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An Armada of Icebergs Has Just Invaded The North Atlantic

“I have about a decade of experience with the Ice Patrol, and in my time here, and talking with people who have been here longer, I’ve never seen anything like this or heard of anything like this before,” — Gabrielle McGrath Coast Guard Commander of the US Ice Patrol.

“A Heinrich event is a phenomenon in which large armadas of icebergs break off from glaciers and traverse the North Atlantic.” — Commons

“Consider the situation during past ice sheet disintegrations. In melt-water pulse 1A, about 14,000 years ago, sea level rose about 20 meters in approximately 400 years (Kienast et al., 2003). That is an average of 1 meter of sea level rise every 20 years.” — Dr. James Hansen

*****

This week an unprecedented 481 icebergs swarmed into the shipping lanes of a storm-tossed North Atlantic. Strong hurricane force winds had ripped these bergs from their sea ice moored haven of Baffin Bay and thrust them into the ocean waters off Newfoundland. The week before, there were only 37 such icebergs in the Atlantic’s far northern waters. And the new number this week is nearly 6 times the annual average for this time of year at 83. To be very clear, there is no record, at present, of such a large surge of icebergs entering these waters in so short a period at any time in the modern reckoning.

(Many glaciers along the periphery of Greenland have passed the point of no return. In other words, at present temperatures, these glaciers will completely melt. In the past, such major melting events have released ‘armadas of icebergs’ into the North Atlantic in instances called Heinrich Events. Video source: Chasing Ice.)

Likely Precursor to a Heinrich Event

During recent years, rates of iceberg discharge from Greenland have been increasing. More icebergs are calving from great masses of ice like the Jackobshavn Glacier along the west-central coast of Greenland. Speed of ice discharge from Jackobshavn has about doubled during recent years. And new studies indicate that ice mass loss all around coastal Greenland is accelerating even as many glaciers have now reached a point of no return and will inevitably melt into the North Atlantic due to the human-forced warming of our world.

As a result, Greenland is producing more icebergs. And this year, it appears that this glacial melt acceleration combined with a very powerful storm to flood the North Atlantic with the bergs at a hither-to unprecedented rate.

(This week, a massive swarm of icebergs that calved from Greenland and entered Baffin Bay have been kicked into the North Atlantic by a powerful storm system. To be clear, this is the kind of thing you’d expect at the start of a Heinrich Event. Image source: U.S. Coastguard.)

Right now, no one wants to make the conclusion that we are starting to enter a Heinrich Event. Or worse — that the present rate of warming at 30 times faster than at the end of the last ice age is rapidly putting us in peril. But the geological evidence for just such an event was a proliferation of ice-rafted boulders from swarms of icebergs that subsequently melted and dropped their rock loads onto the sea floor of the North Atlantic. Heinrich Events are triggered by rapid glacial melt and destabilization of Greenland and Antarctic glaciers as warming airs and waters force the great ice masses past key tipping points.

And when scientists like Ian Howat are saying that now:

“[Greenland’s] peripheral glaciers and ice caps can be thought of as colonies of ice that are in rapid decline, many of which will likely disappear in the near future. In that sense, you could say that they’re ‘doomed [emphasis added].’”

… it’s starting to become clear that we’ve probably already started to release this particular ‘climate monster in the closet’ on an unsuspecting and ill-informed world.

(Greenland has numerous estuaries in which warming ocean waters meet with sea fronting glaciers. During recent years, these glaciers have been disgorging ice bergs at increasingly rapid rates. The image above shows icebergs being released from Greenland glaciers during the intense warming event of 2012. Image source: Lance-Modis.)

Heinrich Event in the Human Context

Large outbursts of ice from Greenland’s glaciers into the North Atlantic in a Heinrich Event produce multiple effects. First, the floods of ice and related fresh water push rates of sea level rise higher. At the end of the last ice age, rapid releases of glaciers from Greenland and Antarctica resulted in as much as 1 meter of sea level rise every 20 years. But it’s worth noting that the present rate of warming is about 30 times faster than at the end of the last ice age. So the potential rapid sea level rise risks related to human-forced climate change are considerable.

Second, the icebergs and fresh water floods are likely to disrupt ocean current circulation. This, in turn, makes the North Atlantic a much more stormy and violent place. The cold water produced by the icebergs and fresh water melt creates an atmospheric and oceanic cool zone that runs headlong into warming waters and airs issuing north from the tropics. And it is the collision of extreme hot and cold that often produces the most destructive of weather systems.

(Rapid glacial destabilization and related sea level rise appears to occur when warming exceeds 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius above the longer term base temperature. Meltwater pulse 1A [above] occurred when temperatures warmed about 2 C above the ice age average. The present departure from 1880s averages is currently 1.2 C and we are rapidly approaching the 1.5 C threshold. Image source: Meltwater Pulse 1A.)

The same fresh water and iceberg release that increases regional and hemispheric storm potential also harms ocean health. For when downwelling of cooler, northern currents cease and fail to provide oxygen to the deep ocean — the ocean stratifies, loses a portion of its life-giving oxygen, and starts to produce more and more anoxic dead zones. Ocean circulation interruptions due to Heinrich Events can be relatively brief (on geological time scales) — as has likely been the case at the end of the last ice age during the melt toward the present interglacial — or long-lasting. In the long lasting instance of ocean stratification, bottom water formation is thought to shift to the Equator. In the Earth’s deep past, such events are identified as a primary trigger for ocean mass extinction events or even transition points for a deadly Canfield Ocean state. But you have to shift to an ice-free world at about 6 + degrees Celsius warmer than present to get to the start of that state — a proposition that is now entirely within reach if we continue on the present and ill-fated expedition of continued fossil fuel burning.

