People send me stuff. In my email this past week I got a cover photo of the June 2010 issue of National Geographic along with this message from Al in Georgia:
- Melt Zone There’s a meltdown on the ice sheet—and optimism among Greenlanders.
- Viking Weather The warming climate that enticed Erik the Red is returning.
Now how can you claim that on the one hand we created the current warming trend and on the other hand admit that there was a time when the climate was much warmer than today. In fact, use that history as a means of suggesting how things might look as we humans warm the planet to temperatures never seen except during the time of Erik the terrible. What a riot!
Indeed. The email circulated, and that prompted this famous photo being posted:
Of course images like this one at left showing water tumbling down a huge moulin are being held up with gloom and doom scenarios that say Greenland’s Ice is melting “faster than expected” and we’ll get six feet of sea level rise from it along with a 10-15°F temperature rise by the year 2100.
Perhaps. But, moulins have existed since Greenland had ice, they are just part of the natural landscape and processes. They aren’t “new” to our time.
One of the photos we don’t often get to see was also circulated in the email, by somebody who lives in Greenland and knows what this is really all about.
It’s a real eye opener:
In the winter a huge among of snow are accumulated on the Ice (2-3 meters, sometimes more) and we are not talking about 1 or 2 square-miles, it’s about 100.000′s of square miles (up to 1 million) on the Westside of the Ice cap and a similar picture on the Eastside… when the melting season starts in april-sep… the meltwater has to go somewhere, and for sure it goes downhill in huge meltwater rivers.
The black stuff on the bottom of the lakes is carbon dust and pollution in general… but not from one year, but several decades (the topographical conditions don’t change from year to year). On a flight over the Ice Cap a sky clear day, you can see hundreds of huge lakes with the black spot on the bottom.
Here in Kangerlussuaq, on the edge of the Ice Cap, we have several burst from edge-lake, all the water (millions of tonnes) in the river passing through the settlement in a day or two.
The Vikings (Eric the Red) is about Medieval warm period…. the Hockey-stick mystery!!!
Med venlig hilsen
Svend Erik Hendriksen
And in that same Nat Geo collection that the photo above came from, you can see this photo also:
No mention in that Nat Geo slideshow of the origin of cryoconite, but I did find this at Portland State University by Jonathan Ebnet:
Cryoconite holes are water filled holes caused by increased melting around sediment. Cryoconite holes are common on the surfaces of glaciers in polar and non-polar regions (in polar regions, cryoconite holes have an ice lid, while in non-polar regions, cryoconite holes are open to the atmosphere). Cryoconite holes are not limited to glaciers. Cryoconite holes are also found on lake ice and sea ice. I will investigate whether sediment is required to initiate melt in the subsurface of a glacier, or whether absorption of solar radiation by clean ice is only needed to allow melting to occur. Previous studies have shown that some cryoconite holes are interconnected by cracks within the ice, while the remainder are isolated. These cracks appear to be the means by which the subsurface melt exits the glaciers, discharges into the melt-water streams, and empties into the perennially ice-covered lakes.
There is this time lapse animation showing how a hole changes with some solar insolation (warning – huge file, may take several minutes to download)
Click on the image below to view the evolution of two cryoconite holes over a 41 hour period. Watch how quickly the sediment melts down into the ice, and how fast the hole ices over. The movie will show the ice lid thickening and the hole filling up with air, half way through the movie (visible as the hole becoming lighter in color).
Now the really interesting thing about all this cryoconite or black dust and soot is that it tends to accumulate and stay there, continuing to help with melting daily. If the holes are interconnected with cracks through which meltwater flows, then they’ll continue until such time that the hole gets so deep that no sunlight reaches the bottom.
I’m remined of a simple experiment that Mike Smith carried out in his backyard one winter.
This from Brett Anderson’s AccuWeather Global Warming blog last year:
Here is a photo of fresh snow cover in my backyard over which I had tossed some eight month-old fireplace ash under a totally blue sky
Keeping in mind this demonstration is occurring just two days after the winter solstice (meaning the albedo effect is less than it would have been under clear skies in February or March), in just one hour, the greater melting in the ash-covered areas is already apparent:
After four hours, the ash-free area has a depth of 5.5 inches
At the same time, the ash-covered areas have a depth of about 2.5 inches. Multiple measurements were taken (note ruler hold about an inch in front of ruler) which yielded an average depth of 2.5 inches.
Even tiny amounts of soot pollution can induce high amounts of melting. There is little or no ash at upper right.. Small amounts of ash in the lower and left areas of the photo cause significant melting at the two-hour mark in the demonstration.
Any discussion pertaining to melting glaciers or icecaps must consider the accelerated melting caused by soot pollution in addition to any contribution from changing ambient temperatures.
Photos: Copyright 2007, Michael R. Smith (used with permission)
Mike Smith is CEO of WeatherData Services, Inc., An AccuWeather Company. Smith is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a Certified Consulting Meteorologist.
So yes, it does look like man made melting in Greenland, but not from CO2, but rather from soot. Since the USA has tough laws against particulate emissions, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t be pointing the finger at China and asking them to adopt clean air standard rather than worrying about California’s idiotic
Prop AB 32 “global warming law”:
Note that this is just a snapshot of the atmosphere, it doesn’t show where the soot ends up, but as you can see, it does reach the latitude of Greenland.
Some science has already been done on it, emphasis mine:
20th-Century Industrial Black Carbon Emissions Altered Arctic Climate Forcing
Joseph R. McConnell,1* Ross Edwards,1 Gregory L. Kok,2 Mark G. Flanner,3 Charles S. Zender,3 Eric S. Saltzman,3 J. Ryan Banta,1 Daniel R. Pasteris,1 Megan M. Carter,4 Jonathan D. W. Kahl4
Black carbon (BC) from biomass and fossil fuel combustion alters chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere and snow albedo, yet little is known about its emission or deposition histories. Measurements of BC, vanillic acid, and non–sea-salt sulfur in ice cores indicate that sources and concentrations of BC in Greenland precipitation varied greatly since 1788 as a result of boreal forest fires and industrial activities. Beginning about 1850, industrial emissions resulted in a sevenfold increase in ice-core BC concentrations, with most change occurring in winter. BC concentrations after about 1951 were lower but increasing. At its maximum from 1906 to 1910, estimated surface climate forcing in early summer from BC in Arctic snow was about 3 watts per square meter, which is eight times the typical preindustrial forcing value.
1 Desert Research Institute, Nevada System of Higher Education, Reno, NV 89512, USA.
2 Droplet Measurement Technologies, Boulder, CO 80301, USA.
3 Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
4 Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA.
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Joe.McConnell@dri.edu
So when you see alarming stories of Greenland meltwater, remember: soot is more powerful at melting snow and ice than CO2.
h/t to Steve from Oregon
Juraj V. adds in comments the Greenland Temperature record: