Posts Tagged ‘NOAA’

Pee On Ice

November 8, 2010

New research seems to finally be acknowledging the obvious: that water runoff from initial glacier melt is triggering much more dramatic, accelerated melting. Science Daily reports:

melt water in Greenland

“We are finding that once such water flow is initiated through a new section of ice sheet, it can warm rather significantly and quickly, sometimes in just 10 years, ” said lead author Thomas Phillips, a research scientist with Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. CIRES is a joint institute between CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Contrary to the right-wing-noise-machine’s protestations, the climate science has been, again, overly conservative:

Conventional thermal models of ice sheets do not factor in the presence of water within the ice sheet as a warming agent, but instead use models that primarily consider ice-sheet heating by warmer air on the ice sheet surface. In water’s absence, ice warms slowly in response to the increased surface temperatures from climate change, often requiring centuries to millennia to happen.

Ironically even the scientists must put some softening caveat into the news, saying:

“However, this process is not the ‘death knell’ for the ice sheet. Even under such conditions, it would still take thousands of years for the Greenland ice sheet to disappear…”

That may be so, but even if the ice doesn’t disappear, our coastal cities will be under 20 feet of sea water.

A bit more from this important article:

To quantify the influence of melt water, the scientists modeled what would happen to the ice sheet temperature if water flowed through it for eight weeks every summer — about the length of the active melt season. The result was a significantly faster-than-expected increase in ice sheet warming, which could take place on the order of years to decades depending on the spacing of crevasses and other “pipes” that bring warmer water into the ice sheet in summer.
“The key difference between our model and previous models is that we include heat exchange between water flowing through the ice sheet and the ice,” said Rajaram.
Several factors contributed to the warming and resulting acceleration of ice flow, including the fact that flowing water into the ice sheets can stay in liquid form even through the winter, slowing seasonal cooling. In addition, warmer ice sheets are more susceptible to increases of water flow, including the basal lubrication of ice that allows ice to flow more readily on bedrock.
A third factor is melt water cascading downward into the ice, which warms the surrounding ice. In this process the water can refreeze, creating additional cracks in the more vulnerable warm ice, according to the study.

So the next time you have an opportunity to pee on ice, don’t be surprised if it reminds you of our world’s polar ice melt catastrophe.

and The Bad News….

January 27, 2009

It is now inexcusable for us to not radically drop our CO2 emissions….. NOAA reports.     To do otherwise is to doom our decendents to hell on earth.   Read the checklist and do what you can now.

Permafrost Melting = Too Much Methane

April 22, 2008

Methane: the other green house gas, is 20 to 25 times more potent than CO2 (depending on who you ask).

The good news was that over the last decade methane releases have been largely flat due to reductions in man-made emissions. Unfortunately the good news is old news. NOAA has just released a report today titled “Carbon Dioxide, Methane Rise Sharply in 2007”.

The NOAA report states:

Rapidly growing industrialization in Asia and rising wetland emissions in the Arctic and tropics are the most likely causes of the recent methane increase, said scientist Ed Dlugokencky from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.

”We’re on the lookout for the first sign of a methane release from thawing Arctic permafrost,” said Dlugokencky. “It’s too soon to tell whether last year’s spike in emissions includes the start of such a trend.”

As I discussed previously in “The Awakening Great White Whale”, the arctic permafrost is the place to look for the most critical planetary tipping point.

Spiegel Online has a frightening confirmation of what we face with further warming in just the next few years.

What treachery lies in the permafrost?

In the permafrost bottom of the 200-meter-deep sea, enormous stores of gas hydrates lie dormant in mighty frozen layers of sediment. The carbon content of the ice-and-methane mixture here is estimated at 540 billion tons. “This submarine hydrate was considered stable until now,” says the Russian biogeochemist Natalia Shakhova, currently a guest scientist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks who is also a member of the Pacific Institute of Geography at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok.

And so our permafrost is now permamelt:

The permafrost has grown porous, says Shakhova, and already the shelf sea has become “a source of methane passing into the atmosphere.” The Russian scientists have estimated what might happen when this Siberian permafrost-seal thaws completely and all the stored gas escapes. They believe the methane content of the planet’s atmosphere would increase twelvefold. “The result would be catastrophic global warming,” say the scientists. The greenhouse-gas potential of methane is 20 times that of carbon dioxide, as measured by the effects of a single molecule.

We warm the earth further at great peril:

Climate change could give an additional push to these trends. “If the Arctic Sea ice continues to recede and the shelf becomes ice-free for extended periods, then the water in these flat areas will get much warmer,” said Overduin. That could lead to a situation in which the temperature of the sea sediment rises above freezing, which would thaw the permafrost.

The $64,000 question is what’s the rate of acceleration of the permafrost melt?

“We don’t have any data on that — those are just suspicions,” the Canadian scientist said. Natalia Shakhova also passed on the question of whether to expect a gradual gas emission or an abrupt burst of large quantities of methane. “No one can say right now whether that will take years, decades or hundreds of years,” she said. But one cannot rule out sudden methane emissions. They could happen at “any time.”

One thing is clear, though: The thawing of the Arctic sea floor will create “new potential sources for methane … which no one had reckoned with until now,” said Laurence Smith, a professor for geography at the University of California in Los Angeles. Smith is researching North Pole frost zones and expects that a thawing of the permafrost will “supply fuel for methane engines.”

If we don’t slam on the CO2 brakes hard and now, this war for survival could be over before we’ve even started to fight.