Dust deposition linked to glacier melt

From the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science and the Department of “The Albedo made me do it” comes further proof of what we have been saying before on WUWT about albedo effects of soot and dust. Meteorologist Mike Smith made an excellent backyard experiment a couple of years ago to illustrate this, and updated it here.

New study links dust to increased glacier melting, ocean productivity
Researchers analyze dust concentrations and their effects off southern Iceland

A new University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study in the journal Science shows a link between large dust storms on Iceland and glacial melting. The dust is both accelerating glacial melting and contributing important nutrients to the surrounding North Atlantic Ocean. This is the aerosol sampling station, Heimaey, Westerman Islands, Iceland. Credit: UM/RSMAS

MIAMI — A University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study shows a link between large dust storms on Iceland and glacial melting.

The dust is both accelerating glacial melting and contributing important nutrients to the surrounding North Atlantic Ocean. The results provide new insights on the role of dust in climate change and high-latitude ocean ecosystems.

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Joseph M. Prospero and colleagues Joanna E. Bullard and Richard Hodgkins (Loughborough University, U.K.) analyzed six years of dust concentrations collected at the Stórhöfi research station on the island of Heimaey, which is located 17 km (10.5 mi) off the south coast of Iceland. The results show large increases in dust concentration, which can be traced to dust sources adjacent to major glaciers on Iceland.

As the glaciers melt, rivers of black, volcanic-rich sediments flow into the surrounding land and nearby ocean. Intense windstorms, common in the high-latitudes, eventually sweep up the dried sediments. The resulting dust storms are clearly visible in satellite images that show huge dust plumes extending hundreds of kilometers south over the Atlantic Ocean. Iceland glaciers are melting at a high rate due to global warming and to sub-glacial volcanic activity.

“The dust in Iceland dust storms can also have an impact on the glaciers themselves,” said Prospero, UM Rosenstiel professor emeritus and lead author on the study. “The black dust deposited on the glacier surface absorbs solar radiation thereby increasing the rates of glacial melting.”

VIDEO:A University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study in the journal Science shows a link between large dust storms on Iceland and glacial melting….Click here for more information.

Iceland dust can also affect ocean processes over the North Atlantic. The researchers suggest that the iron-rich dust provides a late summer/early fall nutrient boost to the typically iron-depleted North Atlantic Ocean waters. The iron increases the ocean’s primary productivity and stimulates the growth of marine biota. This, in turn, increases the draw down of CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean.

Currently there is much research on global atmospheric dust processes but most of this research focuses on tropical and arid regions in Africa and the Middle East, the most active dust sources. This study is one of the few to look at high-latitude areas, and is the first to review measurements over such a long time period (February 1997 to December 2002).

The study shows that the dust transport in cold, high-latitude regions, such as Iceland, are comparable to concentrations seen at low latitude regions near the equator, in particular, the well known Saharan dust transport across the mid Atlantic, from the west coast of Africa to the Caribbean and South Florida.

Due to increased air temperatures linked to global climate change, glaciers worldwide are rapidly retreating. The melting of glaciers, including those on Iceland, would also contribute to sea level rise.

“The dust processes taking place on Iceland are likely to be occurring in other high latitude glacierized regions,” said Prospero. “Similar glacier-related dust storms have been seen in Alaska and in Patagonia. On the basis of this research we might expect that cold climate dust activity will become more widespread and intense as the planet warms.”

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The study, titled “High-Latitude Dust Over the North Atlantic: Inputs from Icelandic Proglacial Dust Storms,” was published in the March 2 issue of the journal Science. Prospero’s co-authors include Joanna E. Bullard and Richard Hodgkins at Loughborough University’s Polar and Alpine Research Centre.

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School

The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu.

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29 thoughts on “Dust deposition linked to glacier melt

  1. “Iceland glaciers are melting at a high rate due to global warming and to sub-glacial volcanic activity.” And when we know the relative influence each of these has on glacier melt, we may finally be able to draw some worthwhile scientific conclusions. Pity that the “science is settled”.

  2. I have sat on a volcanic steam vent…and I have been covered with dust. The steam vent is warmer than the dust. Science is settled in my mind.

    Next issue…

  3. (…) The researchers suggest that the iron-rich dust provides a late summer/early fall nutrient boost to the typically iron-depleted North Atlantic Ocean waters. The iron increases the ocean’s primary productivity and stimulates the growth of marine biota. This, in turn, increases the draw down of CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean.

    This shall be seized upon as proof that dumping iron into the ocean is a potentially effective global warming mitigation strategy. Apparently the previous work (one, two) showing this ain’t the case was just a fluke.

    Well then, guess that means we can keep the Greens happy by dismantling all the fossil fuel burning power plants and throwing the scrap metal into the nearest coastal wetlands, where it can decay and the dissolved iron will be transported to the ocean. Anything for the Goddess Gaia, right?

  4. “Due to increased air temperatures linked to global climate change, glaciers worldwide are rapidly retreating. The melting of glaciers, including those on Iceland, would also contribute to sea level rise.”
    Selah.
    Gaian Psalms 78:10

  5. “because of global warming” is so prevalent in cyberspace that typing “because of g” into google autocompletes to 499, 000, 000 hits.

    Brother. It is truly a pity that the science is settled, because now we know that everything is because of global warming. Plate Tectonics is now relegated to the ‘dustbin’ of scientific has-beens. /sarc

  6. Am I right in thinking that the Icelandic volcanic eruptions, of which there have been at least two significant ones in the last few years, would have produced a large quantity of dust?
    After all the atmospheric dust (aerosols) that lingered for more than two years after Krakatoa was sufficient to alter the sunsets over London, half the globe away, as is tesified by a series of paintings by William Ashcroft held by the Royal Society and commentewd on in their report.

  7. What’s missing from this release? “Anthropogenic”, “fossil fuel”, and “evil coal” just to name a few. While I’m sure CAGW advocates would count this as supporting their claim, the release at least doesn’t expressly support AGW or CAGW. I see this as a good sign that an opportunity to say “caused by burning fossil fuels” was passed over. Perhaps some researchers or science reporters are feeling the need to distance themselves from the meme for fear of looking stupid in 2015 when it becomes painfully obvious that mountain ranges were made of mole hills.

  8. Dare one ask what is exactly so precious about Iceland’s glaciers, they’ve not been there for ever..
    quote-
    At the time of human settlement about 1140 years ago, birch forest and woodland covered 25-40% of Iceland’s land area. The relatively tall (to 15 m) birch forests of sheltered valleys graded to birch and willow scrub toward the coast, on exposed sites and wetland areas and to willow tundra at high elevations.
    unquote
    From here—http://www.skogur.is/english/forestry-in-a-treeless-land/

    • @ Pete

      You clearly don’t get it…nobody can take away your rights, freedoms, and money…the way you look at things…

    • @MAVukcevic

      Forgive my vanity, but its kinda cool when an ‘actual’ scientist mathematically confirms something I intuitively knew. I had posted this on the NASA thread.

      “Andrew says:
      March 1, 2012 at 10:25 am

      …also, anybody ever charted volcanic eruptions and ice thickness to see if there is any correlation…and perhaps even some causation? Since 1980 the have been some big ones in the tropics, but nothing like Krakatoa. St Helens is getting closer, but Iceland and Alaska are belching pretty regularly and they divert airplanes to avoid the ash…I am just wondering”

      Heck, I threw ash on the snow last month to make it melt faster…not that I am ‘Brilliant’ or any thing. I was stupid enough to have forgotten about the nails that were in the wood. So any time saved was negated…

  9. “The dust in Iceland dust storms can also have an impact on the glaciers themselves,” said Prospero, UM Rosenstiel professor emeritus and lead author on the study. “The black dust deposited on the glacier surface absorbs solar radiation thereby increasing the rates of glacial melting.”

    Ditto Arctic sea ice.

    This looks like a contributing factor to the disproportionately faster melting of older multi-year sea ice, I described in earlier threads.

  10. I maintain the glacier melt is to a significant degree (and perhaps mostly) an increased solar insolation effect and not an atmospheric warming effect.

    Pretty easy to test this theory by comparing glaciers in south facing valleys with glaciers in north facing valleys.

  11. glaciers melt, dust blows, plankton blooms, CO2 drops

    Can we spell ‘Negative Feedback’?

  12. Andrew says:
    March 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm
    ……
    The Icelandic volcanic ash seldom lands in Greenland or large part of Arctic, it is carried by polar jet stream (and westerlies) to the Northern Europe and Siberia.
    Kamchatka’s, Aleutian and Alaskan volcanoes (even St. Helen) are more likely candidates.

  13. Philip Bradley

    Indeed. You can see that on a map or in reality in the Rockies. Another factor is the slope, which can effect winter snow accumulations. The core of the famous Columbia icefield in the Canadian Rockies is effectively in a big bowl, with the visible (from the road) glaciers spilling out from that.

    As for the dust factor, since we sprinkle fine gravel on icy walks around our house to increase traction, and it also serves the melt the ice faster, this seems to me to just be confirmation of the obvious. But I suppose common sense needs to be peer reviewed and published for this game.

  14. The Icelandic volcanic ash seldom lands in Greenland or large part of Arctic

    The dust they refer to isn’t volcanic ash, its fine glacial till – rocks ground up by glacial action.

  15. My first trip up Mt Rainier was in August of 1980. Lots of dust and ash. It was pretty obvious the melting abilities of Mt. St Helens ash.

  16. nc says:
    March 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm
    Do we have catastrophic anthropogenic dust?

    That’s so seventies! Coal dust would block out the Sun and bring on the ice age.

    From a collection on: The Global Cooling Scare Revisited (‘Ice Age’ Holdren had plenty of company)
    by Robert Bradley Jr.
    September 26, 2009

    “Certainly the threat of another ice age was the topic of much scientific and popular discussion in the 1970s. Books and articles entitled ‘The Cooling,’ ‘Blizzard,’ ‘Ice,’ and ‘A Mini Ice Age Could Begin in a Decade,’ abounded. The ‘snow blitz’ theory was popularized on the public television presentation of ‘The Weather Machine’ in 1975. And certainly the winters of the late 1970s were enough to send shivers through our imaginations.”

    – Harold Bernard, Jr., The Greenhouse Effect (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing, 1980), p. 20.

    “The continued rapid cooling of the earth since World War II is also in accord with the increased global air pollution associated with industrialization, mechanization, urbanization, and an exploding population, added to a renewal of volcanic activity.”

    – Reid Bryson, “‘All Other Factors Being Constant . . .’ A Reconciliation of Several Theories of Climate Change,” in John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology: Readings Towards a Rational Strategy for Man (New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1971), p. 84.

    http://www.masterresource.org/2009/09/the-global-cooling-scare-revisited/

  17. The irony of some of the same people wanting to coat the polar ice with soot to “prevent the next ice age” back in the early 1970s will be lost on most folks.

  18. “kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    March 2, 2012 at 11:44 am

    This shall be seized upon as proof that dumping iron into the ocean is a potentially effective global warming mitigation strategy. Apparently the previous work (one, two) showing this ain’t the case was just a fluke.

    Well then, guess that means we can keep the Greens happy by dismantling all the fossil fuel burning power plants and throwing the scrap metal into the nearest coastal wetlands, where it can decay and the dissolved iron will be transported to the ocean. Anything for the Goddess Gaia, right?”

    Yeah.

    Well if that’s the case.

    Think how worse off the CO2 outgassing from the oceans would be now if it wasn’t for all those ships sunk during WWII then? Maybe some bozo can get a climate change grant for studying the subject.

    NZ Govt gave a science award to NIWA Climate scientists.

    NIWA climate change scientists honoured in Prime Minister’s top science prizes

    Team leader, and NIWA Oceanographer, Dr Philip Boyd says having ocean scientists win the Prime Minister’s Science Prize is a particular milestone.

    The prize-winning team carried out two ambitious experiments in the Southern Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska where they added an iron solution to large tracts of the sea, in the same way fertiliser is added to garden plants, to determine if more iron would alter concentrations of atmospheric CO2.

    http://www.niwa.co.nz/news/niwa-climate-change-scientists-honoured-in-prime-minister%E2%80%99s-top-science-prizes

  19. I agree with Andrew. We have thrown wood ash on icy paths as far back as my family can remember, (80 years or so). Nobody needed a Phd to tell them that it melts the ice when the sun comes out and washes harmlessly into the soil when it rains.. How much public grant money did they spend?

    (Add commas and extra parenthesis to taste)

  20. The street department of any northern city understands this. How do you melt ice? Put sand on it.

    Here in Spokane, the street dept formerly used black basalt sand (ie volcanic ash) which was highly effective. Needless to say, the mass-murdering occupation army EPA stopped the practice because it saved lives.

  21. Mike Bromley the Canucklehead, you are exaggerating, when I entered: ‘because of global warming’ into Google I only got 484,000,000 hits!

    As for glaciers, it has to be global warming which causes at least 100% of their retreat; trying to introduce such factors as dust and reduced precipitation can only cause confusion in the CAGW faithful’s feeble minds. Plus, please don’t mention that most glaciers have been retreating for over 150 years as this only confuses the faithful, who have been taught this has only happened since the arrival of the evil carbon dioxide gas a few years ago.

    Try and remember “the science is settled”, it makes life easier for everyone if we all believe the same thing. This philosophy of requiring us all to believe the same thing is so obviously correct, how could Kim Jong Il, the Mad Mullahs of Iran, Hugo Chavez, Al Gore, the IPCC, Joseph Stalin etc,, etc., all be wrong, it is just not possible.

    And I absolutely forbid you to mention natural climate cycles which cause glaciers to both advance and retreat, that is far too much information for almost anyone to absorb.

    Finally, the words ‘soot’ and ‘melting glaciers’ may never be mentioned in the same sentence, especially when referring to Himalayan glaciers – do you understand?

  22. Due to increased air temperatures linked to global climate change, glaciers worldwide are rapidly retreating.

    Except for the really big ones in the high Himalayas which are thickening. Etc.

  23. So global warming -> increased runoff -> boosting primary productivity in the oceans -> increased growth of marine biota.

    How is that a bad thing? More fish, more oceanic biodiversity, more life, more food, less hunger, more happiness, etc. etc.

    Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth!

    WARMER IS BETTER. FIGHT THE ICE.

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