Nature: Human Warming Now Pushing Entire Greenland Ice Sheet into the Ocean

Leading Edge of the Zacharie Ice Stream meets the ocean

(Leading edge of the accelerating Zachariae Ice Stream meets the warming and increasingly ice free ocean on August 20 of 2013. Satellite image source: Lance-Modis.)

Greenland — a vast store of ice three kilometers tall at its center and the final remnant of the Northern Hemisphere’s great glaciers of the last ice age has now begun what is likely an unstoppable rush to the sea. For according to a new report in Nature Climate Change, the last stable region of glacial ice along the Greenland coastline is now accelerating through one of the ice sheet’s largest and deepest outlets — the Zachariae Ice Stream.

Zachariae, the last domino to fall

The Zachariae Ice Stream is a vast river of ice in the northeast section of Greenland. It terminates in two outlets through a broad and deep ice-choked bay facing the Fram Strait.

Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, both warmer air and ocean water temperatures at the margins of Greenland began to speed up and destabilize glaciers all along Greenland’s southern, eastern and western coasts. But the northern glaciers remained relatively stalwart, continuing the rate of seaward motion observed over previous decades.

Then, starting in 2003, something ominous began to happen. A combination of sea ice loss, warming air and ocean temperatures began to affect the northern edge of the great ice sheet. Its speed of forward motion through its outlet bays began to increase. By 2012, the great glaciers were dumping 10-20 billion tons, or roughly 10-20 cubic kilometers of ice into the ocean every single year. In just nine years the Zachariae Ice Stream had retreated a total of 20 kilometers toward the heart of Greenland. By comparison, the Jakobshavn Ice Stream, known to be Greenland’s fastest and located in South Greenland, has retreated 35 kilometers over the past 150 years.

greenland_velocity-base

(Greenland Ice Sheet velocity map as of 2010. Measures in red are in the range of 1,000+ meters per year. Note that ice sheet velocity is fastest at the glacial outlet face and that rapid ice sheet velocity now extends far into interior Greenland. The Zacharie ice stream, the most recent to show rapid acceleration, is indicated by the letter Z in the upper right hand corner of the image. Note how this ice stream plunges deep into the heart of Northern Greenland and that a rapid flow is now established all the way to the ice sheet’s core. Image credit: Joughin, I., B. Smith, I. Howat, and T. Scambos.)

An ice stream drains an ice sheet the same way a river drains a watershed. So long as ice stream flow and rate of glacial recharge at the top of the glacier remains about equal, the ice sheet retains stability. But if the rate of ice stream flow and surface melt exceeds the rate of recharge, the glacier is said to have begun a difficult to reverse process called destabilization.

The initiation of the great Zachariae Ice Stream’s destabilization is ominous for a number of reasons. First, it means the entire Greenland Ice Sheet has, as of the early 2000s, begun a plunge into the ocean that is likely unstoppable. For once the great and massive glaciers of Greenland start to move, gravitational inertia sets in and even a radical cooling of the climate may not halt the surge. Furthermore, the Zachariae Ice Stream drains 16 percent of the entire Greenland ice sheet alone. And finally, Zachariae stretches deep into the heart of Greenland, extending seven hundred kilometers inland and taking hold of Greenland’s massive central glaciers in its now accelerating ocean-ward draw.

“Northeast Greenland is very cold. It used to be considered the last stable part of the Greenland ice sheet,” explained the study’s lead investigator Michael Bevis of The Ohio State University in a recent press release. “This study shows that ice loss in the northeast is now accelerating. So, now it seems that all of the margins of the Greenland ice sheet are unstable.”

nclimate2161-f1

(Greenland Ice Sheet ice surface elevation change in meters per year from 2003-2006, 2006-2009 and 2009-2012 respectively. Note the elevation loss of greater than 3 meters per year in Northeast Greenland near the Zachariae Ice Stream’s outlet in the final frame. Image source: Nature.)

