Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Current melting of Greenland's ice mimicks 1920s-1940s event

11.12.2007
Two researchers here spent months scouring through old expedition logs and reports, and reviewing 70-year-old maps and photos before making a surprising discovery:

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!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Research sheds new light on forces that threaten sensitive coastlines
24.04.2017 | Indiana University

nachricht NASA sees the end of ex-Tropical Cyclone 02W
21.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>