An attempt to link climate change to moulins in Greenland

From the UNIVERSITY OF EXETER and the “don’t ignore the black soot left at the bottom after the drainage” department.

Greenland_UW_melt_pix

Greenland’s ice sheet plumbing system revealed

Pioneering new research sheds light on the impact of climate change on subglacial lakes found under the Greenland ice sheet  

A team of experts, led by Dr Steven Palmer from the University of Exeter, has studied the water flow paths from one such subglacial lake, which drained beneath the ice sheet in 2011.

The study shows, for the first time, how water drained from the lake – via a subglacial tunnel. Significantly, the authors present satellite observations that show that a similar event happened in 1995, suggesting that this lake fills and drains periodically.

The study, called Subglacial lake drainage detected beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Lead author Dr Steven Palmer, from Geography at the University of Exeter, said:

“Our research reveals details about the plumbing system beneath the Greenland ice sheet, which is important because the configuration of that system has an impact on the flow speed of the overlying ice.”

Although the ice sheet response to draining subglacial lakes has previously been observed in Antarctica, this is the first time that a similar phenomenon has been observed in Greenland.

However, unlike Antarctic subglacial lakes, which are sustained through melting of the ice sheet base, the study shows that this subglacial lake has been fed by surface meltwater flowing down a nearby moulin – a circular, vertical shaft found within a glacier.

The scientists predict that as the Arctic continues to warm, increasing volumes of surface meltwater routed to the ice sheet bed will cause subglacial lake drainage to become more common in the future. Because the way in which water moves beneath ice sheets strongly affects ice flow speeds, this increased drainage frequency could affect the sensitivity of the ice sheet to climate change, impacting the rate of future sea level change.

Dr Palmer added:

“We have made the first observations of how the Greenland ice sheet responds to subglacial lake drainage, but more research is required to understand the long-term impacts of these events. It is possible that draining subglacial lakes act to release the pressure at the ice sheet base, meaning that if they drain more frequently in the future, they may actually result in slower ice sheet flow overall”.

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95 thoughts on “An attempt to link climate change to moulins in Greenland

  1. Modern scientific theory:
    1. Observe a natural phenomenon.
    2. Theorize how climate change:
    a. Caused the phenomenon.
    b. Makes it worse.
    c. Will be made worse by it.
    3. Collect grant money to save the world from your theory.

    • In some ways, I feel bad for the good, ethical scientists who are shut out of doing research because they refuse to make that fallacious leap. It’s a very sad and tragic period in scientific history. I have to wonder how many really good scientists are sidelined for lack of funding while headline crazy activists take up all the space.
      The entire human race is being held hostage by stupid headlines…

      • Maybe we should read more carefully before regurgitating the usaul criticisms.

        It is possible that draining subglacial lakes act to release the pressure at the ice sheet base, meaning that if they drain more frequently in the future, they may actually result in slower ice sheet flow overall”.

        My bold.
        For once the bottom line is NOT the usual : it’s worse than we thought.
        Give the man some credit.

      • “In some ways, I feel bad for the good, ethical scientists who are shut out of doing research because they refuse to make that fallacious leap. It’s a very sad and tragic period in scientific history. I have to wonder how many really good scientists are sidelined for lack of funding while headline crazy activists take up all the space.
        The entire human race is being held hostage by stupid headlines…
        There FIFY.

      • It is possible that draining subglacial lakes act to release the pressure at the ice sheet base, meaning that if they drain more frequently in the future, they may actually result in slower ice sheet flow overall”.

        Check.

        WUWT – January 26, 2011
        ‘Hidden plumbing’ helps slow Greenland ice flow
        Hotter summers may not be as catastrophic for the Greenland ice sheet as previously feared and may actually slow down the flow of glaciers, according to new research.
        A letter published in Nature on 27 January explains

        =====

        From the UNIVERSITY OF EXETER and the “don’t ignore the black soot left at the bottom after the drainage” department.