Margin melt and increasing velocity is an important indicator of overall stability throughout Greenland. For, during much of Greenland’s history, a more solid, less mobile ice margin has kept the central ice locked in. But like the collapsing edge of a plastic swimming pool, Greenland’s drooping margins are starting to let the central ice flows surge toward the coast line. Now the ice margin is destabilized in all the major edge zones leading to the initiation of the ice sheet’s draining.

It is also worth noting that ice sheet motion is just one aspect of Greenland destabilization and a recent NASA paper shows that surface melt since 2009 has also rapidly accelerated. So the ice sheet is now a zone of accelerating glaciers and of annual surface melt all running more frequently and in ever greater volumes toward the swelling seas.

The recent study involved the use of GPS modules scattered over top of the Greenland ice sheet to measure glacial speed, mass and altitude loss. This finding is the most recent study provided by the group’s network dubbed GNET.

Greenland: An Archipelago with an Ice Sheet on Top

In understanding why Greenland’s ice sheets are likely to continue to flow into the ocean, it is useful to look at Greenland in its geological context. For Greenland is essentially an island archipelago with an enormous ice sheet sitting atop it. As such, great channels and fractures run deep into the heart of this frozen plcae. Many of these fractures are below sea level, providing ocean waters access further and further inland as Greenland melts. Furthermore, the high elevation of the ice sheet creates a kind of gravitational inertia that continuously drives glaciers toward the sea. Only friction from the anchoring ground beneath the glaciers, Greenland’s cold climate, and the chill of the surrounding airs and oceans provided Greenland with enough ice recharge while slowing the ice sheets enough to keep it stable during the last interglacial period (Holocene). Now, human warming is pulling that plug by flushing melt water to the ice sheet’s base, creating warmer ocean water invasions at the ice edge and creating conditions by which warm air increasingly both overrides the ice sheet edge and invades into the ice sheet interior.

It is in this context that we should consider the relative positions of ice stream fronts, grounding lines, and co-joining sea level as ice sheets continue their flow toward the ocean:

nclimate2161-f4

(Comparison of Northern Greenland ice face coming into contact with a floating glacier in transect 1 to the deep reaching Zacharie Ice Stream over-riding below sea level land masses in transect 2. Note that sub land elevation beneath the ice surface is below sea level for a stretch more than 150 kilometers inland along the base of the Zacharie Ice Stream. Meanwhile, the ice surface slope and elevation provide seaward momentum even in regions that are near or slightly above sea level. The change in velocity of various sections of ice flow are shown in the colored spaghetti lines. Image source: Nature.)

Conditions in the Context of Human-Caused Climate Change

Current atmospheric conditions now provide enough greenhouse gas forcing to destabilize ice sheets in both Greenland and West Antarctica. These levels, at around 400 ppm CO2 and at around at least 425 CO2e when taking into account all the additional negative and positive forcing from aerosols and other greenhouse gasses, were enough in past climates to send these immense regions of ice plunging into the world ocean and to raise sea levels by between 15 and 115 feet over the course of centuries (Greenland alone contains enough water locked in its ice sheets to raise sea levels by about 23 feet). All of the Greenland ice sheet and large sections of West Antarctica are now undergoing the first stages of a similar destabilization.

Topographic_map_of_Greenland_bedrock

(Topographical map of an archipelago-like Greenland without its overlaying ice sheet. Glacial outflows are likely to be most intense toward the northeast, northwest, southwest and southeast through lower lying zones in the ranging from below sea level to about 100 meters above sea level. From the point of view of surface melt hitting the oceans, it is worth noting that the center of the Greenland ice sheet is currently taller than even the highest surrounding mountains. Image source: Commons.)

Today’s pace of sea level rise is currently 3.2 millimeters each year or a little more than a foot each century. Of this total, fully 1/6th is now being contributed by Greenland. But with inertia and gravitational forces now taking hold as massive ice sheets destabilize, and with human-caused warming continuing to ramp up, it is likely that we can expect both the Greenland ice sheet’s contribution and the pace of sea level rise to rapidly accelerate.

As the great ice sheets sped toward the oceans at the end of the last ice age, the pace of sea level rise hit as high as 10 feet each century. With the pace of human warming now about 30 times faster than at the last ice age’s fall, we may well eventually witness something even outside this difficult to understand context.

