The planet’s two largest ice sheets – in Greenland and Antarctica – are now being depleted at an astonishing rate of 120 cubic miles each year. That is the discovery made by scientists using data from CryoSat-2, the European probe that has been measuring the thickness of Earth’s ice sheets and glaciers since it was launched by the European Space Agency in 2010.
Even more alarming, the rate of loss of ice from the two regions has more than doubled since 2009, revealing the dramatic impact that climate change is beginning to have on our world.
Last year was among the 10 warmest years on record – ranking eighth or ninth depending on the data set, according to a report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The year 2012 also saw record greenhouse gas emissions, with concentrations of carbon dioxide and other warming gasses reaching a global average of 392.7 parts per million for the year.
"The findings are striking," Kathryn Sullivan, Noaa’s acting administrator, said on a conference call. "Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place."
The scientists were reluctant to point directly to the cause of the striking changes in the climate. But the annual reports are typically used by the federal government to prepare for the future, and in June president Barack Obama used his climate address to direct government agencies to begin planning for decades of warming atmosphere and rising seas.
The biggest changes in the climate in 2012 were in the Arctic and in Greenland, said the report, which is an annual exercise by a team of American and British scientists. The Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes, the report found. By June 2012, snow cover had fallen to its lowest levels since the record began. By September 2012, sea-ice cover had retreated to its lowest levels since the beginning of satellite records, falling to 1.32 million square miles.
The Danish Meteorological Institute is reporting that on Tuesday, July 30, the mercury rose to 25.9 C (78.6 F) at a station in Greenland, the highest temperature measured in the Arctic country since records began in 1958
Water from the world’s shrinking glaciers was responsible for almost a third of the rise in sea levels between 2003 and 2009, shows new research.
An international team of scientist compared data gleaned from two NASA satellites as well as traditional ground measurements from glaciers around the world.
Their work, published in the journal Science , is the most accurate estimation of how glaciers contribute to sea level rises to date.
"For the first time, we’ve been able to very precisely constrain how much these glaciers as a whole are contributing to sea rise," says lead author Assistant Professor Alex Gardner, assistant geography professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
"These smaller ice bodies are currently losing about as much mass as the ice sheets."
The most significant ice losses occurred in Arctic Canada, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes and the Himalayas, the study found.
The glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic sheets lost an average of roughly 260 billion metric tons of ice annually during the period, leading to a rise in ocean levels of about 0.7 millimeters per year.
By contrast the glaciers in Antarctica, smaller ice masses that are not connected to the ice sheet, made scarcely any contribution to sea-level rise over the study period.
AMAP is one of five Working Groups of the Arctic Council.
The primary function of AMAP is to advise the governments of the eight Arctic countries (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) on matters relating to threats to the Arctic region from pollution, and associated issues.
If you are wandering around Greenland’s ice sheet and you run into this crazy thing, it is NASA’s GROVER (government acronym for something Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research). It is solar powered and it crawls around Greenland on its own and uses ground-penetrating radar to look at ice. And it’s cool.
NASA robot explores ice in Greenland. Video. Will explore for months at a time via remote. Possibly prototype to explore other planets.
Cruise over glaciers in Greenland. Researchers use aerial footage for data collection and monitoring.
Few of us ever get to see Greenland’s glaciers from 500 meters above the ice. But in this video — recorded on April 9,2013 in southeast Greenland using a cockpit camera installed and operated by the National Suborbital Education and Research Center, or NSERC — we see what Operation IceBridge’s pilots see as they fly NASA’s P-3B airborne laboratory low over the Arctic.
Following a glacier’s sometimes winding flow line gives IceBridge researchers a perspective on the ice not possible from satellites which pass in straight lines overhead. By gathering such data, IceBridge is helping to build a continuous record of change in the polar regions.
This video is a collage of scenes of the Ilulissat ice fjord and the Greenland ice cap. Some of the images are stunning. Ice bergs. Sled dogs. A helicopter departing, the snow it disrupts and the people it leaves behind to sleep in a tent.
As part of the show tomorrow, Dave Davies talks with New York Times environmental reporter Justin Gillis about climate change and they talk a bit about Greenland so if you hear the interview tomorrow, you can now say that you know something of what that place called Greenland looks like.
The Dark Snow Project is about 50% funded. Scientists believe that increased droughts are causing more wildfires. These fires emit soot and ash into the air, called ‘black carbon.’ This black carbon circulates through the atmosphere and is deposited (in part) on glaciers and sea ice.
Scientists are finding that the black carbon absorbs heat from the sun, in turn causing the ice to melt faster than expected. The effect of melting ice is faster sea level rise, which will impact (in the least) coastal cities around the world.
The unique part of this project is that it is mostly funded by citizens like you. Really good project and highly recommend visiting their website, darksnowproject.org.
Dark Snow Project: Climate Change and Citizen Science in Greenland
For the dark snow project to succeed, your help is needed.
Please visit darksnowproject.org and consider a tax deductible donation to this unique citizen science initiative, and helping expand the boundaries of knowledge in this critical area of climate science
From the 15th through the 20th century, the Doctrine of Discovery was recognized by European and American explorers as the go-to guideline for ownership of territory. The doctrine uses a basic “first-come, first-served” rule — a region belongs to whatever country got there first. Remember how the United States “won” the race to the moon in 1969 by planting a flag on the lunar surface?
Today, the United Nations has taken control of the issue. According to the U.N. Convention on the Laws of the Sea, claims to the North Pole are based on a country’s continental shelf (undersea extensions of land).
In 2007, Russian mini-submarines — on a mission to explore natural gas and oil deposits under the North Pole — planted Russian flags below the Arctic ice. The Canadians were not pleased, mostly because they claim that the North Pole is theirs. So do Denmark (via Greenland), Norway and the United States.