Filling Lake Erie, one headline at a time

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This is a press release from OSU, home of Dr. Lonnie Thompson. The press releases from there, written by Earle Holland, tend to be a bit excitable. For example, here’s one from just before COP16. Mr. Holland loves those all bold headlines. I invite readers to come up with other examples of “filling” based on regular melt as usual in other places.

What is most missing here is historical context. Howat is correct about snapshots, this press release is based on one about 10 years long, which is a blip in the history of the glaciers there. What they don’t have are comparative snapshots of the same data though 50-100-200-1000 years ago, so they can’t and don’t say if this is unusual or business as usual behavior for these glaciers in their long history.

TWO GREENLAND GLACIERS LOSE ENOUGH ICE TO FILL LAKE ERIE

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new study aimed at refining the way scientists measure ice loss in Greenland is providing a “high-definition picture” of climate-caused changes on the island.

And the picture isn’t pretty.

In the last decade, two of the largest three glaciers draining that frozen landscape have lost enough ice that, if melted, could have filled Lake Erie.

The three glaciers – Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq and Jakobshavn Isbrae – are responsible for as much as one-fifth of the ice flowing out from Greenland into the ocean.

Ian Howat

“Jakobshavn alone drains somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of all the ice flowing outward from inland to the sea,” explained Ian Howat, an assistant professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University.  His study appears in the current issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

As the second largest holder of ice on the planet, and the site of hundreds of glaciers, Greenland is a natural laboratory for studying how climate change has affected these ice fields.

Researchers focus on the “mass balance” of glaciers, the rate of new ice being formed as snow falls versus the flow of ice out into the sea.

The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years’ worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.

“Kangerdlugssuaq would have to stop flowing and accumulate snowfall for seven years to regain the ice it has lost,” said Howat, also a member of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the third glacier, Helheim, had actually gained a small amount of mass over the same period.  It gained approximately one-fifteenth of what Jakobshavn had lost, Howat said.

The real value of the research, however, is the confirmation that the new techniques Howat and his colleagues developed will provide scientists a more accurate idea of exactly how much ice is being lost.

Past estimates, he said, have been merely snapshots of what was going on at these glaciers in terms of mass loss.  “We really need to sample them very frequently or else we won’t really know how much change has occurred. “This new research pumps up the resolution and gives us a kind of high-definition picture of ice loss,” Howat said.


“These glaciers change pretty quickly.  They speed up and then slow down.  There’s a pulsing in the flow of ice,” Howat said.  “There’s variability, a seasonal cycle and lots of different changes in the rate that ice is flowing through these glaciers.”

Past estimates, he said, have been merely snapshots of what was going on at these glaciers in terms of mass loss.  “We really need to sample them very frequently or else we won’t really know how much change has occurred.

“This new research pumps up the resolution and gives us a kind of high-definition picture of ice loss,” he said.

To get this longer-timeframe image, Howat and colleagues drew on data sets provided by at least seven orbiting satellites and airplanes, as well as other sources.

“To get a good picture of what’s going on, we need different tools and each one of these satellites plays an important role and adds more information,” Howat said.

The next step is to look at the next-largest glaciers in Greenland and work their way down through smaller and smaller ice flows.

“Currently, the missing piece is ice thickness data for all of the glaciers, but a NASA aircraft is up there getting it.    When that’s available, we’ll be able to apply this technique to the entire Greenland ice sheet and get a monthly total mass balance for the last 10 years or so,” he said.

Along with Howat, Yushin Ahn, a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State’s Byrd Polar Research Center; Ian Joughin of the University of Washington; Michael van den Broeke and Jan Lenaerts, both of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, worked on the project.

The work is supported in part by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and by the Climate, Water and Carbon Program at Ohio State.

#

Contact:  Ian Howat, (614) 247-8944; Howat.4@osu.edu

Written by Earle Holland, (614) 292-8384; Holland.8@osu.edu

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59 thoughts on “Filling Lake Erie, one headline at a time

  1. Ah yes, the up-tick. Focus in close and then shout about any change, without regard for perspective or the relative value of the change. In another venue, these people would be considered barkers or shills….

  2. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the third glacier, Helheim, had actually gained a small amount of mass over the same period. It gained approximately one-fifteenth of what Jakobshavn had lost, Howat said.

    I want to hear more about this. Science is usually done in the surprises, not the expected results.

  3. Lake Erie[2] (play /ˈɪri/; French: Lac Érié) is the fourth largest lake (by surface area) of the five Great Lakes in North America, and the thirteenth largest globally.[3] It is the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest by volume of the Great Lakes…..
    Picking the smallest sure sounds impressive anyway……..

  4. “The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years’ worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.”
    last 10 years lost 11 years worth of snow, approximately.
    Might this be a =/- 10% guess?

  5. How long will it take for the glaciers to retreat back to the point when Greenland was really Green? I am sure the archealogists can’t wait.

  6. How do you get a “monthly total mass balance for the last 10 years or so” from the data collected by an aircraft flying around NOW? I can understand if you had the data from the last 10 years sitting around and came up with a new method of analyzing it, but… how do you figure out ice loss from 10 years ago with a snapshot from yesterday?
    Or is this just more modeling being passed off as proven data?

  7. Glaciers always calve ice, even when they are at their coldest. They move downslope to the sea and break off, thus “losing” ice. I know that the “climate scientists” have a hard time measuring the actual mass of the glacier, but even so are they adding the “lost” ice by calving to the total, as gross weight loss, rather than net weight loss? We also have a recent report that showed that glaciers can accelerate through ice forming from below and lubricating the flow, causing acceleration even in very very cold times.
    In other words, what is the estimated net weight loss in the last 10 years, not the gross weight loss. For instance, at the height of the last glaciation, when ice was a mile thick over Manhattan, the ice loss at the end of the glacier must have been enormous!
    If it is net weight loss versus 1976 (the coldest recent times) then this would be cherry-picking the start time, a normal “trick” for these crooks.
    I am sure they created a bogus report by parsing words, the usual MO for the “Clique”.

  8. mike restin says:
    May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am
    “The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years’ worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.”
    last 10 years lost 11 years worth of snow, approximately.
    Might this be a =/- 10% guess?

    A astute reading-between-the-lines, sir. How to imply alarm by using big numbers, when really, little numbers won’t do.

  9. A careful reading of supporting material shows that although Jakobshaven is indeed thinning and retreating, it has done so at a increasingly lesser rate since 1998. Hmmmm

  10. The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years’ worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.”
    Somebody check my maths, but I make that just a chunk of ice 700m x 700m x 700m, which is big enough, but I doubt it would fill Lake Erie. And pifflingly small compared with the volume of ice on Greenland.
    Assume 1 tonne = 1000 Kg
    1 cm3 ice weighs 1 g

  11. Some pretty slick advertising, because reality isn’t nearly as impressive.
    Volume of Greenland Ice Sheets . . . 2, 850,000 km3
    Current worst case annual melt rate . . . . 220KM3
    Years befor the Greenland Ice Sheets melt . . . 12, 954

  12. Hmm ‘new techniques’ – its going to be worse than we thought. They are not happy with their unquestionably biased 10yrs ice loss equivalent to 11 years snow addition (scientists in the pre post normal science days would have said this is essentially a balance).

  13. “And the picture isn’t pretty.”
    ==============================
    At what point did supposed scientists get to viewing information in the aesthetic sense? What an awful picture, glaciers doing what glaciers do! If this keeps happening, Greenland could become (gasp!) arable again!! Oh no’s!!

  14. “…Surprisingly, the researchers found that the third glacier, Helheim, had actually gained a small amount of mass over the same period. It gained approximately one-fifteenth of what Jakobshavn had lost, Howat said…”
    Being surprised when one of three glaciers GAINS mass shows their bias.
    How different would their stories have been of TWO of the three gained mass? I’m sure they would have still found a unbiased way to show that the total loss is negative.
    Their story has always been “all the glaciers are losing mass rapidly”, even though a few have actually gained.
    I’m with Paul M. Parks (May 25, 2011 at 9:05 am). I’d like to see what conditions are allowing that one glacier to gain mass (altitude, latitude, closeness to volcanos, other stuff) that isn’t present at the other two.

