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!
Rare lizard fossil preserved in amber
27.02.2020 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
The seismicity of Mars
25.02.2020 | ETH Zurich
Researchers at the University of Bayreuth have discovered an unusual material: When cooled down to two degrees Celsius, its crystal structure and electronic properties change abruptly and significantly. In this new state, the distances between iron atoms can be tailored with the help of light beams. This opens up intriguing possibilities for application in the field of information technology. The scientists have presented their discovery in the journal "Angewandte Chemie - International Edition". The new findings are the result of close cooperation with partnering facilities in Augsburg, Dresden, Hamburg, and Moscow.
The material is an unusual form of iron oxide with the formula Fe₅O₆. The researchers produced it at a pressure of 15 gigapascals in a high-pressure laboratory...
Study by Mainz physicists indicates that the next generation of neutrino experiments may well find the answer to one of the most pressing issues in neutrino physics
Among the most exciting challenges in modern physics is the identification of the neutrino mass ordering. Physicists from the Cluster of Excellence PRISMA+ at...
Fraunhofer researchers are investigating the potential of microimplants to stimulate nerve cells and treat chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease. Find out what makes this form of treatment so appealing and which challenges the researchers still have to master.
A study by the Robert Koch Institute has found that one in four women will suffer from weak bladders at some point in their lives. Treatments of this condition...
The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.
Light waves perform several hundred trillion oscillations per second. Hence, it is natural to envision employing light oscillations to drive the electronic...
Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.
Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...
12.02.2020 | Event News
16.01.2020 | Event News
15.01.2020 | Event News
27.02.2020 | Life Sciences
27.02.2020 | Life Sciences
27.02.2020 | Life Sciences