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Climate Change in the Arctic & around the globe

Alarming news on Greenland ice sheet

I was just preparing material for my trip to the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso this coming weekend when a press release came in headlined “new melt record for Greenland ice sheet”.
A study sponsored by WWF Arctic, the US National Science Foundation and NASA has been examining surface temperature anomalies over the Greenland ice sheet surface and estimates of surface melting from satellite data, observations on the ground and models. Dr Marco Tedesco, Director of the CryosphereProcesses Laboratory at the City College of New York , is quoted as saying the past melt season was exceptional, “with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average”. It seems melting in 2010 started exceptionally early – at the end of April – and ended quite late in mid-September, says Tedesco. Amongst the other results of an article just published by Tedesco and others in Environmental Research Letters are that summer temperatures were up to 3 degrees C above the average in 2010, combined with reduced snowfall. Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, “had the warmest spring and summer since records began in 1873″.
The study indicates that bare ice was exposed earlier than the average and longer than previous years.
“Bare ice is much darker than snow and absorbs more solar radiation”, says Tedesco. “This means the old ice is warming, melting, and running off into the sea”.
Melting of the Greenland ice sheet is expected to be a major contributor to projected sea level rises in the future.
WWF’s climate specialist Dr. Martin Sommerkorn said sea level rise was expected to top one metre by 2100, largely because of melting from ice sheets.
All of this does not surprise me. I am intrigued to hear what the Arctic specialists will have to report at the Arctic Frontiers meeting – and what the politicians attending the political part of the forum will have to say.

Date

January 20, 2011 | 3:19 pm

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Arctic research at Zackenberg this summer

Ice blog regulars will remember my trip to Zackenberg station last summer, in high Arctic Greenland.

(Zackenberg station summer 2009)

The ecological monitoring station has been manned for the past few summer months as usual.
I’d like to recommend a look at the blog from deputy station leader Lars Hansen.

(Lars in the field at Zackenberg summer 2009)

You will find some of his stories fascinating and his pictures are fantastic.The latest entry is all about a polar bear visiting the station on Lars’ birthday, October 7th, so very recently. Belated many happy returns Lars, you have some unusual party guests!
Blog from deputy station leader Lars Hansen

Date

October 15, 2010 | 12:39 pm

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Alarming rise in Arctic methane emissions

Sound familiar? Ice-blog readers will remember methane is more than 20 times as powerful as CO2 as a greenhouse gas, and that scientists in the Arctic are measuring the extent of methane emissions from melting permafrost.
There are billions of tonnes of methane captured in the Arctic soil. As temperatures rise and the permafrost melts, more methane is released. It increases the greenhouse effect further, resulting in a “feedback loop”, with the increased warming melting more permafrost and releasing even more methane.
Zackenberg station in Greenland, which I visited this year, is one of the Arctic stations measuring methane. If you haven’t heard the programme I made including interviews with Prof. Morten Rasch, who heads the Greenland environment monitoring programme, it’s available under the “climate” banner on the right of DW’s environment page. There’s also a photo gallery with brief texts if you don’t have the time to listen to the full feature.
Climate Monitoring in Arctic Greenland
Now a study presented in the journal Nature reports a massive rise in the amount of methane being released from the Arctic permafrost.
See also today’s edition of the Guardian.
Guardian’s David Adam on rise in Arctic methane emissions
Although only 2% of global methane comes from the Arctic, the increase is highest in the Arctic, which is warming much faster than the rest of the planet.
The Guardian quotes Prof. Paul Palmer from Edinburgh University as saying the study “does not show the Arctic has passed a tipping point, but it should open people’s eyes. it shows there is a positive feedback and that higher temperatures bring higher emissions and faster warming”.
Edinburgh Climate Expert Paul Palmer

Date

January 15, 2010 | 8:57 am

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“The talent and the power to change the world”

Well,we’re approaching the first week of the Copenhagen summit. Are you already getting tired of it? Or do you think it’s starting to get exciting and wonder what the world’s leaders will come up with at the end of next week? Georg Windisch commented on the Ice Blog that he finds it sad we need to worry about overkill on this topic, because he says it’s a matter of our very existence.
“What ever comes about this crucial sumit we must continue to voice our concerns about the future of our children. It is very selfish from us just to keep on taking and not willing to give. To many people have to die because of our life style, its time we give our best efforts to help everyone and every living speceis to exist on our beautiful planet. With hope for a better world as we have the talent and power to change the world for the better” says Georg.
I agree with you wholeheartedly, Georg, I wish more of our influential politicians and business-people would do the same, and be prepared to put their money where their mouths are.
There have been some signs of hope. The US Environment Protection Agency’s decision that greenhouse gases represent a health threat, for instance. Might seem to you like stating the obvious, but if it gives the President more scope to reduce them, it’s a big step forward.
Then again we had the escalation in the dispute between the wealthy industrialised and the developing nations. EU leaders are supposed to come up with a figure for funding today. Let’s see what that brings. Somehow I fear it will fall short of what’s needed.
I’ve been pleased to note the media are really giving full attention to the subject. And people around me are actually talking about it. Let’s hope it stays that way until December 19th – and beyond.
Ice-Blog readers might be interested in a flash picture gallery I made on Climate Change in Greenland. And a 25-minute radio feature to listen or download on the same topic.
Climate Change in Greenland – in sound and pictures
Click on the “climate” section on the right-hand side.
There are some other interesting stories on the page too.

Date

December 11, 2009 | 9:17 am

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Satellite Arctic and Antarctic images alarm scientists


(Greenland coastal glacier I photographed this summer)

More worrying news on the ice front. A study based on the analysis of millions of NASA satellite laser images has indicated that coastal ice in Greenland and Antarctica is thinning more extensively than expected. The biggest loss of ice is caused by glaciers speeding up when they flow into the sea, according to scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Bristol University. There is a clear pattern of glaciers thinning across large areas of coastline, sometimes extending hundreds of kilometres inland. The scientists think the cause is probably warm ocean currents reaching the coast and melting the glacier fronts.
Worryingly, the scientific community still does not have enough information to understand this fully and predict what impact it will have on sea level rise.
According to the study, 81 of 111 fast-moving glaciers in Greenland are thinning at twice the rate of slow-flowing ice at the same altitude. This is called “dynamic thinning”, which means loss of ice caused by a faster flow. Apparently, it is much more significant than people thought before. This fits with what scientists I talked to in Greenland a few weeks ago were saying.


Melting from below

Date

September 24, 2009 | 3:58 pm

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