Unprecedented ice loss in Russian ice cap

Unprecedented ice loss in Russian ice cap
In the last few years, the Vavilov Ice Cap in the Russian High Arctic has dramatically accelerated, sliding as much as 82 feet a day in 2015, according to a new multi-national, multi-institute study led by CIRES Fellow Mike Willis, an assistant professor of Geology at CU Boulder. That dwarfs the ice's previous average speed of about 2 inches per day and has challenged scientists' assumptions about the stability of the cold ice caps dotting Earth's high latitudes. Credit: Whyjay Zheng/Cornell University using Landsat imagery by NASA/USGS

In the last few years, the Vavilov Ice Cap in the Russian High Arctic has dramatically accelerated, sliding as much as 82 feet a day in 2015, according to a new multi-national, multi-institute study led by CIRES Fellow Mike Willis, an assistant professor of Geology at CU Boulder. That dwarfs the ice's previous average speed of about 2 inches per day and has challenged scientists' assumptions about the stability of the cold ice caps dotting Earth's high latitudes.

"In a warming climate, glacier acceleration is becoming more and more common, but the rate of ice loss at Vavilov is extreme and unexpected," said Mike Willis, CIRES Fellow and lead author of the paper published this week in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Glaciers and ice caps like Vavilov cover nearly 300,000 square miles of Earth's surface and hold about a foot of potential sea-level rise. Scientists have never seen such acceleration in this kind of ice cap before, and the authors of the new paper wrote that their finding raises the possibility that other, currently stable ice caps may be more vulnerable than expected.

For the new assessment, researchers played the part of forensic ice detectives, piecing together the ice cap's deterioration by spying on the advancing ice with remote sensing technology from a constellation of satellites operated by DigitalGlobe Inc, headquartered in Westminster, Colorado. The project also relied on support from the National Science Foundation and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which funded the development of high-resolution topographic maps of the Arctic.

By satellite, they watched ice on the cap creep slowly forward for several years, before it accelerate slowly in 2010, surging rapidly forward in 2015. The initial very slow advance is thought to have been caused by a shift in the direction of precipitation that occurred about 500 years ago. Before this time snow and rain came from the southeast, after this time rain and snow came from the southwest. As the western part of the ice cap advanced into the ocean the ice surged forward.

Credit: Video compiled by Whyjay Zheng/Cornell University using Landsat imagery by NASA/USGS

"Cold" ice caps, like Vavilov, occur in polar "deserts" with very little precipitation, and they're normally frozen to their beds, flowing only due to bending of the ice under the force of gravity. With beds above sea level, they are normally insulated from the kinds of changes that have hit in less frigid regions: melting from below by warm sea water, for example, or sliding faster when warm surface meltwater drains to the bed of the ice.

Researchers suspect the ice cap began to dramatically advance when the bottom of the ice cap became wetter and the front of the glacier advanced onto very slippery marine sediments. The ice began to speed up, and friction caused some of the ice underneath the glacier to melt, which supplied more water to the bottom of the ice, reducing friction, which caused the ice to speed up, which in turn, again produced more water. Some of this water might have combined with clay underneath the glacier, reducing the friction beneath the glacier even further and allowing the truly extraordinary sliding speeds to occur.

By 2015, the sediments and rock at the bed beneath the ice had become so slippery that the material couldn't stop the ice from flowing. It took just two years for the ice cap base to reach that tipping point, transforming into a near frictionless zone, which is well-lubricated and highly mobile. The glacier continues to slide today at accelerated speeds of 5-10 meters per day.

The Vavilov Ice Cap thinned by a total of a few meters, advanced about 2 km, and lost about 1.2 km3 in total volume into the ocean in the 30 years before the speedup. In the one year between 2015 and 2016, the ice advanced about 4 kilometers and thinned by about 100 meters (~0.3 m per day). The ice cap lost about 4.5 km3 of ice, enough to cover Manhattan with about 250 feet of water, or the entire state of Washington with an inch. And it's unlikely the ice cap will ever be able to recover ice mass in today's warming climate, the paper states.

Many scientists have assumed that polar that sit above sea level will only respond slowly to a warming climate—but the authors of this study urge that this assumption be questioned. The rapid collapse of the Vavilov Ice Cap has significant ramifications for glaciers in other polar regions, especially those fringing Antarctica and Greenland.

"We've never seen anything like this before, this study has raised as many questions as it has answered." said Willis. "And we're now working on modeling the whole situation to get a better handle of the physics involved."


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More information: Michael J. Willis et al, Massive destabilization of an Arctic ice cap, Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.08.049
Citation: Unprecedented ice loss in Russian ice cap (2018, September 19) retrieved 19 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-09-unprecedented-ice-loss-russian-cap.html
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Sep 19, 2018
It is important to note that events like this are caused by global warming as a whole and not the nefarious "man made global warming" conspiracy theory the eco nazis are touting. Yes the climate is warming, but most planets in our solar system are also warming. This warming is not exclusive to Earth. This data is often buried and ignored in the press. Even Al Gore admits the data shows a cyclic pattern of warming and cooling on Earth. This is also true for our entire solar system. This is extremely important to consider when looking at the whole environmental issue.

Sep 19, 2018
And of course, it makes sense that some right-wing flako would post some science lies regarding global warming to this article. I've never really understood how calling scientist with a valid tested scientific theory supported with well-developed measurement data, could be equated to a conspiracy theory? I believe there is more of a political motive here than an argument on the science of global warming or even the disturbing fact that this very well could be the end of mankind as we are used to in our pampered lives. No, I think we have here a person who is abandoned science and all reason in favor of being one of the boys.

Its sad to point to parents... but did they ever educate their kid(s)?

Sep 19, 2018
annoyingmousie squeaks and the Scientific Establishment ...trembles...?
No. they are convulsing... with laughter! At his/hers/its blathering agitprop.

There the pitiful creature sits. On a stool in the corner of the classroom. Wearing the dunce hat. How appropriate, how tediously commomplace an event.

Ignorance can be educated. But stupid is forever!

Sep 19, 2018
Russian Academy Of Sciences Experts Warn Of Imminent Cold Period
.. back in 2013.

They were quoted as saying "Global Warming Is A Marketing Trick". A nation such as Russia whose GDP and exports is so much dependent on fossil fuel is not going to say anything else, but you expect more objective views from their scientists.

Russian exports has risen from $25 billion per month to $36 billion per month in the first year of Trump's reign, mainly from the price of crude going from $37 to $70 per barrel. No US president has done more than Trump in enriching the Russians and fossil fuel interests.

Sep 19, 2018
Yes the climate is warming, but most planets in our solar system are also warming. This warming is not exclusive to Earth.

It's important to note that this is completely untrue. There's no evidence of other planets' climates warming (https://skeptical...iate.htm ). Some planets may be experiencing seasonal warming (seasons last several decades on outer planets). Regardless, the primary cause of earth's warming is extremely well understood - it's caused by the increase in greenhouse gases due to mankind. The science behind this is not very complicated, so it's hard to understand all the denial, but there you are.

Sep 20, 2018
"A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers."

https://www.nasa....n-losses

Sep 20, 2018
"A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers."

https://www.nasa....n-losses


Try something a bit more recent:

https://www.nasa....er-focus

TLDR:
A NASA study based on an innovative technique for crunching torrents of satellite data provides the clearest picture yet of changes in Antarctic ice flow into the ocean. The findings confirm accelerating ice losses from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and reveal surprisingly steady rates of flow from its much larger neighbor to the east.

Sep 20, 2018
What do you mean "[t]ry something a bit more recent?" Old_C_Code very carefully cherry-picked that paper presenting a minority viewpoint on Antarctic ice mass not because the science was sound but because it confirms his/her worldview.

The paper was rubbish though. The lead author Zwally had to admit that if the paper was true, "there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for."

Sep 20, 2018
"Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches New Record Maximum"

Ok, only 4 years ago you dope. Cherry picked? It was the 2nd Bing result.

https://www.nasa....-maximum


Sep 20, 2018
,,, "there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for." ...

If you check out the garbage pit of science-denier's agitprop? They believe that the extra water is flowing out of our Hollow Flat Earth!

It's the imbalance you see. Per these pseudo-scientists, the weight of all the colored people on the Earth's surface is causing the outer crust to squeeze the water out of the Inside Ocean.

Shhh, don't tell anybody! It's a secret known only to the Inner Party of Ingsoc Theosophists.

Sep 20, 2018
Wow.

Can I get invited to the next Inner Party of Ingsoc Theosophists?
BYOBS?

Sep 20, 2018
Flat Earth? It's a NASA link, idiot.

Sep 20, 2018
Me too. I also am interested in the Party of Ingsoc Theosophists. Is there a cover charge? Also, can someone teach me the intricacies of cherry-picking garbage out of a pile of garbage?

Sep 21, 2018
"Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches New Record Maximum"

Ok, only 4 years ago you dope. Cherry picked? It was the 2nd Bing result.

https://www.nasa....-maximum



Cherry pick much?
You do realize ice extent does not equate ice volume. I suppose not. You see the ice has been thinning. Get it now. idiot.

Sep 21, 2018
It's also important to note that meltwater from Antarctica helps to increase the sea ice extent since the fresh water is easier to freeze than the saltwater. So increased sea ice might be indicative of increased melt of land ice. Since this the article on this page is about increased land ice melting, the NASA article could only be seen as supportive of this article on the increased Russian melt. And it certainly could not be seen as contradicting the generally accepted knowledge of the increased ice loss in Antarctica due to melting. Even Zwally accepts this.

It's also important to note that Zwally's study only used data to 2008. 2008 is precisely where studies that directly measure the mass of Antarctica say that Antarctica changed from a net gain of ice to a net loss (http://www.slate....ass.html ).

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