Even more ominous is the fact that greenhouse gas forcing levels that are enough to destabilize and then melt all the world’s ice sheets, eventually raising seas by about 250 feet, arrive as soon as the next few decades once CO2 (or equivalent) forcing levels hit between 500 and 600 parts per million value. The current rate of emission gets us there within about 20 years. But, unfortunately, that rate of emission is still rising even as amplifying feedbacks from terrestrial carbon stores in both the Arctic and the tropics loom.

In essence, it looks more and more, from the point of ice sheet stability, like we’ve probably at least locked in a Heinrich type event and will be well on our way to initiating total ice sheet loss over the coming two decades.

Links:

Greenland Ice Impacted Further in Sea Level Rise

Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet Loss

Lance-Modis

Climate Monsters we Want to Keep in the Closet: Heinrich Events, Superstorms, and Warming the Deep Ocean

GNET/PoleNET

An Improvement in Mass Budget for the Greenland Ice Sheet

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Spike

Leave a comment

87 Comments

  1. james cole

     /  March 17, 2014

    One would think the great force of potential energy stored up by the gravity forces on that high ice mass could have it’s trigger point where not enough friction is left to hold all that energy in place. Then could we see another rapid unexpected movement at an unexpected time. Not very encouraging. I have flown over Greenland in Sept, only a few years back. One vast expanse of melt lakes and melt rivers, a complete phase change from the 1980’s! I’m no scientist, but my eyes told me this was way out of historic norms.

    Reply
    • Geological evidence for past glacial collapse is not pretty. During one large outburst event, Laurentide sent out a tsunami like outburst flood that ripped trees from the Alaskan landscape and embedded the in 500 foot high cliffs off what is now the coast of Kamchatka hundreds of miles away.

      It appears that, from time to time, very large chunks of the glaciers let go during melt resulting in rather severe consequences.

      Reply
      • coopgeek

         /  March 18, 2014

        For a vivid image of how inertia keeps something apparently non-liquid in motion, here’s a nice slow-motion avalanche video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5waSw2mMfY

        As for the outburst floods, I suppose we can take some small comfort from the likelihood that there will need to be a glacial lake formed in order to drain out, which might even require major new glaciation, which seems unlikely at this point. In any case, I think there would be some warning and chance to intervene (while burning more carbon in the process!). For a relatively local and recent precedent, consider the Missoula floods and their rather mind-blowing impact on the terrain of Eastern Washington.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missoula_Floods

        Reply
        • Outburst floods can occur without a single large lake. Multiple lakes in cascade can have the same effect. This is one reason why I’m rather concerned about rainfall over the Greenland ice sheet during summer time. We park a warm storm pattern over the ice sheet and we could end up with trouble.

          Great video there!

  2. Hey Rob,

    “dumping 10 billion tons, or roughly ten square kilometers of ice”

    Shouldn’t it be ten “cubic” kilometers?

    Reply
  3. I’m not sure it’s precisely gravitational inertia that makes it unstoppable – if you radically cooled it, I think it would stop (after a while at least).

    What makes it extremely unlikely to be stopped though is that as this process continues some aspects become self reinforcing. For example the gradual lowering of the elevation of the ice sheet brings it down into statistically warmer (lower) air whereby it can melt faster and with greater frequency. Furthermore as the surface experiences melt this reduces the albedo enabling more melt. Again, this becomes self amplifying to some extent as melt encourages the frequency of greater melt (when rain starts to fall that’s even worse as snow contributes fresh albedo).

    It’s worth noting that the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) could not have formed in modern times. It is self stabilising by virtue of the albedo and elevation it has achieved. The system is an example of hysteresis – once gone – to restore it would take a colder climate than we had before we started treating the atmosphere as a landfill site.

    I’m glad to see you’re noting it’s an archipelago underneath the ice – my thinking is the landscape may constrain the rate of ice loss somewhat and limit potential for massive releases along the lines of the Laurentide ice sheet.

