International Team of Scientists to Test Method for Slowing Glacier Retreat

Guest essay by J.I. Thacker

The Te Moeka o Tuawe (REF 1) is a southern-hemisphere glacier in New Zealand that is unusual among glaciers in that its terminus is very close to sea level in a temperate zone. Although relatively long – about 13 km – the glacier has been receding since about 2009 because of anthropogenic climate change, which scientists say is caused by fossil-fuel carbon emissions.

From Wikipedia’s description of the Fox glacier in New Zealand:

Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier falls 2,600 m (8,500 ft) on its 13 km journey from the Southern Alps down to the coast, with it having the distinction of being one of the few glaciers to end among lush rainforest only 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level. Although retreating throughout most of the last 100 years, it was advancing between 1985 and 2009. In 2006 the average rate of advance was about a metre a week. In January 2009, the terminal face of the glacier was still advancing and had vertical or overhanging faces which were continually collapsing. Since then there has been a significant retreat, with the 2009 high level clearly visible as vegetation line on the southern slope above what is left of the lower glacier today.

Lower part of Fox Glacier with glacier mouth, February 2013. Note the clearly visible limit of vegetation on the right (southern) slope, which marks the temporary maximum height of the glacier around 2009.

That Te Moeka o Tuawe is retreating should not be surprising. Currently, nearly all glaciers have a negative mass balance and are retreating to the extent that they are contributing 30% of the current rate of sea-level rise (REF 2). The IPCC stated in 2007 that Himalayan glaciers could be gone by 2035(REF 3). “The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the US government’s snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colorado (REF 4).

Glacial retreat can have unexpected knock-on consequences like reducing the availability of drinking water for downstream communities, as well as increasing local temperatures via decreases in albedo: even old ice has twice the reflectance of bedrock exposed as it retreats.

The unique location of Te Moeka o Tuawe gave cryoengineer Dr. Eric Fox (REF 5 – no relation to the glacier) an idea.

“I thought it would be an ideal place to test a theory I had about glacial dynamics,” he tells me via Skype. “The idea is to supplement the glacier with an ice-mimic, a surrogate substance with similar spectral properties to frozen water but much higher levels of stability.”

The logistics of the glacier slowing experiment are quite difficult – that’s why the low-altitude terminus of Te Moeka o Tuawe is so important. The project involves reinforcing the glacier with 57,000 tonnes of the substitute ice, which would be impossible to transport to a high-altitude terminus.

Fox’s team decided on creating reinforcing ice by combining regular ice with a complex, but easy to manufacture, molecule called (2R,3R,4S,5S,6R)-2-[(2S,3S,4S,5R)-3,4-Dihydroxy-2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)oxolan-2-yl]oxy-6-(hydroxymethyl)oxane-3,4,5-triol (REF 6) for the initial trial. The molecule is based on natural compounds, and is harmless to plants, wildlife, and to humans. In nature, the compound is present in many plant roots, fruits and nectars, and serves to store energy, primarily from photosynthesis.

3D model of (2R,3R,4S,5S,6R)-2-[(2S,3S,4S,5R)-3,4-Dihydroxy-2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)oxolan-2-yl]oxy-6-(hydroxymethyl)oxane-3,4,5-triol

“It is very important that we do no harm to the environment in our attempt to slow the retreat of the glacier. That’s why the team settled on this naturally occurring compound. It was my idea to add a dash of 5-Methyl-2-(propan-2-yl)-cyclohexan-1-ol (REF 7),” Fox notes. My compound has interesting cryo-properties. And it even smells good.”

Fox calls the experimental glacier trial a “Win-win-win” scenario.

“We’ll slow the glacier’s retreat, increase albedo, and because the chemical substitute contains a high proportion of carbon, it effectively locks up Carbon that would otherwise be polluting the atmosphere.”

