Tag Archives: Ice

Climate Sense: Ice at both poles keeps melting at a faster and faster rate

I would like to share five items about climate change:

Item 1

Antarctica is losing six times more ice per year than it did 40 years ago, according to a new study by glaciologists at the University of California, Irvine; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and the Netherlands’ Utrecht University.

Antarctic ice // Photo: Joe MacGregor, NASA

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” said lead author Eric Rignot, quoted in a news release. “As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.”

The study, “Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017,” was published yesterday ahead of print in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Item 2

National Public Radio’s David Greene speaks with marine biologist James McClintock via telephone from Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. McClintock, who is associated with the University of Alabama, Birmingham, conducts research on climate change. Here he describes some stunning personal observations during summer at the South Pole.

Item 3

In the Arctic, melting ice from glaciers and surface ice is adding about 14,000 tons of water into the ocean every second, according to a study by researchers in the U.S., Canada, Chile, The Netherlands and Norway.

Over the past 47 years, that melt water has caused the sea to rise by nearly an inch — an estimated 23 millimeters.

Read the article in Fortune magazine by Kevin Kelleher, or check out the scientific paper in Environmental Research Letters.

Item 4

Greenland’s ice sheet appears to be an overlooked source of methane releases to the atmosphere, according to researchers at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, who camped out for three months to measure the release.

Methane analysis by Guillaume Lamarche-Gagnon in Greenland. // Photo: Marie Bulinova

“A key finding is that much of the methane produced beneath the ice likely escapes the Greenland Ice Sheet in large, fast flowing rivers before it can be oxidized to CO2, a typical fate for methane gas which normally reduces its greenhouse warming potency,” Bristol Professor Jemma Wadham said in a news release.

The paper was published Jan. 2 in the journal Nature.

Item 5

In Washington state, climate change in the form of “clean energy” leads the list of four legislative priorities submitted by the Environmental Priorities Coalition, which includes more than 20 environmental organizations and related interest groups.

“Washington is uniquely positioned to achieve a fossil free, clean, and renewable electricity grid,” according to the coalition website. “Urgent action is needed to address climate change, and we have a critical opportunity to phase away from dirty fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and fracked gas, and toward clean and sustainable energy sources like solar and wind.” Check out the fact sheet (PDF 2 mb) on the topic.

Climate-change bills promoted by the coalition include:

HB 1110, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation fuels;
HB 1113, amending state greenhouse gas emission limits for consistency with the most recent assessment of climate change science;
SB 5115, concerning appliance efficiency standards;
SB 5116, supporting Washington’s clean energy economy and transitioning to a clean, affordable, and reliable energy future; and
SB 5118, concerning the right to consume self-generated electricity.

The other three priorities listed by the coalition are orca emergency response, oil spill prevention and reducing plastic pollution. A “partnership agenda,” supporting environmental progress outside the coalition, will be announced soon, according to the coalition website.


“Climate Sense” is my attempt to share some of the important research, political developments, fascinating viewpoints or inspiring opinions that I come across during my reading. For a further explanation, read my first Water Ways post of 2019: “Climate Sense: I would like to share what I learn during this coming year.”

Amusing Monday: Underwater icicle freezes starfish

The headline on BBC Nature News calls an underwater ice formation the “Brinicle Ice Finger of Death.”

“Brinicle” is short for “briny icicle,” while “Ice Finger of Death” is a dramatic title for a fascinating natural phenomenon found in Antarctica and captured in stunning time-lapse photography for the BBC One series “Frozen Planet.” Click here for the video.

The video shows a finger of heavy water reaching down from the surface and then advancing across the sea floor, encasing starfish and sea urchins in unexpected ice.

The water coming off Little Razorback Island near Ross Archipelago contained a high salt content, the result of separation as ice freezes at the surface. Because of its high concentration of salt, the runoff water was denser and colder than the surrounding ocean (well below the freezing point of fresh water). As the brine drained off the island, it caused the seawater to freeze around it as the brinicle advanced.

The phenomenon had been noted before, but finding a place where a brinicle was forming and setting up the film equipment was a feat in itself, as photographer Hugh Miller explained to reporter Ella Davies of BBC Nature:

“That particular patch was difficult to get to. It was a long way from the hole and it was quite narrow at times between the sea bed and the ice. I do remember it being a struggle… The kit is very heavy because it has to sit on the sea bed and not move for long periods of time.”

Frisky seals in the area barged into the scene, breaking off pieces of the brinicle and messing with the film gear, but eventually the crew got the dramatic video they were seeking.

The series “Frozen Planet” apparently is not yet available in the United States. The clip shown in the video player above can be viewed on the BBC Nature page if the YouTube version does not work.

Since the clip above was posted on YouTube last Wednesday, it has gone viral, with more than 4.9 million viewings. (The clip, which was copied from the BBC website, has since been taken down.)