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Glaciers and Ice Sheets
'Hidden plumbing' helps slow Greenland ice flow: Hotter summers may actually slow down flow of glaciers
ScienceDaily, January 27, 2011. Hotter summers may not be as catastrophic for the Greenland ice sheet as previously feared and may actually slow down the flow of glaciers, according to new research.
T. Hughes. Quaternary Science Reviews (2011) 30(15-16):1829-1845. Ice sheets are the only components of Earth's climate system that can self-destruct. A hypothesis is presented in which self-destruction of an ice sheet begins when ubiquitous ice-bed decoupling, quantified as a floating fraction of ice, proceeds along ice streams. This causes ice streams to surge and reduce thickness by some 90 percent, and height above sea level by up to 99 percent for floating ice, so the ice sheet undergoes gravitational collapse.
R. Thomas et al. Geophysical Research Letters (2011) 38:doi:10.1029/2011GL047304. Ice discharge from the fastest glaciers draining the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets—Jakobshavn Isbrae (JI) and Pine Island Glacier (PIG)—continues to increase, and is now more than double that needed to balance snowfall in their catchment basins.
E. Rignot et al. Geophysical Research Letters (2011) 38:doi:10.1029/2011GL046583. The authors present a consistent record of mass balance for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets over the past two decades, validated by the comparison of two independent techniques over the past 8 years: one differencing perimeter loss from net accumulation, and one using a dense time series of time-variable gravity.
J.L. Chen et al. Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2006) 248(1-2):368-378. The authors use satellite gravity measurements from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) as an indication of mass change to study potential long-term mountain glacial melting in southern Alaska and western Canada.
An assessment of uncertainties in using volume-area modelling for computing the twenty-first century glacier contribution to sea-level change
A.B.A. Slangen, R.S.W. van de Wal. Cryosphere (2011) 5(3):1655-1695. A large part of present-day sea-level change is formed by the melt of glaciers and ice caps (GIC). This study focuses on the uncertainties in the calculation of the GIC contribution on a century timescale.
F. Harvey, guardian.co.uk, April 5, 2011. Ice cap meltwater and river run-off could have significant impact on the climates of Europe and North America, say scientists.
R. Monastersky, Nature News, December 17, 2008. Record melting in northern Greenland and the widespread release of methane gas from formerly frozen deposits off the Siberian coast suggest that major changes are sweeping the Arctic, researchers say.
Assessing the sensitivity of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation to freshwater perturbation in various glacial climate states
C.J. Van Meerbeeck et al. Climate Dynamics (2011) 37(9-10):1909-1927. A striking characteristic of glacial climate in the North Atlantic region is the recurrence of abrupt shifts between cold stadials and mild interstadials. These shifts have been associated with abrupt changes in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) mode, possibly in response to glacial meltwater perturbations. The results of the present study imply that a more northern location of deep convection sites during milder glacial times may have amplified frequency and amplitude of abrupt climate shifts.
A.A. Arendt. Science (2011) 332(6033):1044-1045. The glaciers of Alaska and northwestern Canada have long been considered important contributors to global sea level, but their remoteness has complicated efforts to quantify how their mass is changing. Recently, global maps of water-mass variations, developed using satellite measurements of Earth's gravitational field (gravimetry), confirm with remarkable clarity the large role Alaska glaciers play in the global sea-level budget. However, these and other new observation technologies are revealing unexpected complexities in the magnitude and rate at which Alaska glaciers respond to climate.
PRI's "The World," May 5, 2011. A new report documents how fast the Arctic and Greenland are changing as the planet warms up. That could mean much higher sea levels than previously anticipated. Lisa Mullins talks with Walt Meier, one of the study's authors.
CBC News, September 28, 2011. Researchers say ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic are breaking up and changing at an unexpectedly fast rate. They say the region lost almost half its ice shelf extent in the past six years.