        Check

        WUWT – April 17, 2015
        Ridiculous claim by Marco Tedesco: ‘Darkening of the Greenland Ice Sheet is projected to continue as a consequence of continued climate warming’
        Via Eurekalert, maybe Tedesco just isn’t looking hard enough, or maybe he only looks at data, as these and other photos previously published on WUWT and Mother Jones demonstrate:
        https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/dark-snow.jpg
        https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/box-snow-1-6301.jpg

        Next!

      • I don’t know, but soot levels like that, could motivate me to fire up the vacuum cleaner….maybe.

      • There are good, ethical scientists? I thought they had all morphed into “climate scientists” and started to collect their grants from big government.

      • Mike
        I’m not sure that makes sense. They have always said that the water ‘lubricates’ the glacier causing it to slide more easily and therefore more quickly. He seems to be saying that small amounts of water between the ice and the underlying rock make the glacier slide more quickly than when there is more water between the ice and rock ???

    • I have a theory that as a result of climate change idiotic pronouncements by climate scientists will become more frequent in the future.
      Where’s my grant money?

    • DJW – Except, let us be fair, in this case Dr Palmer concludes that by acting to release the pressure by draining the sub-glacial lakes, more such drainings will actually serve to slow the ice flow in the future – thus making the climate change problem “better”

    • DJW, I believe you left out the pervasive, most important point number 4.
      4. Request more grant monies be awarded to you.
      “…more research is required to understand the long-term impacts of these events.”

      • Well just imagine how many people might have died if the region had actually warmed. It’s the thought that counts.
        It is possible that those 20,000 people died because of anticipated global warming. Wait until the real deal strikes.

      • Wallensworth. Simple. You adjust and homogenize the data and then you go in and kill 20,000 people. Some people may think this is what the late Dr. Schneider meant when he mentioned lying and embellishing for the cause.

      • “It is possible that those 20,000 people died because of anticipated global warming. Wait until the real deal strikes.”
        Asimov wrote a story once, about a chemical that would travel forward in time to meet the solvent that would ultimately dissolve it. Obviously, these people were doomed to die of global warming & just traveled forward in time. Their bodies then traveled back in time to now… wait, where are the bodies?
        Canberra once breathlessly announced that the latest road safety initiative (low, low speed limits in this case) would save 20 lives in a year. To which I say: “name them”. If you can’t then they don’t exist outside of your imagination.

      • pity the lying sods didnt mention the extreme cold n snow for at least 4? winter.spring n autumn seasons thats killed people and at least 200k of their food source
        ie alpacas n llamas dying by the thousands unable to get food through snow. the milk fibre n meat they depend on as well as any meagre crops they had.

  2. I stopped reading after ‘A team of experts,,,’. Maybe that is the whole problem: Too many experts and not enough ?

  3. Some of the volcanic eruptions ash from high latitudes Iceland, Aleutian chain, Kamchatka and Alaska carried by the jet stream will eventually and up in the Greenland highlands, reducing ice albedo and speeding summer time meltdown.

    • If soot levels are causing the ice changes, why wasn’t it there from the higher levels in the 1860’s.
      “C”ing Arctic Climate with Black Ice Richard B. Alley
      They obtained highly accurate, well-dated chemical histories—including black carbon concentrations—from 1788 to 2002, with a time resolution of less than a year. For the first 60 years of the record, black carbon concentrations remained relatively stable, but the period from 1850 to 1951 showed highly elevated soot concentrations, especially during winter, when peak values were 10 times higher than the baseline. Lower values (although still higher than before 1850) mark the last 50 years of the record. Comparison to selected sections of a second core, collected 350 km to the south, shows close agreement, demonstrating the regional coherence of the signal.
      http://www.clim-past.net/10/1905/2014/cp-10-1905-2014.pdf
      Why didn’t they also look at photosynthesising microalgae and cyanobacteria?
      Abstract
      Darkening of parts of the Greenland ice sheet surface during the summer months leads to reduced albedo and increased melting. Here we show that heavily pigmented, actively photosynthesising microalgae and cyanobacteria are present on the bare ice. We demonstrate the widespread abundance of green algae in the Zygnematophyceae on the ice sheet surface in Southwest Greenland. Photophysiological measurements (variable chlorophyll fluorescence) indicate that the ice algae likely use screening mechanisms to downregulate photosynthesis when exposed to high intensities of visible and ultraviolet radiation, rather than non-photochemical quenching or cell movement. Using imaging microspectrophotometry, we demonstrate that intact cells and filaments absorb light with characteristic spectral profiles across ultraviolet and visible wavelengths, whereas inorganic dust particles typical for these areas display little absorption. Our results indicate that the phototrophic community growing directly on the bare ice, through their photophysiology, most likely have an important role in changing albedo, and subsequently may impact melt rates on the ice sheet.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23018772
      By the way, soot levels in the ice cores are measured in pica grams per ml with values like 612 pgmL−1. Not a lot there.

