Greenland melting likely increased by bacteria in sediment

Microbes in meltwater stream sediment may help boost island’s contribution to sea-level rise

RUTGERS UNIVERSITY

Research News

IMAGE
IMAGE: A SUPRAGLACIAL STREAM AND SEDIMENT FLOODPLAIN IN SOUTHWEST GREENLAND. view more CREDIT: SASHA LEIDMAN

Bacteria are likely triggering greater melting on the Greenland ice sheet, possibly increasing the island’s contribution to sea-level rise, according to Rutgers scientists.

That’s because the microbes cause sunlight-absorbing sediment to clump together and accumulate in the meltwater streams, according to a Rutgers-led study – the first of its kind – in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings can be incorporated in climate models, leading to more accurate predictions of melting, scientists say.

“These streams can be seen all over Greenland and they have a brilliant blue color, which leads to further melting since they absorb more sunlight than the surrounding ice,” said lead author Sasha Leidman, a graduate student in the lab of co-author Asa K. Rennermalm, an associate professor in the Department of Geography in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “This is exacerbated as dark sediment accumulates in these streams, absorbing even more sunlight and causing more melting that may increase sea-level rise.”

The Greenland ice sheet covers about 656,000 square miles – most of the island and three times the size of Texas, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center. The global sea level would rise an estimated 20 feet if the thick ice sheet melted.

With climate change, sea-level rise and coastal storms threaten low-lying islands, cities and lands around the world.

Most scientists ignore sediment in glacial streams that form on top of the Greenland ice sheet as meltwater flows to the ocean, but the Rutgers-led team wanted to find out why they accumulated so much sediment. In 2017, scientists flew drones over an approximately 425-foot-long stream in southwest Greenland, took measurements and collected sediment samples. They found that sediment covers up to a quarter of the stream bottom, far more than the estimated 1.2 percent that would exist if organic matter and cyanobacteria did not cause sediment granules to clump together. They also showed that streams have more sediment than predicted by hydrological models.

“We found that the only way for sediment to accumulate in these streams was if bacteria grew in the sediment, causing it to clump into balls 91 times their original size,” Leidman said. “If bacteria didn’t grow in the sediment, all the sediment would be washed away and these streams would absorb significantly less sunlight. This sediment aggregation process has been going on for longer than human history.”

The solar energy absorbed by streams likely depends on the health and longevity of the bacteria, and further warming in Greenland may lead to greater sediment deposits in glacial streams, the study says.

“Decreases in cloud cover and increases in temperature in Greenland are likely causing these bacteria to grow more extensively, causing more sediment-driven melting,” Leidman said. “With climate change causing more of the ice sheet to be covered by streams, this feedback may lead to an increase in Greenland’s contribution to sea-level rise. By incorporating this process into climate models, we’ll be able to more accurately predict how much melting will occur, with the caveat that it is uncertain how much more melting will take place compared with what climate models predict. It will likely not be negligible.”

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Rutgers co-authors include graduate student Rohi Muthyala and School of Engineering Professor Qizhong (George) Guo. A scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder contributed to the study.

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Ron Long
January 16, 2021 2:22 am

“The sediment aggregation process has been going on longer than human history.” They destroyed their whole premise with this one simple quote. If the sediment aggregation process existed before SUV’s then it is normal. As an aside I climbed mountains in Oregon and Washington, volcanic peaks, and spent a lot of time on glaciers, where an amazing array of colors tended to develop during the summer months. Who funded this nonsense?

Reply to  Ron Long
January 16, 2021 6:14 am

Somebody’s taxes.

Denis Rushworth
Reply to  Ron Long
January 16, 2021 6:18 am

NASA and NSF. In more precise terms, you did.

Len Werner
Reply to  Denis Rushworth
January 16, 2021 8:07 am

Well, I got beat out on that one; the statement ‘longer than human history’ hit me too hard enough that I concluded that this was just not written by a scientist. It’s baffling that it would be included–but then I noted all the ‘likely’, ‘may’, ‘might be’ , ‘could’ weasel words. I still remember the mental battle many years ago when I decided I could not use words like that in a report, I could say that something was, or wasn’t, or I didn’t know and needed to shut up and go back to work.

I note that there’s still no study of what bacteria in the snow/firn/ice are doing to the CO2 content. I’ve always seen pink algae growing on summer snow at high altitude in northern Canada, and concluded that bacteria would be there with them, producing a contaminant of unknown magnitude to ice CO2 measurements.