A. Witze, Nature News, April 16, 2008. One-twentieth of the world's ice is locked up atop the island of Greenland, and if it were to melt completely global sea levels would rise by seven meters. The collapse of the Greenland ice sheet is in the front rank of potential climate catastrophes.
PBS NewsHour, October 19, 2009. To study the history of climate change, scientists from 14 nations gathered in the far north end of Greenland to drill into the 1.6-mile core of solid ice. Climatologist and Climate Central correspondent Heidi Cullen looks at the way scientists are looking at the past to study the future of climate change.
Committed sea-level rise for the next century from Greenland ice sheet dynamics during the past decade
S.F. Price et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2011) 108(22):8978-8983. The authors use a three-dimensional, higher-order ice flow model and a realistic initial condition to simulate dynamic perturbations to the Greenland ice sheet during the last decade and to assess their contribution to sea level by 2100.
E. Berthier et al. Nature Geoscience (2010) 3(2):92-95. The authors combine a comprehensive glacier inventory with elevation changes derived from sequential digital elevation models.
G. Kaser et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2010) 107(47):20223-20227. Although reliable figures are often missing, considerable detrimental changes due to shrinking glaciers are universally expected for water availability in river systems under the influence of ongoing global climate change. The authors estimate the contribution potential of seasonally delayed glacier melt water to total water availability in large river systems. (PDF, 996 KB)
B. Orlove et al., eds., University of California Press, 2008, 296 pages. Looking up at mountains, people now see bare, dark rock where white snow and ice once stood—dramatic evidence of the accelerating pace of glacier retreat due to climate change. This book provides an integrated, multidisciplinary, global exploration of the scientific, social, and economic dimensions of this phenomenon.
Video presented by Shad O'Neel, PhD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as part of the 2008 series "Perspectives on Ocean Science." Dr. O'Neel provides a tour of coastal glaciers and explains why scientists believe these glaciers' unique behavior will make them one of the largest contributors to sea level rise in the next century. [56:45 min]
J. Gillis, New York Times, August 31, 2011. One of the more dramatic events in the Arctic in recent years was the detachment, in 2010, of a large section of the ice shelf attached to Petermann Glacier, in northwest Greenland. Now a scientist who does extensive work in the Arctic, Jason E. Box of Ohio State University, is posting before-and-after images that give a better sense of the scale of the breakup.
D.J. Lunt et al. Climate Dynamics (2002) 23(7-8):679-694. Using an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model (AOGCM), the authors investigate the effects of the removal of the Greenland ice sheet on atmospheric temperatures, circulation, and precipitation.
EIS uses time-lapse photography, conventional photography, and video to document the rapid changes now occurring on the earth's glacial ice. The EIS team has installed 27 time-lapse cameras at 15 sites in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains. EIS supplements this ongoing record with annual repeat photography in Iceland, the Alps, and Bolivia.
M. Sharp et al. Geophysical Research Letters (2011) 38:doi:10.1029/2011GL047381. Canada's Queen Elizabeth Islands contain ~14% of Earth's glacier and ice cap area. Relative to 2000-2004, strong summer warming since 2005 has increased summer mean ice surface temperatures and melt season length on the major ice caps in this region.
PBS' NOVA ScienceNOW, July 26, 2005. NOVA correspondent Peter Standring accompanies scientists as they explore the complex dynamics of Greenland's massive Jakobshavn glacier and try to unravel the mystery of its hurried melting. There is a link to an expert Q & A with glaciologists Jay Zwally and Koni Steffen posted August 1, 2005, and a link to a teacher resource posted January 17, 2008.
S. Boon et al. Arctic (2010) 63(1):13-29. The Devon Island ice cap has been the subject of scientific study for almost half a century, beginning with the first mass balance measurements in 1961. This paper summarizes our current knowledge of the Devon Island ice cap and identifies some of the outstanding questions that continue to limit our understanding of climate-ice cap interactions in Arctic regions. (PDF, 4.6 MB)
S.H. Mernild et al. The Cryosphere (2010) 4(3):1195-1224. SnowModel, a state-of-the-art snow-evolution, snow and ice melt, and runoff modeling system, was used to simulate the temporal and spatial terrestrial runoff distribution to the fjord based on observed meteorological data (1999-2008) from stations located on and around the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS).
