Untested claim: increased CO2 helps glacier ice to crack

From the Institute of Physics , something so overreaching I just can’t believe the Institute of Physics would put out a press release on it.  Where does one start with stuff like this? This is all modeling, they haven’t even tested any actual sea ice to see if it follows the theory. Their premise would be easy to test with some glacier water, a freezer, a controlled gaseous CO2 source, and a tensile/ductile strength mechanical force tester for brittleness. But that sort of basic testing wasn’t done. Yet, they equate their modeled posited effect to be the cause of the Pine Island Glacier breakoff, as if somehow events like that never happened before CO2 was at 392PPM.  Note the abstract and link to the paper below. – Anthony

Crack in Pine Island Glacier in 2011, supposedly abetted by increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Image acquired November 13, 2011 by NASA’s Terra satellite. At that time, the crack was 19 miles (30 kilometers) long.

Glaciers cracking in the presence of carbon dioxide

The well-documented presence of excessive levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere is causing global temperatures to rise and glaciers and ice caps to melt.

New research, published today, 11 October, in IOP Publishing’s Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, has shown that CO2 molecules may be having a more direct impact on the ice that covers our planet. 

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology have shown that the material strength and fracture toughness of ice are decreased significantly under increasing concentrations of CO2 molecules, making ice caps and glaciers more vulnerable to cracking and splitting into pieces, as was seen recently when a huge crack in the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica spawned a glacier the size of Berlin.

Ice caps and glaciers cover seven per cent of the Earth—more than Europe and North America combined—and are responsible for reflecting 80 per cent of the Sun’s light rays that enter our atmosphere and maintain the Earth’s temperature. They are also a natural carbon sink, capturing a large amount of CO2.

“If ice caps and glaciers were to continue to crack and break into pieces, their surface area that is exposed to air would be significantly increased, which could lead to accelerated melting and much reduced coverage area on the Earth. The consequences of these changes remain to be explored by the experts, but they might contribute to changes of the global climate,” said lead author of the study Professor Markus Buehler.

Buehler, along with his student and co-author of the paper, Zhao Qin, used a series of atomistic-level computer simulations to analyse the dynamics of molecules to investigate the role of CO2 molecules in ice fracturing, and found that CO2 exposure causes ice to break more easily.

Notably, the decreased ice strength is not merely caused by material defects induced by CO2 bubbles, but rather by the fact that the strength of hydrogen bonds—the chemical bonds between water molecules in an ice crystal—is decreased under increasing concentrations of CO2. This is because the added CO2 competes with the water molecules connected in the ice crystal.

It was shown that CO2 molecules first adhere to the crack boundary of ice by forming a bond with the hydrogen atoms and then migrate through the ice in a flipping motion along the crack boundary towards the crack tip.

The CO2 molecules accumulate at the crack tip and constantly attack the water molecules by trying to bond to them. This leaves broken bonds behind and increases the brittleness of the ice on a macroscopic scale.

###

Carbon dioxide enhances fragility of ice crystals

Zhao Qin and Markus J Buehler 2012 J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 45 445302 doi:10.1088/0022-3727/45/44/445302

Abstract:

Ice caps and glaciers cover 7% of the Earth, greater than the land area of Europe and North America combined, and play an important role in global climate. The small-scale failure mechanisms of ice fracture, however, remain largely elusive. In particular, little understanding exists about how the presence and concentration of carbon dioxide molecules, a significant component in the atmosphere, affects the propensity of ice to fracture. Here we use atomic simulations with the first-principles based ReaxFF force field capable of describing the details of chemical reactions at the tip of a crack, applied to investigate the effects of the presence of carbon dioxide molecules on ice fracture. Our result shows that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide molecules significantly decrease the fracture toughness of the ice crystal, making it more fragile. Using enhanced molecular sampling with metadynamics we reconstruct the free energy landscape in varied chemical microenvironments and find that carbon dioxide molecules affect the bonds between water molecules at the crack tip and decrease their strength by altering the dissociation energy of hydrogen bonds. In the context of glacier dynamics our findings may provide a novel viewpoint that could aid in understanding the breakdown and melting of glaciers, suggesting that the chemical composition of the atmosphere can be critical to mediate the large-scale motion of large volumes of ice.

Introduction

Ice caps and glaciers cover 7% of our planet, greater than the land area of Europe and North America combined [1]. They reflect 80–90% of the solar radiation and trap a large

amount of carbon dioxide. Specifically, the Arctic accounts for 10–15% of the earth’s carbon sink [2]. The glaciers’ dynamical behaviour and stability play important roles in controlling the global climate [3, 4]. Thereby, the facture mechanism of ice is of paramount importance for the understanding of glacial dynamics [5], and at a fundamental level is controlled by how a single crack propagates in ice crystals via the

breaking of chemical bonds [6]. Such growth of cracks eventually mediates the breakdown of ice, as exemplified in recent incidents of large-scale fracture of glaciers [7, 8]. Very

large-scale ice fractures occurred recently close to the Pine Island Glacier in the Antarctic region, which generated an iceberg with an area of around 880 square kilometres, the size

of the city of Berlin [9].

While the macroscopic mechanical properties of pure ice are well understood by laboratory tests and its behaviour has been characterized by existing fracture

mechanics models [10], the effect of environmental conditions such as the concentration of carbon dioxide, have not been incorporated into existing models. Lack of such knowledge prevents us from understanding how changes in the chemical environment affect the stability and movement of glaciers, which is important given the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

[Suggestion: do some laboratory testing to get the same level of understanding]

Conclusion

Using atomic simulations with the ReaxFF reactive force field, we investigated the effect of carbon dioxide on the fracture behaviour of ice. We find that the material strength

and fracture toughness are decreased significantly under increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide molecules. This phenomenon is caused by the interaction between water and carbon dioxide molecules. Carbon dioxide molecules first adhere to the crack boundary by forming hydrogen bonds, and then migrate along the crack boundary towards the crack tip.

The dissociation energy of hydrogen bonds at the crack tip is decreased under the attack by carbon dioxide. This migrationattacking process repeats itself and renders the ice crystal more brittle by mediating crack propagation. Our theoretical model quantitatively accounts for the effect of carbon dioxide on the surface energy and fracture toughness of ice. It could be instrumental for further studies of ice fracture in various chemical environments and may be scaled up by incorporating it into models of glacier dynamics.

paper here (you may need to register for free account to read it)

http://iopscience.iop.org/0022-3727/45/44/445302/pdf/0022-3727_45_44_445302.pdf

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AndyG55

Gees, it would be so easy to test as well. glass of soda, glass of water. 2 ice cubes.

jmuren

What effective CO2 concentrations did they model?

Rattus Norvegicus

I think they call this hypothesis generation….
REPLY: That’s fine, if they’d limited it to talking about theory, and stated that the theory needs to be proven. But tossing in the Pine Island glacier, without having a shred of lab or field work to back it up is just arm waving over the top amplification – Anthony

R. Shearer

This could explain why ice core analysis for CO2 is biased low an underestimates historical CO2 levels.

Every time I read about this glacier I think about My father who was on board the USS Pine Island ship during WWII, from launch to Fall 45.

Ah hah! Now we have a neatly plausible explanation for why apparent past maximal atmospheric CO2 levels ‘frozen into’ the past interglacial intervals of deep ice cores seem to be somewhat lower than the atmospheric CO2 level of this particular interglacial.
All that Pleistocene interglacial micro-cracking and hydrogen bonding must have simply allowed the CO2 to migrate away from the sites of maximal deposition.
Elegant! Explains Dr. Zbigniew Jaworski’s concerns about the accuracy of ice cores perfectly.

JJ

The well-documented presence of excessive levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere is causing global temperatures to rise and glaciers and ice caps to melt.
Excessive levels?
Value laden, non-scientific language like that is indicative of bias. Has no place in scientific communication.

observa

Meanwhile in Mediterranean Adelaide in spring we’re apparently feeling the effects of all that CO2 that’s inexplicably moved to Northern Hemisphere, cracking its glaciers whilst making the Southern Hemisphere’s Antarctic ice grow-
http://www.news.com.au/national/snow-at-mt-lofty-more-wild-weather-coming/story-fndo4dzn-1226493307107
Perhaps the CO2 is is being sucked into all those NH glacier cracks but don’t be fooled by our ‘Mount Lofty’ as it would barely rate the description of a hill in America. It’s all relative when you inherit an extremely ancient, weathered landscape but summer is coming they tell me.

Gunga Din

“The dissociation energy of hydrogen bonds at the crack tip is decreased under the attack by carbon dioxide.”
The title of Al Gore’s next movie: “The Attack of the Killer Dioxide!!”
It’s first review, “It’s not what it’s cracked up to be.”

MattN

What the hell is wrong with scientist these days?

Hoser

This “work” is laughably stupid on the face of it. What is the diffusion rate of CO2 through ice? How could a patina of ice perhaps a few meters thick containing higher CO2 affect ice 1000 m thick? And how does a 25% increase in atmospheric CO2 conc. change the chemistry of ice significantly?
Their work merely serves to increase the body of evidence MIT is highly over-rated.

Gunga Din

Any chemist out there? This paper seems to deal more with chemistry than physics. I would think that once the hydrogen bonds between water molecules in an ice crystal it would take more than just the presence of carbon dioxide to break and reform them but this time with a sprinkling of carbon dioxide as part of the (now weakened) structure.

Anymoose

“….. are responsible for reflecting 80 per cent of the Sun’s light rays that enter our atmosphere………..”
Considering the shallow angle at which the sun’s rays strike the earth at the poles, and the fact that the poles spend months without any sun whatsoever, this statement is totally ridiculous. If this is the best that a bunch of high-powered physicists can come up with, we are in real trouble.

john robertson

Models and the science word”MAY”. Timing is everything, jumping on the CAWG bandwagon at this point might not be as clever a career move as they thought.

john robertson

Sorry meant the sciency word”MAY” auto correct by apple is placing hell with mocking this religion

observa

Come on and fess up now. Which lot of you selfish Northern Hemisphericals has nicked all our warmening CO2? It’s no use hiding in cracks or crevices because we’ll get to the bottom or top of it in the end.

MJB

Bueler……..Bueler…….

u.k.(us)

It has been about 40 years since the last time I “cracked” my head on the ice of a farm pond while skating, does this study suggest the ice would be softer and I wouldn’t get that metallic taste in my mouth afterwards ?
If ice is absorbant, how can ice cores determine the past atmosphere ?
(once again the press release goes way over the top).
If you push a tongue of ice far enough into the sea, it will crack, glue or no glue.

Glaciers cracking in the presence of carbon dioxide…..couldn’t this title also be written as in the presence of [place name of atmospheric gas here] ? And what about gravity? Surely gravity is a factor in glacial cracking?? sarc

David Ball

Looks like a crack right in the place where a rough sea would create one.

rogerknights

This will weaken / defer the next ice age.

bw

The null hypothesis states that there is no difference between the control and the test. The claim of increased cracking due to CO2 is false until the data shows a quantified increase greater than some previously stated level of error.

John West

“They reflect 80–90% of the solar radiation”
Yea, right.

Lew Skannen

Is there any crime that HASN’T been committed by CO2??

MikeN

ABC show called scandal, where the CIA fakes some pictures to start a war. Pictures are exposed because global warming changed the growing season in 5 years.

Steve P

CO2 has become the magic talisman – if not pseudo-scientific crack – for grant seekers. With every passing day, new and ever more fantastical powers are discovered in this mighty trace gas – the molecule that roared, and broke the ice; the gas that passed into the realm of fantasy and myth, so powerful was its spell on those seeking legitimacy and funding in Earth’s years of green delusions.
CO2 has become scientific crack.

Terry

Re Gunga Din @ October 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm
At first glance the paper is not bad or stupid and appears to be well reserached. I will have a good read later.
The main point to note though is that they were looking at levels of CO2 at between 0.5 and 2% v/v. Which is way out of the range of today’s current level of 0.039%, even a doubling as predicted by iPCC. The point by Hoser is a good one, but what they actually looked at was the propagation of cracks by the ambient CO2 rather than CO2 mixing with the existing ice so your point is not applicable in this case.

Gunga Din

David Thomas Bronzich says:
October 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm
And what about gravity? Surely gravity is a factor in glacial cracking?? sarc
===================================================================
Perhaps CO2 increases gravity? After all, things are weightless in space where there’s no CO2.
More research funds are needed.
(Can I borrow your “sarc” tag?)

Glaciers calve because CO2 makes them brittle? If that’s so, why don’t the tops of glaciers turn to powder? This doesn’t seem consistent with any observations of ice (snow, etc). I’ve never heard of hydrogen bond disruption mentioned as a colligative property of materials dissolved in water. I scoff.

David Ball

http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/opinion/173303121.html
Check the comments section. Chris St. Clair from the weather channels smears Ball and Harris and gets schooled. Bazinga!

Bob Shapiro

Maybe MIT should give Markus Buehler a day off.

donald penman

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_von_D%C3%A4niken
I wonder how he would have fared today with his ideas if he got his papers peer reviewed.Would we all have to accept his ideas? Is the paper we are examining anything more then conjecture?

michael hart

Gunga Din says:
October 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm
Any chemist out there? This paper seems to deal more with chemistry than physics.

Yes, Gunga Din. In the comment before your question, I think Hoser was too generous towards the article. I concur with Anthony: “I just can’t believe the Institute of Physics would put out a press release on it. Where does one start with stuff like this?”
I would guess that the authors are undergraduates and also may not use English as a first language.

wlf15y

I would think that either A. The Pine Island Glacier cracked because it reached the point of fracture due to it’s length, or B. Tsunami’s cause ice shelves to crack as well.
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/tsunami-bergs.html

You’d better enjoy CMEs while you still can, because according to Livingston/Penn’s research, the Sun will enter a Grand Solar Minimum around 2022, which will greatly reduce the incidence of prominences and CMEs for decades.
The last time this happened was during the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) and sunspots/CMEs virtually disappeared for 70 years….
In addition to this, according to the Svensmark Effect, the reduced solar winds caused by this Grand Solar Minimum will greatly increase the amount of Galactic Cosmic Rays hitting the troposphere, which will increase cloud cover, increase Earth’s albedo and cause lower global temperatures….
Dr. Svensmark is about to have his theory tested on a galactic scale, instead of in a small cloud chamber at CERN’s laboratory… Part of me wants Dr. Svensmark’s theory to be validated, while another part of me worries about the devastating consequences on food production on a cooling Earth.
Some horrific winters and famines took place during the Maunder Minimum and I don’t want to see these phenomena play out again…
On the “plus side” (my quotes) if Svensmark’s Theory is verified, CAGW theory will FINALLY be thrown in the trash of history, where it belongs.

anticlimactic

With all the billions being spent in support of CAGW it is embarrassing that so little evidence is found. Propaganda is the only substitute available, and the bozos who fund it can’t tell the difference between science and propaganda.
They have to keep the money rolling in for as long as possible as on the evidence of the scientific skills shown they are unlikely to find employment elsewhere.

Shooter

“Theoretical model”? Well, that sounds sciency! These junk studies remind me of all the ghost hunting hoopla: it sounds sciency, but it really isn’t.

wayne

“hydrogen bonds at the crack tip”
Maybe instead they meant the tipping point of the crack. Now co2 tipping points have already been multi-multi-model tested so the ipcc climists proclaim, so does that prove it true yet? Huh? Huh? Can it squeeze into the ar5 yet? Huh? lol.
I wouldn’t put it past them.

The consequences of these changes remain to be explored by the experts, but they might contribute to changes of the global climate,”
BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I’m not a scientist. I don’t even have a degree. But I know that if I had THAT statement on any science paper during my years in HIGH SCHOOL, I’d get a failing grade.
And, as a non-credentialed man….what exactly is the energy being used to break those hydrogen bonds in favor of CO2……And wouldn’t the hydrogen be bonding with the Oxygen in the CO2? And isn’t that also a hydrogen bond…and where does the carbon fit in during all this new “bonding?” Do we now have CH2O2? CH2O? What molecule is being formed?
” the effect of environmental conditions such as the concentration of carbon dioxide, have not been incorporated into existing models. Lack of such knowledge prevents us from understanding how changes in the chemical environment affect the stability and movement of glaciers, which is important given the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
And yet they dare to make CONCLUSIONS from models that simulate….something.
How exactly do they get CO2 to adhere ONLY to the crack boundary? What is the definition of a crack boundary? The surface area of the crack? And then the CO2 migrates along the ice to the tip……
In all my years of lurking here…THIS has to be the most idiotic paper that I’ve seen.
Of course, being just a regular guy…I’m probably wrong..and we’re all going to drown when the ice cracks, melts, and the oceans rise and.. ah forget it.

Gunga Din says:
October 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm
David Thomas Bronzich says:
October 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm
And what about gravity? Surely gravity is a factor in glacial cracking?? sarc
===================================================================
Perhaps CO2 increases gravity? After all, things are weightless in space where there’s no CO2.
More research funds are needed.
(Can I borrow your “sarc” tag?)
Please, feel free.

English as a second language … as a hobby, look for the abundance of germanic names among authors of CO2 climate papers. I don’t know what they have been putting in their drinking water this last few decades. To be fair, a German sounding name does not prove German birth, education, propaganda etc, but there’s a heap of such names in the IPCC literature & similar. And, as in this case, a rapid increase in oriental names is in progress. When was the last time you saw a paper authored by a plain Jones?

Brian H

0.5 to 2% concentrations = 5,000 to 20,000 ppm.

Steve R

If this were true, does it conflict with the supposedly settled science concerning air inclusions in ancient ice being indicative of the ancient atmosphere?

pat

That is what happens when a bottle of gin, soda and ice are all that is left after the CAGW party has moved on.
This is scientific equivalent of Big Bird!
panic!

Mark and two Cats

Rattus Norvegicus said:
October 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm
I think they call this hypothesis generation….
———————————————
Or maybe hype-othesis

Jimmy Haigh

More climate bollocks from “climate scientists”. it keeps them off the streets I suppose…

Jimmy Haigh

Geoff Sherrington says:
October 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm
Careful Geoff! Someone might accuse you of playing the Godwin card.

Kev-in-Uk

A simple comment – but one I’m sure many of us actually thought (or in my case said out loud!)
”OH!, FFS!”

Merovign

Rattus Norvegicus says:
October 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm
I think they call this hypothesis generation….

Yeah, I’ve heard some other terms for it.

P. Solar

Brian H says:
October 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm
0.5 to 2% concentrations = 5,000 to 20,000 ppm.
Odd that they did not include that in the abstract just after :
“In the context of glacier dynamics our findings may provide a novel viewpoint that could aid in understanding the breakdown and melting of glaciers”