(UPDATED)

Links:

North Atlantic Icebergs Invade Shipping Routes

U.S. Coastguard

Jackobshavn Glacier

Heinrich Event

Greenland’s Coastal Ice Caps are Melting

A Slippery Slope

Meltwater Pulse 1A

Lance-Modis

Hat tip to Xbutter

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150 Comments

  1. wharf rat

     /  April 8, 2017

    Re-posted from the end of the last thread.
    Thanks, CB

    Hey, kids.
    Rat is on the steering committee for our town climate rally on the 29th. Somebody will be bringing a laptop, so I’m looking for a few good graphics. So far, I have the temperature spiral
    https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-05-10/global-warming-gif-shows-how-hot-earth-has-gotten-over-past-165-years , the arctic ice death spiral, and the NSDIC arctic graph. Further suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks
    Mike, the Rat

    PS… This goes on the posters announcing the rally…

    When God created Adam, he showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him: “See my works, how lovely they are, how fine they are. All I have created, I created for you. Take care not to corrupt and destroy my universe, for if you destroy it, no one will come after you to put it right.”

    (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7)

    Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 8, 2017

      I always liked this bathymetric map of Antartica, showing how much of the ice rests on land below sea level. 23m of sea level rise equivalent of ice located where it can be bathed in warming oceans.

      Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 9, 2017

      Here’s another with a blurb to go with it.

      A graph of the last 500 million years of global temperature.

      Until recently the last 10-12,000 years were remarkably stable and roughly coincided with the development of agriculture, cities and civilization. I’m not saying that a relatively stable climate is necessary for civilization, but it is interesting that the two time periods roughly coincide.

      For much of the roughly 200,000 years that modern humans have been around, prior to the above period, you can see large climate oscillations which were driven by very weak orbital forcings.

      To see climate similar to what we’re on track for, with our rapid, strong forcing, you have to go back millions of years.

      Reply
    • NS Alito

       /  April 9, 2017

      Maybe you could roll through xkcd’s excellent Earth Temperature Timeline:
      https://xkcd.com/1732/

      Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  April 9, 2017

      Awesome job Wharf Rat! You might want to include a recent sea level rise graph, and point out the recent acceleration in the past few years. Another good chart is the increase in natural disasters (the one that is broken down by flood, fires, drought, geologic activity) that is color coded, which speaks volumes because everything has increased except for earthquakes, which is the only natural disaster that is unaffected by climate change so it serves as good evidence that only the weather is changing (although recent studies have shown that melting glaciers can even affect geologic activity). Also the freezing degree days chart is a good one to show how unbelievably warm the Arctic has become in recent years.

      Reply
  2. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 8, 2017

    All it took was a temperature rise of 1 degree C to destroy the floating ice shelf which constrained the flow of the Jakobshavn Isbræ Glacier which drains part of the Greenland Ice Sheet by spitting ice bergs into the ocean.

    Globally ice shelves constrain about 25m of sea level rise equivalent of ice grounded below sea level where warming oceans can access it and it can make icebergs.

    It’s minus 50 C on parts of Antarctica, warm it up to minus 45 and who cares? But it’s at the melting point at the coast. The glaciologist Richard Alley said that a 1 degree C rise in temperature is a big insult to an ice shelf almost anywhere on the planet.

    When the Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula broke up the glaciers behind sped up 6-8 fold. Luckily there’s comparatively little ice there.

    If we sped up all on Antarctica’s glaciers by a factor of eight sea level rise would reach several cms per year, forcing a retreat from most coastal areas.

    Reply
  3. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 8, 2017

    Regarding the “collision of extreme hot and cold” you spoke of, in James Hansen’s paper last year Ice Melt . . he suggested that ocean overturning circulation is more sensitive to shut down from fresh meltwater from the ice sheets than previously thought.

    He said that if full shut down of the AMOC occurred that the increased horizontal temperature gradient between high and low latitude regions of the N Atlantic would drive superstorms unlike any we have today.

    He said it could be a problem this century and that “all hell would break loose” in regions around the N Atlantic.

    Reply
    • Hansen talks of frontal systems the size of continents that pack the strength of hurricanes. Image a storm with 80-100+ mph winds stretching over 1500 to 2500 miles. That’s at least what some of his model runs indicated.

      Reply
      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  April 8, 2017

        And that’s at temperatures less than 1C above today’s. What’s it going to be like at 3C?

        We really don’t want to try and find out.

        Reply
        • Actually, these storms were modeled events that occurred near the 2 to 2.5 C threshold and concurrent with large melt floods from Greenland and Antarctica. We haven’t experienced storms of that strength in the present day. Sandy may have been 1,000 miles across with regards to cloud cover, but the hurriance force wind field was closer to 300 miles across. You’re talking about a storm system that is 5-8 times the size of Sandy.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 8, 2017

          “near the 2 to 2.5 C threshold”
          Ah, okay, I was referring to the paleoclimate evidence of storms during the previous interglacial, at temperatures less than 1 degree C above today, that apparently moved boulders 10 times the size that modern storms move.

        • Oh, Hansen’s Eemian study. Yes, I expect the Eemian would have been considerably tamer than what we’re doing right now.

        • Present near Eemian threshold values translate to around 10-20 feet of sea level rise long term. However, the present RF inbalance is considerably more than during the Eemian which implies a larger response over time.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 8, 2017

          That would indicate a substantial increase in intensity, not sure about size.

        • Hansen’s reference to these large continent-sized storms comes from The Storms of My Grandchildren.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 8, 2017

          I hadn’t heard before about the large size of these storms, thanks, imagine if one of these large storms is also much stronger than current storms . . . our infrastructure would be severely challenged.