NPR's "All Things Considered," August 8, 2010. A chunk of ice broke free in the waters of Greenland a few days ago, and it's not just any ice cube: This one's four times the size of Manhattan, containing enough fresh water to supply the entire United States for 120 days. Guy Raz charts the biggest Arctic iceberg in nearly 50 years, and then checks in with Wallace Broecker, who 35 years ago today published a paper that gave a name to one of the most pressing issues of our time: global warming.
G. Adema. Alaska Park Science (2007) 6(2):26-30. The objective of the glacier-monitoring program in Denali is to establish baseline conditions of selected glaciers and to detect and understand glacial processes. Pursuing this objective will allow detection of the effects of climate fluctuations as they happen and to better understand the natural evolution of the Denali landscape, much of which has been shaped by glacial processes.
E. Hood et al. Nature (2009) 462:1044-1047. Glaciers and ice sheets represent the second largest reservoir of water in the global hydrologic system. The authors suggest that climatically driven changes in glacier volume could alter the age, quantity, and reactivity of dissolved organic matter (DOM) entering coastal oceans.
P. Chylek et al. Climatic Change (2004) 63(1-2):201-221. The Greenland coastal temperatures have followed the early 20th century global warming trend. Since 1940, however, the Greenland coastal stations data have undergone predominantly a cooling trend.
Science Daily, August 18, 2011. A key glacier in Greenland is melting faster than previously expected, according to findings by a team of academics.
Yale Environment 360, May 24, 2011. The rate of ice loss at two of Greenland's largest glaciers has increased so much over the past decade that, if melted, the amount would be enough to fill Lake Erie, according to a new study. (Archived version of webpage)
BBC News, December 29, 2010. A glaciologist warns that the Greenland ice sheet is "retreating and thinning extensively" after a year of record-breaking high temperatures.
D. Carrington, guardian.co.uk, January 26, 2011. The threat of the Greenland ice sheet slipping ever faster into the sea because of warmer summers has been ruled out by a scientific study.
PRI's "The World," May 6, 2011. A new report projects that global warming will cause sea levels to rise from three to five feet over the next 90 years, inundating many coastal regions, and that much of the increase will come from melting ice in the Arctic and Greenland.
R.G. Graversen et al. Climate Dynamics (2011) 37(7-8):1427-1442. The Greenland ice sheet holds enough water to raise the global sea level by ~7 m. Over the past few decades, observations manifest a substantial increase of the mass loss of this ice sheet. Using a dynamical and thermodynamical ice-sheet model, and taking into account speed-up of outlet glaciers, the authors estimate Greenland's contribution to the 21st-century global sea-level rise and the uncertainty of this estimate.
PBS' NOVA ScienceNOW, April 1, 2009. Lonnie Thompson is a senior research scientist at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center and one of the world's foremost authorities on ancient climate. Here he talks about why today's accelerated melting of glaciers should concern us on fronts as divergent as drinking water and coastal living, climate change and infectious disease, refugees, and terrorism.
Punctuated Equilibrium, guardian.co.uk, May 12, 2011. Ice sheet layers can be read like the pages of a book—if you know the language. In this video, we see how scientists are deciphering the history of Earth's climate from ice cores taken from western Antarctica.
Punctuated Equilibrium, guardian.co.uk, June 10, 2011. Ice sheets are analogous to miles-thick layer cakes of snow that have been compressed under their own weight. Each year, snow falls on the surface of an ice sheet, and over time these layers become buried and are crushed into ice. At the depth where compressed snow transitions fully to ice, the little spaces of air between the grains are sealed off. As if sealed in a bottle made of ice, this ancient air still exists.
K.M. Cuffey, E.J. Brook. International Geophysics (2000) 72:459-497. Chapter 18 of a special volume titled Earth System Science—From Biogeochemical Cycles to Global Change.
