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Glacier inventory to help with sea level projections

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The world’s glaciers are dwindling.

CU Boulder scientists help lead mapping effort

Staff Report

FRISCO — Lots of quibbling over the exact rate and pace of glacier melt has at least partly obscured the grim reality that many of the world’s glaciated regions will see profound changes in the next few decades as global temperatures continue to rise.

That meltdown will raise sea level, but so far, nobody has been able to quantify the amount precisely. But new data gathered in a study led by University of Colorado, Boulder scientists should help. The team, including researchers from Trent University in Ontario, Canada recently completed the first mapping of virtually all of the world’s glaciers. That enables calculations of their volumes and ongoing contributions to global sea rise as the world warms. Continue reading

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South America glacier decline linked with global warming

Temps, not snowfall, drive shrinkage of Peru’s Quelccaya Ice Cap

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The Quelccaya Ice Capis likely shrinking as global temperatures increase. Photo via Edubucher and a Creative Commons share-alike license.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Geologists are getting better at unraveling the mysteries of historic glacial episodes, as technology helps understand how the ice sheets respond to climate change.

One recent research project led by scientists from Dartmouth University suggests that temperature is the driving factor in shaping the size of Peru’s Quelccaya Ice Cap. The 17-square mile glacier in the Andes has been shrinking dramatically in the past few decades, making it a global warming symbol.

The findings support the idea that tropical glaciers are rapidly shrinking because of a warming climate — not because of a lack of snowfall. The study results will  help scientists to better understand the natural variability of past and modern climate and to refine models that predict tropical glaciers’ response to future climate change. Continue reading

Climate: Are Greenland’s glaciers speeding up?

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New data shows at least one glacier moving at a record pace of 50 feet per day

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Arctic ice researchers say detailed measurements show that one Greenland’s glaciers has been moving at a record speed the past few years.

The scientists with the University of Washington and the German Space Agency measured the movement of the Jakobshavn Isbræ (Jakobshavn Glacier) in 2012 and 2013, concluding that the glacier is moving four times as fast as during the 1990s.

“We are now seeing summer speeds more than 4 times what they were in the 1990s on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland,” said Ian Joughin, a researcher at the Polar Science Center, University of Washington and lead-author of the study. Continue reading

Climate: Melting Himalayan glaciers threaten farms

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A NASA Earth Observatory image shows the high peaks of the snow-capped Himalaya Mountains.

New study documents pace of ice loss in world’s tallest mountain

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Melting Himalyan glaciers may not be causing a direct rise in sea level, but in some cases, the water is causing lakes overflow, flooding valuable agricultural land.

Glaciers are important indicators of climate change. Global warming causes mountain glaciers to melt, which, apart from the shrinking of the Greenlandic and Antarctic ice sheets, is regarded as one of the main causes of the present global sea-level rise.

Tibet’s glaciers have been losing mass at the rate of about 16 gigatons per year for the past decade. That loss is spread across about 80 percent of Tibet’s glaciers, according to Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist from the University of Zurich. That’s more than four times the volume of water in Lake Zurich and around six percent of the total loss in mass of all the glaciers on Earth. Continue reading

Study confirms rapid warming in European Alps

Does industrial soot play a role in the meltdown of Alpine glaciers?

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How long will the European Alps remain snow-clad? Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With temperatures in the European Alps rising twice as fast as the global average, there’s little hope of saving some of the world’s most famous glaciers without immediate and significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

And there’s little doubt that the warming is caused by those emissions. Findings from a new study presented this week at the American Geophysical Union conference show the sudden onset of warming about 30 years ago. The study, led by researchers with the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State, offers new and compelling evidence that the Italian Alps are warming at an unprecedented rate. Continue reading

Climate: Study eyes speed of Antarctic glaciers

Findings may help fine-tune sea level rise projections

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Melting Antarctic glaciers are contributing to sea level rise. bberwyn photo.

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A NASA map shows Antarctica’s major glaciers.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Calculating the speed of glaciers in Antarctica is a key piece of information for climate scientists trying to project sea level rise, but until recently, they haven’t been able to include information about what’s happening beneath the ice, where the glaciers meet the ground.

It turns out there are narrow strips of dirt and rock creating friction zones that slow the flow, according to scientists with Princeton University and the British Antarctic Survey, who used mathematical models, ground-penetrating radar and other instruments to try and determine the lay of the land. Continue reading

New map details Iceland glaciers, sub-glacial volcanoes

New map provides valuable information the global warming era

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Iceland’s glaciers are an important source of water for hydropower generation.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A team effort by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Icelandic Meteorological Office has resulted in a new map detailing all of Iceland’s glaciers, as well as subglacial volcanoes. The map incorporates historical data and coverage from aerial photographs and remote sensing satellites, helping to show recent and historic changes in Iceland’s dynamic landscape.

Iceland has about 300 glaciers throughout the country, and altogether, 269 glaciers, outlet glaciers and internal ice caps are named. The glaciers that lack names are small and largely newly revealed, exposed by melting of snow pack due to warmer summer temperatures. The number of identified glaciers has nearly doubled at the beginning of the 21st century. Continue reading

Global warming: Study helps quantify how much Alaska’s melting glaciers contribute to sea level rise

Research aims to fine-tune sea-level rise projections

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The Columbia Glacier in Alaska is one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory web page for more information.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As part of a global study of melting glaciers and rising sea level, two University of Alaska Fairbanks geophysicists helped compile a global inventory of glaciers, with a focus on Alaska.

Before the study, only about 40 percent of Alaska’s glaciers were inventoried. The two researchers, Anthony Arendt and Regine Hock, concluded that Alaska remains one of the top contributors to global sea level. Continue reading

Global warming: Mt. Everest’s glaciers melting away

Temperatures up, precipitation down in key Asian watersheds

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A new study finds a decline in snow and ice on Mount Everest (second peak from left) and the national park surrounding it. Photo courtesy Pavel Novak.

FRISCO — Even at the frozen roof of the world in the mighty Himalaya, global warming is evident.

The snow line in the Mt. Everest region has moved uphill by 180 meters (590 feet). Glaciers in the region are shrinking, some by as much as 13 percent in the past 50 years, and precipitation has declined, according to a team of scientists who will present their findings this week at the Meeting of the Americas in Cancún, Mexico.

Glaciers smaller than one square kilometer are disappearing the fastest and have experienced a 43 percent decrease in surface area since the 1960s, according to Sudeep Thakuri, who is leading the research as part of his PhD graduate studies at the University of Milan in Italy. Based on the detailed measurements of satellite images, the pace of melting speeding up, Thakuri said. Continue reading

Climate: Heat-trapping CO2 also makes ice more brittle

New MIT research suggests carbon dioxide has direct impact on glaciers and ice caps

Cracks in the ice on Dillon Reservoir, Dec. 25, 2012. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Have you ever poured a can of warm coke into a glass full of ice cubes and listened to the cubes crack?

Something similar might be going on in the atmosphere, as MIT researchers have shown that direct exposure to carbon dioxide makes ice caps and glaciers more susceptible to cracking.

The study is the first to show this kind of a direct impact from increasing atmospheric CO2, which as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas is directly responsible for much of the increase in global temperatures during recent decades. Continue reading

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