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Greenland Melting

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melt-zone-615

Not good.

So much about the planet’s future will depend on processes that humans today cannot directly observe — because they are occurring hundreds of meters below the sea surface where enormous marine glaciers, in Greenland and Antarctica, simultaneously touch the ocean and the seafloor.

The more we learn about this crucial yet inscrutable place, the more worrying it seems.

The latest exhibit: New research out of Greenland conducted by Dartmouth earth sciences Ph.D. student Kristin Schild and two university colleagues — work that has just been published in the Annals of Glaciology. The study examined the 5.5-kilometer-wide Rink Glacier of West Greenland, with particular focus on how meltwater on the ice sheet’s surface actually finds its way underneath Rink, pours out in the key undersea area described above and speeds up the glacier’s melt.

It’s a feedback process that, if it plays out across many other similarly situated glaciers, could greatly worsen Greenland’s overall ice loss. “These big tidewater outlet glaciers are the ones that are contributing these huge icebergs, they’re the ones that have rapidly, rapidly sped up in the last decade,” Schild said. This makes it critically important to learn “what are the main factors…that are leading to all these fast changes,” she added.

Greenland is an enormous sheet of ice, capable of raising sea levels by some 20 feet if it were somehow to melt entirely and its waters were to pour into the ocean. Fortunately, it can’t just do that all of a sudden — the vast ice sheet only reaches the ocean at relatively narrow, finger-like glaciers that stretch out into fjords, or underwater canyons that lead out to the sea.

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  • DrDick

    The kind of thing that makes me glad I live in the northern Rockies.

    • Brett

      Same here, although I don’t think I’m as northward as you are. Our biggest problem here in Utah is probably going to be unpredictable rainfall.

      • Ken

        If it gets wetter, as some models predict, Lake Bonneville might partly refill. That could be an issue depending where you live.

        However, a bigger problem might be fending off the hordes of refugees from the coastal regions.

        • Brett

          I could definitely see the Great Salt Lake flooding again (like it did in the 1980s), but not a Bonneville refill. Bonneville drained last time because of an opening at the north end of the lake – same thing will be there if rainfall starts filling up the Great Basin again.

      • DrDick

        Yeah, I am almost as north as you can get before Canada. In our case we are looking at a seasonal reversal in precipitation (from winter snow to summer rains), which could be disastrous on a number of levels.

    • I live about a mile away from San Francisco Bay, and this stuff scares the hell out of me.

      • Brett

        San Francisco has a lot of high ground, though, because of the hills. It might do better than a lot of coastal places (although it would eventually become a small archipelago just off shore unless you go full Dutchman).

        • Palo Alto isn’t San Francisco.

          • San Jose, Alviso, Milpitas and Fremont are also not San Francisco.

            Fuck off.

  • Gregor Sansa

    Prediction:

    About half the ice in Greenland will go at an accelerating rate, such that there will be a decade this century with more than a meter of sea level rise, close to half the total sea level rise this century. I’d guess it will be the somewhere in the 50s-80s.

    This one-decade phenomenon will cause over 10% of the total loss of life and economic damage of dynamic global warming (since it doesn’t make much sense to talk about the economic effects of a post-warming world; that will just be the new baseline).

    • Brett

      Sounds about right. I’m not sure what will kill more – the displacement caused by sea level rise in poor countries, or the tropical diseases spreading northward and southward (there are going to be a lot of people living in megacities with questionable sanitation and health support in the Global South).

      What’s scary about Greenland is how the article mentioned that it’s ring-fenced by mountains. You could have a giant meltwater pool forming in the center of the island from melting ice, and then suddenly it breaches hard through one of the mountain passes and dumps out into the North Atlantic in a matter of days or weeks.

      • What’s scary about Greenland is how the article mentioned that it’s ring-fenced by mountains. You could have a giant meltwater pool forming in the center of the island from melting ice, and then suddenly it breaches hard through one of the mountain passes and dumps out into the North Atlantic in a matter of days or weeks.

        Sounds like a job for … Project Plowshare!!!

      • BigHank53

        I’m not sure what will kill more – the displacement caused by sea level rise in poor countries, or the tropical diseases spreading

        The year after we have 9 billion people but we only grow enough calories to feed 8 billion of them…nobody’s going to ask the corpses if it was disease or starvation or civil war that did it.

        • GFW

          This. Sea level rise is real, but slow. You can’t point to anyone killed by sea level rise, although you can statistically say “maybe a few less would have died in New Orleans”. But there will come a year when altered weather extremes (drought some places and rain flooding in others) destroys enough crops that we can’t feed everyone. It won’t help that some cropland will also have been lost to rising seas (mostly salt infiltration rather than inundation).

          If I had to guess which underlying cause will be the worst first, I’d go with flooding from extreme rainfall. And as Hank says, hunger will turn into disease and war.

  • wjts

    …and we live by the river.

  • I used to regret that I wouldn’t live to see the utopias w/ which we were tantalized by the bullshitters. Now I’m sorry I won’t live to see the planet finish its final solution for the vermin who covered a lovely planet w/ a world of shit & pain.

  • Nobdy

    Yeah but the executives from major oil companies made a LOT of money during the 20th century, so, totally worth it. They have REALLY nice houses and can afford to hire REALLY gorgeous prostitutes. Like, you can’t even imagine.

    What’s a few meters of sea rise between friends?

  • Denverite

    On the plus side, I’m about ready to start taking bids to rent out my walk-out basement (with a full bathroom!) and tent space in my backyard.

  • Owlbear1

    Naw, see all ya do here is dump a couple hundred pallets of $100 Bills to plug the hole.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Look at the color of that water!

      Isn’t that PROOF POSITIVE that greedy climate-conners have been dumping antifreeze on the glaciers, just to get the photo! ??1?

      OR, it’s TOTS photoshopped. The reflections are all wrong. Fonts and kerning also, too.

  • sparks

    Welcome to Atlantisville, Florida’s great underwater theme park! (formerly named Miami Beach, but nothing lasts forever)

    • Brett

      Seriously, though, Florida will be a popular scuba diving location in the non-storm season if sea levels end up rising multiple meters.

  • Barry Freed

    I think I’ve mentioned here before how my climate-change denying brother is contemplating buying a house on a barrier island in Florida. I just hope he finishes putting his kids through college before he’s underwater.

    • Brett

      Good lord. He knows that those places regularly flood today, right? I hope he likes filing insurance claims in ten years.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        “KARMA, you’re soaking in it”

        Wouldn’t that make a nice framed inspirational poster for a housewarming gift?

  • socraticsilence

    Random on topic story that actually has a historical tie in (aka the Aimai
    special) : my grandfather’s construction company was the one paving bases (his firm also did the Azores and some others) and he was trapped in Greenland during the Broken Arrow situation they had in the late 50s, I think (though I can’t verify) that this was the same job where my family acquired a polar bear rug in exchange for paving an Inuit village.

    • “I paved Paradise, and all I got was this hairskin shirt!”

  • This happens all the time, and by the way it’s God’s will, so just shut up, Shut Up, SHUT UP!

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