    That is not to say that the process cannot become much faster and more abrupt than it currently is however.

    Reply
    • The mass is so large that once it gets moving at an increasing rate of speed the cascade is difficult to stop. Kind of like an enormous avalanche in slow motion.

      Reply
      • Locally or over the whole sheet? I don’t know that an avalanche analogy works that well inasmuch as the ice clearly behaves as a fluid over the sheet anyway (albeit as one usually very viscous and slow moving). Sure, the moving ice will have inertia – but if you could cool it down (we cannot) – you would start to stiffen things back up and introduce more friction back into the equation.

        Reply
        • Once glacial destabilization hits a certain velocity the term is irreversible collapse. We haven’t yet been able to quantify if ice flows have reached that stage in Greenland yet. But with the whole edge destabilized and accelerating, it’s just a matter of time before much of the ice sheet’s collapse is irreversible.

          Perhaps avalanche is not the best analogy. More like a train whose weight balance is already over a cliff.

        • Maybe. It’s the gravitational inertia bit I’m picking at?

          If you were saying the process was essentially irreversible due to the extent of lubrication within the ice sheet (from melt water) and the time taken accelerating it being too long as compared to the time to stop it again – that would seem likely enough.

          Or, if one was saying it was irreversible on account of the factors I mentioned – decreasing ice sheet elevation and albedo – I’m just not sure I quite get the idea of why it should be so on gravitational grounds? The ice is km thick – sure – but it’s hundreds of km wide… so viewed gravitationally it seems like it shouldn’t be that unstable to me? (going back to the use of the term “gravitational inertia”).

          Is there a paper or something that explains what you mean I can go look at?

        • Melt and lubrication set the glacier in motion. At the point of irreversible collapse, gravity does the rest. PIG is in irreversible collapse now according to recent studies and measurements. With a lot of these glaciers, destabilization can quickly tip to irreversible collapse. The inertial state in the glacier has switched at that point. The state of the glacier is motion far faster than replacement rate and that motion is self reinforcing. A complete state change for the glacier once it’s hit hard enough.

          I suppose I should caveat to cooling we could remotely expect. In any case, the only marginal cooling Greenland will have much hope of seeing is once a good portion of those glaciers let loose.

        • I think I get what you mean now, sorry for being obtuse about it.

  4. Spike

     /  March 17, 2014

    Interesting to hear that Greenland is vulnerable in places to sea ingression below glaciers – previously I had only heard this discussed wrt the WAIS. I hadn’t read that the underlying geology was an archipelago either. Would this increase the risks of saddle type collapse as discussed here in an explanation of previous rapid melt events at the end of the last glacial ?

    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2012/8626.html

    Reply
    • Spike — I’ve posted a topographic map of Greenland without its ice sheet under current sea level conditions. Perhaps archipelago like would be a better term.

      Reply
      • mikkel

         /  March 17, 2014

        Does that mean the very interior will have limited outflow and only melt due to radiative increases?

        Reply
      • The age of discovery isn’t over yet. A colossal canyon, the longest on Earth, has just been found under Greenland’s ice sheet, scientists announced today (Aug. 29) in the journal Science.

        “You think that everything that could be known about the land surface is known, but it’s not,” said Jonathan Bamber, lead study author and a geographer at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. “There’s still so much to learn about the planet.”

        The great gorge meanders northward from Summit, the highest point in central Greenland, toward Petermann Glacier on the northwest coast, covering more than 460 miles (750 kilometers). Researchers think the ravine could be even longer, but they don’t yet have the data to prove where the canyon peters out deep under the interior ice sheet. “It may actually go farther south,” Bamber told LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet. [See Photos of Mega-Canyon Under Greenland Ice Sheet]
        http://www.livescience.com/39289-greenland-longest-canyon-discovered.html

        Reply
        • Goodness. An inland sea of ice to turn into a sea that is likely linked through the various inlets that will almost surely be deeply dredged as those glaciers speed up and through the action of outburst floods.

    • Possibly on a smaller scale. But yes, especially in the regions where glacial outflow is fastest.