  4. Hey, there’s a lot of IPCC delegates hoping to slam-dunk something at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, November.
    The oldest profession in Paris will probably also be pleased by the influx of the well-monied.

  5. The melt-water is going nowhere in the majority of the Greenland ice-sheet. It is going to refreeze in a short period of time because the temperature of the ice itself is -30C and lower.
    It gets progressively warmer from bedrock heating after it gets down to 1500 metres deep or so (and then it is actually melting at -2.4C at the very bottom 3000 metres deep due to the pressure) but melt water from the surface is not going to get down that far before freezing in the -30C ice temps.
    http://www.iceandclimate.nbi.ku.dk/images/images_research_sep_09/Temp.jpg?size=505×379
    Now as one gets closer and closer to the coasts, the temperature profile gets closer to a melting point. Once the ice is within 5 to 7 kms, it is close to 0.0C but anything outside of 40 of 50 kms away is -30C.
    http://hydrosciences.colorado.edu/symposium/abstract_images/thumbnails/temp_500x500.jpg

    • Bill: Good points. I think your logic and argument also applies to theories that the collapse of ice sheets at the coast in Antarctica means that the interior ice will quickly (relatively speaking) drain from the interior as if there are no grounding lines besides those that create the ice shelves.

    • Thanks Bill, I was wondering about this.
      I think many people have the idea ice is 32 degrees…always ready to melt if the temp peeks out from under 32 F.

  6. I highly doubt Dr. Palmer was the first one to recognize Greenland’s ice melting back. Farmers are very observant, even wayyyyy back when.

  7. It is possible that draining subglacial lakes act to release the pressure at the ice sheet base, meaning that if they drain more frequently in the future, they may actually result in slower ice sheet flow overall.

    So, if the ice doesn’t flow to the ocean as quickly, then the seas won’t rise as fast and we won’t all drown. That sounds like a good thing … yes/no? Am I missing anything?

    • Yes, my plant to buy ocean front property while it is still twenty miles inland just got toasted.
      Doh!

    • commieBob – no, you are missing nothing. I agree with you (see my reply above); Dr Palmer suggested that also.

  8. “We have observed this phenomena twice in the last 20 years, but we know that it is increasing.”

    • good catch. The event happened in 1995 and 2011. So we know it is increasing, because the last time it happened was only 4 years ago, while the time before was 20 years ago. Therefore the events are happening (20-4) = 16 years faster due to warming of the Arctic.

      • Hey, “scientists” can conclude that there are 60,000,000 feral cats in the US, and they eat 5,000,000,000 birds a year, by attaching cameras to a few kitties in Atlanta for a few weeks.
        That math you mention is a snap compared to that.

      • I am setting up a team of “scientist” to study some stuff related to CC, from your post I can see that you are one of the Top Climate Scientist In T…EVER!! Please join my team!! Lots of Mula not much to do. Menicholas is invited to!!

  9. “…but more research is required to understand the long-term impacts of these events…”

    Ah! The ‘money’ quotes. “More research”. “Long Term”.
    Normally, in ‘climate’ discussions, “long term” means centuries, millenniums, eons…
    Here though, they mean next year then the year after and the year after…
    What the researchers, cough, above mean though is ‘grants, long term’. Free money. Rich researchers. Exotic trips, fancy accommodations and post-doc research slaves. Climate team adulation.
    Damnation, I don’t think these fellows are stopping anywhere before jumping straight to Dante’s 9th circle, treachery.