M. Lemonick, OnEarth, March 9, 2011. The ice that remains in mountain glaciers and ice caps—and, more significantly, in the massive ice sheets that smother Antarctica and Greenland under frigid blankets up to two miles thick in places—is moving to the sea once again. Just how high and how fast global sea level will rise as a result is still uncertain. (Archived version of webpage)
M. Oppenheimer, R.B. Alley. Climatic Change (2005) 68(3):257-267. A number of recent findings have refocused attention about ice sheet demise on Greenland.
F. Straneo. Nature Geoscience (2011) 4(5):322-327. Submarine melting is an important contributor to the mass balance of tidewater glaciers in Greenland, and has been suggested as a trigger for their widespread acceleration. Here, the authors use oceanographic data collected in August 2009 and March 2010 at the margins of Helheim Glacier, Greenland, to show that the melting circulation is affected by seasonal runoff from the glacier and by the fjord's externally forced currents and stratification.
H. Goelzer et al. Climate Dynamics (2011) 37(5-6):1005-1018. The authors use the Earth system model of intermediate complexity LOVECLIM to show the effect of coupling interactive ice sheets on the climate sensitivity of the model on a millennial time scale.
Impacts of recent paraglacial dynamics on plant colonization: A case study on Midtre LovÃ©nbreen foreland, Spitsbergen (79Â°N)
M. Moreau et al. Geomorphology (2008) 95(1-2):48-60. Within one century on Spitsbergen, valley glaciers have retreated up to 1 km from their original terminus as of 1918, affecting several hundred hectares of two types of landscape processes: plant colonization and paraglacial morphogenesis.
PBS NewsHour, October 19, 2009. Scientists dig deep into Greenland's ice to unearth the history of climate change. Climatologist and Climate Central correspondent Heidi Cullen reports.
NPR's "Fresh Air," March 18, 2009. Intent on documenting the effects of climate change, nature photographer James Balog ventured into ice-bound regions with 26 time-lapse cameras, which he programmed to shoot a frame every daylight hour for three years. The resulting images, which make up Balog's "Extreme Ice Survey" project, show ice sheets and glaciers breaking apart and disappearing.
S.H. Mernild et al. Cryosphere (2011) 5(1):341-348. The authors document record mass loss in 2009-2010 for the Mittivakkat Glacier, the only local glacier in Greenland for which there exist long-term observations of both the surface mass balance and glacier front fluctuations. Mass-balance observations provide unique documentation of the general retreat of Southeast Greenland's local glaciers under ongoing climate warming.
Science Daily, July 12, 2011. Scientists have shown for the first time that the terrain beneath glaciers influences how much glacier melt contributes to fluctuations in sea levels.
PBS' NOVA ScienceNOW, August 3, 2009. Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson, climatologists at Byrd Polar Research Center, answer a range of viewer questions about the rapid melting of glaciers and its implications, including how to counter skepticism about global climate change.
I.M. Howat et al. Geophysical Research Letters (2011) 38:doi:10.1029/2011GL047565. Acceleration of Greenland's three largest outlet glaciers– Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq, and Jakobshavn Isbræ–accounted for a substantial portion of the ice sheet's mass loss over the past decade. Rapid changes in their discharge, however, make their cumulative mass-change uncertain.
M. Jenkins. National Geographic (2010) 217(6):34-47. Photographic journal of shifting meltwater of the Greenland ice sheet.
Sea level rise is an indicator that our planet is warming. Much of the world's population lives on or near the coast, and rising seas are something worth watching. This video is one episode of NASA's series called "Tides of Change." [4:31 min]
Melting trends over the Greenland ice sheet (1958-2009) from spaceborne microwave data and regional climate models
X. Fettweis et al. Cryosphere (2010) 4(4):2433-2473. To study near-surface melt changes over the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) since 1979, melt extent estimates from two regional climate models are compared with those obtained from spaceborne microwave brightness temperatures using two different remote sensing algorithms.