      Reply
  5. Reblogged this on The Secular Jurist and commented:
    “… it is likely that we can expect both the Greenland ice sheet’s contribution and the pace of sea level rise to rapidly accelerate.

    As the great ice sheets sped toward the oceans at the end of the last ice age, the pace of sea level rise hit as high as 10 feet each century. With the pace of human warming now about 30 times faster than at the last ice age’s fall, we may well eventually witness something even outside this difficult to understand context.”

    Reply
  6. Andy

     /  March 18, 2014

    I saw this today on the flow rates from the various outlet glaciers. It seemed quite decent for detail. What I find interesting is the area contributing to the northeast flow compared to disco bay. We’ve watched disco bay for years, yet the real potential problem area is the N. East.

    Reply
    • Andy

       /  March 18, 2014

      This being in line with Roberts post, as well as the section on the plug on Disco bay you mentioned makes the N.E. area pretty interesting.

      I wonder if there are similar velocity maps for a few years past, as that “stream” of ice to the outlet reaches inland quite far. I wonder how long it takes to get the ice moving so quick so far inland, as that ties into your comment regarding “if we drop the temperature, inertia is underway”. That Inertia took a period of time to develop, and the time span could help determine overall vulnerability.

      Reply
    • It’s a rather large drainage area. Very significant and entrains a chunk of the ice sheet’s heart.

      Reply
  7. Spike

     /  March 18, 2014

    And there was a recent paper which showed that the contribution of ice discharge was declining as a proportion of total loss due to increased surface melt. the abstract summarises this;

    Extensive ice thickness surveys by NASA’s Operation IceBridge enable over a decade of ice discharge measurements at high precision for the majority of Greenland’s marine-terminating outlet glaciers, prompting a reassessment of the temporal and spatial distribution of glacier change. Annual measurements for 178 outlet glaciers reveal that, despite widespread acceleration, only 15 glaciers accounted for 77% of the 739 ± 29 Gt of ice lost due to acceleration since 2000 and four accounted for ~50%. Among the top sources of loss are several glaciers that have received little scientific attention. The relative contribution of ice discharge to total loss decreased from 58% before 2005 to 32% between 2009 and 2012. As such, 84% of the increase in mass loss after 2009 was due to increased surface runoff. These observations support recent model projections that surface mass balance, rather than ice dynamics, will dominate the ice sheet’s contribution to 21st century sea level rise.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013GL059010/abstract;jsessionid=DFE8B8B5BD7793E30CD83288C6A0CEDC.f01t02

    In a sane world this would all be front page news.

    Reply
    • The northeast glaciers weren’t studied because they were assumed to be stable. Well, there goes that one.

      Just one caveat to add here:

      Surface melt sheet response to temperature change is more rapid than basal glacier movement. But the heat and energy transfer kicks the glaciers as well.

      Also, it’s important to consider that the center glacial mass is taller than any of the surrounding mountains. So if you do get melt up top and some of those melt lakes spill over you can end up with quite a cascade downstream. Now imagine that happening with hundreds of melt lakes over the course of hundreds of kilometers. You can really end up with one hell of a pulse in such an event.

      Reply
  8. Tom

     /  March 18, 2014

    Another great post Robert (along with the usual highly intelligent comments and links by your readers)! I reposted this over on NBL (I do that frequently with your work anymore – all around the blogosphere). There are so many factors pressing for attention anymore, and all of them are dire – trees dying, newly emerging diseases (for which we’re completely unprepared), the usual human non-sense (Ukraine currently), Fukushima (et al) and now BP is being allowed back in the Gulf to drill again (can you believe it?) among many others – it goes on and on.

    Reply
  9. Tom

     /  March 18, 2014

    Here’s just one example of what we’re up against

    http://robinwestenra.blogspot.co.nz/2014/03/news-from-north-carolina.html

    Tuesday, 18 March 2014
    News from North Carolina

    North Carolina Environmental Agency Removes Climate Change Links From Website

    and

    Breaking: Duke Energy Caught Dumping Wastewater from Coal Ash Lagoon Into Local Watershed

    [quote from article]
    Even more startling, Duke Energy described the pumping of coal ash wastewater into a watershed as part of “routine maintenance.” The New York Times quoted Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks as saying: “They’re lowering the water to conduct the maintenance they need to.” According to the New York Times, Duke claims it notified state regulators—a claim that was contradicted by officials with DENR.

    Duke Energy cannot lawfully discharge any pollutant to a waterway without a proper permit in place.

    “To label the secret, unmitigated, intentional discharge of untold amounts of highly toxic wastewater as ‘routine maintenance’ seems ludicrous,” said Peter Harrison of the Waterkeeper Alliance. “Here, Duke Energy has admitted that it deliberately emptied the contents of its ash ponds into the Cape Fear River watershed, just weeks after decimating at least 70 miles of the Dan River with its coal ash, and just days before it will appear in front of a federal grand jury for its suspected criminal activity related to its coal ash.”

    DENR has indicated that Duke did not notify the agency prior to pumping the ponds, and that regulators noticed the pumping during a site visit on an unspecified day last week. “If DENR did not authorize Duke’s pumping, it would show an appalling disregard for the law and the welfare of North Carolinians,” Harrison added. [gee, ya think?]

    There’s so much more going on . .

    Reply
    • These companies seem to have almost zero regard for the lives and safety of those affected by their toxic and climate ravaging industry. Duke’s actions reflect on the entire fossil fuel industry. Profits come before everything, even before poisoning rivers or ruining the prospects for a livable climate.

      Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 18, 2014

      I like that acronym “DENR” – as in denier?

      Reply
      • That’s a good one🙂 we should use it more often.

        Those guys in the NC legislature are just nuts. Planning to build in the path of rising seas and increasing storms… NC will let go of its land to nature, whether the legislators are willing to believe in reality or not.

        Reply
  10. “The rate of climate change now may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years, and it is projected to accelerate in the coming decades,”

    An 8F rise – among the most likely scenarios could make once rare extreme weather events – 100-year floods, droughts and heat waves – almost annual occurrences, the scientists said.

    American Association for the Advancement of Science

    Reply

  11. Food Prices Surge as Drought Exacts a High Toll on Crops

    Surging prices for food staples from coffee to meat to vegetables are driving up the cost of groceries in the U.S., pinching consumers and companies that are still grappling with a sluggish economic recovery.

    Link

    Reply
  12. From the plants and animals don’t watch Fox News file :
    Rocky mountain wildflower season lengthens by more than a month

    Inouye was not thinking of the effects of a warming climate in 1974, when he began counting flowers on a mountainside 9,500 feet above sea level at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Crested Butte, Colo.

    “I was a graduate student studying hummingbirds and bumble bees, and I wanted to know what flower nectar resources are available for them, so I started counting flowers,” Inouye said.

    Others initially took part, but Inouye stuck with it. Eventually he set his own students to the task. By counting blooms in each of 30 plots every other day, up to five months per year, for four decades, the group amassed a data set of more than 2 million flowers they have counted. For this study, University of Arizona doctoral student Paul CaraDonna, University of Maryland postdoctoral research associate Amy Iler and Inouye looked at data on the 60 most common species.

    Bloom times are changing fast, the researchers found. The date the first spring flower appears has advanced more than 6 days per decade over the course of the study. The spring peak, when masses of wildflowers burst into bloom, has moved up 5 days per decade. And the last flower of fall occurred about 3 days later every decade.

    “The flowering season is about one month longer than it used to be” Iler said, “which is a big change for a mountain ecosystem with a short growing season.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140317155611.htm

    Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 18, 2014

      And in the animal world, we now have Carolina Wrens nesting to the foot of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. A few decades ago, they nested only as far north as the mid-Atlantic states and some in Connecticut. Granted, some of this species northward spread may be due to human feeding, but warmer winters have helped. Robins and Bluebirds now regularly winter around here. The changes are somewhat subtle, but they’re now visible if you know what to look for.

      Reply
  13. Shifts in flowering phenology reshape a subalpine plant community

    Seasonal timing of biological events, phenology, is one of the strongest bioindicators of climate change. Our general understanding of phenological responses to climate change is based almost solely on the first day on which an event is observed, limiting our understanding of how ecological communities may be responding as a whole. Using a unique long-term record of flowering phenology from Colorado, we find that the number of species changing their flowering times likely has been underestimated and the magnitude of phenological change overestimated. In addition to earlier first flowering, we document a diverse assortment of other changes, such as delayed last flowering, as temperatures warm. This variety of species-level phenological shifts has ultimately reshaped various temporal components of the plant community.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/03/12/1323073111

    Reply
    • Thanks for the link to that paper. For me, this really says what science is all about Grinding it out season after season for 40 years. Counting flowers at 9.500 feet. As a result, we have this :

      Of all the species that have changed their flowering schedules in some way, only 17% shifted their entire bloom cycle earlier. The rest showed more complicated changes.

      “What we show is that first flowering isn’t always the best predictor of all the changes we find,” CaraDonna said. “It’s important to take a closer look in order to understand all the ways that climate change affects these wildflower communities.”

      The changes are likely to have a strong impact — for better or worse — on pollinating insects and migratory birds. For example, Inouye said, hummingbirds that summer in the Rocky Mountains time their nesting so that their eggs hatch at peak bloom, when there is plenty of flower nectar for hungry chicks. But as the bloom season lengthens, the plants are not producing more flowers. The same number of blooms is spread out over more days, so at peak bloom there may be fewer flowers.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140317155611.htm

      Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 18, 2014

      Yes, that phenomenon of the synchronized timing of flower and leaf out, insect hatches and bird migration / fish spawning, etc. is likely to get way out of sync in the future.

      Reply
  14. Andy

     /  March 18, 2014

    An interesting paper on the impacts of reduced rainfall on the lower murray basin in AUS, and evaluations of various mitigation’s. Although it is not a big name pub or site, there appears to be some decent info there.

    http://www.csiro.au/en/Outcomes/Environment/Population-Sustainability/SEEDPaper12.aspx

    Reply
  15. Back to Greenland –
    Given how complex the plumbing under the ice sheet is , there’s a real possibility that fresh water could be injected directly into the oceans. at depths we’ve never thought about .

    Reply
    • Greenland Melt Ponds : Image of the Day – NASA Earth Observatory

      http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=80677

      Reply
      • That glacier system is filling up with water. It’s one to three kilometers thick. As it becomes more aqueous, it will grow less and less stable. Surface melt, basal ponding and lake formation and melt pockets. That’s what we end up with if we look at the ice in three dimensions. If the ice sheet soaks up enough heat during summer, some of the remnant water doesn’t freeze, so you end up with an ice sheet that becomes filled with enormous volumes of melt.

        Reply
      • Trenberth or someone should do a heat and water content measure of the ice sheets.

        Reply
    • Oh there’s a lot of fresh water heading into the North Atlantic. We get just a taste right now. It tends to ride on top, though and will probably play a role in increasing stratification and circulation changes. Cold water at the surface, warm water upwelling… and with that cold, fresh water spreading out from Greenland. It really messes with both the ocean and the atmosphere.

      Reply
      • Geologists estimate that the cycle of flooding and reformation of the lake lasted an average of 55 years and that the floods occurred several times over the 2,000-year period between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago. U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Jim O’Connor and Spanish Center of Environmental Studies scientist Gerard Benito have found evidence of at least twenty-five massive floods, the largest discharging ≈10 cubic kilometers per hour (2.7 million m³/s, 13 times the Amazon River).[2] Alternate estimates for the peak flow rate of the largest flood include 17 cubic kilometers per hour[3] and range up to 60 cubic kilometers per hour.[4] The maximum flow speed approached 36 meters/second (130 km/h or 80 mph).[3]
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missoula_Floods

        When the temps rose 10 degrees.

        Reply
        • Arctic temps over the last few years are 3.5 C above 1880s. Winter temps push 7 C above 1880s values. We hit 10 C Arctic warming (average) around 2060 to 2080 under BAU without strong negative feedbacks (large melt outflow).

