Study finds ice isn’t being lost from Greenland’s interior due to unique process

Unusual process recycles water at the ice-air boundary

From the UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO

Kevin Hammonds (of the National Science Foundation-funded ICECAPS project; PI Von Walden) took this picture of a fogbow over Summit Station’s Temporary Atmospheric Watch Observatory. Fogbows are the cold region analogue of rainbows, where incoming light interacts with very small water droplets or mist.

Kevin Hammonds (of the National Science Foundation-funded ICECAPS project; PI Von Walden) took this picture of a fogbow over Summit Station’s Temporary Atmospheric Watch Observatory. Fogbows are the cold region analogue of rainbows, where incoming light interacts with very small water droplets or mist.

Scientists studying data from the top of the Greenland ice sheet have discovered that during winter in the center of the world’s largest island, temperature inversions and other low-level atmospheric phenomena effectively isolate the ice surface from the atmosphere — recycling water vapor and halting the loss or gain of ice.

A team of climate scientists made the surprising discovery from three years of data collected at Summit Camp, an arid, glaciated landscape 10,500 feet above sea level in the middle of the Greenland ice sheet.

“This is a place, unlike the rest of the ice sheet, where ice is accumulating,” says Max Berkelhammer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Berkelhammer is first author on the study, reported in Science Advances, an open-access online publication of the journal Science.

Near Greenland’s coasts, Berkelhammer said, “it’s relatively warm, and the ice melts faster and faster.”

“But in the center of the ice sheet, it’s 25 below zero Celsius (-13 F), so it’s always freezing, even if it warms. It’s a very rare occurrence to go above freezing,” he said. The authors note that “despite rapid melting in the coastal regions of the ice sheet, a significant area — approximately 40 percent — rarely experiences surface melting.”

Solid ice can be lost not only by melting into liquid water. Under certain conditions, it can vaporize by sublimation, a one-step transition from solid to gas. Such conditions exist at the high-altitude, dry, frigid, glacial surface of Greenland’s interior.

“Sublimation is common there, unlike other places,” Berkelhammer said. “We looked at the exchange of water between the ice sheet and the air above it through condensation, evaporation, and sublimation.”

At Summit Camp, a 150-foot tower was used to draw air samples at various heights above the surface and pipe the air into a laboratory buried a few feet below the ice. Lasers analyzed the air for two different isotopes of oxygen in H2O, whose ratio indicates the temperature at which the water molecules became airborne.

“We noticed a specific process that was occurring, where low-level fog would form right above the surface of the ice sheet,” Berkelhammer said. A fogbow — a rainbow caused by fog — often appeared.

“As ice sublimates from the surface, it forms a fog,” he said. “As the particles get heavier and settle back to the surface, you get recycling, rather than dissipation that would remove ice.”

In winter, 80 percent of the ice that would otherwise be lost is recycled, Berkelhammer said. “So it’s an incredibly efficient process.”

But many questions remain as to how this boundary-layer recycling contributes to models of climate change.

“We expected sublimation to increase with temperature, but we find no net loss” of ice over time, Berkelhammer said, again referring just to the interior of the ice mass. “You could say, if this process changes, you’d lose ice significantly faster. Or, if (recycling) becomes even more efficient, you would conserve even more ice mass.

“We can’t predict,” he said. “And we don’t know from the ice-core records what the history is.”

The next step, he said, is to run experiments to see how sublimation changes with temperature associated with past and future changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, to see how recycling fits into climate models.

“If we want to model how the ice sheet is warming, we need to include everything we know,” he said. “This is a new process to incorporate in models.”

But Berkelhammer cautions against over-interpreting the recycling as good news for the ice sheet or the planet, as its overall effect is likely to be relatively minor.

“This is small potatoes compared to the calving that’s going on along the coasts,” he said. “Every time we go back to Greenland, the edge of the ice is farther away from the coast.”

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85 thoughts on “Study finds ice isn’t being lost from Greenland’s interior due to unique process

  1. You got to be kidding me. Sublimation leads to precipitation.

    That can’t be true. They are pulling our legs, aren’t they ??

    G

    PS ” The Hail in Vail falls mainly on the Trail. ” Original thought !

    • Lookee Here.
      The science is settled.
      No??

      Ahhhh – it seems not.
      Collapse of CAGW.

      It should logically follow. But see below.

      We know quite a bit, but there is still rather a lot we don’t know, certainly about weather!
      But it’s not weather, or climate – it’s politics.

      Politics.
      The watermelons want to kill most of us, and take what we have away from the rest.

      No mods – no SARC here.
      This is a life or death struggle for humanity.
      I’m not sure that we lifers [7 billion plus lies] are winning.

      Auto
      Not stunningly impressed with local council, either, this week – but that’s of thread. Enjoy your day.

  2. This would seem to imply that the efficiency of this recycling depends a lot on winds. Should there be a persistent period of wind that prevent this fog forming and redepositing of the water, the moisture could be blown right off the ice sheet. Example might be a period of persistent high pressure with sunny but relatively breezy skies in summer or a condition of persistent winds in winter. It would seem to me that this recycling of moisture would be most efficient in periods of relatively calm winds.

    • All of the surrounding areas are even higher, so the wind blows downhill. Ice going nowhere.

      G

    • Don’t get excited. No mention of regular precipitation. Sublimation at -25C is a pretty slow process, even without 80% efficient recycling. One little snowfall would make up for about a month of sublimation. Also, that sublimation has been going on everywhere in the world there is ice, for as long as ice has existed.

  3. I love how it ends.

    The guy first claims the research is really important and should be incorporated into the climate models, then hastens to add that this doesn’t change anything in terms of impending disaster because it is too small to matter.

    • Perfect recycling system. Ice falls in ocean, melts, evaporates, gose up over Greenland, falls into basin, squishes out through mountain passes, flows (snail slow) to coast, ice falls in ocean. Thanks to that, Greenland doesn’t sink under all that weight of ice.

      G

      All without being touched by human hands.

  4. Does this go into the “worser than we thought” column, or the “this doesn’t really matter” column?

    • Both, apparently.

      I especially loved this line: ‘Berkelhammer said, [near Greenland’s coasts] it’s relatively warm, and the ice melts faster and faster.” ‘

      Spoken with all the precision of a true climate scientologist, Mr. Berkelhammer.

      • Oh, and Mr. Berkelhammer, your study will be more happily received by the grant committee if you convert all these sublimation effects into units of Hiroshima bomb equivalents. Free advice for you.

      • Oh, and Mr. Berkelhammer, try to work some feminist jargon into your next report. We all must be concerned about not exploiting our privilege, and glaciers and ice sheets may NOT be used to oppress our righteous sisters, be they lesbian or straight. That is to say, whether the glaciers are lesbian or straight, not the women that our cryospherical reportage may happen to offend. And here I must confess my prejudice at presuming you are a male, Mr. Berkelhammer, based on your first name (Max). Apologies to you, if you’re Transitioning, Neuter, or otherly named. In all future posts, should I refer to you and the ice sheet and fog bows as S/He/It?

        These are important questions, not only for science, but for your CV and your future employ-ability at a major research university.

    • “North Greenland glaciers are changing rapidly,” said lead author Jeremie Mouginot, an associate project scientist in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. “The shape and dynamics of Zachariae Isstrom have changed dramatically over the last few years. The glacier is now breaking up and calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.”

      This is what you call “liar liar pants on fire”

    • Englandrichard. Perhaps you should add some comments to your post for those of us who don’t like clicking on anonymous links

    • Interesting catch. If the surface ice is simply recycled surface ice redeposited over and over again and if it is that way all the way down, then yeah, the ice cores would be more of a reflection of redeposition temperature than original precipitation condensation temperatures .

      • Then again, the local recycling shouldn’t affect the isotope ratios of the original deposition. What goes up comes back down pretty close to where it was. My bad.

  5. Okay that’s nice, now please share with summer field study types that only see melting and those who don’t like to get out of the snow cat or the office.

    • You get lot of ash on the ice, Icelandic volcanoes are the most productive volcanoes on the globe, they account for about 5% of eruptions since 1500, but 30% of the ejected material (tephra).
      There is short term cooling followed by a faster melting of the Greenland ice in the subsequent summer.

    • Fortunately no. Icelandic Volcanic Activity tends to produce eruptions that carry ash clouds east and Southeast with the prevailing winds. Soot being currently deposited there is coming from further West or Southwest (OR perhaps some soot on Greenland is being recycled from when the Viking Settlements were there and the ice was farther back from the coast than it is today)

  6. He’s got data for the small potatoes effect but only a scary sounding observation for the major effect (shoreline melting). These guys all know the gravy train of study money gets cut if the hyped up danger of global warming is perceived to be less, so he throws in some scare words at the end without any data to back it up so the gravy train keeps rolling. I hate calling global warming a scam but when you read stuff like this thats the word that comes to mind, its a scam to keep climate study money rolling in because if that money dries up then the climate science community goes from being rock stars traveling the world to perform studies to save the planet into more underemployed workers with a degree working at the paint store.

    • The scare words at the end also ensure that this study will be added to the list of studies that support CAGW, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with AGW.

  7. You’ve got to be kidding me! The Earth recycles?!! OMG! Next you are going to tell me it rotates and goes AROUND the Sun tilted on an axis! AHHHHH!!

  8. “This is small potatoes compared to the calving that’s going on along the coasts,” he said. “Every time we go back to Greenland, the edge of the ice is farther away from the coast.”

    Ah yes, they saved themselves from being cast into outer darkness and losing all hope of more grant money. The University is on board with the 97% consensus. Phew!

    • “”””””….. “This is small potatoes compared to the calving that’s going on along the coasts,” ……”””””

      So; ANoodat growing undersize potatoes along the coast, and why the cows are procreating at a record rate along the coast ??

      Are we gonna ANave another Viking mayhem era, when the ice gets far enough back ??

      g

      Some science papers make great reading material.

    • That statement puzzled me. If calving is increasing, wouldn’t the edge of the ice be NEARER the coast?? If it’s further away, then the replenishment is GREATER than the loss, or else seas ice is forming, which means it’s BELOW freezing.

  9. And 268′ of ice that accumulated from 1942 to 1988 on top of a P-38 that crash landed on Greenland is just … small potatoes.

    “In 1988, two explorers sponsored by the Greenland Expedition Society finally found a lead. Patrick Epps and Richard Taylor led an expedition to the the ice cap which used steam to bore a hole and locate airplane parts buried under the Greenland ice. The two men found that in the forty-six years since the planes had crash-landed, an astonishing 268 feet of ice had accumulated over them, and they had been carried three miles by the drifting glacier.”

    http://www.damninteresting.com/exhuming-the-glacier-girl/

    • That was near the coast at much lower elevation. This is near the summit of the ice sheet where they ‘only’ get 3000mm of water precipitation per year on average. ‘Only’ 3 meters.

      • I was unsuccessful searching for any mention of the altitude of the crash landing zone. Most articles use the phrase “on top of the ice cap” but that’s “information” worth about as much as the ink used…

        It had to have been a fairly level area so that could not have been right at the coast line. One account says it was a ten day journey by dogsleds to evacuate the men (20 altogether who crash landed as a flight group) to the coast, (~100 miles?).

  10. Interesting but irrelevant almost to the point of BS. I got curious because of the ‘dry’ assertion. Summer Station is quite famous. Opened 1989, manned yearround since ~2000. Average winter high -35C. Average summer high -10C. Average annual precipitation ~3000mm (~112 inches) of water, almost all of which comes as dry snow. A LOT of dry snow.

    • Sosir. ‘ow snow dry, when all water ? ‘owdat ‘appen; an ‘owoffen dat ‘appen Sir !

      g

  11. It may be of interest
    It appears that the lower sections of the ice are folding over as it flows

    http://phys.org/news/2016-04-full-d-large-scale-greenland-ice.html

    also: The Earth’s climate has been warming, but even though the Greenland ice sheet is melting rapidly in the coastal regions, there are large parts of the ice sheet (40 percent) where there has hardly been any melting on the surface.
    http://phys.org/news/2016-04-insulating-layer-air-greenland-ice.html

  12. “Every time we go back to Greenland, the edge of the ice is farther away from the coast.”

    …uh no

    • In another part of the study they mention extensive calving.
      How can the glacier be calving if doesn’t even reach the coast?

      • There are glaciers flowing outside the bedrock bowl that do reach the sea. A very small part of the ice sheet. Particularly on the northeast side and northwest sides.

    • Well yessir ! Ice float; NO ? wind blow; blow ice bugs out to sea, much further away from the coast.

      See ‘ow dat ‘appen Sir ??

      g

  13. This study is solicited, it is meant to show why the interior of Greenland is not melting due to AGW.

    There is a better explanation I need not explain further

    • From the article….
      “Scientists studying data from the top of the Greenland ice sheet have discovered that during WINTER in the center of the world’s largest island, temperature inversions and other low-level atmospheric phenomena effectively isolate the ice surface from the atmosphere — recycling water vapor and halting the loss or gain of ice.”