  10. Flew over Greenland a few years ago, in Summer. time The blue of the lakes was the most intense I have ever seen. I remember thinking they were like holes punched in this world to see Heaven through. Nothing to do with climate change or science, just a bit of poetry and appreciation for nature from me.

  11. “A team of experts, led by Dr Steven Palmer from the University of Exeter, has studied the water flow paths from one such subglacial lake, which drained beneath the ice sheet in 2011.”
    Greenland is ~2,600km (~1,600 miles) long and ~1,000km (~660 miles) wide. Extrapolating the results from one one lake is a bit of a stretch.

  12. Modern scientific theory (the stoner version):
    When you let yourself get all messed up about some kinda shit,
    then you tend to give that shit waaaay too much time and attention,
    and you tend to notice all sorts of weird shit, about the shit.
    New shit, which had formerly not been weighing on your mind.
    Then you end up getting all heavy about all the weird new shit that is seemingly going down.
    And you are like, woah, this is all way too much, man, we gotta do something about this, I’m getting seiously freaked.
    So, next thing, you are trying to freak out the whole planetary system, and shit, by writing a doom-mongering scientific paper.
    But, hell, the money is freaking amazing. So no hassles there.
    But, yeah, that’s why you have to be careful about getting caught out by your own fears.
    Because you are the biggest sucker around. (Apologies Feynman)
    And because, shit does go down. (Apologies, Rumsfeld)
    Wait a minute…why am I apologizing to Rumsfeld?
    Screw you, Rumsfeld.

  13. We need a study on how feral cats affect the climate by eating 5 billion birds thereby reducing the cooling effect of flapping bird wings. A grant of a couple of million dollars should do it. My bank details at the end of this message. Direct transfer please.

    • The flapping of bird’s wings has always been entered into the models as a net warming effect.
      Much as butterflies are the primary driver of hurricane activity.
      It’s all down to simple physics, really.

  14. Obviously, I wrote “seriously” not “seiously” (whatever that would mean). And only now, I notice that the letter “r” has been excerpted. I expect that this one letter was removed by the CIA/Lewandowsky global conspiracy, in order to make my post seem garbled and illiterate. Stop excerpting my letters, you crazy bastards. I’m trying to register a complaint about the global system of oppression.

  15. For his suggestion that warming could result in a slowing of ice sheet flow, I’m guessing Dr. Palmer will need to undergo 6 months of climate re-education.

  16. “Although the ice sheet response to draining subglacial lakes has previously been observed in Antarctica, this is the first time that a similar phenomenon has been observed in Greenland.”
    Presumably this is part of the “Pioneering research”. Gag!!! I make an exemption for Dr. Ball, but I find it worrisome that Geographers stray so far away from their technical expertise. Like the bulk of climate scientists, who do something similar in not consulting a professional statistician, I trust there wasn’t an engineer, hydrologist, or other person knowledgeable in the physics of glaciers to keep the research real. As a geologist (and engineer), I would have put a trace element in the water and see if it can be detected at the outlet. I would have sampled the water to see if there was in soot in it. Also, Bill Illis’s comment that the “plumbing” in the main, thicker part of the glacial sheet isn’t possible because the water must traverse ice at 30C. I does run where the ice is thinner. See the excellent comment by Bill:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/10/09/an-attempt-to-link-climate-change-to-moulins-in-greenland/#comment-2045632

  17. They don’t know. But it is scary because it might do something or it might not do anything. Quick more money before Paris.

  18. Pioneering new research sheds light on the impact of climate change on subglacial lakes found under the Greenland ice sheet
    A team of experts, led by Dr Steven Palmer from the University of Exeter, has studied the water flow paths from one such subglacial lake, which drained beneath the ice sheet in 2011.
    ====================
    What they are experts at is not declared.
    Experts at ‘pioneering new research?’ How does that work?
    “The study shows, for the first time, how water drained from the lake”
    So they are experts at something newly discovered?
    U of Ex is applying a cloak of authority on THEIR team. It reeks of cheesy PR.

