As the Earth warms and glaciers all over the world begin to melt, researchers and public policy experts have focused largely on how all of that extra water will contribute to sea level rise But another impact lurking in that inevitable scenario is carbon.
More specifically, what happens to all of the organic carbon found in those glaciers when they melt?
That's the focus of a new paper by a research team that includes Florida State University assistant professor Robert Spencer. The study, published in Nature Geoscience, is the first global estimate by scientists at what happens when major ice sheets break down.
"This is the first attempt to figure out how much organic carbon is in glaciers and how much will be released when they melt," Spencer said. "It could change the whole food web. We do not know how different ecological systems will react to a new influx of carbon."
Glaciers and ice sheets contain about 70 percent of the Earth's freshwater and ongoing melting is a major contributor to sea level rise. But, glaciers also store organic carbon derived from both primary production on the glaciers and deposition of materials such as soot or other fossil fuel combustion byproducts.
Spencer, along with colleagues from Alaska and Switzerland, studied measurements from ice sheets in mountain glaciers globally, the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic ice sheet to measure the total amount of organic carbon stored in the global ice reservoir.
It's a lot.
Specifically, as glaciers melt, the amount of organic carbon exported in glacier outflow will increase 50 percent over the next 35 years. To put that in context, that's about the amount of organic carbon in half of the Mississippi River being added each year to the ocean from melting glaciers.
"This research makes it clear that glaciers represent a substantial reservoir of organic carbon," said Eran Hood, the lead author on the paper and a scientist with the University of Alaska Southeast. "As a result, the loss of glacier mass worldwide, along with the corresponding release of carbon, will affect high-latitude marine ecosystems, particularly those surrounding the major ice sheets that now receive fairly limited land-to-ocean fluxes of organic carbon."
Spencer said he and his colleagues are continuing on this line of research and will do additional studies to try to determine exactly what the impact will be when that carbon is released into existing bodies of water.
"The thing people have to think about is what this means for the Earth," Spencer said. "We know we're losing glaciers, but what does that mean for marine life, fisheries, things downstream that we care about? There's a whole host of issues besides the water issue."
Other institutions collaborating on the paper are University of Alaska Southeast, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Alaska Science Center.
Kathleen Haughney | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Antarctic ice > Antarctic ice sheet > GLACIERS > Greenland ice > Greenland ice sheet > Melting glaciers > Nature Geoscience > ecological systems > fossil fuel combustion > ice sheet > ice sheets > marine ecosystems > marine life > mountain glaciers > sea level > sea level rise
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy