Alaska's Sea Ice Is Melting Unusually Early, 'Another Sign Arctic Is Unraveling'
The meltdown, following an extra warm Arctic winter, will have an impact on coastal communities and permafrost.
26 May, 2017
The Arctic's record-warm winter has allowed thousands of square miles of sea ice off Alaska to melt more than a month early, leaving the shoreline vulnerable to waves and exposing dark ocean water to absorb more heat from the sun.
"It's another sign that the Arctic is unraveling. We had heat waves in the central Arctic last winter, record-low winter sea ice coverage, and even periods of ice retreat when it should be growing. These extremes are moving from place to place," Serreze said.
NSIDC researcher Julienne Stroeve, currently based at University College, London, said at a recent science conference that each of the last 10 years saw record-low sea ice coverage, and that there were seven months of record-low sea ice conditions during 2016, setting the stage for a Chukchi Sea meltdown.
Laptev Sea 2016 vs 2017
Researchers don't think a frozen arctic will always be as stable or as safe as we thought it would be.
We've built everything from roads to pipelines to nuclear power stations on the cold ground at the top of the world. But climate change means ice is melting, and permafrost is getting less permanent.
In Greenland, melting ice is expected to expose an old U.S. military base — and the radioactive waste that's buried under the snow.
"They thought it would snow in perpetuity," arctic researcher William Colgan told NPR. "And the phrase they used was that the waste would be preserved for eternity by perpetually accumulating snow."
In Svalbard, in the Arctic Ocean, there's a bunker holding a huge catalog of Earth's seeds — a so-called "insurance policy for the world's food supply."
The permafrost is supposed to keep it cold and isolated, even if the power cuts out. But it's been raining instead of snowing due to the warming climate, and the vault was never planned with flooding in mind.
Entire cities in the Arctic Circle are engineered to take advantage of permafrost. Now they're cracking and sinking. In Norilsk, Russia, builders didn't account for the possibility of climate change making their foundations unstable. Whole apartment buildings are being condemned.
These changes were unexpected, but we can still address them. Officials in Norway say they're waterproofing the seed vault. Scientists in the European Union built a database to track what permafrost is melting and when.
And we should be able to prevent some melting outright. The steps we take to cut emissions and counter climate change will slow down the arctic thaw.
Scientists have had their eyes on Greenland as its iconic glaciers have begun disappearing due to a warming climate. But, what they didn't expect to see was a whole new type of melting.
The Rink Glacier, the largest glacier on the west coast of Greenland, was exhibiting some strange melting behaviors during the hot summers of 2010 and 2012 that can only be described as a "warmed freezer pop sliding out of its plastic casing." This kind of mass melt lasted four months between June and September in 2012 with a loss of 6.7 gigatons of mass.
The mass moved 2.5 miles every month for the first three months, then 7.5 miles all at once in September. That's actually pretty speedy considering the Rink Glacier usually melts at a speed of one to two miles a year. But, still, it was slow enough that NASA had to use aerial GPS data to measure the movement.
"You could literally be standing there and you would not see any indication of the wave," said Eric Larour of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and coauthor of the research. "You would not see cracks or other unique surface features."
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Few parts of the U.S. are as exposed to the threats from climate change as Ocean County, New Jersey. It was here in Seaside Heights that Hurricane Sandy flooded an oceanfront amusement park, leaving an inundated roller coaster as an iconic image of rising sea levels. Scientists say more floods and stronger hurricanes are likely as the planet warms.
Yet last summer, when Ocean County wanted to sell $31 million in bonds maturing over 20 years, neither of its two rating companies, Moody’s Investors Service or S&P Global Ratings, asked any questions about the expected effect of climate change on its finances.
Gradual changes in climate, sea ice changing way of life in Rigolet
As millions of Canadians eagerly anticipate the arrival of warm weather, many people living in Canada's North will be lamenting the end of winter.
For the Inuit, milder temperatures mean the sea ice is melting, making travel more difficult. This ice melt is happening earlier and earlier in the spring because of climate change. In the tiny community of Rigolet, in Nunatsiavut — located on the northern coast of Labrador — research shows this is affecting the mental health of the population.
Planting trees to take up carbon can only be a small part of our climate solution
A new report from the Potsdam Institute in Germany shows that planting trees and other plants to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere cannot substitute for cutting carbon emissions.
Growing trees and other kinds of "biomass" have been thought of as an effective countermeasure against our rising global carbon emissions. In fact, countries that preserve forests or green spaces can receive carbon credits that they can trade or sell to other countries that are polluters.
The researchers looked at several scenarios. One was the the "business-as-usual" scenario, in which greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, and which scientists fear could lead to a global average temperature rise of 4.5 C by 2100. They found that if we want trees to absorb all that extra carbon, even if we converted all of our agricultural land to biomass cultivation, it cannot be done without experiencing the "most dire consequences for food production or the biosphere."
Even if emissions are reduced to meet the levels agreed to in the UN Paris Agreement, which aim to keep the planet's average temperature within 2 C of pre-industrial levels, tree planting alone is still not enough to reach that goal. While it will be an important player in combating climate change, absorbing carbon with plants will have to be just be one of several mitigation strategies.
A new NASA study finds that during Greenland's hottest summers on record, 2010 and 2012, the ice in Rink Glacier on the island's west coast didn't just melt faster than usual, it slid through the glacier's interior in a gigantic wave, like a warmed freezer pop sliding out of its plastic casing. The wave persisted for four months, with ice from upstream continuing to move down to replace the missing mass for at least four more months.
This long pulse of mass loss, called a solitary wave, is a new discovery that may increase the potential for sustained ice loss in Greenland as the climate continues to warm, with implications for the future rate of sea level rise.
Due to congressional budget cuts, the 38-year continuous U.S. Arctic satellite monitoring program is about to end, leaving researchers blind to ongoing Arctic sea ice losses
- Starting in the mid-1980s, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) constructed eight “F-series” satellites, in bulk, with the plan to launch satellites in succession as each one failed to maintain a continuous record of Arctic sea ice extent.
- But in 2016, Congress cut the program, resulting in the dismantling of the last, still not launched, satellite. It is now likely that an impending failure of the last DMSP satellites in orbit will leave the world blind until at least 2022, even as the Arctic shows signs of severe instability and decline.
- While international and U.S. monitoring is still being done for ice thickness, the Trump administration has proposed cuts to satellite missions, including NOAA’s next two polar orbiting satellites, NASA’s PACE Satellite (to monitor ocean and atmospheric pollution), and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (for carbon dioxide atmospheric measurements).
- All of these cuts in satellite monitoring come at a time when the world is seeing massive changes due to climate change, development and population growth. One satellite program spared Trump’s budgetary axe so far is Landsat 9, which tracks deforestation and glacial recession. How Congress will deal with Trump’s proposed cuts is unknown.
On its surface, the Greenland ice sheet is a vast expanse of seemingly immovable ice. But beneath the monotonous stretch of white, scientists have discovered evidence of waves rippling through one of its outlet glaciers and roiling its innards.
The waves, observed during the two most intense melt seasons on record, sent an unprecedented cascade of ice and water rushing into the sea and warping the very bedrock upon which the ice sits. As temperatures continue to rise, scientists fear that massive waves of ice could expedite Greenland’s melt even further, pushing sea levels higher.
It’s the latest piece of bad news about Greenland’s ice. The ice sheet has been pouring roughly 270 megatons of ice a year into the ocean via the glaciers that stretch out from its hulking mass since 2000. That’s a big uptick compared to preceding decades.
A further 97 people are still missing, a spokesman said.
Military boats and helicopters have been sent to help rescue operations
The flooding is believed to be the worst since May 2003 when a similarly powerful south-west monsoon destroyed 10,000 homes and killed 250 people.
Several northern provinces have been hit by flash floods following persistent heavy rain with the Meteorological Department warning that downpours will continue until today.
In Uttaradit, mountain run-off triggered by torrential downpours caused the Phi and Pladuk creeks in tambon Nam Phi of Thong Saen Khan district to overflow yesterday.
Floods submerged scores of villages in tambon Nam Phi with more than 200 households affected.
Final word is with Prof. Guy McPherson