Russian river water affecting the Arctic – AO shift blamed

From the University of Washington

Russian river water unexpected culprit behind Arctic freshening near US, Canada

A hemisphere-wide phenomenon – and not just regional forces – has caused record-breaking amounts of freshwater to accumulate in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea.

Freshwater Pathway

Red arrows show the new path of Russian river water into the Canada Basin. The previous freshwater pathway -- across the Eurasian Basin toward Greenland and the Atlantic -- was altered by atmospheric conditions created by the Arctic Oscillation. Credit: University of Washington - click to enlarge

Frigid freshwater flowing into the Arctic Ocean from three of Russia’s mighty rivers was diverted hundreds of miles to a completely different part of the ocean in response to a decades-long shift in atmospheric pressure associated with the phenomenon called the Arctic Oscillation, according to findings published in the Jan. 5 issue of Nature.

The new findings show that a low pressure pattern created by the Arctic Oscillation from 2005 to 2008 drew Russian river water away from the Eurasian Basin, between Russia and Greenland, and into the Beaufort Sea, a part of the Canada Basin bordered by the United States and Canada. It was like adding 10 feet (3 meters) of freshwater over the central part of the Beaufort Sea.

“Knowing the pathways of freshwater in the upper ocean is important to understanding global climate because of freshwater’s role in protecting sea ice – it can help create a barrier between the ice and warmer ocean water below – and its role in global ocean circulation. Too much freshwater exiting the Arctic would inhibit the interplay of cold water from the poles and warm water from the tropics,” said Jamie Morison, an oceanographer with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory and lead author of the Nature paper.

Morison and his co-authors from the UW and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are the first to detect this freshwater pathway and its connection to the Arctic Oscillation. The work is based on water samples gathered in the field combined with satellite oceanography possible for the first time with data from NASA satellites known as ICESat and GRACE.

“Changes in the volume and extent of Arctic sea ice in recent years have focused attention on the impacts of melting ice,” said co-author Ron Kwok, senior research scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The combined GRACE and ICESat data allow us to now examine the impacts of widespread changes in ocean circulation.”

Freshwater Increases, Decreases

Increasing freshwater on the U.S. and Canadian side of the Arctic from 2005 to 2008 is balanced by decreasing freshwater on the Russian side, so that on average the Arctic did not have more freshwater

Increasing freshwater on the U.S. and Canadian side of the Arctic from 2005 to 2008 is balanced by decreasing freshwater on the Russian side, so that on average the Arctic did not have more freshwater. Here blue represents maximum freshwater increases and the yellows and oranges represent maximum freshwater decreases. University of Washington - click to enlarge

Taken as a whole, the salinity of the Arctic Ocean is similar to the past, but the change in the freshwater pathway means the Eurasian Basin has gotten more saline while the Canada Basin has gotten fresher.

“The freshening on the Canadian side of the Arctic over the last few years represents a redistribution of freshwater, there does not seem to be a net freshening of the ocean,” Kwok said.

In the Eurasian Basin, the change means less freshwater enters the layer known as the cold halocline and could be contributing to declines in ice in that part of the Arctic, Morison said. The cold halocline normally sits like a barrier between ice and warm water that comes into the Arctic from the Atlantic Ocean. Without salt the icy cold freshwater is lighter, which is why it is able to float over the warm water.

In the Beaufort Sea, the water is the freshest it’s been in 50 years of record keeping, he said. The new findings show that only a tiny fraction is from melting ice and the vast majority is Eurasian river water.

The Beaufort Sea stores a significant amount of freshwater from a number of sources, especially when an atmospheric condition known as the Beaufort High causes winds to spin the water in a clockwise gyre. When the winds are weaker or spin in the opposite direction, freshwater is released back into the rest of the Arctic Ocean, and from there to the world’s oceans. Some scientists have said a strengthening of the Beaufort High is the primary cause of freshening, but the paper says salinity began to decline in the early 1990s, a time when the Beaufort High relaxed and the Arctic Oscillation increased.

“We discovered a pathway that allows freshwater to feed the Beaufort gyre,” Kwok said. “The Beaufort High is important but so are the broader-scale effects of the Arctic Oscillation.”

“A number of people have come up with ways of looking at regional forces at work in the Arctic,” Morison said, “To better understand changes in sea ice and the Arctic overall we need to look more broadly at the hemispherewide Arctic Oscillation, its effects on circulation of the Arctic Ocean and how global warming might enhance those effects.”

In coming years if the Arctic Oscillation stops perpetuating that low pressure, the freshwater pathway should switch back.

Morison and the co-authors argue that, compared to prior years, the Arctic Oscillation has been in its current state for the last 20 years. For example, the changes detected in response to the Arctic Oscillation between 2005 and 2008 are very similar to freshening seen in the early 1990s, Morison said.

Discerning the track of freshwater from Eurasian rivers would have been impossible without the ICESat and GRACE satellites, Kwok and Morison agree. With satellite measurements of ocean height and bottom pressures, the researchers could separate the changes in mass from changes in density – or freshwater content – of the water column.

“To me it’s pretty spectacular that you have these satellites zipping around hundreds of kilometers above the Earth and they give us a number about salinity that’s very close to what we get from lowering little sampling bottles into the ocean,” Morison said.

###

Other co-authors are Cecilia Peralta-Ferriz with the UW’s School of Oceanography and Matt Alkire, Ignatius Rigor, Roger Andersen and Mike Steele, all with the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

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41 Responses to Russian river water affecting the Arctic – AO shift blamed

  1. Juraj V. says:

    Arctic (or North Atlantic) Oscillation goes in 40-year cycle. You remember those warm European winters before WWI? Neither me, but they did exist.
    http://notrickszone.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/NAO_CETw-copy-2.gif
    http://notrickszone.com/2010/11/28/lesson-learned-predicting-the-european-climate-from-the-cet-record/

  2. Interstellar Bill says:

    This freshwater sloshing isn’t in the models so it doesn’t exist.
    Quit writing about it. The only thing happening at the poles
    is disastrous melting by eeville Satanic Gasses,
    so all else must be ignored or censored away.

  3. Rosco says:

    Damn those Ruskies

  4. Dave Wendt says:

    The decline in Arctic sea ice has always been the alarmist’s ace in the hole, providing endless propaganda opportunities for ominous declarations about its impending disappearance. The decline has been obvious but I have always felt that it could be almost entirely accounted for by changes in circulation and winds that began at the end of the 80s with the change in the AO, as noted by Rigor and Wallace 2004

    http://iabp.apl.washington.edu/research_seaiceageextent.html

    This work adds more support to my suspicions and strengthens the argument that almost no resort to anything “anthropogenic” is required to explain the observed loss of ice.

  5. DJ says:

    This freshwater infusion is causing acidification of the arctic.
    /sarc off

    They use the term “freshening”, but it’s really acidification.

  6. Peter Ward says:

    Is the implication that freshwater currents are partly behind the arctic ice melting? Obviously a study like this couldn’t just say that because it would go against the party line, but reading between the lines it does suggest that. It would have been good if they had included ice extents in the charts just so we could be sure.

  7. Green Sand says:

    Arctic Sea surface salinity:-
    http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/hycomARC/navo/arcticsssnowcast.gif
    http://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/hycomARC/arctic.html
    This paper might help me to understand the above.

  8. Babsy says:

    Interstellar Bill says:
    January 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    It’s the radiative forcing!

    /sarc.

  9. M.A.Vukcevic says:

    Siberian hydrology is an important factor in understanding what is happening with the Arctic. My view is somewhat different to one in the paper.
    There has been rapid change in the geomagnetic map of the northern hemisphere, rapid fall in the Hudson Bay and more gradual rise in the Siberian branch:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/AT-GMF.gif
    The polar storm clouds are eclectically charged entities (lightning) and carried by the polar jet-stream their trajectories are guided by strong magnetic field in the polar areas. This has meant that the strongest concentration of precipitation would end up in the central Siberia, having an important rise in the hydrology levels of the area as I show here:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/SHL.htm

  10. Puckster says:

    Correct my understanding if you will, but, if the freshwater is above the saline seawater and next to the bottom of the ice, wouldn’t it encourage more ice formation? If seawater’s freezing point is about 28.4 degs F and obviously freshwater is 32 degs F, wouldn’t the freshwater close to the ice be more likely to form new ice, and/or thicken, than the displaced seawater?

    Just need some clarification.

  11. Kaboom says:

    Nature is still publishing studies that have to do with natural phenomena?

  12. Crob says:

    Funny…given Anthony Watt’s location, I read the title to mean the “Russian River” in Nothern CA. Needless to say, I was surprised that this river was so important to global climate.

  13. “M.A.Vukcevic says”
    “The polar storm clouds are eclectically charged entities (lightning) and carried by the polar jet-stream their trajectories are guided by strong magnetic field in the polar areas. This has meant that the strongest concentration of precipitation would end up in the central Siberia, having an important rise in the hydrology levels of the area as I show here:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/SHL.htm

    Imagine that….changes in the earth’s magnetic field (the highest form of energy known to man – the only force which can contain plasma) linked to cloud movement/concentration, linked to precipitation in Siberia, linked to changes in fresh water output into the Arctic, linked to changes in Arctic ice conditions, and, evidently ultimately Arctic temperature…throw in some solar cycles

    So, exactly where does man’s influence fit into this observation?

    You know, it just keeps getting better and better, day by day, doesn’t it?

  14. crosspatch says:

    if the freshwater is above the saline seawater and next to the bottom of the ice, wouldn’t it encourage more ice formation?

    I believe the idea is during summer, not winter. Yes, fresh water would tend to freeze sooner but there isn’t any freezing going on in the summer. The colder fresh water would act as a sort of “cooler” to keep the ice away from the warmer salt water and reduce its rate of summer melt. The saltier Arctic on the Europe side would tend to keep water from the Gulf Stream on the surface longer, too. The warmer waters from that stream stay on the surface until evaporation causes both cooling and a rise in salinity until it is saltier than the surrounding water and then it sinks. If the surrounding water is salter, this tropical water stays on the surface longer and keeps Northern Europe more ice free. That’s one reason why it is suspected that outbursts from gigantic glacial melt lakes into the Arctic are responsible for such events as the Younger Dryas and the 8.2ky event. This fresh water would have diluted the gulf water preventing it from sinking and shutting down the “conveyor belt”.

  15. Curiousgeorge says:

    Coulda, woulda, shoulda. How much BS is pumped into the electronic atmosphere each day? Who cares? Ignore it, or wear rubber waders.

  16. 40 Shades of Green says:

    Anthony

    And I thought it was the Russian River in California doing some teleconnecting! (is the Russian River the one that that goes through Chico?)

    40 shades

  17. bruce says:

    got to admire the sensitivity of satellites that can determine mass to that scale. Great job to whoever is responsible!

  18. Tim Ball says:

    There is nothing new about this issue of changing salinity of the Arctic Ocean because of changes in freshwater ingress. The Arctic Ocean is essentially a closed basin with only one relatively deep channel through the East Greenland Channel. (This channel was used by Soviet submarines to transit in and out of the North Atlantic undetected by Nato forces). Average salinity of the Arctic Ocean is the lowest for all the oceans at 30,000ppm compared to global average of 34,000 ppm. This is due to freshwater input but also low rates of evaporation and ice cover. The three Russian Rivers, the Ob, the Yenisei and the Lena coupled with the Mackenzie contribute most of the freshwater flowing into the ocean – the Mackenzie contributes about 12%.

    The issue of changing conditions of freshwater flows arose during the Cold War era because of Soviet diversions and interconnection of major river systems. Major changes were on the Don river which was interconnected with the Volga so they could transport submarines from the Caspian to the port at Archangel on the Arctic coast. There were also diversion schemes on the Ob, which saw the most, the Yenisei and some for the Lena partly because of the desire to open up and irrigate the “Virgin Lands” by Khrushchev. Some of the concern was triggered by the Aral Sea drying up. They tried to offset this with various schemes including dropping soot on Himalayan glaciers to increase melt and river flow.
    http://www.fragilecologies.com/oct09_95.html

    The concern, expressed at the time by Soviet as well as other scientists, was that an increased salinity due to less freshwater inflow would reduce the arctic ice and trigger major climate change. As I recall it was Brezhnev who ordered a delay and investigation, then Gorbachev, that illustrious member of the Club of Rome, said to heck with the consequences go ahead. Of course none of this stopped the Soviets proposing a dam across the Bering Straits to prevent outflow of cold Arctic water that would result in a warmer north Pacific and then a warmer belt around the globe back to the Soviet Union.

  19. clipe says:

    OT

    Trepidation

    24(1085) : I don’t think ‘uncertainties’ is quite the right word
    here. Input emissions scenarios, which are scenarios in the
    strict sense of the word, do not directly address uncertainty
    issues (although they can, with some trepidation and a not-
    inconsiderable amount of ingenuity, be used to define
    uncertainties). By the way, as far as I can see, the only
    scenario development method/software that does address the
    input and uncertainty issues is MAGICC/SCENGEN.

    http://www.ecowho.com/foia.php?search=trepidation

  20. AndyG55 says:

    @DJ
    “They use the term “freshening”, but it’s really acidification.”

    NO!! .. its “neutralisation”

    Making that particular area less “basic”.. or maybe we should use the words less CAUSTIC, to keep up with the Joneses.

    Again, probably way better than the oceans getting more caustic. (marine biologists?)

  21. Puckster says:

    “The colder fresh water would act as a sort of “cooler” to keep the ice away from the warmer salt water and reduce its rate of summer melt.”

    Conversely is there an overlap, latency, in the conversion of the freshwater, in the early winter, to high salinity that would kick-start, so to say, early ice formation? The point being, if there is a high abundance of Siberian snowpack available to the Russian River, does this, as you point out, not only retard summer ice melt, but also, kick-start the winter ice formation, in other words?

  22. AndyG55 says:

    ps. Does anyone have any information on how much last years massive rainstorms and stormwater runoff along the Queensland coast would have “Freshened” the waters of the Great Barrier Reef ? Rainwater is generally slightly acid, and the amount of run-off to the oceans was quite substantial.

    There are reports of the pH changing from 8.2 to 8.1 (of course blamed on CO2), but I can’t find any records of when these reading were taken.

  23. u.k.(us) says:

    Amazing GRACE ?
    Can differentiate salt vs. fresh water, via gravity ?
    It must be a very sensitive and well calibrated experiment they’re running
    Or was it just a plug for the “Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment”.
    Sorry, but I’m skeptical.

    .

  24. “The work is based on water samples gathered in the field ….”
    Never mind what comes after that quote; when I read that actual, real physical measurements had been taken, I started to pay attention because that is how SCIENCE is done.
    And the results aren’t too shabby, either.

  25. Robert M says:

    Oh Noes! It’s worse then we thought! Start panicking!

    Can I have my grant now?

  26. George E. Smith; says:

    I wasn’t aware that enough water flowed in the Russian River, to even wet the beach as it flows out onto the California coast; but then I realized that maybe there are some actual Russian rivers that are not in California. If there were we would damn them to make sure that none of that water made it out to sea; we have a whole lot of golf courses to water.

  27. David Falkner says:

    Well. That changes the direction of the ocean currents, doesn’t it? Could the combination of wind direction and ocean current be ‘costing’ ice in the Arctic?

  28. Keith says:

    Well if river flow and ocean circulation changes have resulted in more saline waters in the Russian Arctic, might this have at least some bearing on some of the more recent melt seasons? I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the NSIDC map of 2007 melt compared to the ‘average’, and 2011′s map had a similar look to it.

    Quite handy for Russia to have an open Northern Sea Route insummer too, one suspects. As (Prof I assume?) Tim Ball says, geoengineering isn’t a new concept.

  29. Interesting:

    If the PO has a 40 year cycle, could this change now noticed be cyclic?

    And if so, (a) how could arctic temperatures be affected

    (b) could fish species be affected – I seem to remember research by Klyashtorin, that determined some species had a huge 18-year fluctuation on one beat, and others had a huge 18-year fluctuation on the opposite beat.

  30. wayne says:

    “It was like adding 10 feet (3 meters) of freshwater over the central part of the Beaufort Sea.”

    Oh goodie! Doesn’t fresh water freeze faster, harder and melt later?
    Finally this may be the United Polar Service with that big present I promised R. Gates a year ago.

  31. higley7 says:

    “Too much freshwater exiting the Arctic would inhibit the interplay of cold water from the poles and warm water from the tropics,”

    I completely disagree and protest the “opinion” they have of freshwater being “too much”.
    They have no clue what is “too much”, just enough” or “not enough”. They should say, “When there is a lot of freshwater, . . .”

    How blasted unscientific of them!

