Driven by Meltwater and Rising Temperatures, the Global Water Cycle is Accelerating

Nature, 23 February 2022 Climate change, in part by causing an increase of meltwater flowing off ice sheets into the ocean, has intensified the “global water cycle” by roughly 7%. This has worsened droughts and extreme rainfall events across the world. The global water cycle involves the constant movement of freshwater between the clouds, land […]

Rising Seas, Flooding and Erosion Threaten African Heritage Sites

Nature Climate Change, 10 February 2022 This study offers the first comprehensive assessment of the exposure of African cultural and natural heritage sites to the combination of rising sea levels, extreme weather events and erosion associated with accelerating global warming. At present, 20% of Africa’s heritage sites are at risk from a once-in-a-century extreme sea-level […]

Rising Air Temperatures Break Up Larsen B Sea Ice from Antarctic Peninsula

NASA Earth Observatory, 2 February 2022 Rising air temperatures and increasingly wet weather caused a large region of sea ice off the Antarctic Peninsula, that had persisted even through the summer since 2011, to break up completely during a few days in January. Strong winds and the formation of meltwater ponds on the surface from […]

Newly Observed Ice Loss Mechanism May Cause Extremely High Melt Rate on Greenland

Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences, 8 March 2022 Surface meltwater heats up as it passes down through cracks and fractures in the Greenland Ice Sheet – which means that some areas at the base of the ice sheet are melting up to 100 times faster than previously estimated. Falling meltwater carries an immense […]

Regional Cooling “Blue Blob” in North Atlantic Slows Melting of Iceland’s Glaciers

Geophysical Research Letters, 24 January 2022 A patch of unusually cold water in the North Atlantic Ocean – nicknamed the “Blue Blob” – has temporarily slowed the melting of Iceland’s glaciers since 2011. This regional cooling was caused by meltwater pouring off the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic glaciers, as well as the slowing of […]

COP-26 Video of the Week: Past is Present: Why 1.5°C is the Ice Sheet Temperature Limit, with Julie Brigham-Grette and Andrea Dutton

For a look at ice sheet behavior over the past several million years, in response to CO2 and warming levels at or only slightly above today’s levels, watch this stellar COP-26 presentation by two giants of the paleo ice sheet field: Dr. Julie Brigham-Grette, University of Massachusetts Amherst and former chair of the U.S. Polar […]

Antarctic Flowering Plants Growing and Spreading at Unprecedented Rates

Current Biology, 14 February 2022 Antarctica’s two native flowering plants – pearlwort and hairgrass – have experienced unprecedented growth over the past decade as a result of rising air temperatures, with longer and wetter summers. These warm summer months also reduce the amount of ice covering the soil. In the South Orkney Islands of Antarctica, […]

Seawater Can Intrude Even Under “Grounded” Ice to Accelerate Ice Sheet Retreat

The Cryosphere, 8 February 2022 New modeling suggests that warm seawater can slip underneath grounded ice sheets — ice resting on land or bedrock — and travel tens of kilometers inland beneath the grounded ice. When the ground below the ice is flat or slopes downward and is impermeable, such as bedrock; seawater can mix […]

Evidence of Antarctic Ice Sheet Loss Despite Sub-freezing Surface Temperatures

Geology, 11 February 2022 New research resolves a long-standing discrepancy between marine records from the Ross Sea, which indicate complete ice sheet loss in that region during interglacials (warmer periods, with CO2 around 280ppm); versus land records that show persistent cold, sub-freezing conditions which should have maintained the ice sheet. This study resolved this discrepancy […]

COP-26 Cryosphere Pavilion Video of the Week: Glaciers and Ice Sheets: the Long Tail of Climate Change, with Matthias Huss, ETH Zurich and John Pomeroy, University of Saskatchewan; together with IPCC Ice Sheet Researchers Jonathan Bamber and Robert DeConto

This fascinating COP-26 session delves into the factors causing glacier loss and downstream impacts, as well as discussing the similarities and differences in behavior between very large glaciers (often near the margins of ice sheets) and the ice sheets themselves. It includes keynote presentations by Dr. Matthias Huss, ETH-Zurich, Switzerland and Dr. John Pomeroy, Global […]

Mount Everest’s Highest Glacier Losing Decades’ Worth of Ice Every Year

NPJ Climate and Atmospheric Science, 3 February 2022 The South Col Glacier next to the peak of Mount Everest has lost 55 meters of thickness in the last 25 years. The layers of snow and ice covering the surface of this glacier took more than 2,000 years to accumulate, but they are now melting and […]

Glacier Retreat Has Increased Seven-Fold in Western Canada Since 2010

Remote Sensing of Environment, 7 January 2022 The compounding effects of climate change are particularly evident in Western Canada, where this detailed study of glaciers in Alberta and British Columbia found that ice loss was seven times faster between 2011-2020 than between 1984-2010. This extreme loss was even more pronounced for small and low-altitude glaciers […]

Study of “Decreased” Ice Volume Largely a Matter of Relabeling Glaciers as Ice Sheets

Nature Geoscience, 7 February 2022 Widespread media coverage of this study unfortunately has resulted in a mischaracterization of its main conclusions, by claiming that the world’s glaciers “hold 20% less ice than previously estimated.” In reality, their estimate of global glacier volume excludes huge areas of Antarctica that were included in previous estimates. The ice […]

COP-26 Cryosphere Pavilion Video of the Week: Snowpack, Glaciers and Water Supply with Regine Hock

For more on current losses and future projections for the world’s glaciers and snowpack, and impacts on water resources, watch this great overview by Dr. Regine Hock, IPCC Coordinating Lead Author (SROCC) and Professor at the University of Oslo and the University of Alaska.

Meltwater Intensifies Southern Ocean Freshening Around Antarctica

Scientific Reports, 10 January 2022 Rising global temperatures have shifted westerly winds closer to the Antarctic continent, sending warm eddies of water into cavities at the base of Antarctica’s ice sheets, and accelerating the flow of meltwater into the ocean. During the past 20 years, the flow of Antarctic meltwater into the Southern Ocean has […]

First Regional Inventory of Glacial Lake Flooding in Alaska and Canada

The Cryosphere, 25 January 2022 Alaska and northwestern Canada contain more than 27,000 glaciers, which account for the second-largest area of ice in the world outside of Greenland and Antarctica. “Ice-marginal” lakes form along the edges of these glaciers when their outflow is dammed by either ice or sediment deposits. Glacial lakes with different types […]

Glacier Ice Loss Projected to Double in Svalbard by 2100

Nature, 19 January 2022 Svalbard contains more than one thousand glaciers located across a “climate gradient” – distinct geographical regions that experience different temperature and precipitation levels. While studies often attempt to predict the response of glaciers to future warming by examining glacier behavior patterns from a few glaciers over a long period of time, […]

COP-26 Cryosphere Pavilion Video of the Week: A Tale of Two Ice Sheets

In keeping with the contrasting Greenland and Antarctica studies in this week’s Capsules, this COP-26 session explains the differences between melting and potential sea-level rise rates from Earth’s two major ice sheets of Greenland (7 meters of potential sea-level rise) and Antarctica (about 58 meters, or 190 feet); with Dr. Julie Brigham-Grette of University of […]

Ice Loss from Greenland’s Glaciers Driven Largely by Warming Oceans

Science Advances, 1 January 2022 Warm water from the Atlantic Ocean fills the bottom of Greenland’s deepest fjords, where its major outlet glaciers meet the ocean. During the summer, this dense layer of ocean water mixes with glacial meltwater, sending a plume of warmer water to the surface. This process, known as “undercutting,” accelerates melting […]

Rapid Retreat Under Glaciers in West Antarctica

Nature Geoscience, 13 January 2022 Scientists are observing unusually rapid retreat along the undersides of several glaciers in the Amundsen Sea of West Antarctica. Rising global temperatures send fast-moving currents of relatively warm seawater into cavities along the base of these glaciers and their adjoining ice shelves. These currents have accelerated the melting of ice […]