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Climate: New book details global glacier losses

Most of the world’s ice rivers are shrinking into oblivion

The Dachstein Glacier in Austria has visibly and dramatically decreased in size in just a couple of decades. bberwyn photo.

The Dachstein Glacier in Austria has visibly and dramatically decreased in size in just a couple of decades. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For mountain dwellers around the world, shrinking glaciers are one of the most vivid symptoms of Earth’s rising fever. Those gleaming mantles of ice have already disappeared from iconic landscapes like Glacier National Park.

Globally, millions of people rely on glacier-regulated stream flows for water supplies, so communities need to prepare for disruptions in the hydrological cycle because it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the meltdown is not going to stop. Continue reading

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Surface melt on Greenland ice cap speeds glaciers

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Meltwater pools on the surface of the Sermeq Avannarleq Glacier, in a region about 10 miles from the ice sheet margin in Southwest Greenland. Photo courtesy William Colgan/CIRES.

Findings suggest sea level calculations may need to be adjusted

By Summit Voice

*Adapted from a NASA press release

FRISCO — Scientists are keeping close watch on the behavior of the Greenland ice sheet as they try and calculate how fast the ice will melt as the planet continues to warm. The stakes are high — acceleration of the meltdown will start to raise sea levels around the world at an increasing pace, so the speed-up of glaciers flowing into the sea have garnered plenty of attention.

And new satellite measurements suggest that some of Greenland’s giant glaciers are also moving up to 1.5 faster then they were just 10 years ago, possibly lubricated by surface meltwater draining through cracks and warming the ice from the inside.

“Through satellite observations, we determined that an inland region of the Sermeq Avannarleq Glacier, 40 to 60 miles from the coast, is flowing about 1.5 times faster than it was about a decade ago,” said Thomas Phillips, lead author of the new paper and a research associate at the time of the study with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Continue reading

Climate: Greenland warming speeds up

Scientists measure profound changes in the Arctic climate system

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Meltwater pools at the surface of the Greenland ice sheet during a summer warm spell. Photo courtesy CIRES.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The mighty Greenland ice sheet isn’t likely to melt down completely any time soon, but looking farther ahead, scientists say new research shows a significant and accelerating warming trend over the ice cap.

The long-term concern, of course, is sea level. When Greenland’s ice starts to melt quickly, it would speed up the sea level rise that’s already under way, with potentially devastating impacts for low-lying coastal areas. Scientists tracking the ice cap are posting their findings on the new Greenland Today website. Continue reading

Alaska’s Columbia Glacier may stop retreating by 2020

New modeling may help generate more accurate predictions of sea level rise

An iceberg from Alaska’s Columbia Glacier floats in Prince William Sound. Photo by Kim Fenske.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Alaska’s Columbia Glacier — a poster child for the impacts of global warming — is likely to stop receding around 2020, when the terminus of the glacier retreats into water shallow enough to provide a stable position through 2100 by slowing the rate of iceberg production.

The Columbia Glacier is a large (425 square miles), multi-branched glacier in south-central Alaska that flows mostly south out of the Chugach Mountains to its tidewater terminus in Prince William Sound.

The new study by Boulder-based University of Colorado scientists with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences shows that a single glacier’s contribution to sea level rise can “turn on” and “turn off” quite rapidly, over a couple of years, with the precise timing of the life cycle being difficult to forecast. Continue reading

Climate: Summers are indeed getting warmer

Statistical analysis of observational data reinforces modeling projections

October 2012 temperature anomalies compared to the 1951-1980 average.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — If you live in the Balkans, or perhaps the southwestern U.S. and you feel like summers have been getting warming, it’s not just your imagination.

After crunching numbers from 90 years worth of observational data, scientists with the Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences say they’ve shown that summer climates are, for the most part, warming.

“It is the first time that we show on a local scale that there are significant changes in summer temperatures,” said lead author CIRES scientist Irina Mahlstein. “This result shows us that we are experiencing a new summer climate regime in some regions.” Continue reading

Climate: Is the Greenland ice sheet slip-sliding away?

New study assesses impacts of draining glacial lakes

This is a surface, or supraglacial lake on the Greenland Ice Sheet. PHOTO COURTESY KONRAD STEFFEN/UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A team of Boulder-based researchers is trying to determine whether Greenland’s ice sheet is about to slip off the island and into the sea due to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes.

Those events have become increasingly frequent, especially in warmer years, and may affect sea-level rise, with implications for coastal communities, according to the researchers with the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

While previous research has documented coastal glaciers speeding up, it’s still unclear what’s causing the acceleration, but the evidence is growing that global warming may be a factor, said the researchers, who compared the process to a load of snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day. Continue reading

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