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    Posted: April 30 2018 at 2:02pm

Thwaites Glacier: Biggest ever Antarctic field campaign

By Jonathan AmosBBC Science Correspondent

Media captionProf David Vaughan: "I believe this is the biggest field campaign ever run in Antarctica"

It is going to be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in Antarctica.

UK and US scientists will lead a five-year effort to examine the stability of the mighty Thwaites Glacier.

This ice stream in the west of the continent is comparable in size to Britain. It is melting and is currently in rapid retreat, accounting for around 4% of global sea-level rise - an amount that has doubled since the mid-1990s.

Researchers want to know if Thwaites could collapse.

Were it to do so, its lost ice would push up the oceans by 80cm or more.

Some computer models have suggested such an outcome is inevitable if conditions continue as they are - albeit on a timescale of centuries. But these simulations need to be anchored in many more real-world observations, which will now be acquired thanks to the joint initiative announced on Monday.

"There is still a question in my view as to whether Thwaites has actually entered an irreversible retreat," said Prof David Vaughan, the director of science at the British Antarctic Survey.

"It assumes the melt rates we see today continue into the future and that's not guaranteed. Thwaites is clearly on the verge of an irreversible retreat, but to be sure we need 10 years more data," he told BBC News.

glacier

The UK's Natural Environment Research Council and the US National Science Foundation are going to deploy about 100 scientists to Thwaites on a series of expeditions.

The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) is the two nations' biggest cooperative venture on the White Continent for more than 70 years - since the end of a mapping project on the Antarctic Peninsula in the late 1940s.

Grants for research totalling £20m have been awarded. Once the costs of transport and resupply to this remotest of regions is factored in, the total value of the ITGC will probably top £40m.

Thwaites is a marine-terminating glacier. Snows fall on land and these compact into ice that then flows out to sea.


Media captionTimelapse satellite images of Thwaites Glacier melting

When in balance the quantity of snow at the glacier's head matches the ice lost to the ocean at its front through the calving of icebergs. But Thwaites is out of balance. It has speeded up and is currently flowing at over 4km per year. It is also thinning at a rate of almost 40cm a year.

"When we look at the historical satellite record we can see that this thinning started after 2000, spreading inland at a rate of 10-12km/year at its fastest," explained Dr Anna Hogg from Leeds University.

"So on Thwaites Glacier, the increase in ice speed has coincided with a period of rapid ice thinning, and grounding line retreat, which suggests that the observed changes may have been caused by warm ocean water reaching the glacier and accelerating ice melt."

The grounding line refers to the zone where the glacier enters the sea and lifts up to form a buoyant platform of ice.

If warm ocean bottom-waters are able to get under this shelf, the grounding line can be eroded and the glacier forced backwards even if local air temperatures are sub-zero. Key to this process in the case of Thwaites is that a large portion of the ice stream sits below sea level, with the rock bed sloping back towards the continent.

This can produce what scientists refer to as "marine ice sheet instability" - an inherently unstable architecture, which, once knocked, can go into an irreversible decline.

"The other process we're concerned about is something called marine ice cliff instability," said Dr Ted Scambos, the principal coordinating investigator on the US side of the project from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

"This is where a tall cliff that might form at the front of the glacier begins to calve - begins to break away - in a runaway fashion. It hasn't been seen yet in this part of Antarctica; it might be present in some parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, but around Greenland seems to be a path to a very rapid retreat of the ice front."

Image copyrightEMPICSImage captionThe floating front of the glacier is hundreds of metres thick

The ITGC aims to determine how all of this will play out for Thwaites. Its scientists will map the ice stream's every behaviour.

They will monitor the way ocean water moves beneath the floating shelf, and drill sediments from under and just in front of the glacier to find out what it did during past warming events on Earth.

The work will involve multiple instruments and techniques, including the use of autonomous vehicles. The yellow submarine known as Boaty McBoatface is expected to explore the cavity under the buoyant sections of Thwaites.

Seals will also be assisting the research. Prof Karen Heywood from the University of East Anglia, working in tandem with St Andrews University, will be attaching sensors to the heads of the animals.