      “I need not explain further”
      You do.
      Apart from your graph being from July ….
      Hint : The surface temp by itself is not a measure of a near surface inversion

      • Except NSIDC also show 0 melt for that location

        You do.
        I do for you it seems.
        Apart from your graph being from July ….
        July is a summer month and melt at the summit in July is non existent. In may 2015 non existent. August ditto, so what month would you like, October? :p

        Hint : The surface temp by itself is not a measure of a near surface inversion
        Temp is not a measure of near surface inversion, but it will stop the ice melting on the surface nonetheless will it not there lad. We are talking -15 or -20.

        So, if the temperature is -15 or -20, then with near surface inversion it can be “as cold” or “colder”.
        So what exactly are you pointing out here?

        Also “hint” denotes a bit of emotion, let me know if you trigger :D

      • report, due to the mess the other one is

        “You do.”
        I do for you it seems.

        “Apart from your graph being from July ….”
        July is a summer month and melt at the summit in July is non existent. In may 2015 non existent. August ditto, so what month would you like, October? :p

        “Hint : The surface temp by itself is not a measure of a near surface inversion”
        Temp is not a measure of near surface inversion, but it will stop the ice melting on the surface nonetheless will it not there lad. We are talking -15 or -20.

        So, if the temperature is -15 or -20, then with near surface inversion it can be “as cold” or “colder”.
        So what exactly are you pointing out here?

        Also “hint” denotes a bit of emotion, let me know if you trigger :D

      • “I do for you it seems.
        July is a summer month and melt at the summit in July is non existent. In may 2015 non existent. August ditto, so what month would you like, October? :p”

        The article quote specifically states that the “phenomenon” (not really a phenomenon – speaking as a meteorologist) occurs in winter.
        You posted a graph for July.

        “but it will stop the ice melting on the surface nonetheless will it not there lad. We are talking -15 or -20.”

        No again
        That is NOT what is being described.
        SUBLIMATION occurs at temps below freezing in dry air ….
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublimation_(phase_transition)

        “So, if the temperature is -15 or -20, then with near surface inversion it can be “as cold” or “colder”.
        So what exactly are you pointing out here?”
        The above

        “Also “hint” denotes a bit of emotion, let me know if you trigger :D””

        No, just trying to explain what is being talked of.

  14. “This is a place, unlike the rest of the ice sheet, where ice is accumulating,” meaning they don’t want to believe the same is happening elsewhere on the ice sheet. The coastal regions are at lower elevations, and therefore much warmer. The effect, understood since the early stone age, is called ‘adiabatic cooling’ and leads to air temperature dropping as it’s pressure is reduced. At 10,500 feet the average pressure is only about 2/3rds of what it is at sea level.

    • I was thinking similar as I read it but it never came together. Good points.

      I dont know why they think ice not melting because temperatures stay below 0 is a discovery.

    • They are talking of something else, and it’s actually something that occurs anywhere in a frigid climate given stangant air conditions.
      Try FI…
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verkhoyansk

      Altitude is not required but it likely will help as air at altitude is drier and that will encourage sublimation. he overlying inversion will “cap” the the boundary air and so it will deposit back on the surface as diamond dust FI….

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_dust

  15. Bottom line is the message should be there is no melt there because it is too cold, end of bloody story.

    • See my reply to you above.
      ice/snow (especially important in a cold DRY climate) ablates due to sublimation – which occurs at sub-zero temperatures.

      • My point is that in terms of inland Greenland’s conditions, it is irrelevant when temps in the warm months are -10 to -20.

        I conclude that this is not any meaningful metric of ice conditions in Greenland, because of said temperatures. Mass loss without this intermittent event would be negligible.

        I am not questioning that it is indeed a process takes place, for obvious reasons of lack of knowledge and data. I am familiar with Diamond Dust, I live in Finland and we go far north every winter. Ice that forms in air, and falls, it’s so thin, it’s effect on retaining mass is nothing.

        So I am not sure what all of the hullabaloo is about

      • the snow is often also like dry dust, that gets into the tiniest nooks and crannies :D

      • In Greenland conditions any moisture in the air that makes contact with the ice will stick. This occurs anyway, the difference is there is no height limiting due to lack of stagnant conditions.