        • Yes. Been chatting about that potential for a number of years now. Not many people seem to want to jump on that particular line of study. They’ve mostly left it to Hansen.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 9, 2017

          Hansen has a history of being right, and I’ve got a sense he has a better handle on our predicament than many.

    • Estella

       /  April 8, 2017

      “Hansen talks of frontal systems the size of continents that pack the strength of hurricanes. Image a storm with 80-100+ mph winds stretching over 1500 to 2500 miles. That’s at least what some of his model runs indicated.”

      The forecast for “The day after tomorrow” looks wild.

      Reply
  4. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 8, 2017

    “that the present rate of warming at 30 times faster than at the end of the last ice age is rapidly putting us in peril.”

    Hansen made a similar point in a recent paper “The millennial (500–2000-year) timescale of deep-ocean ventilation affects the timescale for natural CO2 change and thus the timescale for paleo-global climate, ice sheet, and sea level changes, but this paleo-millennial timescale should not be misinterpreted as the timescale for ice sheet response to a rapid, large, human-made climate forcing.”

    Reply
  5. Cate

     /  April 8, 2017

    Dateline front lines (Newfoundland): I really don’t like the looks of what’s pouring down from the Arctic as we speak—Nares, Kane Basin, Baffin Bay, Davis Strait. The ice must be roaring up there, there are so many humungous blocks in the melange this year, and the west coast of Greenland north of Disko has hardly started to break up. This time last year it was open water—-and we had a relatively ice-light summer. This year, a lot of ice is headed our way: this huge swarm may be just the first. But the berg-hunters—and the Newfoundland Dept of Tourism—will be in their glee. Very very few people here believe that anything out of the ordinary is happening in the Arctic. Even fewer want to do anything but cash in on the tourism bonanza it presents.

    Reply
    • Well, you certainly live in an interesting place. I think things will tend to get rather stormy for those of us living along the Atlantic over the next few decades. It’s already stormier in general. But that’s just prelude.

      Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  April 9, 2017

      Cate….as a 52 year resident of South Florida…just reading your comment makes me feel cold…brrrrr. Seriously though, I have always wanted to travel up to see Newfoundland as it always looks so wild and beautiful in pictures. Sigh…maybe one day 🙂

      Reply
  6. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 8, 2017

    I don’t think many people are aware of just how fast sea level could rise this century. In a 2015 presentation at the US Naval War College the Scripps Oceanographic Institute professor Jeremy Jackson said that in a few decades the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could “break” delivering 10 feet of sea level rise in “a few years”.

    Some glaciologists like Eric Rignot think it would take at least a century, but here is Richard Alley saying something not too different from Jackson.

    At Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, “once you get off of the stabilizing sill, whenever that is in West Antarctica, the time scale of getting rid of the West Antarctic [3.3m GMSLR, 4m in the Northern Hemisphere], it’s not centuries, it’s multi-decadal. This is not maybe the best case, it’s not the worst case.”

    at 31:40 in this presentation

    And he’s cautiously optimistic that at the age of 58 he will die before Thwaites does.

    Reply
    • Thanks for this, Erik. Great discussion on the matter.

      Reply
      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  April 8, 2017

        You’re very welcome, and thanks for this great web site. Nobody has ever watched an ice sheet retreat before, so it’s hard to project time scales. All we know is that they can go fast, particularly the marine ones.

        Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  April 9, 2017

      Thanks for posting a Richard Alley video…he is the only lecturer I have seen who can deliver dire information in such a pleasant manner. He always sounds so cheerful…I don’t know how he does it.

      Reply
      • Cate

         /  April 9, 2017

        Suzanne, I like that about him too. I get the feeling he’s glad he’s going to escape the worst–he is, after all, like many of us I guess, “of a certain age.”!

        Reply
      • I feel a great deal of “sisterhood”w Suzanne and Cate w their communications…a Robert Scribbler Sisterhood

        Reply
  7. wharf rat

     /  April 8, 2017

    From a friend in Carbondale, Ill.

    my…local store…had a ..”I’m sorry”… sign..
    over the ..Empty… Broccoli …. bin
    stating…”Bad weather caused the loss of produce”

    Reply
    • Unfortunately more likely these days…

      Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 8, 2017

      Here’s a rather disturbing recent article from the NY Times about crop failures in many countries. I think four countries now are facing famine.

      Reply
      • Estella

         /  April 9, 2017

        2017 will be remembered as the year famine became a permanent part of the landscape.

        Reply
      • Ryan in New England

         /  April 10, 2017

        Absolutely heartbreaking.

        Reply
  8. Vic

     /  April 8, 2017

    Looks like New Zealand’s recent “1 in 500 year” flood event was just a warm-up.

    Reply
  9. climatehawk1

     /  April 8, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  10. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 9, 2017

    You mentioned a Canfield ocean. Here’s a recent paper indicated we could make such changes.

    “Future carbon dioxide, climate warming potentially unprecedented in 420 million years
    Date:
    April 4, 2017
    Source:
    University of Southampton
    Summary:
    Over the next 100 to 200 years, carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere will head towards values not seen since the Triassic period, 200 million years ago. Furthermore, by the 23rd century, the climate could reach a warmth not seen in 420 million years, say researchers.”
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170404124402.htm

    Reply
  11. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    climatehawk1

    I am an old fool. I have been an old fool all my life.

    Reply
    • I don’t know about that, Bob–you seem sharper to me than a whole lot of other folks. But then, I’m older than you, so maybe we are sliding into dementia together. 🙂

      Reply
  12. unnaturalfx

     /  April 9, 2017

    Am looking forward to seeing this , Looks very well done https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHGCdlI91sg Between earth and sky teaser, Alaskan view on climate change .