She told BBC News: "The seals dive in the course of their normal life and every time they come to the surface to breathe, the data are transmitted back home. The seals monitor their own environment - where they went, how deep they dived, and how warm the water was they were diving in. At the end of the year, they moult and the tag falls off, so they don't have to live with it forever."

Prof Vaughan said that while the UK and America were leading the project, he thought other countries would want to get involved.

"Funding from NERC and NSF has set this train in motion, but I fully expect other nations now to join their carriages."


Media captionKaren Heywood: "We're nervous but excited about sending Boaty under the ice"

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Satori Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 02 2018 at 6:44pm
Sea ice off Alaska drops to record lows as climate change destroys both ecosystems and traditions

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/5/2/1761485/-Sea-ice-off-Alaska-drops-to-record-lows-as-climate-change-destroys-both-ecosystems-and-traditions
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‘We’ve fallen off a cliff’: Scientists have never seen so little ice in the Bering Sea in spring

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/weve-fallen-off-a-cliff-scientists-have-never-seen-so-little-ice-in-the-bering-sea-in-spring/


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DeepThinker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2018 at 12:23am
You do know that during the grand solar minimum.... Alaska actually warmed.    It lost most of its ice.    We are now going into a solar minimum that maybe as significant or more than the one that caused the little ice age.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DeepThinker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2018 at 12:44am
"Would it surprise you to learn the greatest global two-year cooling event of the last century just occurred? "
http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2018/04/24/did_you_know_the_greatest_two-year_global_cooling_event_just_took_place_103243.html


From what I have heard the number is now over .6C so well over half of all global warming gone in just 2 years.   Yea it is probably just a statistical anomaly, but then again what if it isn't?  During the Little Ice Age the temp was only 1-1.5C less than the modern average and look at all the chaos that caused.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote carbon20 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2018 at 2:25am
i suppose this will be a good test ,

if the polar ice caps keep melting during this solar minimum .....

we are as i think in BIG trouble

aint no stopping it now .............
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Carbon... despite Alaska loosing ice, the Polar Ice cap did VERY well this year.   In fact it only reached its peak about a week ago.    Almost a month latter than has been happening recently and a couple weeks later than "average".   There was a very unprecedented late surge.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote carbon20 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2018 at 3:53pm

NEWS

Bering Sea Missing Almost 200,000 Square Miles of Ice, Plunging Into Record Lows

By Drew MacFarlane

3 days ago

weather.com

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00:29

‘.

At a Glance

  • Bering Sea ice was far below average for the end of April last week.
  • Essentially ice-free, the Bering is down nearly 200,000 square miles ice this year.
  • This winter has brought less ice in the Bering than any on written record, dating back to 1850.

There's an old adage that says not all things are created equal, and that's proving true once again with NASA's latest illustration of the Bering Sea's scarce remaining ice, which is well below the average for this time of

“It’s the end of April and basically the Bering Sea is ice-free, when normally there would be more than 500,000 square kilometers of ice,” said National Snow and Ice Data Center Scientist Walt Meier. "It is at a record low extent for most of 2018, and has continuously been a record low since Feb. 12.”

image
A comparison of April 29, 2013 and 2018, showing the absence of ice cover in the Bering Sea.
(NASA Earth Observatory)

The quick disappearance of ice in the Bering Sea was a factor in the near-record low maximum ice extent seen across the entire Arctic in 2018. But even before that near-low was recognized, unusual conditions, like the late start to the annual freeze-up and places with little to no shore-fast ice, were setting this stage throughout the 2017-18 season. This winter brought less ice to the Bering Sea than any prior winter had since the start of written records in 1850, the International Arctic Research Center and NOAA stated. 

“This winter is so far below any previous season,” said meteorologist Rick Thoman of the NOAA's National Weather Service, Alaska Region, “but the recent string of mild winters have prepped folks to expect something bad like this.”

The chief scientist at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, John Walsh, weighed in by saying a "perfect storm" type of scenario might have caused the unprecedented level of sea ice this year. Walsh believes that above-normal air temperatures during autumn and early winter, warm water in the Bering Sea and one of the stormiest winters in the last 70 years are to blame for 2018's rapidly fleeting ice extent.

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Shock and Thaw—Alaskan Sea Ice Just Took a Steep, Unprecedented Dive

Weather conditions and a boost from global warming led to the stunning record low ice cover in winter 2018

Shock and Thaw--Alaskan Sea Ice Just Took a Steep, Unprecedented Dive
Credit: Steven Kazlowski Getty Images

April should be prime walrus hunting season for the native villages that dot Alaska’s remote western coast. In years past the winter sea ice where the animals rest would still be abundant, providing prime targets for subsistence hunters. But this year sea-ice coverage as of late April was more like what would be expected for mid-June, well into the melt season. These conditions are the continuation of a winter-long scarcity of sea ice in the Bering Sea—a decline so stark it has stunned researchers who have spent years watching Arctic sea ice dwindle due to climate change.

Winter sea ice cover in the Bering Sea did not just hit a record low in 2018; it was half that of the previous lowest winter on record (2001), says John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “There’s never ever been anything remotely like this for sea ice” in the Bering Sea going back more than 160 years, says Rick Thoman, an Alaska-based climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The record low February sea-ice extent in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, compared with the 168-year historic record. CreditZachary Labe, University of California-Irvine and Heather McFarland, University of Alaska

A confluence of conditions—including warm air and ocean temperatures, along with persistent storms—set the stage for this dramatic downturn in a region that to date has not been one of the main contributors to the overall reduction of Arctic sea ice. Whereas a degree of random weather variability teed up this remarkable winter, the background warming of the Arctic is what provides the “extra kick” to reach such unheard-of extremes, Walsh says.

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Sea ice expands outward from the central Arctic Ocean each autumn as the sun dips low in the sky and temperatures drop. In the Chukchi and Bering seas off Alaska, freeze-up used to begin in October. Ice would edge southward and build up throughout the winter until peaking in March when the sun climbs high again, and the ice would then start melting back. But autumn freeze-up in the region has begun steadily later as Arctic temperatures have risen at twice the global rate, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of ice loss: As it melts it leaves more open water to absorb the sun’s rays in summer, and this further warms the ocean causing more ice to melt, thereby delaying the autumn freeze. In recent years that freeze had moved into November but this year temperatures were so warm the Chukchi Sea still had open ocean in December. “And that,” Walsh says, “hasn’t happened before” in recorded history.

The unusual warmth continued throughout this winter, in part because of an atmospheric pattern that kept warm air and storms periodically sweeping up from the south. One such event in February helped push the monthly temperature over the Bering and Chukchi seas some 18 to 21.5 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 12 degrees Celsius) above normal. Consequently, the Bering Sea lost half its ice extent at a time when ice should still have been growing. The storms also pushed back against the normal southward flow of ice from the Chukchi Sea into the Bering. Accompanying winds stirred up waves that kept new ice from forming, and broke up what thin ice there was.

Such atmospheric conditions have long been a limiting factor to sea-ice growth in the Bering Sea, Thoman says. But until recently the water there was reliably cold enough in autumn that when winds did blow from the north, sea ice would still spread. The last few years have seen unusually warm ocean waters in the Bering. Research meteorologist Nick Bond and others think this is “a lingering hangover” of a larger marine heat wave—dubbed “The Blob”—that lay off the west coast of the U.S. and Canadian mainland from 2014 to 2016. Bond, who works for NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, thinks some of those warm waters followed ocean currents up into the Bering and left a deep reservoir of warmth that impeded ice formation, although he has not yet formally studied this.

The occurrence of these unusual conditions off Alaska this past winter can largely be chalked up to the random weather variations in a chaotic climate system, Bond, Walsh and Thoman all say—but they add that global warming likely amped up the severity of the situation. A study Walsh co-authored in the January Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that although The Blob was ushered in by natural variations, without climate change it likely would not have been as intense as it was. And whereas the Bering Sea has had plenty of winters as stormy as this one, the underlying warming trend means such winters can have a much bigger impact on sea-ice formation in today’s climate.

The lack of sea ice is not just hitting walrus hunting hard; throughout the winter and spring, coastal communities have seen substantial flooding and erosion during storms without much of the usual sea ice to act as a buffer. What little there is has been very thin stuff local residents call “junk ice,” Thoman says: “It wasn’t very much better than no ice at all.”

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At the end of April the Bering Sea was nearly ice-free—four weeks ahead of schedule. With the sun shining on the Arctic again, the open ocean is soaking up heat that could set up another delayed freeze-up again next fall. Because of the role the weather plays, though, “every year is not going to be like this,” Thoman says. “Next year will almost certainly not be this low.” But as temperatures continue to rise, he says, “odds are very strong that we will not go another 160 years before we see something like this” happen again.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote carbon20 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2018 at 4:10pm

Antarctic Glaciers Are Helping Drive Their Own Melt

Meltwater is fueling a feedback loop that lets warm seawater eat away at them from below

Antarctic Glaciers Are Helping Drive Their Own Melt
Mertz Glacier. Credit: Colin Monteath Getty Images

Glaciers in Antarctica are melting from the bottom up as warm ocean water seeps underneath the ice.

It’s now the dominant driver of ice loss across most of the continent. But while researchers know it’s happening, they’re still trying to figure out what’s pushing that warm water to the ice sheet in the first place.

Now, a team of researchers from institutions in Tasmania, Australia, and Japan may have added one more piece to the puzzle.

 
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paper published Wednesday in Science Advances demonstrated that meltwater from Antarctic glaciers can change the ocean in ways that make it easier for warm water to reach the ice. That triggers even more melting—and the process continues in a kind of feedback loop.

That’s a big problem for the Antarctic ice sheet, whose growing contributions to global sea-level rise are a key subject of scientific concern. If melting begets more melting in a runaway cycle, the remaining question is how—or whether—it’s possible to make it stop.

Using observations and model simulations, the researchers—led by Alessandro Silvano of the University of Tasmania—have found that the feedback process is occurring in at least two locations, one in East Antarctica and one in West Antarctica. And if future climate change helps accelerate melting on the ice sheet, it could eventually happen in more places.

“This paper kind of says meltwater is winning,” said Anders Levermann, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The actual processes at play revolve around the mixing of ocean water near the Antarctic coast. The warm water melting the glaciers generally comes from naturally occurring warm ocean currents. The water originates in other parts of the world and eventually flows down toward the South Pole. This warm water is extremely dense and salty, and it has a tendency to sink beneath the cooler waters in the Southern Ocean, forming a warm layer near the bottom of the sea.


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In many areas near the Antarctic coast, certain physical processes help to mix the warm and cold layers together. Much of this mixing has to do with the formation of sea ice in patches of open ocean near the coastline—as the water freezes, it expels its salt and causes the cold water just below the surface to become saltier and denser. It then sinks and mixes with the warm, salty water at deeper levels, cooling it down. When this happens, the warm water has less of a melting influence on nearby glaciers.

But the new research demonstrates that in some areas, where glaciers are producing unusually large quantities of meltwater, this mixing process isn’t happening. That’s because the influx of fresh water from the glaciers makes the surface waters less salty and less dense, keeping them trapped in a layer above the warm, salty water below—a process known as “stratification.” As a result, warm water is able to seep beneath the nearby glaciers, where it causes more melting and more fresh water to flow into the sea, continuing the cycle.

The mixing of warm and cold water in Antarctica “is a very strong process,” said Levermann, who was not involved with the new research. “That melting shelves, or even the melting ice sheet, can counter that—can be of the same order of magnitude and thereby constitute a feedback—that is really an interesting idea.”

The scientists focused on specific locations along the Sabrina Coast in East Antarctica and the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica. In these spots, previous research had already demonstrated that the usual mixing was not occurring. The scientists wanted to know why.

