More meltwater coming from Greenland is flowing rapidly into the Atlantic Ocean. Greenland’s ice sheet is producing more meltwater than previously expected, even though the predictions were not perceived as optimistic at all. While the cause of warming and melting ice in Greenland and the Poles could be debated the reality of warmer weather is hard to deny in the face of current events. Greenland is becoming green, rather than white, even in winter.
Firn Layer No Longer Absorbs And Refreezes Meltwater
A major cause of meltwater run off is a change in the firn layer. Firn is the build up of many years of snow. Not as dense as glacial ice, firn acts as a sponge for meltwater, holding it in place until it can refreeze.
In a recent public release, on EurekAlert, Professor William Colgan of York University explained one reason why meltwater is increasing, “the last couple years of melt have really altered the structure of the ice sheet firn and made it behave differently to future melt.”
Sudden warming in 2012 resulted in a massive, several meter thick sheet of ice, due to more rapid meltwater refreeze. This sheet of ice on the firn, is blocking it from its former function of absorbing more meltwater. Now the icy water runs along the ice sheet and pours into the ocean. The firn layer can be up to 80 meters thick, with almost limitless capacity for absorbing meltwater, but now it is capped off by a sheet of refrozen meltwater, allowing the icy water to escape into the ocean.
All the scientific models that were used to predict Greenland’s future contribution to sea level rise have been based on the assumption that firn would work as it always has, by absorbing meltwater so that it could refreeze. Scientists now have no idea how fast the ice in Greenland and Arctic Canada might melt, but they are certain it is significantly more rapid than they previously calculated.
Arctic Storms Make More Meltwater
To make matters much worse, Frank, a freak Atlantic storm bathed Greenland and the artic in a blast of warm air during December, 2015. Mashable writer, Andrew Friedman calls it an historic storm. Air temperatures, even at the north pole rose by 50 degrees, nearing 32 degrees in at least one polar location. Storms like this are rare, usually occurring only once or twice in a decade, but 2015 brought us two storms of this type. One might conclude that the frequency of warm Atlantic storms is increasing.
Global Warming Leads To More Meltwater
Temperatures in the arctic are rising faster than anywhere else on earth. The results could be more or less catastrophic. Even if the sea level rises only six meters, and no more, most of the Netherlands, a large part of New York city, Florida and much of the US Coastline could be underwater, along with a large part of Japan, Vietnam and Alexandria Egypt. Of course there is the potential for much more meltwater than that, if we consider the amount of water contained in the polar caps and all the ice in Greenland, Canada, and Northern Russia. Massive flooding could occur in our lifetime, though more optimistic views say extensive flooding from meltwater may be just over 100 years away. Still, that is little time for the world’s various cultures to adapt, especially if the change is sudden, rather than gradual, and it could easily be.
Climate Shifts have happened throughout prehistory, with various ice ages interrupting tropical temperatures, sometimes quite suddenly, things changed. And so, things might be changing again, and mankind will have to adapt if we are to fair better than the dinosaurs. The problem is that no one is really doing anything to prepare for, or to prevent a global meltwater catastrophe. Blaming climate change on various pollution sources doesn’t help prevent more meltwater if no one stops polluting. Playing the blame game solves nothing. Denying the rising water does little to prepare those on the coast lines of this world from danger, and so as governments, corporations and the general population ignore the situation, more meltwater flows into the oceans.
Photos in order of appearance [Robert Szymanski /ShutterStock] and [Achim Baque/ ShutterStock]