      • Oh there’s a lot of fresh water heading into the North Atlantic. We get just a taste right now. It tends to ride on top, ……………

        What if it’s mostly injected at the bottom ?

        Reply
        • Probably not going to happen. You need depths in excess of 1,000 meters to do that. Basal outflow and surface outflow hits the inlets at a range from surface to -200 meters for the most part. The fresh water wants to rise so as it encounters salt water it forms a kind of frontal wedge that over-rides the salt water and then pushes along the surface.

          If you did have very deep fresh water injection into high saline zones you end up with cold water upwelling.

  16. Robert we are the asteroid now.

    Reply
  17. Probably not going to happen. You need depths in excess of 1,000 meters to do that.

    The depth of the of the outlet of the Jakobshavn Glacier is currently 1,500 meters.

    Reply
    • Well then you get basal flow running out through the outlet and then upwelling once it hits saltier waters in a kind of wedge into the ocean. I suppose there could be some kind of dynamic that generates cold fresh pockets in the thermocline, but these would tend to migrate upward against the saline gradient. The ice outflow already gives you fresh water expanding at the surface.

      It would be worth a study or two, though. There’s probably going to be a lot of mixing and instability near those glaciers, but based on ocean dynamics, the net effect is cold, fresh water at the surface.

      Reply
    • Gah. Went back to my notes and find numerous glacial outlets in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 meters. Memory didn’t serve very well in this case.. Thanks for the correction.

      Reply
  18. By the way, if anyone wants to see Greenland , there is series on Animal Planet called Ice Cold Gold. It shows tomorrow night . Look at the land , it’s the most shattered rocks you’ll ever see.

    Reply
    • You’re not going to farm Greenland. in the next 5 millions years.

      Reply
      • Not betting on much in the way of farming if BAU continues for too much longer.

        Reply
      • Bob —

        I just wanted to know if you’d keep updating your Newsfeed site? You’re a great researcher and I enjoyed skimming through your posts there.

        I also noticed your promo work for Ralph Keeling. Huge kudos for that.

        Reply
  19. In the future , Facebook will sell your lungs to the highest bidder.

    Reply
  20. I just wanted to know if you’d keep updating your Newsfeed site?

    No, I’m old, I’m falling down, I don’t care I’m at the end of my rope.

    Reply
  21. ” Get ready little lady , hell is coming to breakfast “

    Reply
  22. CLIFF RICHARD – Devil Woman (1976)

    Reply
  23. Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress-The Hollies (With Lyrics)

    Reply
  24. “Just one look I was a bad mess, Cause that long cool woman had it all :

    Reply
  25. All this whinin’, cryin’. and pitchin’ a fit , get over it, get over it.

    Reply
  26. Worth noting that west Antarctica is also giving more evidence of an accelerated glacier flow. it’s not just Greenland alone, it is also west Antarctica and the mountain glaciers in the Andes, alps, Himalayas. Melted ice all runs downhill, and the IPCC estimates of 2 or 3 feet of sea rise by 2100 look increasingly and unrealistically conservative.

    Reply
  1. Human-Caused Warming Now Pushing Entire Greenland Ice Sheet into the Ocean | GarryRogers Nature Conservation
  2. New Paper: Awakening Greenland Giant – Not So Jolly | Climate Denial Crock of the Week
  3. Grim News From NASA: West Antarctica’s Entire Flank Collapsing Toward Southern Ocean, At Least 15 Feet of Sea Level Rise Already Locked-in Worldwide | robertscribbler
  4. On Death Ground: Bangladesh is Fighting for its Life by Installing Solar Panels — Why Every Coastal City, State and Country Should Follow Suit | robertscribbler
  5. Ten Cubic Kilometers of Ice Lost From Jakobshavn Glacier in Less than One Month | robertscribbler
  6. The Keystone Pipeline, Arctic Methane Eruptions, and Why Human Fossil Fuel Burning Must Swiftly Halt | robertscribbler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: