Saying goodbye to glaciers

May 11, 2017, University of Colorado at Boulder
Twila Moon is pictured during field work to study ice-ocean interaction at the LeConte Glacier, Alaska. Credit: Twila Moon/NSIDC

Glaciers around the world are disappearing before our eyes, and the implications for people are wide-ranging and troubling, Twila Moon, a glacier expert at the University of Colorado Boulder, concludes in a Perspectives piece in the journal Science today.

The melting of contributes to sea-level rise, which threatens to "displace millions of people within the lifetime of many of today's children," Moon writes. Glaciers also serve up fresh water to communities around the world, are integral to the planet's weather and climate systems, and they are "unique landscapes for contemplation or exploration."

And they're shrinking, fast, writes Moon, who returned to the National Snow and Ice Data Center this month after two years away. Her analysis, "Saying goodbye to ," is published in the May 12 issue of Science.

Moon admits she was pretty giddy when an editor at Science reached out to her to write a perspective piece on the state of the world's glaciers, because of her research knowledge and extensive publication record. "There was some serious jumping up and down," Moon says. "I thought, 'I've made it!' Their invitation was an exciting recognition of my hard work and expertise."

But the topic, itself, is far from a happy one. Moon describes the many ways researchers study glacier dynamics, from in-place measurements on the ice to satellite-based monitoring campaigns to models. And she describes sobering trends: The projection that Switzerland will lose more than half of its small glaciers in the next 25 years; the substantial retreat of glaciers from the Antarctic, Patagonia, the Himalayas, Greenland and the Arctic; the disappearance of iconic glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana, or reduction to chunks of ice that no longer move (by definition, a glacier must be massive enough to move).

In her piece, Moon calls for continued diligence by the scientific community, where ice research is already becoming a priority.

A time lapse of icebergs in the water near Ilulissat, Greenland. Large fishing boats can be seen whizzing past the icebergs, giving a sense of the huge size of these melting pieces of ice. Credit: Twila Moon

Moon says she got hooked on glaciers as an undergraduate in geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University, when she spent a semester abroad in Nepal. "For the first time I saw a big valley glacier, flowing through the Himalaya," she said, "and I thought it was about the coolest thing ever. After studying geology, the movement and sound of the ice, right now, made it feel almost alive.'"

That experience kicked off a research career that has taken Moon to Greenland, Alaska, Norway, and to conferences around the world. She began her work "merely" as a geologist and glaciologist, interested in ice itself, Moon said. Only later did the influence of come to play in her work.

"I think I'm about as young as you can get for being a person who started in glaciology at a time when climate change was not a primary part of the conversation," says Moon, who is 35.

She is consistently sought out by journalists hoping to understand Earth's ice, and she's sought out in the as well, recognized as someone who likes to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries. She recently worked with a biologist in Washington, for example, on a paper about how narwhals use glacial fronts in summertime—the tusked marine mammals appear to be attracted to glaciers with thick ice fronts and freshwater melt that's low in silt, though it's not yet clear why.

After a couple of post-doctoral research years, at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and then the University of Oregon, Moon and her husband headed to Bristol, England, where she took a faculty position at the University of Bristol's School of Geographical Sciences. When it became clear that her husband's work wouldn't transfer, the two determined to head back to the Rocky Mountains.

Moon started back as a researcher at CU Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center, part of CIRES, May 1.

Explore further: Glaciers rapidly shrinking and disappearing: 50 years of glacier change in Montana

More information: "Saying goodbye to glaciers," Science (2017). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aam9625

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michbaskett
5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2017
I would dispute the notion that when she was in school starting her path toward a PhD. cimate change was not part of our conscious reality. It was already becoming apparent we were headed toward troubling times. Sadly, when she is my age the parameters with which we have to work will be far more narrowed and therefore more consequential in their results in regard to our actions.
ddaye
5 / 5 (8) May 11, 2017
My wife did occasional support staff work for Dr. Lonnie Thompson at Ohio State University in the 1990's who was known for work on this. Wiki says "His observations of glacier retreat (1970s–2000s) confirm that glaciers around the world are melting...."
aksdad
1.4 / 5 (9) May 11, 2017
The melting of glacial ice contributes to sea-level rise, which threatens to "displace millions of people within the lifetime of many of today's children," Moon writes

Sea level rise is so slow that it's far more likely that millions will "displace" themselves by seeking better opportunities or economic circumstances or to escape war. The current global average rate of sea level rise is about 1.5 mm per year measured by tide gauges, or 3.4 mm per year measured by satellite. That's 6 inches in a 100 years (or 13 inches if the satellites are more accurate). Humans are pretty mobile and it's unlikely they will stay in the same place for 50 or 100 years.

See for yourself:

Average global sea level rise:
https://climate.n...a-level/
http://sealevel.colorado.edu/

Sea level rise at specific locations around the world:
https://tidesandc...nds.html
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (6) May 11, 2017
2 years away, kids, and she can see the difference.

#climatecranks take note. Not that you will, but I'd beware of lamp posts and people with ropes.
ForFreeMinds
1.4 / 5 (9) May 12, 2017
Interesting article, given all the internet search hits for "growing glaciers".

Moon appears to be just another political grant seeking psuedo-scientist with a degree from a politically supported psuedo-university.
zz5555
4.6 / 5 (10) May 12, 2017
Interesting article, given all the internet search hits for "growing glaciers".

Moon appears to be just another political grant seeking psuedo-scientist with a degree from a politically supported psuedo-university.

Numbers of internet hits are pretty meaningless. There are plenty of internet hits for 'chemtrails' and that's well known to be nonsense.

While there are still some glaciers growing in places that are still cold enough, they are becoming fewer and fewer. Actual measurement indicates that, overall, glaciers are disappearing (http://wgms.ch/la...ce-data/ ). I know - how dare they depend on data and such. It's much better to use your 'free' mind to just make stuff up, isn't it? ;)
zz5555
5 / 5 (9) May 12, 2017
It'll be kind of interesting in a few years when Glacier National Park no longer has any glaciers (2030 is the estimate I've seen). Will the anti-science people like ForFreeMinds (sic) claim there never were any glaciers there?
humy
4.4 / 5 (7) May 12, 2017
The melting of glacial ice contributes to sea-level rise, which threatens to "displace millions of people within the lifetime of many of today's children," Moon writes

Sea level rise is so slow that it's far more likely that millions will "displace" themselves by seeking better opportunities or economic circumstances

aksdad

Yes, you make a good point there. People are mobile. But, the problem is that significant sea level rise will flood many coastal cities and coastal industry estates, that, unlike people, aren't mobile. It would be extremely expensive to rebuild all those cities on higher ground so this will have significant adverse economic impact. Also, significant sea level rise would flood huge sways of agricultural land and, very unfortunately, some of our most productive agricultural land tends to be close to sea level. This would impact adversely on our food security.
antigoracle
1.8 / 5 (5) May 12, 2017
Glaciers will outlast the complete and utter bullshit that passes for AGW Cult "science"
Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (6) May 12, 2017
Interesting article, given all the internet search hits for "growing glaciers".


Your hitcount on "growing glaciers" (978K) loses to my equally relevant search on "ice-cream melting" (2,540K)
Benni
1.8 / 5 (5) May 12, 2017
Just think of all the new native wild grasses & trees whose roots & seeds will soon begin to sprout that have never been seen since before the last Ice Age. Now why would anybody oppose that?
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (3) May 12, 2017
"Now why would anybody oppose that?"

Multiple false assumptions, but even if it were true, reefs around the planet are dying, the conifers in Colorado and elsewhere are dying and the ocean is becoming more anoxic, which means even more dying. Hope you enjoy your "new native wild grasses & trees," whatever the heck that means.

"Scientists believe the modern ocean is "on the edge of anoxia" - and the Exeter researchers say it is "critical" to limit carbon emissions to prevent this."

https://phys.org/...ars.html
Tangent2
not rated yet May 12, 2017
This article seems to be more of a promotion of Moon rather than actual science.. which is disappointing.
mtnphot
not rated yet May 20, 2017
Glaciers will outlast the complete and utter bullshit that passes for AGW Cult "science"

You must live in the city or somewhere there are no mountains. If you did, you would be able to see this for yourself. It's a fact in North America and those people who get their drinking water from rivers fed by glaciers are in for a surprise

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