    Perhaps they could have speculated that this freshwater effect could be a mechanism that has favored Arctic ice growth in the past. That would be acceptable.

  32. Ric Werme says:

    George E. Smith; says:
    January 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I wasn’t aware that enough water flowed in the Russian River, to even wet the beach as it flows out onto the California coast; but then I realized that maybe there are some actual Russian rivers that are not in California. If there were we would damn them to make sure that none of that water made it out to sea; we have a whole lot of golf courses to water.

    Even I in New Hampshire thought of CA’s Russian River first.

    It would take a pretty long aqueduct to connect the Russian rivers to the SoCal water system!

  33. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    Thanks for posting this, Anthony. This type of information just isn’t covered by other blogs or media sources, and this is why WUWT is truly the leading blog in this field. Well done!

    As I’ve watched the Arctic sea ice extent change over the past 6 years or so, I wondered about the influence of freshwater from both Canada and Russia. This makes perfect sense.

  34. Brian H says:

    George E. Smith; says:
    January 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm
    we would damn them to make sure that none of that water made it out to sea; we have a whole lot of golf courses to water.

    Why would cursing them stop the water flow? Do you have a Moses or two handy?

    ;)

  35. Robert Brown says:

    Ah, this is really interesting. It has been proposed that just such a flooding in of freshwater into the Arctic was responsible for a major chaotic fluctuation in the “Great Conveyor Belt” of oceanic flow that carries heat all over the globe, in particular from the tropics to the poles. The force that drives it are changes in density and salinity along the way, so that warm less dense less saline water goes e.g. north along the surface as the Gulf Stream, loses its heat (as it delivers its heat) in the north, warming Europe and the northern East Coat of the US in the process, becomes more dense and saline, falls to the ocean bottom, and then flows back south in a deep current that eventually stretches all the way around the globe. The chaotic fluctuation in question occurred roughly 10,000 years ago, and caused the Gulf Stream to deflect far further South for around 1000 years because Arctic waters were too fresh and freshwater is less dense than salt water, so that it stubbornly refused to sink even when cold.

    This precipitated a return to ice age conditions for roughly 1000 years, the period known as the “Younger Dryas”. One doubts that the current freshening could be sufficient to produce this large a shift, but even a small shift in the GCB could turn up the deep freeze in much of the Arctic, in Scandinavia, in Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, England, and most of Northern Europe.

    This is exactly the sort of thing that could explain why plunges back into ice age conditions tend to be sudden on a geological time scale. The Earth is a chaotic climate system with many quasi-periodic timescales. It is almost certainly multistable, with all of the current “oscillations” driven by negative feedback on decadal scales and reinforcing or cancelling their mutual effects in complex ways. Those stable points are called (poincare) attractors, and they can actually appear and disappear as the system is driven, especially if it is perturbed in any way.

    At that point one has to worry about the distribution of occult near-attractors in the underlying phase space (the ones that might emerge). What if ENSO splits into a pair of neighboring oscillations, for example, with opposite phases? What if two separate oscillations merge to create a new one with a different period and very different patterns of circulation? These sorts of things almost certainly happen every few centuries, every thousand or two years, on different scales, as the sun shifts states, the continents continue to wander, and highly nonlinear and unexpected consequences occur.

    Here is indeed a perfect example. Freshen the arctic enough, and even cold it is less dense than the warmer saltwater from down south. The Gulf stream hits a wall and is pushed south by a few hundred miles, enough to make it hit Spain instead of England. This further reduces arctic circulation, which causes the freshwater surplus to become even more pronounced, which gradually pushes the current further south still. Warm water is no longer being transported to the north pole as efficiently, and so arctic temperatures plunge. Greenland ices up. Iceland ices up. Scandinavia ices up. The Thames freezes in the winter. Sound familiar?

    The last time this happened — the LIA — the sun’s activity level dropped. This somehow caused subtle changes in something that caused the globe to dramatically lower its mean temperature to the lowest point in the entire post-Dryas holocene. Could this be it, the smoking gun? Could minor solar-driven changes in cloud cover and the natural oscillations be able to heterodyne in such a way as to increase the freshwater content of the arctic ocean and thereby distrupt the GCB? Stay tuned. If that happens we could easily have a catastrophic climate change — global cooling. Not in fifty, or a hundred years. In ten, or twenty. And there isn’t a damn thing that we can do about it.

    The sad thing is that this “catastrophic” scenario, which I consider to be far more likely than any of the CAGW scenarios, is the exact opposite of what people have been imagining and hence, to some extent, planning for. It might not happen this solar cycle, but it is ominous that it is happening just as we are having the lowest solar cycle in 100 years or thereabouts. I hear that the next solar cycle is the one that is likely to be really low, if we are indeed entering into a Dalton or Maunder style minimum.

    The thing about chaotic nonlinear oscillators is that tiny changes can make huge differences. There you are oscillating nearly perfectly harmonically, minding your own business, and then you tweak one of the drivers just a teensy bit and the entire system goes nuts, new frequencies appear, period doubling occurs, and suddenly your “rhythmic” oscillation is completely chaotic, appear more random than ordered, and with huge excursions from its prior stable point. This is my thing, to some extent — I have lovely computer codes where you can watch this happen. The Earth’s climate system is almost certainly globally chaotic (the weather is certainly openly chaotic, it is where Chaos Theory was discovered).

    I doubt that there are measurements, but it would be very interesting to know what the salinity of the arctic was during the LIA, and whether and how it varied during the last great warming of the Arctic (and its subsequent cooling) at the beginning of the 20th century. Oscillator coupled to oscillator coupled to oscillator, tiny changes with profound consequences.

    rgb

  36. adolfogiurfa says:

    @M.A.Vukcevic says:
    January 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm
    Remarkable analysis!, this is a real breakthrough in science. Everything moves by charge, as the “Fedeli d´amore” knew (Dante Alighieri among them). Love moves the universe, the eternal courtship between Yang and Yin…

  37. Caleb says:

    RE: Robert Brown says:
    January 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Very interesting discussion, especially the part about “chaotic nonlinear oscillators” resulting in unexpected changes in patterns. Google “Galloping Gertie” (Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse) if you want to see that even pragmatic engineers sometimes fail to predict such occillations.

    I have always wondered about the seasonal pulse of salty water into the Thermohaline Circulation. The freezing of sea ice extracts salt, and creates the brine that sinks. If a change in patterns switches the saltier areas from one part of the pole to the other, it likely would alter the circulation, though I don’t think scientists have a clue how the dynamic actually unfolds.

    I liked your ideas of what might shift the Gulf Stream south. The thing is: Once it moves south there may be less rain in Russia, or less melting, and that would lead to less fresh water from Russian Rivers. There may well be a negative feedback.

    A lot of cycles I look at seem to be around sixty years. This study doesn’t go back that far. I’d like to see their data about the salinity of arctic water, that goes back fifty years. Is that data from one particular locale, or from all over the arctic?

    In any case, for Alarmists to think they understand this subtle system has always struck me as a splendid delusion of grandure.

  38. Spector says:

    As ice has been increasing in the Antarctic over this same period, I wonder if there is a mirror Antarctic Oscillation effect. Back in 2007, the news that a block of Arctic sea ice, the size of the state of California, had melted for the first time in recorded history seemed to indicate that we might see an ice-free Arctic Ocean come true in our lifetime.

  39. TFNJ says:

    Interesting: could the recent run of cold winters in the NH be the source of the extra fresh water (summer melting of snow)?
    of course that only leaves the question of what causes these runs of cold winters.

  40. agfosterjr says:

    For those who doubt the possibility of measuring this fresh water by satellite, consider that sea water is about 3% denser than fresh water, so that adding 10 feet of fresh water to a semi-closed basin will add 3 inches to the height of the water column. GRACE is sensitive to within millimeters of distance. The north end of the Great Salt Lake is a foot higher than the south end due to lower salinity–the two sides are separated by a breached causeway, and most of the river flow is into the north. And no, these extra 3 inches in the Arctic will have no more effect on earth rotation than melted floating ice has on sea level: zero. –AGF

  41. Brian H says:

    Robert Brown says:
    January 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

    If that happens we could easily have a catastrophic climate change — global cooling. Not in fifty, or a hundred years. In ten, or twenty. And there isn’t a damn thing that we can do about it.

    rgb

    Now, RB. Not to worry! The rapidly complexificating GCMs will find the forcings for the flippings, so that we can choose which new weird attractor the climate will orbit next. A few more hundred billion should do it, honest!

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