  15. Ah, Dr Lonnie Thomson. He and his wife appear to seek out the worlds most unusual glaciers and make a living out of it. Commenter ‘izen’ on a previous thread:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/23/study-on-paleo-rainfall-records-clearly-shows-existence-of-mwp-and-lia-in-southern-hemisphere/
    referenced a couple of press releases about the Thomson’s work. This one in particular:
    http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/radsignl.htm
    struck me as odd. If you read the paper:
    http://bprc.osu.edu/Icecore/Kehrwald%20et%20al%202008.pdf
    the authors claim that the particular glacier (Naimona’nyi or Gurla Mandhata on the edge of the Tibetan plateau) is losing so much ice that, even at 6,050 meters, it has lost the record of the post-WWII atomic bomb testing.
    What they studiously ignore in the data in their own paper is that this particular glacier gets almost no precipitation. It is in a sunny desert and gets under 20mm water equivalent of precipitation per year but may have had more, perhaps twice as much, before 1860.
    In my view it is quite the wrong glacier to be studying unless you are using it as a tool to foment alarmism.
    Can someone explain why this Himalayan glacier should be used as the poster child for the remainder of the Himalayan glaciers (see para 6 of the paper ‘Implications for Water Resources’; the last sentence is a hoot)?

  16. “As the second largest holder of ice on the planet, and the site of hundreds of glaciers, Greenland is a natural laboratory for studying how climate change has affected these ice fields.”
    I like how they assume “climate change” is the cause. Of course the climate changes how and to what degree is the question.
    Might as well ask “Have you stopped beating your wife yet.”

  17. Approximately 6.5% of the Greenland ice sheet flows out through the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier, and 4% through the Kangerdlugssuaq glacier. This works out to area of 69,000 square miles that feeds the two glaciers. Lake Erie has an area of about 9,900 square miles, or about one seventh of the area that feeds the glaciers. Lake Erie has an average depth of 62 feet (the shallowest of the great lakes). Therefore, if the melt from a decade would fill Lake Erie, then the melt from a year would be about 6.2 feet deep in Lake Erie. Since the ice sheet area that feeds these glaciers is 7 times the size of Lake Erie, that means that the reduction in ice thickness of the ice sheet would be less than a foot per year. When you consider that on average the ice sheet is about 6500 feet thick, the scale of loss of ice seems pretty insignificant. (All numbers rounded for ease of comprehension.)

  18. Is it possible that there was 11 years worth of snowfall in the last decade? It would seemingly take only one “Snowmageddon” winter over the last decade to suggest that there was, based on averages, 11 years (or more) worth of snow during this period and the whole Howat conclusion simply washes out as noise in the annual cycle.

  19. “in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost … approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.”
    Sounds scary. OK, lets figure out how much it really has lost. Wikipedia says Greenland has 2,8500,000 cubic kilometers of ice. Converting to tons:
    2,8500,000 x 1000 x 1000 x 1000 = 2.85 x 10^16 tons
    while the the loss is 3 x 10^11 / decade = 3 x 10^10 / year
    rounding things off we get 3 x 10^16 / 3 x 10^10 = 1,000,000 years
    So, at the present rate of melting, it will take only 1 million years for the greenland ice cap to melt.
    Wikipedia say that sea level will go up 7.2m if that happens. So each year sea level goes up 7.2 x 10^-6 = 7 microns as a result. About the size of a bacteria.
    Not quite a scary as the headlines indicate.

  20. What’s even more interesting is the one “gaining” glacier had another paper written in 2005 (same author), which showed an increase in retreat speed: “…Using remote sensing, we measured two major periods of speedup on Helheim Glacier between 2000 and 2005 that increased peak speeds from approximately 8 to 11 km/yr…”
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2005/2005GL024737.shtml
    What happened since 2005 to cause the apparent mass increase?

  21. Glaciers losing ice. This pretty well proves PCAGW is false. Another nail in the coffin. And comparing it to Lake Erie. Why would they want to compare the volume of water to a common reference which most people have heard of instead of just stating the volume in numbered quantities which most people have no reference to?

  22. Using the volume of Lake Erie , volume 484 cubilc kilometers and total volume of the oceans, 1.5 billion cubic kilometers, I would say this is equal to a drop in a bucket of water. Also, doesn’t his claim of loss by glaciers omit the increase in the in ice interior to Greenland? Sad isn’t it?

  23. This is a good example of journalism at it’s worst, aka Yellow Journalism. Take a few facts out of context, imply something significantly different is happening when maybe it is not, and obscure the truth without actually telling a complete falsehood. I wonder if this story was approved or edited by Howat.
    It sounds like there may have been a loss of 10% from one glacier, while another one grew a bit, but the study is only just starting and we really don’t know yet. In other words, this one is not ready for more than a preliminary discussion on how to proceed in the study and they need lots more money.
    The take-away for the AGW crowd is that Jakobshavn Isbrae is losing ice at an alarming rate, climate change is the cause, and the picture isn’t pretty. A lame claim they can make that will take time and effort to refute.

  24. Something else interesting – maybe it was a change in universities that caused the change in results.
    In 2005, Howat was listed as :
    I. M. Howat, Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, USA
    Now listed as assistant professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University.
    Different PR firm handling the press releases?

  25. Here’s an extract from:
    “A Geographical-Historical Outline of Svalbard
    by Ole Humlum, UNIS, Department of Geology, Svalbard, Norway”
    About 60% of the islands is presently covered by glaciers, many of which terminates with calving fronts into the ocean. Bjørnøya is the only major island within Svalbard without glaciers. In central Spitsbergen most glaciers are comparatively small due to the dry climate, but along both the west and east coast of Spitsbergen large valley glaciers and ice caps dominate. On the eastern islands, Edgeøya, Barentsøya and Nordaustlandet several large ice caps are found. Due to low air temperatures and low precipitation most glaciers in the dry interior of Spitsbergen move rather sluggish, only 1-2 m per year and therefore are only little crevassed. In the more humid regions along the coasts, however, glacier velocities of more than 10-30 m per year and large crevasses are frequent. A significant number of glaciers in Svalbard from time to time advance with extraordinary high velocity, up to several kilometers during 3-6 years. This surge-behavior is characteristic for at least 30% of all glaciers in Svalbard and possibly up to about 60% of all glaciers displays this kind of behavior from time to time, with a recurrent interval of 50-100 years. A 30 km wide sector of the large ice cap on Nordaustlandet, Austfonna, between 1936 and 1938 experienced at surge advance of more than 20 km into the ocean. This is presumably the longest surge advance ever recorded at any glacier on this planet.
    Seems to be natural variability. So are we to believe that non-AGW-affected glaciers in Greenland would just sit there and go mouldy with age?

  26. With sea level decelerating and record lows occurring worldwide, the alarmists get so desperate for bad news that they grasp at ever-smaller straws. A one-foot loss of glacier mass is so insignificant that it has to be expressed in irrelevant terms. (Lake Erie has nothing to do with Greenland. They could just as well expressed the ice-loss volume as being equal to so many centuries of Nile-River flow, or millenia of NYC toilet flushes.)
    It’s fair to say that if by now the sea-level rise had tripled in rate, with hurricanes and record-high temps overwhelming the world, then we skeptics would have climbed on the AGW bandwagon. In the face of the actual evidence being overwhelmingly against AGW, the alarmists’ total lack of scientific integrity is made stark by such threadbare tactics as the irrelevant use of Lake Erie.

  27. mike restin says: (May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am)
    ” “The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years’ worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.”
    last 10 years lost 11 years worth of snow, approximately.
    Might this be a =/- 10% guess? ”
    And do not ignore the use of the word “suggests” rather than “demonstrates”, “shows” or “proves”.

  28. marchesarosa says:
    May 25, 2011 at 9:54 am
    > Haven’t we been here before almost exactly a year ago?
    Very good – I had forgotten or was busy that week getting stuff dune before the ICCC-5 trip. Probably that, as I didn’t note then:
    Lake Erie’s shallow waters make for a pretty stiff chop when the wind blows. (I grew up in northeast Ohio.) It’s only a mudpuddle compared to some lakes.
    We could convert to Lake Superiors – 1 Erie is only 545/11600 of a Superior, or only 4.7% of a Superior and that makes it really inferior.

  29. Too bad they had to use the smallest of the great lakes. Where’s their sense of ambition. They need to think big! This GLOBAL WARMING!!
    lol.
    Anthony said:
    “I invite readers to come up with other examples of “filling” based on regular melt as usual in other places”
    How about:
    The Detroit River has enough flow to fill Lake Erie?
    or
    The Mississippi in flood can fill a large sports stadium in just a few seconds.

  30. “Latimer Alder says:
    May 25, 2011 at 9:43 am
    The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years’ worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.”
    Somebody check my maths, but I make that just a chunk of ice 700m x 700m x 700m, which is big enough, but I doubt it would fill Lake Erie. And pifflingly small compared with the volume of ice on Greenland.
    Assume 1 tonne = 1000 Kg
    1 cm3 ice weighs 1 g”
    —————–
    I think your math is off a bit.
    100 cm = 1 m, so 100x100x100 cm3 = 1,000,000 cm3 = 1 m3
    1 cm3 ice weighs 1 Gm (close enough), so 1 m3 (1,000,000 cm3) weighs 1000Kg or 1 tonne
    300 billion tonnes = 300,000,000,000 tonnes = 300,000,000,000 m = 300 Km3, which could be 100 x 30 x 0.1 Km in size.
    Don’t feel so bad, it turns out that Lake Eric actually is about 2500 Km3, so the good doctor also missed it by a factor of 8.
    BTW, they also are combining apples and oranges. Net ice loss looks at ice lost through calving (mostly) and compares it to snowfall accumulations.
    Calving is a long term process dependent on the height/weight of the ice; if no snow fell for a decade, the calving would continue anyway. Snowfall is quite variable over the short term.
    Properly, they should be asking, why has the snowfall slowed down (if indeed it has).

  31. De largest and fastest glacier of Greenland is the Ilulisat/Jacobshavn Isbrea. It had a large melt and fast retreat of the breakup point in the period 1935-1950 and since 1995. In between the breakup point advanced again. Because we had no satellites in the period 1935-1950, it is difficult to compare the two periods, but pictures taken by airplanes in that period show that the glacier lost some 70 meters of height and the thinning was visible far inland. See the breakup points since 1850 by NASA:
    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/jakobshavn.html
    or directly since 1850:
    http://www.nasa.gov/101948main_calvingstill_1850_2003.tiff
    The advancing since 1950 is not visible on that chart, but is probably used by RC to “prove” that things got worse in the past decade:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/04/moulins-calving-fronts-and-greenland-outlet-glacier-acceleration/
    See the 1953-2003 discrepancy between the graph by NASA and the one published by RC (as they say, based on NASA data).
    The thinning was mentioned here:
    http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm05/fm05-sessions/fm05_C41A.html
    Rapid thinning and velocity increase on major Greenland outlet glaciers (Jakobshavn Isbr’, west Greenland; Kangerlussuaq and Helheim glaciers in southeast Greenland) during the last two decades may indicate that these glaciers became unstable as a consequence of the Jakobshavn effect, with terminus retreat leading to increased discharge from the interior and consequent further thinning and retreat.
    Further, as melting of the Greenland ice edges is directly related to summer temperatures, the period 1935-1950 has higher summer temperatures around Greenland at sealevel than the current period (but I need to update the graph for recent years):
    http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/greenland_temp.html

  32. @ Gary Swift:
    Notwithstanding Lake Erie being the SI unit of measure, the referenced Greenland ice loss if melted could have filled (116 mi^3/2900 mi ^3) 4%!! of Lake Superior.

  33. Melting ice is very pretty to an intelligent mammalian race looking to raise crops and livestock to survive.

  34. The average temperature of the earth is 15.5°C. How can there be any ice on it? If there were it would melt!

  35. I was quite struck by this:
    “Currently, the missing piece is ice thickness data for all of the glaciers, but a NASA aircraft is up there getting it. When that’s available, we’ll be able to apply this technique to the entire Greenland ice sheet and get a monthly total mass balance for the last 10 years or so,” he said.
    Now, I’m just a lowly engineer, but I know enough that VOLUME usually requires area AND thickness. And since they don’t have an actual measure of the THICKNESS of the glaciers, I’m kind of curious about how they can estimate the VOLUME of the loss… Can someone help me out, here?

  36. “The real value of the research, however, is the confirmation that the new techniques Howat and his colleagues developed will provide scientists a more accurate idea of exactly how much ice is being lost.”
    Uhm’k, so the glaciers are to hold on to its ice for all eternity. I don’t know about his technique but he certainly seem to have developed into a tool for a superb green understanding of natural forces. :p

  37. It seems to be some sort of announcement that they have a new computer model awaiting the NASA numbers on ice thickness, so they can complete “the high definitition” picture that is “not pretty.”

  38. From henrythethird on May 25, 2011 at 10:20 am:

    What’s even more interesting is the one “gaining” glacier had another paper written in 2005 (same author), which showed an increase in retreat speed: “…Using remote sensing, we measured two major periods of speedup on Helheim Glacier between 2000 and 2005 that increased peak speeds from approximately 8 to 11 km/yr…”
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2005/2005GL024737.shtml

    As found in the online The Encyclopedia of Earth (almost as authoritative as Wikipedia), their Helheim Glacier, Greenland entry, dated 2008 (“Lead Author: United Nations Environment Programme” !!) comes this:


    After years of melting back at a relatively stable speed, Helheim Glacier in southern Greenland has dramatically accelerated its retreat. According to a research paper published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters by Ian Howat, I. Joughin, S. Tulaczyk, and S. Gogineni, the glacier’s rate of flow has increased from 8 kilometer (km) per year (5 miles per year) in 2000 to 11 km per year (6.8 miles per year) in 2005. In addition to flowing more rapidly the glacier thinned by 40 meters (130 feet) between 2001 and 2003. The calving front of the glacier − the area where the ice breaks away and falls into the ocean − has retreated by approximately 5 km (3.1 miles).

    The overall Greenland Ice Sheet contains approximately 10 percent of the world’s freshwater and is up to 3.2 km (two miles) thick. If the entire Greenland Ice Sheet were to melt it would raise sea level by 5 to 6 meters (15 to 20 feet). Ian Howat and his coauthors also state that the processes which are accelerating the thinning and retreat of Helheim Glacier are occurring at other outlet glaciers along the coastal margins of Greenland.

    Wow, that Helheim Glacier sure made an impressive recovery in just five years! I’m assuming it’s five years as the above press release says “last decade”, when I follow the “new study” link all I get is an AGU login screen. Apparently the general public is not worthy of gazing at the abstract at this time.
    If this glacier has gone from Catastrophic! increased melting for five years, to a gain in mass over a decade during the subsequent five years, then how can we accept any claims concerning long-term trends of specific glaciers when trends can change so rapidly?
    BTW, in the EoE entry, what form of metric conversion makes “5 to 6 meters” transform to “15 to 20 feet”? They must be channeling Al Gore’s docudrama, where he assured us of both Greenland melting away and a 20 foot sea level rise by 2100 if we didn’t buy his carbon credits, er, severely cut greenhouse gas emissions. Professor Al, the noted peer-reviewed climatologist, said 20 feet, therefore 6 meters must equal 20 feet!

  39. “The real value of the research, however, is the confirmation that the new techniques Howat and his colleagues developed will provide scientists a more accurate idea of exactly how much ice is being lost.”
    What? It won’t work if ice is being found? I’d take 50% of their funding away just for that one comment.

  40. While we are on the subject of the Mass Balance of 3 Greenland glaciers, how about addressing the most important Mass Balance of all: the entire world’s inventory of ice? I believe this is never addressed, because the world MB is not decreasing. If it was decreasing, we would have heard about it by now.

  41. Coors brewery makes 16 million barrels of beer per year.
    A barrel is 140 litres.
    Lake Erie is 484 km3.
    How many years would it take to fill Lake Erie with Coors beer?
    1. 16 million x 140 = 2,240,000,000 litres
    2. Give beer a density of 1.00 (just to make things simpler).
    3. How many litres in 1.0 cubic metre? 1000.
    4. 2,240,000,000 litres / 1000 = 2,240,000 cubic metres.
    5. 484 cubic km is 484,000,000,000 cubic metres.
    6. Divide 4. into 5. and we get 216,071 years.
    Conclusion: We don’t drink near enough beer.