Ron Long
Reply to  Len Werner
January 16, 2021 8:59 am

Great minds think alike?

Kevin A
Reply to  Len Werner
January 16, 2021 9:36 am

I was looking forward to reading about how they dammed a stream, filtered the bacteria from the water and release the filtered water back into the stream to measure down stream water heating without bacteria … Weasel words indeed.

fretslider
January 16, 2021 2:43 am

Did they try Sodium hypochlorite?

john
January 16, 2021 4:17 am

Joe Biden names top geneticist Eric Lander as science adviser

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00118-8

“It signifies the importance of who will be in the room when decisions are being made,” says Roger Pielke Jr., a science policy expert at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Lander was a key leader of the Human Genome Project — the race to sequence the human genome, which ended in 2003 — and is president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He will be the first biologist to run OSTP.

Last edited 6 months ago by john
Reply to  john
January 16, 2021 11:10 pm

“Lander was a key leader of the Human Genome Project — the race to sequence the human genome, which ended in 2003”

That project was fiddling along for years until a private enterprise project led by Craig Venter got ahead of the academic effort.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Venter#Human_Genome_Project

MJB
January 16, 2021 4:41 am

“Likely increased by” is a relative term, requiring a comparison point. They don’t seem to have one. What was the contribution of bacteria during the previous 1930-1950 warm spell?

https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/clim/22/14/2009jcli2816.1.xml

Steve Case
January 16, 2021 4:50 am

“This sediment aggregation process has been going on for longer than human history.”

“Decreases in cloud cover and increases in temperature in Greenland are likely causing these bacteria to grow more extensively, causing more sediment-driven melting, With climate change causing more of the ice sheet to be covered by streams, this feedback may lead to an increase in Greenland’s contribution to sea-level rise. By incorporating this process into climate models, we’ll be able to more accurately predict how much melting will occur, with the caveat that it is uncertain how much more melting will take place compared with what climate models predict. It will likely not be negligible.”

Where are the numbers that say that that Greenland is experiencing:

        Decreases in cloud cover 
        Increases in temperature
        More of the ice sheet covered by streams

From my file of quotes, factoids and smart remarks:

“Observing something for the first time, doesn’t mean it has never happened before.”

fred250
Reply to  Steve Case
January 16, 2021 4:57 am

Greenland Ice area over the last 8000+ years

Must have been lots of bacteria between 8000 and 1000 years ago !! 🙂

comment image

czechlist
Reply to  Steve Case
January 16, 2021 6:38 am

History now begins with personal observation. 40 years ago in my area we had unusual ice and snow storms in early January for several years. They are now rare again (A simple search of historic area ice and snow events reveals the anomaly) but a local radio personality, not a native but moved into the area at that time, believes the storms were normal and uses the current lack of them as proof of climate change. I fear most people, especially the young, believe him.

Steve Case
Reply to  czechlist
January 17, 2021 12:54 am

“40 years ago in my area we had unusual ice and snow storms in early January for several years. They are now rare again”

The IPCC tells us the warming will be at night, in winter and the high latitudes. It would follow that summer afternoons and in the tropics – not so much.

The IPCC also tells us that a warmer world will bring more rain.

So what does the news media show us? Landscapes ravaged by summer drought.

bluecat57
January 16, 2021 4:57 am

Despite their claims otherwise, scientists make assumptions.
So instead of assuming melting is a bad thing, assume it is a positive thing.
What good comes from bacteria melting ice?
Or maybe the water is trying to kill the bacteria. Self-defense is a good thing.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  bluecat57
January 16, 2021 6:10 pm

Or they could consider it neither good nor bad, just something that happens. There’s no need to make a value judgement on it.

bluecat57
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
January 17, 2021 7:12 am

There is no need, but humans always do. No one is truly objective.

January 16, 2021 5:22 am

Following is Ole Humlum’s latest, received today.
http://www.climate4you.com/
[excerpt]
“5: There is no perceptible effect on atmospheric CO2 due to the COVID-related drop in GHG emissions. Natural sinks and sources for atmospheric CO2 far outweigh human contributions.
 
The significance of Humlum’s observation cannot be overstated – it strongly supports Ed Berry’s latest book and paper, as described below.