    Reply
    • coloradobob

       /  April 9, 2017

      Great clip the end has a fool with a view.

      Reply
      • unnaturalfx

         /  April 9, 2017

        Sort of what I thought , but will be an interesting perspective on our global predicament.

        Reply
  13. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    Now let us all break out of death.

    SUGARLOAF “Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You” 1975 HQ

    Reply
  14. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    The end of my world. What a home, what a world . What a place to be. What a failed place men end to be.

    Reply
  15. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 9, 2017

    A Brain-Invading Parasite Is Believed to Be Spreading Because of Climate Change

    http://gizmodo.com/a-brain-invading-parasite-is-believed-to-be-spreading-b-1794144135

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  April 9, 2017

      Well..this sentence in the article got my attention…”Other states where it has recently popped up include California, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.”…..

      Thanks for the link, my husband and I spend lots of our free time in the garden..and yes, we do get a fair share of snails, so this is very good to know.

      Reply
      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  April 9, 2017

        A family friend of mine got that parasite around 6 years ago while in Hawaii. He survived, but suffered some brain damage.

        Reply
        • Suzanne

           /  April 10, 2017

          Yikes…I will definitely be more careful when dealing with garden snails!

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 10, 2017

          A little garlic and butter and roasted! Hmmm, I wonder what kind of snails they make escargot out of.

    • DrTskoul

       /  April 10, 2017

      I think it has already invaded the White House…

      Reply
  16. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    I am a lonely old man alone .

    Reply
  17. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    Buckle your chin strap, Hell is coning to breakfast,

    Reply
  18. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    This is not joke. It’s a real warning.

    Reply
  19. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    Everyone pay attention . These rain events are coming. Get ready.

    Reply
  20. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    The rain comes, it does leave.

    Reply
  21. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    My torn apart heart.

    Reply
  22. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    Simple fact ,,,,,,,,,,,,,, This nut going to lay down. .

    Reply
  23. coloradobob

     /  April 9, 2017

    A new bug from Africa is eating it’s way across Chlle,

    Reply
  24. Vic

     /  April 9, 2017

    A preliminary survey has found several reefs around Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands have been destroyed or very badly damaged by Cyclone Debbie. Tourism operators from Cairns have been called in to help find sites that may have survived, but wet weather, strong winds and poor visibility have hampered efforts to assess the damage. The cyclone’s cost to tourism has not been calculated, but tourism operators said the region was open for business.


    Open for business.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-09/cyclone-debbie-leaves-whitsundays-reefs-in-ruins/8428866

    Reply
  25. Many Greenland and West-Antarctica glaciers are floating on a layer of warming ocean. It seems really possible that they crumble down into incebergs. And if Greenland releases enough water to stop the thermohaline circulation, West-Antarctica might collapse
    .

    Reply
  26. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 9, 2017

    Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  April 10, 2017

      This is a graph that Wharf Rat could certainly use 😉

      Reply
  27. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 9, 2017

    Massive Permafrost Thaw Documented in Canada, Portends Huge Carbon Release

    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27022017/global-warming-permafrost-study-melt-canada-siberia

    Reply
  28. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 9, 2017

    A Very solid Read

    IS THIS THE START OF RUNAWAY GLOBAL WARMING?
    William P Hall (PhD)
    President, Kororoit Institute
    Evolutionary Biology of Species and Organisms
    Draft – 08-04-2017

    http://www.orgs-evolution-knowledge.net/Index/Essays/ClimateEmergency/Start%20of%20Runaway%20Warming.html

    Reply
    • unnaturalfx

       /  April 9, 2017

      Yes a very solid breakdown indeed , Well put together ,lets just hope his conclusion is incorrect . Thanks Andy .

      Reply
      • Andy_in_SD

         /  April 10, 2017

        I don’t care for the conclusion either. I am not a proponent of geoengineering in the experimental sense. I’m a fan of just reduce the bloody carbon emissions. We’re already experimenting enough as it is.

        Reply
    • One YouTube you can see some excellent short presentations on the Heinrich and DO events from the 2014 AGU conference.
      That said, this current event is very unsettling. Especially to someone that is holding on to any threads of hope that things will be ‘OK’. Well, my existence is much along the lines of watching a horrific car accident in real slow motion.

      Reply
  29. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 9, 2017

    Here’s a recent talk by Noam Chomsky on global warming titled “Racing To The Precipice: (March 2017)”

    Reply
  30. Behind of that beautiful visual footage we have to start worry about our planet!

    Reply
  31. Syd Bridges

     /  April 9, 2017

    This is very bad, though not unexpected, news. The glaciers of Greenland are on the move. After the huge losses in 2012, it will be interesting-horrifying?-to see what the losses will be during this melt season. Will it be similar to 2010 and 2012. I hope we won’t see such a melt, but nothing would surprise me now.

    Looking back at the Uni Bremen image from AMSR-2 for 6 September 2016, there is no ice shown in Baffin Bay and Nares was open. So where have these icebergs come from and when? Were they trapped close to shore after calving last summer, now to be released by the spring thaw?

    I also wonder what this will do for the weather this summer in the UK. A very warm Eastern seaboard and a strong melt water pulse should keep the Great Atlantic Cyclone Generator well primed. I shall be back in Colorado in a couple of weeks, just hoping that we don’t have a
    bad fire season, as that part of the state is in severe drought. Yet more fire and ice.

    Reply
    • It looks to me as though Robert Frost was right on both counts:

      Fire and Ice
      Some say the world will end in fire,
      Some say in ice.
      From what I’ve tasted of desire
      I hold with those who favor fire.
      But if it had to perish twice,
      I think I know enough of hate
      To say that for destruction ice
      Is also great
      And would suffice.

      -Robert Frost

      The runaway greed and desire of the 1% is causing drought, wildfires, and heatwaves.

      The carefully nurtured hatred of ‘the other’ turns half of the population against science, allowing the 1% to continue perpetrating the instability of our planet’s atmosphere, causing ice storms, floods, and out-of-season weather all around the world.

      Ice and Fire, Hatred and Desire. And all in the pursuit of power and the almighty dollar.

      I wonder how they will explain their roles to their children/grandchildren in the next 40 years as the world they must live in deteriorates before their very eyes.

      Reply
  32. Spike

     /  April 9, 2017

    Interesting in that when I heard about the iceberg swarm a few days ago the first thought I had was is this an outrider for future Heinrich events, but I repressed my initial impulse to raise this question as a layman. I’m pleased to see someone more knowledgeable than me now raise the issue, though Mann hinted at it obliquely. I guess we all tend to self censor our views a little given the sensitivity of the subject and in particular some aspects ( methane/ rapid SLR/earthquakes and volcanism) – as RS hints at by pointing out Hansen’s lonely leadership.

    Chris Goodall has a good summary in his newsletter of how the economics of responding to the issues are not prohibitive in any sense, worth keeping in mind:

    “Costs of transition. The IEA says that keeping below 2 degrees requires near-complete decarbonisation of electricity worldwide by 2050. This target needs 7,000 GW of wind and solar, almost ten times today’s capacity. Terje Osmundsen, a senior executive at Norway’s Scatec, a grid-scale PV installer in Africa and elsewhere, showed that the IEA had used inflated total cost estimates. Osmundsen calculates that the world needs to add about 190 GW of new wind and solar a year, up from about 130 GW in 2016, at a probable cost of around $1bn/GW, not the $2bn assumed by the IEA. The IEA 2015-2050 cost estimates are substantially higher than even today’s figures, which are falling sharply each year. Osmundsen’s figures mean that the globe can convert to renewable electricity for an average of less than 0.2% of world GDP each year, not the 0.4% assumed by the IEA. By the late 2030’s his estimates will mean that the world is saving cash each year because it will need to buy less and less oil, gas and coal.

    And, also worth noting, the world is currently spending about 6.5% of its annual GDP subsidising fossil fuel extraction and use, a multiple of what it takes to completely decarbonise.”

    Reply
  33. miles h

     /  April 9, 2017

    108 million people under food stress – up by 20 million since 2015 http://reliefweb.int/report/world/108-million-people-world-face-severe-food-insecurity-situation-worsening?

    Reply
  34. Robert E Prue

     /  April 9, 2017

    I’m wondering what kind of a melt season going to be like for Greenland this summer

    Reply
  35. Bill h

     /  April 9, 2017

    Amid all the well justified gloom, here’s an interesting article on evidence that the Donald might be embracing renewables.
    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/is-trump-embracing-offshore-wind-21324
    I recently encountered scepticism here when I suggested the orange one might be distinctly preferable to a President Cruz on the grounds that, unlike Cruz, he didn’t appear to have any doctrinal objection to AGW Theory. That was just before the isolationist nationalist Potus morphed into a globalist interventionalist, so maybe we’re seeing a comparable flipflop here?

    Reply
    • Robert E Prue

       /  April 9, 2017

      Who knows what Trump really thinks. He said what he had to say to get the votes. Good news for wind power though.

      Reply
      • It IS good news. Would be great to see some transmission line upgrades in a major infrastructure plan, too, as onshore wind in U.S. is still much less expensive than offshore. New lines will pay for themselves pretty quickly through lower fuel/power costs. But at least, Zinke does seem to be a consistent all-of-above guy.

        Reply
  36. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 9, 2017

    “Back-to-back severe bleaching events have affected two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, new aerial surveys have found.

    The findings have caused alarm among scientists, who say the proximity of the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events is unprecedented for the reef, and will give damaged coral little chance to recover.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/10/great-barrier-reef-terminal-stage-australia-scientists-despair-latest-coral-bleaching-data#comments

    Reply
    • Vic

       /  April 10, 2017

      And then we wept.

      Reply
      • lesliegraham1

         /  April 10, 2017

        The Australian government is an absolute disgrace right now. Sometimes hard to remember that this isn’t a failed comedy skit – this is really happening.
        There is no effective political opposition to this vast open-cast coal mine they want to open on the edge of the reef as both main parties are in favour – despite the fact that close on 70% of the public are opposed.

        Reply
        • Vic

           /  April 10, 2017

          Malcolm Turnbull and that despicable politician in the video have just this moment arrived in New Delhi for talks with Narendra Modi and Gautam Adani. On the agenda, the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, natural gas and uranium exports.

          https://www.dailymercury.com.au/news/turnbull-to-meet-with-adani-boss-in-india-next-wee/3163128/

        • Phil

           /  April 10, 2017

          The sad fact is that the politicians (both federal and State) just do not care. But it is more than that. Where are the protests by the local populations who stand to lose the tourist industry as a result and ultimately the agricultural industry? Not a peep out of them whereas the mining industry is extremely vocal. In fact, most people vote for climate change denier political parties in those areas of north and western Queensland whether it is the LNP or One Nation.

          I hear a lot of commentary about public support for the reef/renewable energy and against the Carmichael mine and Adani but if that was really so, then both Commonwealth and State Governments would not be able to pursue these policies without risk of electoral backlash.

      • Sad to see we don’t have a corner on idiots here in the USA.

        Reply
        • Suzanne

           /  April 10, 2017

          You read my mind. It is just boggling my mind the amount of “stupid” we are seeing in many world leaders and in those who voted them in.
          Scientists are telling us that high CO2 is affecting cognitive function…maybe that is some of what is going on. I don’t know the reason, but I feel like we are witnessing our species “devolving”.

        • Spike

           /  April 10, 2017

          The Anglosphere is full of them, the UK having gone pretty crazy in recent times too. Climate policy tended not to be affected by the insanity, but that may not last long as it’s rumoured to be in line for watering down.The Mail on Sunday has obtained pictures of private Government briefing documents for diplomats telling them to stop working on environmental issues, such as combating ivory poaching, to concentrate on striking new commercial deals.As part of this, ‘economic security-related work like climate change and illegal wildlife trade will be scaled down’, with only ‘some’ diplomatic posts still expected to carry out such work.

        • Suzanne

           /  April 10, 2017

          Spike…OMFG …reading about this kind of stuff…really gets me angry. Again, I think we are “devolving” as a species…..or are we just this corrupted by greed?

      • unnaturalfx

         /  April 10, 2017

        The response from the gov. is repulsive ,yet somehow expected , I have never just “believed” everything scientists say but one comment a certain professor said rings so true when you hear a response like that : When greed is your only god , sociopaths shall assume control . Seems he may be correct , at least on this point.

        Reply
  37. At the culmination of an ice age, the ice sheets about 12,000 years ago were much more massive and extensive than the ones we have today. As you say, once they started collapsing, sea level rise galloped away at a rate of 5 meters per century. Our current ice sheets, late in an interglacial, are much more modest. Would it be fair to expect a lower sea level rise rate even though we are heating the planet at a much faster rate than we had 12,000 years ago?

    Reply
    • The amount of ice melted from the ice sheets in the progress of ice ages to interglacials is approximately 390 feet. If all the ice melted today, seas would rise by 230 feet. This is a somewhat smaller total (approx 60 percent), but not something that could be honestly characterized as ‘much more modest.’

      During past periods in which greenhouse gasses were as high as they are now, oceans were between 60 and 120 feet higher than they are today. This is a considerable rise. At 550 to 650 ppm CO2e constant, it’s enough to melt all the ice and raise seas by around 230 feet + thermal expansion. We are at 493 CO2e now.

      In any case a 6/10 relative ice store now confronts a rate of warming that is approximately 30 times that of the end of the last ice age and a rate of greenhouse gas accumulation that is approximately 100 times that of the end of the last ice age.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the reply. I live near the highest point of Bluff Hill in Napier New Zealand. I once calculated that if all the planet’s ice melted I’d be about up to my knees in water if standing in the living room. Which is to say the house would be long gone as the hill got battered away by the sea. Looks like I’d better sell the house and buy the kids a boat.
        It really is utterly amazing how blasé the world is about the rapidly unravelling situation. I’m watching both ends of Earth on the NSIDC site – this year is looking bad.

        Reply
        • It won’t melt all at once, even with the present rate of warming. 3-20 feet this Century is a decent range of predictions. It seems most likely we’ll hit somewhere between 6 and 15 feet by 2100. Of course, if you listen to Hansen, then we could have multi-meter sea level rise by just past mid Century which would be rather nasty.

          We’ll know more once it starts to warm a bit more (1.5 C). But the present rate of glacial response is not confidence-inspiring.

        • Worth noting that IPCC is still prediction 1-2 meter sea level rise by 2100. US Coast Guard predicting approx 2 meters. Other predictions vary wildly.

        • Brian

           /  April 10, 2017

          It’s probably also worth noting that the melting will get worse as the temperatures rise, meaning that the highest rate of melting will be at the end, and that therefore SLR will get much worse over time. That implies that if you have 3ft total this century, it may be 60 years for the first foot, 30 years for the second foot, and 10 years for the third foot. I haven’t looked at the math, but it should be something like this. As long as we keep the forcing up, the response will be increased rates of consequences (precip bombs, SLR, etc).

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 10, 2017

          Good points Brian, and Thwaites Glacier in the West Antarctic is a threshold system, once it gets off its stabilizing ledge current ice sheet models indicate perhaps just a few decades to get rid of the West Antarctic.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 10, 2017

          Robert, regarding what you wrote, ” if you listen to Hansen, then we could have multi-meter sea level rise by just past mid Century”, You get a similar message from Richard Alley who noted it may only be a few decades before Thwaites dies and that when it does it’s multi-decadal or perhaps even less to get rid of the whole ice sheet.

        • You’re right. Alley is an excellent source for information as well. I wasn’t meaning to imply otherwise. I was just giving an example of the higher end scientific predictions. The fact that Alley sees this as a potential now is a more serious concern.

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 10, 2017

          I’d agree about what you said about Alley. Although Hansen has a long history of being right, he’s not a glaciologist (although he had people like Rignot help with his 2016 paper). And his paper didn’t have the physics in it that DeConto and Pollard had in theirs. Although different scientists have been coming at this from different angles, the direction seems to be that the more we learn about the ice sheets the more dangerous they appear.

        • Hilary

           /  April 11, 2017

          LOL Jack, I live down on the flat in Maraenui, only 2m of ‘freeboard’ at my place.
          Hilary

      • Thinking further about your answer, I assume that previous interglacials reached a low point for ice sheets round about the level we have now. Ie, the world has never been without substantial ice sheets at any time during the million or two years we’ve been in the ice age/interglacial cycle. So the current warming is like turbocharging the cycle – boldly going where we’ve never been before.
        All this planetary science we’ve learnt, if we don’t cook the planet, we at least now understand the active thermostat behavior of carbon in the air. In a well ordered future we might use the knowledge we’ve gained to keep things ticking along sweetly. The end of ice ages?

        Reply
        • Yes. We’re moving from a relatively stable glacial-interglacial period into a new period where we are thawing out of the ice ages. Climates moving away from glaciation would tend to have different characteristics than those moving toward it (as has been the case since the Eocene).

        • Hilary, can’t see how to reply to you directly, so doing so through my post.
          I’m starting to build the jetty at the bottom of my section this weekend (cyclone Cook allowing) so if your boat gets floated in the ‘Nui you can tie it up here – we’ve plenty of room!

      • Spike

         /  April 10, 2017

        Would not the rate of rise be more important than total rise in the medium term, as if it hit 5m/century it would still take about 1400 years to melt all the ice? By then other impacts would probably have done for humanity in any event.

        Reply
  38. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 10, 2017

    James Hansen: What Makes A Scientist Take A Stand?

    When climate scientist James Hansen spoke up about climate change in the 1980s, he risked the loss of his job & reputation. But, he says, it was worth it — because he could not be silent about something so important.

    http://kawc.org/post/james-hansen-what-makes-scientist-take-stand

    Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 10, 2017

      Given the quality of Hansen’s science, and his tremendous efforts to communicate his research, and the importance of this subject I think history will look back on him as one of our more important scientists.

      Reply
  39. Reblogged this on Macjoyful's Minimal Musings and commented:
    An armada of icebergs is no laughing matter. In fact, “…it’s starting to become clear that we’ve probably already started to release this particular ‘climate monster in the closet’ on an unsuspecting and ill-informed world.”

    Reply
  40. Ryan in New England

     /  April 10, 2017
    Reply
    • Phil

       /  April 10, 2017

      Given many of the farmers voting habits in elections, they do not seem to realise these difficulties at this stage or totally discount them.

      Reply
      • wili

         /  April 10, 2017

        But it turns out that farmers, or at least their thawing fields, have a greater impact on CC than was earlier suspected:

        “How frozen farmers’ fields are an unexpected culprit in climate change, according to a new study”.

        Scientists have previously underestimated the nitrous oxide emissions from thawing frozen croplands.

        http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/how-frozen-farmers-fields-are-an-unexpected-culprit-in-climate-change-according-to-a-new-study

        “Across Canada, the last of the snow and ice is melting away from a vast expanse of farmers’ fields, making way for the planting of this year’s crops.

        And — suggests a new Canadian study — making an unexpectedly large contribution to greenhouse gases and climate change.

        Strange as it might seem, the thawing of frozen cropland burps nitrous oxide into the atmosphere at rates far greater than previously thought, meaning agriculture’s role in producing the greenhouse gas has been greatly underestimated, according to University of Guelph research.

        Nitrous oxide — commonly known as laughing gas and used as a dental anesthetic — accounts for well under 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s almost 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping energy, the greenhouse effect believed to be warming the planet.”

        Reply
  41. Vic

     /  April 10, 2017

    Gautam Adani’s plans to expand the notorious Abbot Point Coal Terminal on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park have possibly been given a boost just recently, as it seems that now there’s not much reason to provide environmental protection to the Caley Valley Wetlands that are adjacent to the terminal. It’s come to light that there was so much rain from Cyclone Debbie that Adani was given permission by the Australian Government to allow the coal laden run-off from the flooded terminal to flow directly into the wetlands.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-10/abbot-point-coal-terminal-released-into-wetlands/8430934

    Reply
  42. Cate

     /  April 10, 2017

    Berg update: “2017 could be boon year for iceberg sightings along Newfoundland coast”

    “The iceberg charts provided by the International Ice Patrol show 66 icebergs recently off the southern Avalon, 93 off Black Tickle, Labrador and even 34 off of western Newfoundland — which is extremely high for this time of year.

    Acting Superintendent of Ice Operations Rebecca Acton-Bond said, “Usually you don’t see these numbers until the end of May or June. So the amount of icebergs that we’re seeing right now, it really is quite something….the high number of icebergs shows a significant calving event took place in Greenland.”

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/icebergs-newfoundland-2017-coast-1.4063416

    Reply
  43. Shawn Redmond

     /  April 10, 2017
    Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 10, 2017

      The West Antarctic has the fastest moving glaciers on the planet.

      Reply
  44. Shawn Redmond

     /  April 10, 2017

    Indonesia – 5 Missing After Landslide in Nganjuk Regency, East Java

    10 APRIL, 2017 BY RICHARD DAVIES IN ASIA, NEWS · 0 COMMENT
    Heavy rainfall on 08 April caused a landslide in Indonesia that has left several people missing.

    The landslide occurred on 09 April in the hamlet of Dlopo, near the village of Kepel in Nganjuk Regency, East Java. Five people are thought to be missing and authorities are carrying out search operations.
    Also:
    Bangladesh – Floods in North East Wipe Out Rice Crops

    7 APRIL, 2017 BY RICHARD DAVIES IN ASIA, NEWS · 0 COMMENT
    A long period of heavy rain from 29 March to 07 April caused flooding in Sylhet region in the north east of Bangladesh.

    The country’s Department of Disaster Management reported that 102,875 people have been affected. Farms and public transport have also suffered damage.

    In the city of Sylhet, 185 mm of rain fell in 24 hours between 29 and 30 March. Over 120 mm fell the following day and the rain has continued to fall. The Surma and Kushiyara rivers both exceeded danger levels at numerous points.

    The Department of Disaster Management also reported that 125,885 hectares of crops, chiefly rice, were damaged. Local media say that many farmers have been forced to harvest remaining crops early rather than lose them to flooding.
    And they just keep coming:
    Malawi – Floods in Karonga District Leave 4 Dead, Crops Destroyed

    7 APRIL, 2017 BY RICHARD DAVIES IN AFRICA, NEWS · 0 COMMENT
    The government in Malawi has said that 4 people died following floods in areas of Chief Kyungu, Wasambo, Kilupula and Mwirang’ombe in Karonga district.