New melt record for Greenland Ice Sheet: 'Exceptional' season stretched up to 50 days longer than average
ScienceDaily, January 21, 2011. New research shows that 2010 set new records for the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, expected to be a major contributor to projected sea level rises in coming decades.
J. Laybourn-Parry. Science (2009) 324(5934):1521-1522. Free water on or under glaciers or ice sheets contains numerous species of microorganisms. These delicate ecosystems are widely regarded as sentinels of climate change. Recent studies of polar and glacial lakes, as well as subglacial environments, have shed light on how these ecosystems function and on the role they play in nutrient cycling.
C.T. Tynan, D.P. DeMaster. Arctic (1997) 50(4):308-322. Changes in the extent and concentration of sea ice may alter the seasonal distributions, geographic ranges, patterns of migration, nutritional status, reproductive success, and ultimately the abundance and stock structure of some species. (PDF, 165 KB)
C.W. Schmidt. Environmental Health Perspectives (2011) 119(1):A20-A28. Accelerated melting of the glaciers and other frozen masses that make up Earth's cryosphere has become a widespread phenomenon. The fastest warming rates are in the Arctic, where temperatures are increasing at twice the global average.
O.M. Johannessen et al. Cryosphere (2011) 5(1):169-181. Greenland's marine-terminating glaciers drain large amounts of solid ice through calving of icebergs, as well as melting of floating glacial ice. Petermann Glacier, North Greenland, has the Northern Hemisphere's longest floating ice shelf. A massive calving event was observed from satellite sensors in August 2010. In order to understand this in perspective, the authors perform a comprehensive retrospective data analysis of Petermann Glacier calving-front variability spanning half a century.
B. Franco et al. Climate Dynamics (2011) 36(9-10):1897-1918. The atmosphere-ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) used for the IPCC 4th Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) are evaluated for the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) current climate modelling. The most suited AOGCMs for Greenland climate simulation are then selected on the basis of comparison between the 1970-1999 outputs of the Climate of the twentieth Century experiment (20C3M) and reanalyses (ECMWF, NCEP/NCAR).
PBS' NOVA ScienceNOW, July 28, 2009. For more than 30 years, glaciologist Lonnie Thompson has been collecting ice. Why? Because cores of ice from high mountain glaciers contain significant data about past climate change, which can be useful in helping us combat current climate change. All told, Thompson has worked in 15 countries on five continents, helping to build an invaluable archive dating back 700,000 years. [11:31 min]
J.L. Bamber et al. Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2007) 257(1-2):1-13. The great ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland were traditionally believed to take thousands of years to respond to external forcing. Recent observations suggest, however, that major changes in the dynamics of parts of the ice sheets are taking place over timescales of years. These changes were not predicted by numerical models, and the underlying cause(s) remains uncertain.
V. Radic, R. Hock. Nature Geoscience (2011) 4(2):91-94. The authors project glacier and ice-cap volume changes due to melt in response to transient, spatially differentiated twenty-first century projections of temperature and precipitation from ten global climate models.
Science Daily, July 18, 2011. As the world's climate becomes warmer due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, sea levels are expected to rise by up to three feet by the end of this century. But the question remains: How much of that will be due to ice sheets melting as opposed to the oceans' 332 billion cubic miles of water increasing in volume as they warm up?
Alaska Park Science (2007) 6(1). This issue of Alaska Park Science contains reports on interpreting the science of climate change, the effects of climate change on the glaciers of Denali National Park, climate change consequences for subsistence communities, the frozen past of Wrangell-St. Elias, and glacial rebound in Glacier Bay.
Science Daily, July 29, 2011. University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience assistant professor Anders Carlson and his research team sought a way to constrain where ice remained on Greenland during the last interglacial period, around 125,000 years ago, to better define past ice sheet behavior and improve future projections.
F. Paul. Nature Geoscience (2011) 4(2):71-72. The contribution of glaciers and ice caps to global sea-level rise is uncertain: they are incompletely counted and the calculation is challenging. A new estimate from the best available data suggests a contribution of about 12 cm by 2100.
A.S. Gardner et al. Nature (2011) 473(7347):357-360. The Canadian Arctic Archipelago, located off the northwestern shore of Greenland, contains one-third of the global volume of land ice outside the ice sheets. Here, estimates are of regional mass changes for the ice caps and glaciers of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago referring to the years 2004 to 2009.
Links to moving images, photographs, and publications about the Greenland ice sheet. Includes the SWIPA summary report (PDF, 4.9 MB) and full report. (PDF, 124.1 MB)
W. Ziaja. Ambio (2004) 33(6):295-299. The principal aim of this paper is to outline the reaction of a middle-sized region of the European Arctic landscape to climate change during the 20th century. Climatic change influences all elements of the Arctic landscape of Svalbard, but the most important for landscape transformation are changes resulting from deglaciation.
I. Bartholomew et al. Geophysical Research Letters (2011) 38:doi:10.1029/2011GL047063. The authors measure hydrological parameters in meltwater draining from an outlet glacier in west Greenland to investigate seasonal changes in the structure and behavior of the hydrological system of a large catchment in the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS).
P. Conkling et al., MIT Press, 2011, 224 pages. Ninety percent of Greenland is covered by ice. This book documents Greenland's warming with color photographs and investigates Greenland's climate history for clues about what happens when climate change is abrupt rather than gradual.
The impact of Greenland melt on local sea levels: A partially coupled analysis of dynamic and static equilibrium effects in idealized water-hosing experiments
R.E. Kopp et al. Climatic Change (2010) 103(3-4):619-625. Local sea level can deviate from mean global sea level because of both dynamic sea level (DSL) effects, resulting from oceanic and atmospheric circulation and temperature and salinity distributions, and changes in the static equilibrium (SE) sea level configuration, produced by the gravitational, elastic, and rotational effects of mass redistribution.
M. Tedesco et al. Environmental Research Letters (2011) 6(1):014005. Analyses of remote sensing data, surface observations and output from a regional atmosphere model point to new records in 2010 for surface melt and albedo, runoff, the number of days when bare ice is exposed and surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet, especially over its west and southwest regions.
BBC News, November 10, 1998. BBC environmental correspondent Robert Pigott reports on dramatic landscape changes caused by Alaska's melting glaciers.
Richard Black, BBC News, September 10, 2011. Leading UK polar scientists say the Times Atlas of the World was wrong to assert that it has had to redraw its map of Greenland due to climate change.
guardian.co.uk, September 22, 2011. The publishers of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World have said they were "urgently reviewing" the depiction of Greenland's permanent ice cover in the latest edition, amid questions over the accuracy of the new map.
Science Daily, May 24, 2011. A new study aimed at refining the way scientists measure ice loss in Greenland is providing a "high-definition picture" of climate-caused changes on the island.
Science Daily, July 4, 2011. Warming of the ocean's subsurface layers will melt underwater portions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets faster than previously thought, according to new University of Arizona–led research. Such melting would increase the sea level more than already projected.
G. Aðalgeirsdóttir. Danish Climate Centre Report 08-06 (2008). Here, a brief overview of current knowledge concerning the state of balance of glaciers and ice sheets in the world is given, followed by a more detailed discussion of the state of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the Icelandic ice caps. (PDF, 184 KB)
A. Levermann. Nature (2011) 472(7341):43-44. The energy released by capsizing icebergs can be equal to that of small earthquakes— enough to create ocean waves of considerable magnitude. Should such 'glacial tsunamis' be added to the list of future global-warming hazards?
R.A. Kerr. Science (2011) 331(6014):143. A study of the forces acting on the Jakobshavn Glacier of southern Greenland shows that Jakobshavn is accelerating and thus increasing the rate of sea level rise—plenty of cause for worry—but the researchers say that Jakobshavn is not totally off its leash.