Conclusion:
The Great Covid-19 Lockdown Fraud, which has been linked by leading globalists to the Great Global Warming / Climate Fraud (“To solve the very-scary Covid-19 Fraud we have to solve the very-scary Climate Fraud” and similar specious nonsense) has demonstrated that both very-scary schemes are FALSE! The lockdown is now known to have caused 10 to 100 times more harm to humanity than the Covid-19 illness. If there was any truth to the warmists’ fundamental hypothesis that increasing fossil fuel combustion is the primary driver of increasing atmospheric CO2, we should have seen a relative decline trend in atmospheric CO2 during the Lockdown and WE DID NOT! This is more evidence to support Ed Berry’s hypothesis that the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 is primarily caused by nature, not the combustion of fossil fuels.

So if we follow the warmists nonsense hypo and eliminate fossil fuel production, shut down our vital energy systems, kill off a large part of humanity and have the survivors live like cavemen, then atmospheric CO2 will NOT be significantly reduced – and we will destroy our prosperity and our lives for nothing – for a failed, false, nonsense hypothesis concocted by a gang of globalist fraudsters.
 
Even if Ed Berry’s hypo were false, which is improbable, the warmist hypothesis fails on two further points:
1.      Atmospheric CO2 changes lag atmospheric temperature changes by approximately 9 months in the modern data record. The future cannot cause the past.
2.      Even if one accepts that “the future CAN cause the past”, the calculated sensitivity of climate to increasing atmospheric CO2 is far too low (~1C/doubling) to cause dangerous warming.

The global warming fraudsters have no credible arguments left – their very-scary global warming / human-made climate change crisis is cancelled.
________________________________________________________
 
I recommend Ed Berry’s new book “Climate Miracle: There is no climate crisis Nature controls climate”
https://www.amazon.ca/Climate-Miracle-climate-crisis-controls-ebook/dp/B08LCD1YC3/
My review: 5 Stars.
An excellent, readable book that destroys the scary global warming / climate hypothesis.
Reviewed in Canada on November 11, 2020 Verified Purchase
 
https://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/esrl-co2/from:1979/mean:12/derivative/plot/uah6/from:1979/scale:0.22/offset:0.14
 
Author Dr. Edwin Berry demolishes the IPCC’s very-scary catastrophic man-made global warming hypothesis. Ed proves from basic principles that the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere is primarily natural, not man-made. Berry’s analysis is consistent with my 2008 publication that atmospheric CO2 cannot significantly drive temperature, because changes in CO2 lag temperature changes in the modern data record, as they do in the longer-term ice core record. Kuo et al (1990) and Keeling (1995) made similar observations in the journal Nature, but have been studiously ignored by global warming propagandists. “The future cannot cause the past.”
 
CARBON DIOXIDE IS NOT THE PRIMARY CAUSE OF GLOBAL WARMING, THE FUTURE CAN NOT CAUSE THE PAST
By Allan M.R. MacRae, January 2008
http://icecap.us/images/uploads/CO2vsTMacRae.pdf
 

 

Ben Vorlich
January 16, 2021 5:43 am

I find the reports of Greenland ice loss quite interesting the DMI mass balance shows a mass gain of almost 400Gt most years, even 2011-12 which seems to be a poster child for a bad year didn’t show a loss. Glaciers, don’t seem to be doing anything unusual. The accumulation always starts the year at zero, so working out the total for the decade is guessnwork for me, but for the period 2011 to 2020 about 2440Gt gain.
So where’s the data that shows Greenland losing large amounts of ice mass.

http://polarportal.dk/en/greenland/surface-conditions/

nyolci
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
January 16, 2021 9:43 am

You’re watching the wrong graph, you genius. They explicitly say that not all loss is included ‘cos this is the surface graph. Check this http://polarportal.dk/en/greenland/mass-and-height-change/ to see mass loss, around 4000Gt in the last 2 decades, 200Gt per year on average.

fred250
Reply to  nyolci
January 16, 2021 12:19 pm

Greenland ice mass since 1900…

comment image

Surface mass balance is tiny, and was more in the 1930s

comment image

Greenland ice area is only down a TINY amount from the peak in the LIA.

comment image

Your manic panic is, as always, based on total ignorance , d’nyholist !

Last edited 6 months ago by fred250
Jeff Alberts
Reply to  nyolci
January 16, 2021 6:12 pm

around 4000Gt in the last 2 decades, 200Gt per year on average.”

Oh NOOOOOOO!!!! ALARMING.