It is expected that after the application of this compound to the reinforcing ice, retreat of Te Moeka o Tuawe is going to be slowed and eventually the glacier will be as good as new, returning to its maximum volume observed in 2009. The scientists are calling their project “Fox’s Glacier Mint.”

 

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References

REF 1 Known by Western interlopers as Fox Glacier.

REF 2 Gardner et al. 2013; Science 340 (6134): 852–857.

REF 3 It was apparently a typo.

REF 4 He said it about ten years ago about something else, but it seemed somehow apropos to mention it here.

REF 5 Also, by pure coincidence, the name of the inventor of Fox’s Glacier Mints.

REF 6 (2R,3R,4S,5S,6R)-2-[(2S,3S,4S,5R)-3,4-Dihydroxy-2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)oxolan-2-yl]oxy-6-(hydroxymethyl)oxane-3,4,5-triol is known by the great unwashed as sucrose.

REF 7 5-Methyl-2-(propan-2-yl)-cyclohexan-1-ol a.k.a. Menthol.

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92 thoughts on “International Team of Scientists to Test Method for Slowing Glacier Retreat

  1. I read the entry and quickly realised that for you in The States it is now 1 April. April Fools!!!

    • You are correct, advancing, now retreating. Pull the other leg, cobber!

    • It is also a very original way (to me) to justify the acquisition of a new toy. I would never have thought to tie that with a trip to a NZ glacier.

    • Ah…Good Luck with that! While maybe useful for touristy glaciers I doubt this will save the ice over the rest of the world and therefore insignificant in the scheme of things. However, hope to hear in 5-10 years that you actually succeeded in stated goal.

    • (2R,3R,4S,5S,6R)-2-[(2S,3S,4S,5R)-3,4-Dihydroxy-2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)oxolan-2-yl]oxy-6-(hydroxymethyl)oxane-3,4,5-triol
      =========================
      YIKES!! EVEN MORE DEADLY THAN CO2.

      PubChem CID: 5988 (sucrose)

    • Well we need some more of that nice glacial drinkable water, for the people who live in the wet parts of Zealandia; so if you don’t mind we would rather you don’t mess with the melting of our Maori named glaciers, and besides, your fake molasses stinks to high heaven.

      You never thought about the sheep dip smell of that wonder crap when you developed it; did you ??

      Some of us older folks can’t do much climbing any more so we need the glaciers to flow down closer to sea level so we can visit them more often.

      Flaming busybodies !!

      g

      • “Glacial retreat can have unexpected knock-on consequences like reducing the availability of drinking water for downstream communities, as well as increasing local temperatures via decreases in albedo: even old ice has twice the reflectance of bedrock exposed as it retreats.”

        I wonder how anyone could drink glaciers without melting the ice first. As to reflectance, are they going to paint the surrounding countryside white now?

        They “say” their miracle chemical is harmless..

  2. In the second image of Fox Glacier, up some 50-100m on the right is a small hot spring. I should have taken a picture of it when I toured the south Island in 1996. It’s near a lookout point.

  3. If you do a quick Google of the “natural” compounds mentioned they clearly have a molecular resemblance to Unicorn Farts. Or so I have been told…

  4. I have looked at several pics to see the extent of the retreat. It doesn’t seemed to have retreated at all since I last saw it in the “flesh”.
    But that was not very long ago – 1958.

    The extent of Franz Josef glacier’s retreat is similar. ie a figment of some green person’s imagination.

  5. At least they are not proposing to seed the atmosphere with aerosols. Now there’s an April Fools joke.

  6. Thank you Anthony Watts for a great April Fool’s Day story

    All good wishes

    Michael Darby

    ________________________________

  7. Update: It is calculated that if a large number of greens lay down in front of the said rapidly advancing glacier that its advance could be stopped. An appeal has been issued to all greens world wide (the CAGW believers are also invited to join) to congregate in Christchurch N.Z. by the March 31st of 2018, since the indefinite Great Glacier Lay Down will start on the following day.

