They found that the effects of the current warming and melting of Greenland 's glaciers that has alarmed the world's climate scientists occurred in the decades following an abrupt warming in the 1920s.
Their evidence reinforces the belief that glaciers and other bodies of ice are exquisitely hyper-sensitive to climate change and bolsters the concern that rising temperatures will speed the demise of that island's ice fields, hastening sea level rise.
The work, reported at this week's annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco , may help to discount critics' notion that the melting of Greenland 's glaciers is merely an isolated, regional event.
They recently recognized from using weather station records from the past century that temperatures in Greenland had warmed in the 1920s at rates equivalent to the recent past. But they hadn't confirmed that the island's glaciers responded to that earlier warming, until now.
“What's novel about this is that we found a wealth of information from low-tech sources that has been overlooked by most researchers,” explained Jason Box, an associate professor of geography at Ohio State University and a researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center. Many researchers, he says, rely heavily on information from satellites and other modern sources.
Undergraduate student Adam Herrington, co-author on this paper and a student in the School of Earth Sciences, spent weeks in the university's libraries and archives, scouring the faded, dusty books that contained the logs of early scientific expeditions, looking primarily for photos and maps of several of Greenland 's key glaciers.
“I must have paged through more than a hundred such volumes to get the data we needed for this study,” Herrington said.
They concentrated on three large glaciers flowing out from the central ice sheet towards the ocean – the Jakobshavn Isbrae, the Kangerdlugssuaq and the Helheim.
“These three glaciers are huge and collectively, they drain as much as 40 percent of the southern half of the ice sheet. All three have recently increased their speed as the temperature rose,” Box said, adding that the Kangerdlugssuaq, at 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) wide is half-again as wide as New York's Manhattan Island .
Digging through the old data, Herrington found a map from 1932 and an aerial photo from 1933 that documented how, during a warm period, the Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier lost a piece of floating ice that was nearly the size of New York 's Manhattan Island .
“That parallels what we know about recent changes,” Box said. “In 2002 to 2003, that same glacier retreated another 3.1 miles (5 kilometers), and that it tripled its speed between 2000 and 2005.”
The fact that recent changes to Greenland's ice sheet mirror its behavior nearly 70 years ago is increasing researchers' confidence and alarm as to what the future holds. Recent warming around the frozen island actually lags behind the global average warming pattern by about 1-2 degrees C but if it fell into synch with global temperatures in a few years, the massive ice sheet might pass its “threshold of viability” – a tipping point where the loss of ice couldn't be stopped.
“Once you pass that threshold,” Box said, “the current science suggests that it would become an irreversible process. And we simply don't know how fast that might happen, how fast the ice might disappear.”
Greenland 's ice sheet contains at least 10 percent of the world's freshwater AND it has been losing more than 24 cubic miles (100 cubic kilometers) of ice annually for the last five years and 2007 was a record year for glacial melting there.
This work was supported in part by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and Ohio State.
Jason Box | EurekAlert!
Sediment from Himalayas may have made 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake more severe
26.05.2017 | Oregon State University
Devils Hole: Ancient Traces of Climate History
24.05.2017 | Universität Innsbruck
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy