Climate study says West Antarctic Ice Sheet could melt quickly

The ice fields of Antarctica

How quickly will the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melt away under global warming? @bberwyn photo.

‘All signs suggest the ice from West Antarctica could disappear relatively quickly …’

Staff Report

An in-depth survey of Antarctica’s rugged Ellsworth Mountains suggests that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could melt quickly under the influence of global warming, potentially raising global sea level by three meters.

“It is possible that the ice sheet has passed the point of no return and, if so, the big question is how much will go and how much will sea levels rise,” said Professor John Woodward, of the University of Northumbria. Continue reading

Climate: Ocean heat buildup is accelerating

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A new study tracks the accelerating heat buildup in the world’s oceans.

New study finds deep-down warming

Staff Report

Heat trapped by greenhouse gases is building up in the oceans at an increasing rate, according to researchers who are trying to get a more detailed understanding of the oceans’ role in the global climate cycle.

After studying data from a variety of sources, the researchers with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory andthe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that half of the global ocean heat content increase since 1865 has occurred over the past two decades. Continue reading

Climate: Extreme Greenland Ice Sheet melting episodes change runoff regime

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Extreme melting on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet could change the sea level rise equation.

Study shows that 2012 melting created a dense ice cap

Staff Report

When warm temperatures in 2012 caused an extreme melting episode across much of the Greenland Ice Sheet, it may have fundamentally altered the way the near-surface snow layers absorb water, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

The melting resulted in the formation of a thick layer of ice atop the previously porous surface. Subsequently, meltwater ran off the surface and to the ocean, with potential impacts on sea level, according to York University Professor William Colgan. Continue reading

How fast are Greenland’s glaciers melting?

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Greenland’s glaciers are melting fast, threatening more sea level rise. @bberwyn photo.

Meltdown?

Staff Report

If world leaders need one more sign that they must reach a decisive climate agreement this week in Paris, it might be a new study showing that Greenland’s glaciers are retreating at least twice as fast as any other time in the past 9,500 years.

Melting ice from the Greenland Ice Sheet threatens to flood millions of people in low-lying coastal areas in the next few decades, and the study shows just how sensitive the glaciers are to warming temperatures. Continue reading

Are Greenland glaciers on the verge of crumbling?

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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

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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?

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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

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