  19. Can’t help but note ‘…as the Arctic continues to warm…’ is in there. Is this real warming or just imaginary created by surface temperature series?

    • I have written a new article on how Ice Ages are initiated and regulated by Milankovitch cycles, dust and albedo. With not a trace of CO2 feedbacks in sight. If this is correct then the role of CO2 in both Ice Age climate and modern climate, has been grossly exaggerated.
      If anyone would like to read it, please send an email to: ralf dot ellis at me dot com
      Ralph

  20. I have written a new article on how Ice Ages are initiated and regulated by Milankovitch cycles, dust and albedo. With not a trace of CO2 feedbacks in sight. If this is correct then the role of CO2 in both Ice Age climate and modern climate, has been grossly exaggerated.
    If anyone would like to read it, please send an email to: ralf dot ellis at me dot com
    Ralph

  21. Just a personal observation from Ottawa. For years I have noticed that during our intense winters, thaw and freeze and thaw and freeze again, that the last parts of my lane way to complete melt were those covered in black goop that has been deposited from our car after it has been driving on our roads. This has constantly occurred for the last 25 years in which we have lived in this house.
    Yes. I know that the road goop has lots of salt that we use to thaw our winter roads, so I have never understood this phenomenon. Maybe it is acting as a blanket against the sun. The areas affected are receiving the same amount of sun as those that are not.

  22. Maybe a point Denise, let’s get a pac together and some funding to investigate. It could be a sunblock, preventing the individual ice crystals from reflect mirroring onto each other.

  23. I don’t see a link to this paper. What is with people who post here and don’t let us have a link so we can check out what the paper itself says?
    I want to know what PART of “the” ice sheet they re talking about. Why is the location important? Because there is not ONE Greenland ice sheet. The great majority of Greenland is the interior, in a basin, and is almost entirely held inside by ring of mountains around the periphery of Greenland, a few score miles inland. They hold the interior ice sheet in, and at the same time their outboard slopes are where the glaciers are. Ice sheets and glaciers are not one and the same thing, even though they are both made up of the same ice. Ice on slopes is glaciers, and ice on the flat or contained within basins are ice sheets. Their dynamics are completely different. Those on slopes MOVE downhill, and those on the flat or contained in basins basically just sit there (though some motion occurs). The interior ice sheets of Greenland only have a very few outlets to the sea. The vast, VAST majority of ice in the interior has no chance to either melt (too cold) or move (too flat or held in a basin). It is IMPORTANT to distinguish between glaciers and ice sheets, especially ice sheets contained within basins.
    The Mouilns are basically in the interior ice sheet. Such things should not be forming in flowing glaciers. In glaciers there is too much shearing at various levels – meaning that the internal structure is churning and changing all the time. Also, ice at different depths within glaciers does not flow equally. The basal ice- even with water there – will flow slower than ice farther up (vertically up), due to friction with the basal ground surface and its irregularities, which always contains a lot of projections and ridges, large and small. Ice shears internally because it is crystalline and has fault planes, which are weak internal planes (more or less horizontal to the ground surface below) that have lower strength. The ice just above the basal ice moves slower than ice up higher because it is being retarded by the friction and resistance to shearing relative to the basal ice itself, which is going relatively slowly. This means that internally glaciers are weird creatures, with no stable internal structure; it is always changing. Every level slides over the one below it, and the friction breaks both layers up. The surface ice travels fastest and is easiest to see and measure but gives little evidence of what is going on below. The basal ice is the most difficult to get at and measure, so statements about basal ice should ALWAYS be suspect.
    All of what is stated in this have to be understood within the three contexts I’ve mentioned here – ice sheets-in-basins vs glaciers; internal ice shear planes; churning/mixing.

  24. The earth itself is a heat source. This heat flows from the inside (where the lava is) to the outside (where the ice is). When this heat reaches the ice, some of the ice melts, lubricating the flow of glaciers and facilitating the development of sub-glacial rivers. This occurs 24/7.
    Solar melting of glaciers is both diurnal and seasonal, and the melt water flows downhill, often finding cracks in the ice-pack and percolating down to the bottom, where it joins the rivers facilitated by the geothermal heating.

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