In East Antarctica, observational data taken directly from the ocean suggested that glacial meltwater from the Moscow University Ice Shelf was freshening the nearby waters. Model simulations then confirmed that this freshening was preventing the waters from mixing and was allowing warm water to flow onto the continental shelf. The simulations suggest that this process is likely contributing to the high melt rates scientists have observed at nearby Totten Glacier, sometimes referred to as Antarctica’s “sleeping giant” because of the massive amount of ice it contains.

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They uncovered a similar story in West Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea. Fresh water from rapidly melting ice shelves, including the vulnerable Thwaites Glacier, is freshening the nearby ocean and preventing the waters from mixing. As a result, warm water is flowing toward other nearby ice formations, including the Dotson and Getz ice shelves, and causing an increase in bottom-up melting there as well.

The researchers point out that plenty of other glaciers in Antarctica are producing meltwater as well—it just hasn’t reached a volume sufficient to overturn the mixing process in those locations. But that could change if melting speeds up in the future.

One of the biggest questions about the feedback loops described in this week’s paper is what kick-started the whole process. The research suggests that high melt rates have prevented the waters from mixing, which causes more melting and then more stratification. But what caused those initial high melt rates, which first caused the waters to stratify?

Scientists are still trying to figure that out, says lead study author Silvano.

“The main reason is that we have direct ocean measurements only for the past 25 years in the areas that are showing strong melting,” he said in an email. As a result, scientists must rely on models to find out what happened before that point.


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It’s possible that natural climate variations had something to do with the initial melting, Silvano said. For instance, recent research has suggested that a strong El Niño event in the 1940s helped start high melt rates in glaciers bordering the Amundsen Sea. But many scientists increasingly believe that human activities are playing a role as well.

In the past, Antarctica’s infamous “ozone hole” is believed to have affected some Antarctic wind patterns, which may help drive warm water closer to the ice sheet, said Fernando Paolo, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But while the ozone hole is now in recovery, climate change may be having a similar effect.

Some research suggests that rapid warming in the tropics, for instance, is altering major atmospheric circulation systems and affecting wind patterns around Antarctica. Changes in these wind patterns may be driving more warm water close to the ice edge, some researchers have suggested (Climatewire, April 10).

There’s still uncertainty associated with the direct links to climate change, Paolo noted. As scientists continue to improve their climate models, and particularly their ocean models, the exact processes will become more clear.

But Levermann, the Potsdam climate scientist, added that it’s “curious that this is occurring now, after 10,000 years of stability, while we are ramping up the temperature of the planet.”

“Trying to dismiss the idea that it has anything to do with global warming is also very difficult,” he said.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DeepThinker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 06 2018 at 9:53pm
Sea Ice is one of those things that matters how you look at it...  yes sea ice area is down but sea ice volume is doing very well.   I am looking for a chart to show this.
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http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/

The year 2017 finished out with an annually averaged sea ice volume that was the lowest on record with 12,900 km , below 2012 for which the annually averaged volume was 13,500 km3 .  This was even though extent and sea ice thickness were at record lows during the early months of 2017 but anomalousy little melt for the recent years (Fig 8), brought the ice volume back above record levels.

Average Arctic sea ice volume in April 2018 was 22,250 km3. This value is the second lowest on record tied with 2016 and  about 1500 km3 above the previous April record that was set in 2017 with 22,600 km3 .  Ice volume was 32% below the maximum in 1979 and 19% below the mean value for 1979-2017. April 2018 ice volume sits right on the long term trend line. 

Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be, The future is not ours to see, Que sera, sera !
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote carbon20 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2018 at 5:20am
the way I look at it is, 175 years ago there were 2billion people on this planet,it had been like that since Christ walk the earth, 1850started the industrial revolution,175 years ago ,no cars, planes, or powers ships,now we have 8billion souls on this same planet,with all the pollution we humans bring with us, we are killing the planet,hard for some ,but i am a realist ,I don't have my head in the sand,
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Satori Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 07 2018 at 10:38pm
Another extreme heat wave strikes the North Pole

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/5/7/1762679/-Another-extreme-heat-wave-strikes-the-North-Pole

solar minimum ???

LOL !!!
“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” Gary Kasparov
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