  8. Nice one. The Daily Telegraph (UK) one is rather amusing too – Polar bear found on Scottish island…

  9. The molecule is based on natural compounds, and is harmless to plants, wildlife, and to humans

    Oh No Its Not!

    It’s been implicated in obesity and tooth decay!

    • Do ants like it? If so, that location would soon be home to a zillion or so ants. Good testing ground for new ant baits.

  10. I was just going to say, “They are mad” – then saw first comment re April 1st! In other words – I fell for it! Good one.

  11. I think it would be better to cover the ice with thick aluminum foil, secured using large rocks. My estimates show that aluminum has very high reflectivity and low emissivity, which will allow the glacier to cool down as it descends (the CO2 partial pressure drops during the day because the forest absorbs it, this drives down the greenhouse effect and causes a negative forcing equal to 0,2 watts per square meter). The aluminum blanket should allow the glacier to grow much wider and taller, and this will cause iceberg calving, which will be a great tourist attraction. The only drawback will be the danger of ship collisions, so they’ll have to mount a ship exclusion zone as far as 100 miles offshore.

    • Ice Berg calving at least in Greenland is a sure sign of AGW, haven’t you seen the scare videos.

      • Geologically speaking, more iceberg calving = global cooling.

        Higher concentrations of dropstones in marine sediments correlate with colder periods.

    • Paint wod be good as well. Paint all the rocks along the bed white and it will reflect more heat, allowing the ice to last longer 13km of paint, can’t be all that hard to get, and would work better than sugar which would really have an ice melting effect.

  12. I read the story before having my first coffee. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

    One of the things that makes the story believable is that ski hills do use chemicals to preserve artificial snow. link

  13. From the paragraph under Wikipedia’s description — it is not due to global warming as stated in first para “because of Anthropogenic climate change. Here the author was shy in using the term global warming and instead used climate change with an adjective “Anthropogenic”.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  14. This is an environmental crisis which the New Zealand govt. considers to be of grave importance. It is unbecoming of us at WUWT to make jest of such an unfortunate situation. In the spirit of helpfulness, I propose a workable solution.
    Snow Guns.
    Lots and lots of snow guns, along with Snow Cannon.
    Certainly a sight all too familiar to anyone who has skied in the eastern US. The glacier can be covered top to bottom with lines of snowmakers on both sides. A solid program of winter snow making could cover the glacier to any desired depth, and year after year, could restore the glacier to it’s former glory and then some. As a bonus, snow making equipment can be installed below the foot of the glacier, extending the glacier all the way to the sea.
    How effective are these snow guns, the non-skiers among us might ask. That is fair. In the Eastern US, man made (*not* Mann made) snow is generated wet, using a water-rich mix of water and compressed air. This is to get a maximum amount of water up the mountain for a given amount of compressed air. The unfortunate result is that the wet snow freezes solid into an ice-like hard pack, which is way less than ideal for skiing. Of course, the mountains get natural snow, which after days of ice and hard pack, is a glorious experience. As you might know, the mountain snow crews will have none of this. They go to work and cover the entire mountain with a slush which freezes as hard as concrete. Furthermore, they can, and do accomplish this in a single night. The next morning, not a single trail will be left with a natural snow cover.
    I would recommend that the snow making crews from the eastern US be rounded up and shipped off to New Zealand where their formidable ice-making skills can be put to good use.

    Once properly snowed over the glacier will make a truly wold-class ski run. Just think of it. A 13 km run with a 2,600 m drop, all in one straight shot. With the glacier extension in place, your run starts high up in the mountains and goes all the way to the ocean. A truly fabulous run. There will be nothing like this on the planet. No wonder the Kiwis are so concerned.

    • Are you mad?
      All that extra weight will make the island tip over and sink !!!
      Then we will have all those NZ climate refugees flooding into Australia.
      Oh wait, I forgot, most of the NZ population is over here anyway.
      You may proceed.

      • Your concern is prudent and well considered. The possibility of an island capsizing has been studied before. In this case we constructed a mathematical model of NZ to be sure we would not cause a problem.
        As you know, to increase the stability of a boat, you can make the boat wider (increase the beam), and extend the height of the sides (increase freeboard).

        In the case of NZ we calculate that pumping water up the glacier will drop the sea level around NZ. This will both increase the beam of the island, and increase the freeboard. The stability gained will more than offset the increase in the center of gravity of the island. We have very high confidence in the models, that all will be well.

        A while back, there was an intensive study of the possibility of the island of Guam becoming unstable, possibly resulting in a catastrophic capsize. This was due to a plan by the US Navy to expand their base of operations there.
        Here is Congressman Hank Johnson (Dem, Georgia) grilling a representative of the US Navy on the possibility of Guam capsizing due Navy activity.

    • Perhaps not such a bad idea if used properly. If you deployed millions of sun guns around the Arctic they could be used to cover all the soot that is making Arctic sea ice loss accelerate. Griff would be pleased I am sure.

      • Unfortunately, the arctic icecap is, in general, as flat as a pancake, and as such, is no good for downhill skiing at all. Lets face it, cross-country skiing is OK, but just not that great. Without really good skiing, you might as well just let it melt.

        Last I knew, there was a plot to feed Griff to some polar bears, but he was saved by Susan Crockford in the nick of time, who sent him down to the Tropics. It seems now there is a scheme afoot to feed Griff to a Great White shark.

    • Totally doable. Would make for a wicked ski run for sure. In fact, store some melt water in summer into muliple holding ponds on the side and use that water and any other natural flow in winter to flow downhill to drive an air turbine pump, add pressurized water and air and blow as much ‘artificial’ snow as you have collected water. Many ski resorts in BC use such simple technology to make snow for ski resorts all the time. And a bit of small hydro for the ski resort for areas off grid. We could be making small artificial glaciers in winter using seasonal cold at higher elevations to store water for melting in summer for downstream communities, which would be less riskier and less expense than building larger water storage dams.

    • Better yet, get the glacier to extend all the way to the ocean and you can turn it into a ski jump at the end.

  15. Fortunately, the Save the Glaciers crowd wasn’t around back in the Late Pleistocene.

  16. I confess I fell for it a first. In this mad world anything is possible, even fear of CO2.

  17. This is why I don’t care anymore; when I have to read stupid ideals like this, with man and his ridiculous intentions to alter. You know, whether you agree with this or not- there is a difference between deliberately having an influence and unknowingly having an influence. Its the intent that counts. But like I said, I don’t care anymore, cause I know where this is going. Total Recall anyone???

  18. What if the glacier is receding because of completely natural causes, and this so-called idea that CO2 is the cause……..is false, and this dude along with others and their pathetic ideas are just a waste of time.

    Overall, since the last ice age, these things have been steadily in decline, and now this dude wants to spend all of his energy trying to be a hero…… for this idea that Man is behind the great decline-BULL! Just leave it alone, and spend more time living out of the heart instead of the mind.

  19. correction! where ever I used the word dude, just add an s for DUDES!!! I.E. TEAM OF SCIENTISTS

  20. The ‘substance’ with the complicated name is a disaccharide sugar. Technically it is made by linking two molecules of a hexose (6-carbon) sugar together, making it a chemical cousin of ordinary table sugar – C12H22O11.
    They are literally planning to sugar-coat the ‘problem’ – no exaggeration!

  21. Ha, I knew something wasn’t right when I noticed the lack of a claim that it was being done to preserved the glacier for our great-grandchildren.

  22. This poly was sported further up the New Zeeland glacier trying to stop it moving downhill.

    Any other suitable comment would be appreciated, I can think of at least two but they are not pc.

  23. April Fools Day. Can we declare AGW a successful April Fools gag and move on. Seems very efficient.

  24. You got me, but only because my first questions were “What good does slowing the melting do?” and “Doesn’t the melting help cool the overheated atmosphere?”, but I should have caught on that they were (allegedly) going to do an experiment instead of just modelling the results. Happy April Fools Day!