        A short walk in -40 bare faced sees my brows and beard iced up due to moisture looking for anything to stick to. Maybe if we sent 5 trillion beards to Greenland then we might attract enough moisture to make a small difference

      • ToneB, read up on this famous station. Gets about 3 meters of snow per year, dry snow since so cold. Where is that factored into the ‘arid’ envirnoment analysis of this paper? Nowhere. You know, 3 meters of snow is over your feeble little head. By about >1.5x, I would guess. FAIL.

      • Ristvan:
        “ToneB, read up on this famous station. Gets about 3 meters of snow per year, dry snow since so cold. Where is that factored into the ‘arid’ envirnoment analysis of this paper? Nowhere. You know, 3 meters of snow is over your feeble little head. By about >1.5x, I would guess. FAIL.

        I do realise that anything I say, indeed any “sciency” type says would be a fail to you as you evidently are ignorant of and deny climate science.
        I care not a jot my friend.

        The article does not maintain that this “phenomenon” occurs 24/7 (does it??)
        A great deal of the snowfall will occur in summer (its at 10,000ft and within the AC.

        Check out a tephigram (if in the US, a SkewlogT) to discover how air dries out with altitude.
        I did not say arid – I said “dry air”- meaning weather not climate.
        Critical fail.

        Oh, and even though you may not be intellectually able to counter my knowledge … there is no need for ad hom my friend.

      • It’s all irrelevant [Toneb] for several reasons, for which you have no rebuttal.
        1. The phenomenon produces an extremely low density cloud of ice crystals which is vapor and moisture freezing and falling back down. (extremely low mass)

        2 The density is only visible because of inversion and stangation, otherwise the crystals would be taken off by air currents. Diamond dust otherwise forms at much higher than 30 meters and vapors and moisture are added from other locations to the ice as they are sucked form the air.

        3 The phenomenon requires temperatures that freezes all sublimation anyway, ice does not lose mass of any significance in such conditions.

        4 Ice in freezing conditions like -20 to -40 gains mass, because moisture and vapor falls in those conditions if air currents permit.

        5 The phenomenon does not “require” dry air, cold conditions draw moisture from the air making it very dry, especially in stagnant conditions, the dry air is a result of moisture stripping. Want evidence? just go somewhere cold and put a ski pole in the ground and watch ice form on it. How do you think that happens?

      • Digging out cargo at Byrd

        Working in Greenland interior requires constant digging out

  16. ” the center of the world’s largest island”– it’s only a third the size of Australia. I would have thought Government funded researchers might know little details like that, or at least Google them. Doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in anything else they write.

    • Beat me to it.

      Feels like Oz is being treated like Pluto – doomed to insignificance by a definition.

    • Australia is the smallest continent, not the largest island. Plot landmass areas on a log scale and it’s clear there are two groups and Australia is on the “continent” side of the gap.

    • So which Continents are NOT islands ??

      Seems like AfEurAsia is just one whacking big island, as is NOSOAmerica.

      All Continents are islands.

      G

      PS New Zealand is not one of the 57 Continents.

  17. He’s gonna put 2 and 2 together at some point and figure out that rapid accumulation at the top leads to rapid calving near the base.

  18. Any conclusion of mass retention in this study has been well and truly debunked.

    When we go up north in winter, we of ten chant about this “climate change” with some Sami folks in northern Finland and they always find the whole “stopping ice melting” thing very amusing.

    I guess it is like that when you are adapted to live in -40 and go about life as normal. The Ice hotel is also still doing great business, not melting. :p

  19. Uh. Wasn’t there some report or article or something a while back that claimed that a magma plume under eastern Greenland was melting the ice from below?

    • Yes, there is a large area with bottom melting in Northern Greenland, which is a main reason it is so difficult finding really old ice in Greenland.

  20. This study is well and truly danced on, what a complete waste of money. The phenomenon is an effect, it drives nothing, they are seeing it backwards. The conditions that maintain the ice also cause the effect. More tail waging the dog thinking, but that happens if you are trapped in a way of thinking

  21. Oh my God! They have discovered that glaciers have an ablation zone and an accumulation zone. Isn’t Climate Science wonderful. They’ll probably be inventing the wheel any year now.

    • and claim this ablation zone is significantly responsible for mass retention, lets forget about the freezing temperatures, that actually freezes sublimated vapor making it fall back down which is the primary driver for this phenomenon.

      So deluded they get it completely backwards, some scientists have dogs that are wagged by their tails.

  22. “This is small potatoes compared to the calving that’s going on along the coasts,” he said. “Every time we go back to Greenland, the edge of the ice is farther away from the coast.” OH GOD FORBID! A natural process is observed.

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