Wednesday, November 24, 2021

About Those Glaciers

I've barely mentioned the Greenland glaciers in the almost 14 years I've been blogging, despite the role that work on the climate crisis plays in my daily life. I try to keep mentions of climate change to a minimum here, since it would otherwise overwhelm everything else, and me.

The glaciers have come up a couple of times, though.

In 2012, I saw Will Steger speak and show a time-lapse video of a glacier moving and shrinking. I wrote that day that the glaciers are "moving much more rapidly now than in the past because more melt means more lubrication, speeding their ooze to the sea."

Then in June 2019, in a Twitter round-up after an IPCC report, I included a couple of tweets, one of which was this:

Greenland's ice sheet is melting 6x faster than it was in the 1980s, and the meltwater is directly raising sea levels, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Well, here's the 2021 update, based on a story from the Washington Post, citing multiple glacier researchers.

  • The ice sheet lost more than it gained for the 25th year in a row.
  • It rained at the summit of the ice sheet for the first time in known history.
  • Even though there was more snowfall than in most recent years, which added to the glacier temporarily, overall "ice loss from iceberg calving and ocean melt was the highest since at least satellite records began in 1986."

As a final kick in the pants, if rain becomes common in the summer months, it will make the jobs of the researchers who track the glaciers harder than it already is, forcing them to change everything from how they land airplanes to food storage to how sewage is handled. Essentially, all of their assumptions about the ground beneath their feet will be wrong.

One more metaphor in this climate-changing world, as if we needed another.


Photo by Josh Willis, NASA

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