Try putting into perspective.

philincalifornia
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
January 16, 2021 7:50 pm

What, you’re asking him/her to find a pencil and the back of an envelope? Now that’s just cruel.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  nyolci
January 17, 2021 2:24 am

So Greenland is gaining about 244Gt per year on average (my original guess) and losing about 234Gt in total meaning that the total loss annually is about 480Gt, but the DMI on your link says 234 Gt
Based on this data, it can be seen that during the period 2003-2011 the Greenland Ice Sheet has lost 234 km3 (1 Gt is 1 billion tonnes or 1 km3 of water)

When I look at my original link and the overall mass change most of the activity is around the coastal region, the central region gets very little precipitionmost years but still manages to gain mass.

All this on a 2002 baseline with people still speculating on how it’s happening. For my own part I’m happy that it is, the last thing I want is Inuit in Kayaks turning up in Orkney, as they did in the 17th century, again.

http://www.strangehistory.net/2013/02/02/inuit-in-orkney/
and
https://www.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/was-orkney-home-inuit-settlement-860263

Tom in Florida
January 16, 2021 5:44 am

“they have a brilliant blue color,”

Why wouldn’t they? Anyone who has been around bodies of water knows that the color we see is dependent on the bottom and cloud cover. Light colored bottoms with bright sunlight allow us see more blue, dark colored bottoms and clouds not so much.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
January 16, 2021 6:16 am

This so much sounds like school children experiencing the outdoors for the first time. From John in Florida.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  John Shewchuk
January 16, 2021 10:59 am

Wow… can you imagine how much bacteria it must be taking to color the Gulf Stream?

Nick Schroeder
January 16, 2021 6:42 am

https://gracefo.jpl.nasa.gov/resources/33/greenland-ice-loss-2002-2016/
“Research based on observations from the NASA/German Aerospace Center’s twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites indicates that between 2002 and 2016, Greenland shed approximately 280 gigatons (aka billions) of ice per year, causing global sea level to rise by 0.03 inches (0.8 millimeters) per year”

0.8 mm/y out of the current SLR of 3.0 mm/y or 11.8” PER CENTURY!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenland_ice_sheet
“Analysis of gravity data from GRACE satellites indicates that the Greenland ice sheet lost approximately 2,900 Gt (0.1% of its total mass) between March 2002 and September 2012. The mean mass loss rate for 2008–2012 was 367 Gt/year.

In the TEN YEARS between 2002 and 2012 Greenland lost 2,900 Gt which represented –
(0.1% of its total mass) (Yep, read the fine print.)
YES – AN ASTONISHING, NAY STAGGERING EVEN, ZERO POINT 1 PERCENT OF ITS TOTAL MASS!!!!!!!!
 
Are you effing kidding me? The uncertainty must be 10 times that much.
Who measures this crap and thinks the numbers have substance???
Probably those barely 20 millennials with their participation/entitlement PhDs.
Every year Greenland “loses” 500 Gt during the summer and gains it all back in the winter.

nyolci
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
January 16, 2021 9:47 am

The uncertainty must be 10 times that much.

How do you know that? Where is the scientific publication (yours, anyone’s) about this?

Who measures this crap and thinks the numbers have substance???

Scientists. You know, those strange, knowledgeable guys.

Garland Lowe
Reply to  nyolci
January 16, 2021 10:33 am

Scientists. You know, those strange, knowledgeable guys.

Are you referring to that group of knowledgeable guys (I guess gals aren’t knowledgeable) who have an agenda i.e. proving global warming, those knowledgeable guys?
Please send more tax dollars to do further research. We take great pride in delivering the desired scientific answer you paid for. Ain’t being a scientist great?

Last edited 6 months ago by Garland Lowe
fred250
Reply to  nyolci
January 16, 2021 12:21 pm

Poor evidence free d’hynolist.

I doubt you have ever met any real “science” in your life.

We are waiting !

Lrp
Reply to  nyolci
January 16, 2021 1:15 pm

All of them, or just 97%?

fred250
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
January 16, 2021 12:32 pm

Calving is a NATURAL feature that must happen with rivers of ice.

Mass loss due to melting underneath cannot be related to human activity

Ice data shows theat Greenland temperature is only just a tiny blip above its coldest in some 10,000 years.

fred250
Reply to  fred250
January 16, 2021 2:05 pm

typo fix, third statement

Ice data shows the current Greenland temperature is only just a tiny blip above its coldest in some 10,000 years.

