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Gas flaring a big source of Arctic black soot build-up

map of black carbon emissions

This map shows the surface concentrations of black carbon, from all emission sources, as simulated by the new study. The study shows that residential combustion emissions and gas flaring emissions are higher than previous studies had estimated. Graphic courtesy IIASA.

Fossil fuel development in high latitudes likely to speed Arctic meltdown

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — By now, we all know that burning fossil fuels is creating a global environmental problem by rapidly increasing the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. but it turns out that it also matters how and where fossil fuels are extracted and developed.

A new study from International Institute for Applied Physics Analysis shows that gas flaring by the oil and gas industry contributes more black carbon pollution to Arctic than previously thought—potentially speeding the melting of Arctic sea ice and contributing to the fast rate of warming in the region.

Gas flaring is the practice of simply burning of excess unwanted gases captured during the drilling process. The IIASA scientists from Norway, Finland, and Russia found that gas flaring from oil extraction in the Arctic accounts for 42 percent of the black carbon concentrations in the Arctic, with even higher levels during certain times of the year. In the month of March for example, the study showed that flaring accounts for more than half of black carbon concentrations near the surface. Globally, in contrast, gas flaring accounts for only 3 percent of black carbon emissions. Continue reading

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The Grand Canyon … of Greenland

Radar data deciphers topography beneath the ice

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Someday, if the Greenland ice cap melts because of global warming, tourists may have a new destination to rival the Grand Canyon.

After studying data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge, geographers at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom said they found evidence of 460-mile canyon hidden under a mile of Greenland ice. In places, the previously undiscovered canyon is 2,600 feet deep. The huge gash is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years.

“One might assume that the landscape of the Earth has been fully explored and mapped,” said Jonathan Bamber, professor of physical geography at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and lead author of the study. “Our research shows there’s still a lot left to discover.” Continue reading

Record high temperature recorded in Greenland

Ice sheet surface melting above average in July

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A graph from the Greenland Today website shows 2013 surface melting in red to compare with average seasonal melting shown by the blue line.

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Daily maps from the Greenland Today website track surface melting.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A heatwave in Greenland culminated last week in the highest temperature recorded on the Arctic island since record-keeping started in 1958.

The official weather station at Maniitsoq/Sugar Loaf in southeastern Greenland reported a July 30 reading of 25.9 degrees Celsius (78.6 degrees Fahrenheit), breaking the old Greenland record of 25.5 degrees, set in 1990 in the same area of Greenland.

The Danish Meteorological Institute confirmed the record temperature in a press release. According to the weather experts, the regional heatwave resulted from a strong high pressure system over Greenland combined with a low pressure system over Baffin Island, leading to a flow of warm, dry air from the southeast.

The Danish meteorologists also said that reflected sunlight may also have been a factor in the reading, which has yet to be officially confirmed as the all-time high temperature record. Continue reading

Study: Long-term sea level rise is inevitable

‘Continuous sea-level rise is something we cannot avoid …’

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Long-term sea level rise is inevitable

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Sea level rise is here to stay, according to researchers with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who recently published a study combining evidence from early Earth’s climate history with comprehensive computer simulations using physical models of all four major contributors to long-term global sea-level rise.

The results show a slow but inexorable rise — less than six feet by the end of this century — but the rate will increase as melting Antarctic and Greenland ice become bigger factors. Based on the Earth’s climate history, the long-term outlook is pretty clear. When CO2 levels were comparable to current values, the Earth was much warmer and sea levels were much higher. Continue reading

Study foresees big changes in Greenland ice melt

Iceberg calving to be less of a factor as glaciers retreat

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Melt ponds of the surface of the Greenland ice cap. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory. Visit this NASA page for more information on Greenland surface melting.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Greenland’s melting ice cap will continue to contribute to sea level rise, but iceberg calving will become less of a factor as glaciers retreat inland. Instead, surface melting and runoff will account for more than 80 percent of ice cap’s contribution to sea level rise, according to new research from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Changes in its total mass are governed by two main processes — fluctuations in melting and snowfall on its surface, and changes to the number of icebergs released from a large number of outlet glaciers into the ocean. The ice loss from the ice sheet has been increasing during the last decade, with half of it attributed to changes in surface conditions with the remainder due to increased iceberg calving. Continue reading

Climate: How fast are the ice caps really melting?

Long-term trends still unclear

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Ice floes melting on a warm spring day in the Antarctic Sound. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Ice mass loss from both the Greenland Ice Sheet and Antarctica have doubled since accurate satellite-based gravity measurements started nine years ago, but it’s still not clear whether the melting will continue to accelerate at the same rate.

For now, the period of record is still too short to say, according to a new report published online this week in Nature Geosciences.

The research team was led by Bert Wouters, with the University of Bristol and included scientists with the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences.

The study concludes that predictions of the contribution of both ice shields to sea level rise through 2100 may be off by as much as 35 centimeters (about 13.8 inches) in either direction. Continue reading

Climate: How fast will Greenland’s glaciers melt?

Study shows topography is a key factor in controlling ice flow

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A giant iceberg that broke off the terminus of Greenland’s Petermann Glacier in July 2012 moves down the fjord toward the Nares Strait. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

A new study helps pinpoint how many icebergs may from as Greenland's glaciers are subjected to global warming. Photo courtesy British Antarctic Survey.

A new study helps pinpoint how many icebergs may from as Greenland’s glaciers are subjected to global warming. Photo courtesy British Antarctic Survey.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Greenland’s swift outflow glaciers are sensitive to warming air and ocean temperatures, but a new study published in the journal Nature indicates that the recent acceleration of glacial flow isn’t continuing at a linear rate.

The shape of the ground and seafloor beneath the glaciers is crucial in determining how they respond to climate change — how fast they move and how much they will contribute to sea level rise in coming decades.

“What we are saying is that we shouldn’t extrapolate the rate of the last 10 years into the future … If  you study these glaciers separately, they show different behavior,” said lead author Dr. Faezeh Nick, of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, describing the work done on the Petermann, Kangerdlugssuaq, Helheim and Jakobshavn Isbræ glaciers. Together, they drain about 22 percent of the Greenland ice sheet. Continue reading

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