Are Greenland glaciers on the verge of crumbling?


Some of Greenland’s biggest glaciers may be on the verge of crumbling into the sea, according to new satellite data. @bberwyn photo.

Study tracks rapid retreat of major ice streams

Staff Report

Scientists may not have to wait too much longer to observe firsthand the effects of global warming on Greenland’s ice sheets. One of the largest glaciers in Greenland entered “a phase of accelerated retreat in 2012,” and may be near a climate tipping point, according to new research published in the current issue of Science.

After studying the Zachariae Isstrom, scientists with the University of California, Irvine, said it’s starting to break up.

“North Greenland glaciers are changing rapidly,” said Jeremie Mouginot, an assistant researcher with UCI’s department of earth system science. “The shape and dynamics of Zachariae Isstrom have changed dramatically over the last few years. The glacier is now breaking up and calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.” Continue reading

Antarctic ice susceptible to climate domino effect

New study says melting of small Amundsen Basin likely to trigger a climate tipping point


The meltdown of West Antarctica’s ice sheets is likely already under way. @berwyn photo.

Staff Report

Just a small shift in the Antarctic climate could have long-lasting consequences on a global scale, according to a new research paper that once again takes a close look at the fate of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Based on the new study, destabilization of the relatively small Amundsen Basin — triggered by a few decades of ocean warming — could trigger a massive ice loss from the West Antarctica Ice Sheet that would raise global sea level by 10 feet. Other recent studies show that this area is already losing stability, making it the first element in the climate system about to tip. Continue reading

Are some of Greenland’s glaciers slowing down?


All eyes on the Greenland Ice Sheet, as global warming speeds up. @bberwyn photo.

New research shows looks specifically at glaciers ending on land

Staff Report

Parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet may actually be slowing down, rather than speeding up, in response to decades of climate change, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop worrying about sea level rise.

In a new study, glaciologists measuring ice movement on the southwest portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet found that glaciers terminating on land have slowed by an average of 12 percent across 84 percent of the study area between 2007 and 2014, compared to the years between 1985 and 1994. The study looked specifically at ice sheets terminating on land, not those flowing into the ocean.

The scientists said their findings appear to contradict conventional wisdom. Many recent studies have suggested that more surface melting will speed up ice sheet movement. The amount of meltwater draining from the ice sheet in four out of the five years between 2007 and 2012 has been the most substantial of the last 50 years. Continue reading

Climate: Sea level rise threatens Pacific birds


Black-footed albatross with chick, nesting black-footed albatrosses are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and sudden flooding on low-lying islands. Location: Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy Wieteke Holthuijzen.USGS.

Nesting areas on low-lying islands vulnerable to flooding

Staff Report

Shy seabirds that nest mostly on low-lying islands are particularly vulnerable to the threat of sea level rise, USGS researchers said after studying Laysan albatrosses, black-footed albatrosses and Bonin petrels in the Pacific.

“Our study illustrates that sea-level rise threats will affect low-lying Pacific Islands earlier than previously expected,” said seabird ecologist Karen Courtot of the U.S. Geological Survey. “Restoring seabird colonies at higher elevations provides alternatives for species most vulnerable to overwash events before nests are perpetually flooded.” Continue reading

Climate: NOAA report says rising sea level and El Niño could combine to up coastal flood threats

Inundation ‘tipping points’ are near


This year’s strong El Niño could increase the risk of nuisance flooding in many coastal communities.

Staff Report

FRISCO — When you take steadily rising sea levels and add in a strong El Niño, it’s a perfect recipe for nuisance flooding, federal climate researchers said in a new report that aims to quantify high water risks for coastal communities.

According to the NOAA report, many mid-Atlantic and West Coast communities could see the highest number of nuisance flooding days on record through April, with some locations seeing a 33 to 125 percent increase in the number of nuisance flooding days. Continue reading

Climate: Scientists say Arctic ice loss speeding up

Researchers try to pinpoint sea level rise projections


Greenland’s glaciers are retreating inland rapidly. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Sea level is set to rise at least three feet during the next few decades, NASA scientists and ice researchers said this week, updating their latest research and findings on how fast the world’s ice sheets and glaciers are melting.

The scientists said they’re still not sure exactly how fast the water will rise, but they’re getting closer to nailing down the timing, thanks to several ongoing research projects, including a five-year effort to measure ice loss around the edge of Greenland.

The goal, of course, is to help coastal communities prepare for the big changes ahead. Agriculture, transportation and other infrastructure like water treatment plants will all be affected by sea level rise. Continue reading

Study eyes global warming health threats to Gulf Coast

‘Unfortunately, we are now at a point where simply slowing climate change, while critical, is not enough.’


Sea level rise will swallow parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast. @bberwyn photo.


Tidal flooding near Venice, Louisiana. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is likely to make the U.S. Gulf Coast less hospitable and more dangerous for residents, public health experts warned in a new study that focused on the region.

More extreme heat events, rising sea levels and the potential for intense tropical storms threaten the region’s population and infrastructure, and could spur large scale migration, scientists said in a new paper published this week in in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

“The science of climate change and the threat to human and population health is irrefutable, and the threat is evolving quickly,” said to Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. “Unfortunately, we are now at a point where simply slowing climate change, while critical, is not enough. We need to simultaneously develop and deploy ways of mitigating the impact and adapting to the consequences of this environmental disaster.” Continue reading


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