  25. must say
    almost fell for it as well
    the picture looked convincing enough.
    Yet the people in NZ were complaining about the cold in recent years and the subsequent poor harvests, eg, strawberries…

    • Oh I know what I missed….4-1. But global warming is such a parody to begin with, who ever knows for sure? :-)

  26. The give away to me was in part that 57,000 tonnes is a tiny, tiny plug of ice ~2 million cubic feet or a cube 120 feet on each side.

  27. Am I the only one who gets this?
    It’s April 1st. Everything JIT wrote is true.
    Additional comments are part of the string along.
    Later, all will be revealed.

  28. :-P Ha ha

    The NSF Arctic ‘Science’ Program is receiving solicitations for ‘research’ funding as an open call!

    Knowing that the NSF personnel have no background in chemistry, geology, glaciology, geophysics, hydrology, meteorology, mathematics and physics, i.e. they are all geographers, political science and social science majors, they will not only fund the project but increase the budget to $5 million just to “up it to Trump”!

    So hurry and send it in!

    Look for a plackard with “Save Fox Glacier” at the ‘March For Science’ and a big fat He-She ‘Tranz’ screaming “NNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO” for 148 seconds at a time.

    ha ha

    • My feeling exactly PaulH. We seem to have had a lot of April the 1sts. these last few years…hard to do anything to improve on the warmist efforts.

  29. Or maybe the Kiwis should simply accept glacial retreat for what it is – the making of new lands that are incredibly beautiful and support massive diversity of wildlife that cannot exist on/under/within a glacier.

    I simply point to Yosemite as the perfect example. If the glaciers that made Yosemite valley still existed, there wouldn’t be much reason for any human to pay it any attention at all … while today Yosemite is considered the jewel of the entire Sierra Nevada Range, a truly beautiful, productive, diverse habitat equaled nowhere else on the planet .. and all courtesy of melted glaciers.

  30. And when they’re finished with this little task the next project is to have the sun rise in the west.

  31. In the 17th century didn’t burn witches to prevent glaciers advancing? Maybe we could burn some crimatologists to prevent them retreating :-)

  32. So part of this glacier, or a nearby glacier with similar properties and history, will be used as a control…right?

  33. “the glacier has been receding since about 2009 because of anthropogenic climate change, which scientists say is caused by fossil-fuel carbon emissions.” But the reality is that the climate change we have been experiencing is caused by the sun and the oceans over which Mankind has no control. Human caused climate change has not been observed.

    The real problem here is how to produce the mint and sugar candy and transport it ti the glacier without making use of fossil fuels in any way. One must also keep the mint candy dry or else it will melt.

  34. Russian Foreign Ministry today posted following guide on their FaceBook page :
    – If you want a Russian diplomat to invite your political opponent for an ‘off the record’ meeting select one (1).
    – To secure services of Russian hackers, select two (2).
    – For the service to interfere in the foreign elections, select three (3).
    True, with the date of posting 1st April 2017. Nice to know that the ageing veteran Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov still has a sense of humour.

  35. I can’t tell that the arctic is screaming from my location, but I am quite optimistic that the arctic is greening. Would you prefer a mound of ice over a pasture for your cattle?

  36. Pro Hart suggested painting Ayers Rock some time ago but for some odd reason it was rejected. Let him paint the Glacier and its surrounds a nice gloss white. With yellows and browns and reds and greens. Especially Greens. Another successful Aussie export to NZ along with possums.

  37. Interesting to see if this works. I’ve just been around Iceland checking out the glaciers there – evidently a lot of the locals are talking about the glaciers retreating here with great speed. Perhaps they need to action this idea also. Apparently the glaciers will retreat so far that tourists in 2027 won’t be able to access the glaciers easily and it will require long treks to see them…..so I am told!

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