— The Erimtan Angle —

LiveScience’s Stephanie Pappas reveals on Wednesday, 30 May, that a “set of 80-year-old photographs discovered in a basement archive reveals the remarkable sensitivity of Greenland’s glaciers to climate change, according to a new study that one scientist called “glaciological research with a splash of Indiana Jones.” The research, published online May 27 in the journal Nature Geoscience, reveals a pattern of stop-and-go melting along Greenland’s southeastern coast. Aerial photographs dating back to 1931 show a period of glacier retreat between 1933 and 1943, followed by a cool period of advancing ice until 1972. More recently, most of those gains have been lost as temperatures creep upward”.[1]  Since 1972 Greenland’s glaciers seem to have been in retreat . . . Pappas explains that the “long-lost photographs were taken during an expedition led by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen and include aerial photos of land, sea and ice in southeastern Greenland. After expedition researchers created a map from the photographs, the glass-plate images were tucked away at the National Survey and Cadastre of Denmark and forgotten. National Survey researchers were cleaning out the basement of their archives when they ran across the glass plates. They contacted Anders A. Bjørk, a doctoral fellow at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. For Bjørk, the find was a gold mine. Satellites have kept an orbiting eye on Greenland’s ice since the 1970s, but measurements from before then are rare. That makes it tough to determine the ice’s sensitivity to temperatures. Bjørk, Box and their colleagues digitized the photographs and used software to compare them with images taken by the U.S. military in the World War II era and to modern satellite and aerial photographs. They found the 1933-43 ice retreat followed an unusually warm period in Arctic history. From about 1919 to 1932, temperatures in the region rose by about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) per decade — about a half-degree Celsius cooler than today’s Arctic temperature, but still a useful parallel. Between 1933 and 1943, glaciers retreated by about 33 to 164 feet (10-50 meters) per year, the photos revealed. Glaciers that terminated on land retreated just as fast as glaciers that fed the sea. In the current period of ice loss that began in the 2000s, ocean-abutting glaciers are melting much more quickly than land-bound glaciers. It could be that the 1930s ice loss pushed glaciers back to higher elevations and stripped them of surface area, making them less vulnerable to warming temperatures. Today, average ice loss in southeastern Greenland is 164 feet (50 meters) of retreat each year, higher than the 1930s rates. Several fast-melting glaciers, including one losing 2,910 feet (887 meters) of ice each year, are driving up the average”.[2]

The article, written by Anders A. Bjørk, Kurt H. Kjær, Niels J. Korsgaard, Shfaqat A. Khan, Kristian K. Kjeldsen, Camilla S. Andresen, Jason E. Box, Nicolaj K. Larsen & Svend Funder, declares that unequivocally that ‘[w]idespread retreat of glaciers has been observed along the southeastern margin of Greenland. This retreat has been associated with increased air and ocean temperatures. However, most observations are from the satellite era; presatellite observations of Greenlandic glaciers are rare. Here we present a unique record that documents the frontal positions for 132 southeast Greenlandic glaciers from rediscovered historical aerial imagery beginning in the early 1930s. We combine the historical aerial images with both early and modern satellite imagery to extract frontal variations of marine- and land-terminating outlet glaciers, as well as local glaciers and ice caps, over the past 80 years. The images reveal a regional response to external forcing regardless of glacier type, terminal environment and size. Furthermore, the recent retreat was matched in its vigour during a period of warming in the 1930s with comparable increases in air temperature. We show that many land-terminating glaciers underwent a more rapid retreat in the 1930s than in the 2000s, whereas marine-terminating glaciers retreated more rapidly during the recent warming’.[3]  In other words, as a result of today’s climate fluctuations the sea temperatures have risen considerably, exacerbating the problem of melting ice.

A couple of months ago, ScienceDaily reported about another recent piece of research: “research led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego physical oceanographer Dean Roemmich shows a .33-degree Celsius (.59-degree Fahrenheit) average increase in the upper portions of the ocean to 700 meters (2,300 feet) depth. The increase was largest at the ocean surface, .59-degree Celsius (1.1-degree Fahrenheit), decreasing to .12-degree Celsius (.22-degree Fahrenheit) at 900 meters (2,950 feet) depth. The report is the first global comparison of temperature between the historic voyage of HMS Challenger (1872-1876) and modern data obtained by ocean-probing robots now continuously reporting temperatures via the global Argo program. Scientists have previously determined that nearly 90 percent of the excess heat added to Earth’s climate system since the 1960s has been stored in the oceans. The new study, published in the April 1 advance online edition of Nature Climate Change and coauthored by John Gould of the United Kingdom-based National Oceanography Centre and John Gilson of Scripps Oceanography, pushes the ocean warming trend back much earlier”.[4]  The American physical oceanographer Dean Roemmich declared that “The significance of the study is not only that we see a temperature difference that indicates warming on a global scale, but that the magnitude of the temperature change since the 1870s is twice that observed over the past 50 years . . . This implies that the time scale for the warming of the ocean is not just the last 50 years but at least the last 100 years”.[5]  It would stand to reason that the ocean has been warming ever since humanity started contributing to the general increase in global temperature as a result of the increased emission of green house gases resulting from the Industrial Revolution.

‘Stephen Schneider (1945-2010) and Norman Rosenberg, two well-respected scientists, tend to think that the matter of greenhouse gases is rather self-explanatory: the “Earth’s climate changes. The climatic effects of having polluted the atmosphere with gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) may already be felt. There is no doubt that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising. CO2 tends to trap heat near the Earth’s surface. This is known as the greenhouse effect, and its existence and basic mechanisms are not questioned by atmospheric scientists. What is questioned is the precise amount of warming and the regional pattern of climatic change that can be expected on the Earth from the anthropogenic increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. It is the regional patterns of changes in temperature, precipitation, and soil moisture that will determine what impact the greenhouse effect will have on natural ecosystems, agriculture, and water supplies”’.[6]


[1] Stephanie Pappas, “Long-lost photos reveal true tale of Greenland’s glaciers” Mother Nature Network (30 May 2012). http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/long-lost-photos-reveal-true-tale-of-greenlands-glaciers.

[2] Stephanie Pappas, “Long-lost photos reveal true tale ofGreenland’s glaciers”.

[3] Anders A. Bjørk, Kurt H. Kjær, Niels J. Korsgaard, Shfaqat A. Khan, Kristian K. Kjeldsen, Camilla S. Andresen, Jason E. Box, Nicolaj K. Larsen & Svend Funder, “An aerial view of 80 years of climate-related glacier fluctuations in southeast Greenland” Nature Geoscience, 5 (27 May 2012). http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v5/n6/full/ngeo1481.html.

[4] “New Comparison of Ocean Temperatures Reveals Rise Over the Last Century” ScienceDaily (01 April 2012). http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120401135345.htm.

[5] “New Comparison of Ocean Temperatures Reveals Rise Over the Last Century”.

[6] “Climate Change is a Hoax???” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (02 January 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/climate-change-is-a-hoax/.

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