Nick Schroeder
January 16, 2021 6:49 am

“…three times the size of Texas,”
Is that a lot?
When did Texas become an official National Bureau of Standards unit of area?

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
January 16, 2021 7:32 am

Texas for area.

Hiroshimas for energy.

Zetajoules for a unit of work to raise the temperature of water.

Did you not download the updated standards from the Bureau of Measurements?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Pillage Idiot
January 16, 2021 6:14 pm

You mean the Ministry of Information?

Walter Sobchak
January 16, 2021 8:02 am

It’s the bacteria, Yeah, that’s the ticket. Bacteria.

Sara
January 16, 2021 8:25 am

Hmmmm….. there seems to be some sort of odd “thing” going on here. If it’s all snow and ice-covered and massive disasters will ensue – should all that frozen stuff melt – then why is it called Greenland?

Oh, that’s right – it was green, sort of – okay, warmish – when the Vikings moved there to set up housekeeping, and then they got hit by the Little Ice Age and had to leave, so….

I am finding it hard to take the science people seriously when they exaggerate, dissimulate, and in general don’t do a very good job of reporting stuff. Too many “if this, then that” and the fallback to the quibbling terms like “likely, might have, could,” and it’s all downhill from there.

If they don’t know ahead of time that when ice begins to melt, it contains a lot of dirt (generalized term), they haven’t been outside in the real world enough. All the dirt, soot, slop and everything else accumulates in the air, gets moved from one place to another, mixed with precipitation and falls out of the sky. It isn’t really visible until the ice/snow/slop starts to melt.

I would be far more impressed if these earnest people took on the task of measuring how much dirt, soot, slop, etc., gets embedded in precipitation and ends up in Greenland’s ice sheets, and how many times this has happened. That might be worth a focused reading experience.

What? I can dream, can’t I?

Old Retired Guy
Reply to  Sara
January 16, 2021 8:46 am

Mostly originating from China.

Sara
Reply to  Sara
January 16, 2021 12:41 pm

Yeah, but it also comes from local sources, like bird droppings, forest fires, particles from dust storms, etc., and that doesn’t all originate in China.

oeman 50
January 16, 2021 8:41 am

They also showed that streams have more sediment than predicted by hydrological models.”

You means the models were wrong? I thought the science was settled!

fred250
Reply to  oeman 50
January 16, 2021 12:25 pm

You means the models were wrong?

Its almost as though they made the models deliberately wrong….

…. so as to give themselves continued employment pointing out they were wrong.

willem post
January 16, 2021 8:56 am

Greenland ice melting is mostly due to:

1) The world warming since the late 16th century, and
2)China and India burning coal in plants with VERY POOR air quality control systems.

The sub-micron particles settle on the ice.
The sun melts the ice much quicker than, if there were no such small particles.

I have about 40 years experience in the power sector, designed many plants with AQC systems.

I know about small particles emitted by DIRTY coal power plants.

Notanacademic
January 16, 2021 9:13 am

The modern warm period is not as warm as the medieval warm period which wasn’t as warm as the Roman warm period which wasn’t as warm as the Egyptian warm period and so on all the way back to the Holocene optimum. So this has happened many times before only this time it’s happening slower than it ever has.

willem post
January 16, 2021 11:39 am

India and China have many coal power plants with very poor air quality control systems.

Those plants emit sub-micron particles, which settle, with snow and rain, on glaciers, including in Greenland.

Photographs shows the ice has a black/brown color.

Large-scale volcanic eruptions would have the same result.

Ice melts quicker, than it would without the particles.

oeman 50
Reply to  willem post
January 17, 2021 6:21 pm

I have an extensive set of Google Earth pins for power stations across the world. Most of the plants from India have visible smoke plumes. Mind you, these are not the distinctive white plumes of water vapor from scrubbed boilers, but the gray smoke from inadequately controlled particulate emissions.

January 17, 2021 12:32 pm

Yuh! Uhuh!
These bacteria never existed before we discovered them.
We can add their melting effect to other man made warming and make our sea level alarmism even more shrill.

What other natural processes can we discover and claim they’ve only just begun? How about the daily lunar tides in the sea? Never had those before 1850.

January 19, 2021 5:24 am

Really? I think the little magma plume had something to do with it too!

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201207102105.htm

January 19, 2021 5:29 am

Here’s the paper reference from the link I just posted.The magma plume under the ice also has an effect.

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2020JB019837

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