about this, at the UN climate talks in Cancún, Mexico in 2010, as well as in the follow up UN led climate talks in Durban South Africa, back in the end of 2011 and it looks like it’s going to go unheard in this as well as in next year’s talks too. And so is expected to be with the 2012 Ice Berg event… Because all the national and international delegates to the UN Climate Change Summits, always leave the talks without agreeing on the much needed drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, leaving the planet on course for a 3.2 °C – a 5 °C of global warming and Greenland, the world’s second largest ice cap after the Antarctic, heading for the point of no return. The suggestion was that Greenland will reach a tipping point in the early 2040. After that no amount of action on our part could save the ice sheet. We thought this would happen unless governments dramatically upped their commitments to reducing global warming by changing their selfish behaviour and by limiting their CO2 emitting energy habits. Yet this catastrophe seems to be hitting home right now, three decades too early… and there is nothing we can do about it. Maybe that s why we fail to tackle this issue in the UN Climate Summit each and every year… we convene in the exotic locales around the globe to attempt to reach a global CO2 emissions reduction deal.
And as all things seem to be accelerating now in order to prepare us for when the singularity hits — So it seems to be the fate of the Greenland glacier too as it accelerates towards it’s sudden and final demise. This demise being not a tipping point but rather a catastrophic tip off into the ocean. Not a happy event to even contemplate stone cold sober…
And the current melt down makes things even worse as if this is possible. Because long-term ice core records show that Greenland ice at the highest placed location of the Glacier the Summit Station; melts only once every couple of centuries and it was last observed about 150 years ago. So this much widespread melting in one year is entirely unusual. What would be really troubling is if it were to happen again, because this would threaten the stability of the ice sheet and lead to collapse and the flooding of all the Earth’s coastal cities suddenly with tens of feet of water from the sudden sea level rises.
The discovery of widespread melting came after hydrologist Åsa K. Rennermalm of Rutgers University, New Jersey, noticed that stream runoffs at her field site in west Greenland were unusually heavy. She contacted Mote to find out if this was widespread across the region. Together with collaborators, they found that three independent datasets (microwave, infrared and radar data) showed liquid water was widespread across much of the island nation.
Mote blames the melting on a pocket of warm air that has sat above Greenland in a weather pattern similar to the one blamed for the ongoing drought in central US. Earlier in the summer, a strong southerly jet blew anomalously warm air from the North Atlantic over Greenland. The jet stream then pinched off the flow and left the warm air behind to stagnate, Mote says.
Greenland is losing mass from more extensive runoff at lower elevations too and this is the most worrisome event ever…
And the break away of a sea going ice island is happening again now. In front of our very own eyes and is recorded by our observation systems:
The morning of July 16th 2012, the diminished – yet still giant – Petermann Glacier lost another ice island double the size as compared to what it lost back in 2010. This time is two Manhattan islands as opposed to one lost back in 2010…
The break-off point has been visible for at least 8 years in MODIS satellite imagery propagating at speeds of 1 km/year towards Nares Strait. The fracture also extended further across the floating ice sheet from the northern towards its southern side.
Huge cracks have opened up across the ice tongue (Image: Nick Cobbing)
This huge glacier melt off event is still evolving, all the way from when Trudy Wohleben of the Canadian Ice Service noticed it first after the other calving in 2010 and after carefully reviewing the Terra-MODIS satellite imagery. Several people in several countries are also monitoring and assessing the situation, but a first estimate of the current sea going ice islands’ size is about 120 square km or about the size of 2 Manhattan islands.
The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Henry Larsen is scheduled to travel to Nares Strait (and Petermann Fjord) to recover moorings placed in 2009. These mooring data, if recovered, will contain ocean current, temperature, salinity, and ice thickness data at better than hourly intervals from 2009 through 2012.
For comparison, here is the 2010 imagery on the same scale using the same processing and colors. The imagery is provided as the satellite MODIS-Terra passes over the area closer to nadir.
The 2010 Petermann Glacier calving event also indicates the crack that broke off this morning as indicated. Note that the entire floating ice shelf moves by about 1 to 1.3 km per year, slightly less than a mile per year. The crack in 2010 is where the 2012 runaway ice berg island has formed.
The imminent major risk comes from the “disappearing” in total of the yet still floating Petermann Glacier.
Because we are threatened by the Petermann glacier failing in it’s entirety. Tipping off suddenly in the drink, off from the Northwest Greenland, which has been losing mass continually in the last few years due to the constantly increasing global warming.
And because just now the Petermann glacier has “calved” [lost] again another huge ice berg, in the space of two years instead of in the space of forty years, it seems these catastrophes will happen very frequently and really fast because the underbelly of the glacier is really lubricated and it’s moorings lost through the constant meltwater runoff… and this will lead the whole glacier to tip off into the sea bringing catastrophic sea level rises overnight around the world.
Since the Petermann glacier literally broke up and lost a huge chunk of it in the form of a giant ice berg the size of two Manhattan islands this 16th of July 2012, just after the surface melting of ice had peaked, and less than two years after losing another ice chunk of similar size in order of magnitude — we are certain that we are witnessing a major climate forcing event and we are further certain of having crossed the “Berkeley line” or the point of no return.
And that “climate forcing” event had nothing to do with the warm air circulating over Greenland this summer but because of long term global climate warming trends. So says Andreas Muenchow of the University of Delaware: “Eighty to 90 per cent of this glacier is being melted from below.”
You see it is all because “the underbelly” of the giant glacier is floating in the warm melt water and this has literally set it loose. Because the melt water underbelly “lubrication” has effectively cut off all the “moorings” of the glacier to the bedrocks bellow…
And now, the tip off of the whole lot, into the drink is imminent.
And remember that when the Greenland Glacier slides into the ocean — it will happen suddenly — and the sea levels will rise by at least seven meters across the globe.
That’s a sea level rise of twenty one  feet and counting.
Get your floats ready.