  42. Latimer Alder says:
    May 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

    The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years’ worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.”
    Somebody check my maths, but I make that just a chunk of ice 700m x 700m x 700m, which is big enough, but I doubt it would fill Lake Erie. And pifflingly small compared with the volume of ice on Greenland.
    Assume 1 tonne = 1000 Kg
    1 cm3 ice weighs 1 g

    1m^3 of water is a metric ton (tonne). 700m x 700m x 700m = 343 mega tonnes, not giga tonnes.
    7,000m x 7,000m x 7,000m = 343 giga tonnes, so it is 7km, not 700 m (misplaced decimal point).
    Ignoring the different densities of water and ice, of course, for clarity of calculations.

  43. Dr. Lonnie Thompson is passionate about the melting of the glaciers and has a helpful non-scientific explanation of the greenhouse effect…
    “The relatively mild temperatures of the past 10,000 years have been maintained by the greenhouse effect, a natural phenomenon. As orbital forcing brought the last ice age to an end, the oceans warmed, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, where it trapped infrared energy reflected from the earth’s surface. This warmed the planet. The greenhouse effect is a natural, self-regulating process that is absolutely essential to sustain life on the planet. However, it is not immutable. Change the level of greenhouse
    gases in the atmosphere, and the planet heats up or cools down.”
    The orbital forcing ends the ice age and warms the oceans which release CO2. The CO2 then traps infrared energy from the earth’s surface and warms the planet.
    Why don’t the warming oceans warm the planet?

  44. @Will Nelson says:
    May 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm
    “@ Gary Swift:
    Notwithstanding Lake Erie being the SI unit of measure, the referenced Greenland ice loss if melted could have filled (116 mi^3/2900 mi ^3) 4%!! of Lake Superior.”

    Yeah, I don’t understand these new-fangled “Lake Erie” (LE) SI units.
    I’m used to good ol’ fashioned Uh-mercan Units (UUs) like:
    “Feet Manhatten Is Under Water” (FMIUW) or
    “Olympic Swimming Pools” (OSP) or
    “Football Stadiums” (FS) or
    “Pickup Truck Beds” (PTB).
    You know… the common, everyday units used by the man on the street.
    ;o)

  45. Anthony said:
    “I invite readers to come up with other examples of “filling” based on regular melt as usual in other places”
    How about:
    The Detroit River has enough flow to fill Lake Erie?
    or
    The Mississippi in flood can fill a large sports stadium in just a few seconds
    I’ve always been partial to the universal unit of volume, the ‘Olympic Sized Swimming Pool’

  46. Latimer Alder says:
    May 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I believe your ice density is high by about 10%; those are the figures for water. And, BION, ice floats in water! 😉

  47. Probably incorrect snow fall estimates produce the inconsistent mass balance results, if their estimates of berg volumes are correct.
    Another experiment with ‘iffy’ estimates.

  48. 15,000 years ago, what is now Cleveland, Ohio on the south shore of the depression that what would become Lake Erie was covered by a one mile thick (ONE MILE) layer of snow and ice — a glacier. And when it melted it filled Lake Erie. And Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

  49. The situation is blindingly obvious: Who sponsored the project? NASA. How did they do it? NASA airplanes and satellites. On the road in the search for relevance (funding) they provide new tools (toys) to researchers also on the same road with predictable results, proving the need for many more years of funding. As usual they find one cherry-picked example, which if you squint real real hard, might just look like an important result. Everyone, including the researchers, know that when the long-term big-picture results are available, they will find many devils in the details and prove nothing more or less than that they knew a lot less about the behavior of these glaciers than they thought they knew. The unknown unknowns as it were.
    OTOH, nothing wrong with quality scientific research. Selling it like used cars is a little tawdry though.

  50. There was a Letter in Nature October 2009(if my memory is correct), where it was stated that an ice core study of the previous interglacial ie the Eemian, suggested that Antarctic temperatures then might have been as much as 6°C higher than now and not the 3°C warmer that is currently assumed to be the case.
    Whichever is true, the ice did not melt, so we need not worry too much about our current 0.73° warming.

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