Check out this amazing footage from the documentary, CHASING ICE", and watch a slab of ice the size of lower Manhattan drop off the edge of Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. It's the largest calving event ever filmed. Check out the movie, too, if you haven't yet.
While browsing through some recent science stories, I came across this article about a gigantic boulder unleashed by the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull that erupted earlier this year. The rock stands over 50 feet tall and is estimated to weigh about 1000 tons! That is one big chunk of stone! There's a photo of it, with an explanation of how the impressive boulder came to rest where the photographer shot it.
Courtesy NOAA Photo LibraryI always assumed that I was under near-constant supervision by government satellites. I figured that because satellites can’t really see me inside stores (where I do all my shoplifting), they’d be making up for lost time by watching me put stolen clothing on the dog (in the yard) and having my bubble baths (near a window).
At first it was creepy … but then it was sort of comforting. Like a nightlight. A nightlight that’s always looking at you.
Well, it turns out that my privacy may actually be pretty low on NASA’s list of priorities.
See, a new online system was just launched in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, which should allow scientists and concerned organizations access to images from NASA satellites. Cool, I thought. I’ll get a fancy new hat. But, no, it just so happens that the images aren’t of me relaxing on the roof, or of me washing my car in carwash-appropriate clothing—they’re images of the Himalayas, and the massive glaciers they hold.
I wouldn’t say that I’m “devastated,” exactly. But I am crushed. I thought we—NASA and I—had something. I mean, yes, those images are recorded and distributed to track the effects of climate change on Himalayan glaciers, and, yes, the glaciers appear to be shrinking at an alarming rate, and, yes, more than a billion people depend on the water released by those glaciers, but … what about my feelings?
Hopefully, the data provided by the satellites will help the people in vast regions of Asia to prepare for floods and, perhaps eventually, severe shortages of fresh water.
In the meantime… I guess I’ll just hide some nanny-cams around the house. To feel looked after, you know?
[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]
Courtesy Public domainA massive chunk of ice - 100 square miles of it – broke away from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier last week. The ice island is about 500 feet thick and contains enough fresh water to supply our entire nation’s tap water demands for 4 months and then some.
Just what the free-floating slab of ice will do next is anyone’s guess. Some scientist, such as Andreas Muenchow, a professor of ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware are concerned it could get wedged in by actual islands dotting the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada and jam up shipping lanes there.
"The newly born ice island may become land-fast, block the channel, or it may break into smaller pieces as it is propelled south by the prevailing ocean currents,” Muenchow said. “From there, it will likely follow along the coasts of Baffin Island and Labrador, to reach the Atlantic within the next two years."
A similar, huge slab of ice broke away from Greenland’s Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in 1962, and pieces of it became stuck in channel islands in the Nares Strait which is located about 600 miles south of the North Pole.
Muenchow has been keeping a watchful eye on the Petermann Glacier for the past several years and said he was expecting a calving to take place because the ice shelf had been growing. However, he wasn’t expecting one so large.
Although recent trends show a rise in global temperatures, Muenchow stops short of blaming the ice slab on climate change. "Nobody can claim this was caused by global warming. On the other hand nobody can claim that it wasn't," he said.
The Petermann Glacier is an ice shelf situated in northern Greenland covering an area of about 40 miles. The new ice island amounts to about twenty-five percent of the ice sheet. The following video from last summer shows why scientists were expecting last week’s event.
Double Exposure: A new photo exhibit at SMM!
We often hear about global warming as an invisible chemical process, but rarely do we meet its direct impacts face-to-face. A new exhibit on Level 6 puts the evidence right before your eyes, and it might just give you a chill. Double Exposure: Aerial Photographs of Glaciers Then and Now opened in early June and runs through Labor Day (Mon. Sept. 6). It compares old and new photos of glaciers in Alaska and the Alps. The exhibit is a precursor to the upcoming exhibit Future Earth, opening Fall 2011, which will ask, "How do we survive and thrive on a human dominated planet?" (More on Future Earth coming soon!)
How to get to the exhibit:
Stop by on your way to dine at the Elements Cafe! Take the lobby elevators or musical stairs to Level 6 and turn right. You can't miss it!
More about Double Exposure
Global climate change is more obvious in glaciers and oceans than it is in the atmosphere because air reacts very quickly to changes in temperature. Ice and water, on the other hand, react very slowly due to thermal inertia--they only show changes in temperature that are slow and build up over time. So, by the time a change shows up in the oceans or glaciers, we can conclude that it's a long-term cumulative effect rather than a temporary fluctuation. This is why the Double Exposure project is so important.
Double Exposure follows the work of David Arnold, a freelance journalist and photographer who set out to duplicate the work of photographer Bradford Washburn. Washburn had photographed glaciers in Alaska and the Alps in the 1930s and 1960s. To create a visual record of climate change, Arnold worked from 2005-2007 to photograph some of the same sites as Washburn from the same vantage points. As you compare the old and new images, you can see that significant melting and changes in the flow of water took place in as little as 45 years.
As a visitor to Double Exposure, you'll learn how to read a glacier and interpret the photographs yourself with the exhibit to guide you. You'll learn how Arnold solved the challenge of duplicating Washburn's photos with physics. You'll also learn about current impacts, trends, and potential solutions to global warming.
So, please come check out these amazing photos!
How much more controversial can a story get? This news item combines global climate change with the age-old controversies involving science vs. religion. I supposed some international conglomerate could be killing endangered species in the area.
Ever wonder just why the Red River seems to flood so regularly? North Dakota State geology professor Don Schwert says:
"Fargo and Moorhead sit on one of the flattest surfaces on Earth. It's the lakebed of what was a gigantic lake at one time--glacial Lake Agassiz. Lake Agassiz was here from about 12,000 years ago to about 9,000 years ago, and after the lake drained, it left behind sediments that formed this flat surface. These sediments form the basis for wonderful soils, but they form as well this flat surface off of which water is reluctant to drain. And so the Red River is doing the best it can in trying to process water across this flat landscape. But what happens is that, during times of floods, as we're having now, water spills out of the channel and onto the bed of the old glacial lake, and the glacial lake sort of reappears."
"The Red River Valley is unusual compared to other river valleys around the world. Most river valleys are effectively carved by the rivers themselves (if you think about the Colorado River, or the Mississippi River). But the Red River Valley, the river itself couldn't have begun to flow until glacial Lake Agassiz drained about 9,000 years ago. Now the importance of that statement is that we normally measure the ages of rivers around the world in terms of hundreds of thousands of years, millions of years, maybe even tens of millions of years, and here we have a river that began to flow about 9,000 years ago, and began to flow across this flat surface. It hasn't had time and it hasn't had the energy to carve any kind of meaningful valley. The lakebed of Lake Agassiz becomes the effective floodplain in times of flooding, and the river spills out onto the old lakebed, and glacial Lake Agassiz kind of reappears."
"One of the problems with the Red River is that floods can't be confined, in an engineering sense, by means of dams. A dam crosses a river valley, and water builds up behind it, and it can store water. Well, here we have this expansive surface: the feature we call the Red River Valley is actually the lakebed of Lake Agassiz, and in some places it's 60 or 70 miles wide, and there's no way, really, of effectively managing water in terms of reservoir storage in the southern Red River Valley.... There's really no other river in the world like it."
"[The Red River flows north, which is not really unusual.] But it does have a consequence: typically, in the Red River Valley, a spring thaw begins in the southern portion of the valley. So waters are released in the southern portion of the valley and begin slowly to work their way northward at about the same pace, perhaps, as the the thaw is working its way northward along the valley. So as waters are being delivered northward, waters are also being released in portions of the valley. And everything's kind of clumping together and keeps on building up as the river and its waters and the flood are processed northward. So it becomes very problematic, particularly in the northern portion of the valley: massive, shallow, expansive floods. In 1997, in portions just north of the North Dakota border on into Manitoba, one could measure the flood, in terms of width, at 60 to 70 miles wide. An Ohio River flood might be 1,000 yards. Here it's 60 to 70 miles wide, so it's an incredibly expansive flood. It's sort of a rebuilding of the old lake, in that sense."
"Urban development, or urbanization, is a problem worldwide in terms of helping to exacerbate flooding of rivers. If we think about the path of a raindrop before human settlement, that raindrop would take a long time being delivered into the main drainage. But here in Fargo-Moorhead, or cities elsewhere around the world, we can process that raindrop in a matter of minutes or a couple hours in there, and it's immediately delivered into the channel. When we think about parking lots and shopping malls, housing and driveways and streets, highly efficient drainage ditches or drain tiles in agricultural fields--all of that is processing water, all of that is accelerating the delivery of water into the main stem drainages."
(You can listen for yourself at the link above.)
Courtesy North Dakota Geologic Survey
More interesting resources:
Minnesota Public Radio posted this cool time-lapse, shot over 20 minutes, of sandbag operations at the Fargodome on Wednesday, 3/25.
One more interesting/worrisome thing to consider: the area of Canada once covered by the glaciers and glacial Lake Agassiz is still slowly rebounding after being pressed down by the weight of the ice. According to the New York Times,
"For the north-flowing Red River, that means its downhill slope, already barely perceptible, is getting even less pronounced with each passing year, adding to its complexity, and its propensity to flood."
Research showing that the glaciers of Glacier National Park might be gone by 2030 was wrong. New aerial surveys of the park's glaciers found them to be retreating faster than previously thought. Park scientists with the USGS now think the park could be glacierless by 2020.
Courtesy Mark RyanBoy, times must be getting tough if NASA’s latest endeavor is any indication. Researchers from the space agency recently dropped a whole slew of rubber ducks into openings in Greenland's Jakobshaven Glacier in hopes of understanding how and where melt waters from the ice sheet ends up in Baffin Bay. They’re also trying to understand why glaciers increase their speed during the summer months. The Jakobshaven Glacier, which is suspected of calving the iceberg that sank the Titanic in 1912, is Greenland’s fastest moving glacier. The current thinking is that melt water forming on top of the ice flow during the summer months travels down narrow tubes called moulins to the glaciers base where it acts as a lubricant thus speeding up the ice sheet's movement. This isn’t exactly rocket science, is it? Anyway, each little ducky carries a label with the words "science experiment" and "reward" printed on it in three languages, along with an email address. The researchers hope that those who come across the toy quackers will contact them with information about when and where they found them. So far no one has gotten back to NASA but agency officials are confidant when they do it will add to our understanding of glaciers and their role in rising sea levels. So why has NASA has resorted to using such a low-tech approach? One source claims it's because a previous test using a metallic probe failed to return any data. Another source claims the probe is being used in conjunction with the rubber bath toys. Whatever the case it looks duck hunting season has opened.
SOURCES and LINKS