    The flooding occurred 04 April 2017. As of 06 April a further 3 people were still missing and 6 reported injured.

    Officials say that 5,520 households were affected and about 1075 hectares of crops fields, including rice, maize and cassava, were damaged.

    http://floodlist.com

    Reply
  45. Reblogged this on General LEFTY.

    Reply
  46. coloradobob

     /  April 10, 2017

    Climate change hits Alaska’s rural water and sewer systems

    “It’s one of those things that you might have been looking at for a while but you just weren’t connecting the dots,” Griffith said.
    But sometime over the last five or ten years, he realized that more of the issues coming across his desk were linked to warming temperatures. There’s no real way to quantify it: the state doesn’t track which maintenance problems are caused by environmental change (though Griffith hopes to start).
    But Griffith said, from where he’s sitting, it’s pretty clear.

    http://www.ktoo.org/2017/04/06/climate-change-hits-alaskas-rural-water-sewer-systems/

    Reply
  47. In the clip from “Chasing Ice”, have they said if the calving event was detected by seismometers?

    Reply
  48. Thank you for your scribbling on this subject. I’m familiar with Heineken events, but had never heard of Heinrich events. It reminded me that somewhere I read that all this melting effects the downward pressure all that icy weight exerts on the tectonic plates in the region. That would suggest that the distribution of weight is changing and whereas this weight was concentrated in that specific region for millennia, it will now be more evenly distributed, in the form of water, all over the globe. Of course, now I’m thinking it was probably either you or Sam Carana that wrote about it .. so would you postulate that such a weight loss would raise the probability of earthquakes in the region?

    Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 10, 2017

      It seems very possible to me. You have the plates under the ice sheet rising as mass is lost and plates under the oceans likely doing the reverse as the weight of the ocean increases.

      This would change the stress on plate boundaries where quakes occur.

      Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  April 11, 2017

      You also have the rotational/centrifugal effect of shifting and increasing amplitude, not just displacement of surface mass due to glacier melt (greatest effect closest to the equator – South America, Himalaya’s, even the European Alps and Greenland/Iceland). Then add in the substantial variations from intense rain events and depleted aquifers. If I remember right, the last time there was substantial intense rainfall events that was measured to lower sea level. That is a lot of mass shifted.
      All this will be adding flexing stresses to the plates around the Equatorial Bulge.

      An article from a couple of years ago, the rotational axis shift was relatively small up to then, but quite a bit of ice melt and shifting of hydrological mass since then.

      https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24755-earths-poles-are-shifting-because-of-climate-change/#.U17X045ELzI

      Since observations began in 1899, the North Pole has been drifting southwards 10 centimetres per year along longitude 70° west – a line running through eastern Canada.

      This drift is due to the changes in the distribution of Earth’s mass as the crust slowly rebounds after the end of the last ice age. But Chen’s team found something surprising. In 2005, this southward drift changed abruptly. The pole began moving eastwards and continues to do so, a shift that has amounted to about 1.2 metres since 2005.

      To work out why the pole changed direction, Chen’s team used data from NASA’s GRACE satellite, which measures changes in Earth’s gravity field over time. The data allowed them to calculate the redistribution of mass on Earth’s surface due to the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and mountain glaciers, and the resulting rise in sea level. It correlated perfectly with the observed changes in the mean pole position (MPP).

      “Ice melting and sea level change can explain 90 per cent of the [eastward shift],” says Chen. “The driving force for the sudden change is climate change.”
      Greenland thaw

      Chen’s team calculated that the biggest contribution is coming from the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which is losing about 250 gigatonnes of ice each year. Another big factor is the melting of mountain glaciers, which contributes about 194 gigatonnes per year. The contribution from Antarctica adds up to 180 gigatonnes per year, but there is considerable uncertainty here because changes in the gravity field due to Earth’s crust rebounding are less well understood over Antarctica than elsewhere.

      Reply
    • wili

       /  April 11, 2017

      Yes, isostatic rebound is an expected result of loss of ice mass. It’s #9 in this list of icesheet collapse feedbacks: http://www.bitsofscience.org/sea-level-rise-ice-sheet-dynamics-melting-feedbacks-acceleration-7295/#more-7295

      Reply
  49. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 10, 2017

    As warming oceans and atmosphere change the flow of the Greenland Ice Sheet the rate of calving of icebergs increases. And apparently about 20 percent more of the permafrost will melt than they previously thought.

    I really wish things wouldn’t keep appearing worse than previously thought.

    “Permafrost is far more sensitive to rising global temperatures than previously thought, scientists have discovered. Models now indicate that for every one degree Celsius of global warming, four million square kilometers of frozen soil could thaw—around 20 percent higher than previously estimated.”

    http://www.newsweek.com/climate-change-permafrost-methane-global-warming-581596

    Reply
  50. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 10, 2017

    The documentary Chasing Ice showed a glacier which had retreated more in the last 10 years than in the previous 100 years.

    Ice melt appears to be accelerating, which makes sense since we’re getting warmer, particularly in the North.

    Reply
  51. Hartmut Heinrich

     /  April 27, 2017

    I see we share the same concern.

    Reply
  1. An Armada of Icebergs Has Just Invaded The North Atlantic | GarryRogers Nature Conservation
  2. An Armada of Icebergs has Just Invaded the North Atlantic « nuclear-news
  3. An Armada of Icebergs Has Just Invaded The North Atlantic - robertscribbler - CK MacLeod's

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