This rare footage (4:41) has gone on record as the largest glacier calving event (the breaking off of ice at the end of the glacier) ever captured on film. On May 28, 2008, Adam LeWinter and Director Jeff Orlowski filmed a historic breakup at the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. The calving event lasted for 75 minutes and the glacier retreated a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. The height of the ice is about 3,000 feet, 300-400 feet above water and the rest below water.
The current contribution to sea level rise is mostly from thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of glaciers and small ice caps. Two of the largest contributors to this rise in sea level are the melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, for they make up 99% of the glacier ice on earth. In both regions, glaciers are melting at an alarming rate.
Ice in the arctic sea is also melting at an alarming rate. But, because most of this ice is already part of the sea, it does not make a large contribution to sea level rise . . . even though it does contribute to climate change in other ways. As Arctic sea ice melts, there is a loss of reflectivity (albedo) of the sun’s rays. And, because water is much darker than ice, more sunlight penetrates into the water, thus raising its temperature. This, in turn, contributes to the release of methane gas that has been stored in the sea for eons.
Greenland has shown a rapid response to warming. It’s glaciers are showing an increase in flow speed, frontal retreat, and thinning of the ice. About half of the loss is due to melting, while the remainder is due to blocks of ice breaking off into the sea, in a process known as calving.
Though, on average, about half of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet naturally melts each summer, most of that melt water quickly re-freezes in place. But if the annual average temperature on Greenland increases by about three degrees Celsius, then the ice sheet might melt at a rate which will tip it into a new, smaller inland form.
Though there is much uncertainty about this, Greenland may be at such a tipping point right now. The two videos below give a good introduction to this issue. The first one is an 11 min. CNN report that includes some very spectacular photography. The second one is a 6 min. PBS Nova presentation. Both are well-worth the time.
This brief but poignant video (4 min.) explains the effects of climate change induced sea level rise contaminating the lowland rice paddies with salt water and killing the rice crops. (Thanks to Nick Garland)
Vietnam is the world’s second largest exporter of rice and 80 per cent of it is grown in the Mekong Delta, a vast flood plain and one of Asia’s most fertile agricultural zones. But farmers here say the future of rice production is now threatened because of rising sea levels and temperature increases attributed to climate change.
THIS ARTICLE from NASA shows that the evidence for rapid climate change is compelling and unequivocal. It discusses global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic sea, extreme events, and ocean acidification. If you needed evidence, here it is.
Melvyn Bragg (BBC) discusses climate change with Sir John Houghton, Co-Chair of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change – the United Nations global warming science committee; George Monbiot, environmentalist, journalist and Visiting Professor, Department of Philosophy, Bristol University. Published August 7, 2018
There seems to be agreement by both that as many as 150,000,000 people will be displaced by the middle of this century. While some parts of the world will in some ways be better off, many others will be devastated. The parts of the world that will be hardest hit are the parts of the world that are already most vulnerable to famine — Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. A decrease in the flow of great rivers due to receding glaciers will have devastating effects on agricultural production. And these are the places that produce the least carbon dioxide. Floods and droughts cause the most damage worldwide, and these will greatly increase, creating untold suffering and death. Melvyn Bragg pushes them very hard to back up their dire predictions. JH: When we turn on our kettle in Birmingham, we are helping to flood Bangladesh. Carbon inequality. The intransigence of the US. Timid politicians. Vested interests. The need for a large citizen’s movement world-wide to challenge governments.
As it turns out, this is a difficult question to answer because it is generally thought that it is impossible to attribute a single weather event to climate change. Extreme weather events will happen whether or not there is climate change. But the field of attribution science has made significant progress over the past five years.
In a recent (January 2, 2017) Scientific American interview with Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, Dr. Otto discusses how attribution science works and why it’s a critical part of helping communities prepare for and adapt to climate change.
According to Dr. Otto, “All extreme events have different forcings [factors that influence Earth’s climate], and one of the forcings can be climate change. With this research, we can now say an event of this magnitude has been made more or less likely due to climate change, or we can say what was once a one-in-150-year event in the past is now a one-in-50-year event.”
She says there are three reasons attribution science is important:
“One is that we don’t currently
know very well what the actual impacts of climate change today are. We can
predict the large-scale changes, but global average temperature increase does
not kill people. What kills people are extreme weather events. This research
allows us to get a more comprehensive picture of what climate change actually
“Second, it provides scientific
evidence to the public discourse. When extreme events happen, people ask if
climate change played a role. Quite often in the past it has been a politician
who has answered that question, and it was completely independent of any
“This research also allows us to make better planning decisions. When we know a drought is becoming more likely by a factor of 10 because of climate change, then we know we need to focus our adaptation efforts on that.”
Another valuable (July 6, 2017) article on this subject can be found HERE at Carbon Brief.
January 26 marked the first Meeting of the Denver-based Extinction Rebellion (XR) group. As I drove to the meeting from Longmont, 45 minutes to the north, four wild geese plummeted out of the sky into a field of corn stubble. It was a splendid sight as the group of four, in close formation, held their wings still and steady for their fast descent, and then opened them wide again, and with a gentle back motion, brought themselves softly to the ground.
On the radio, a special NPR program on altruism carried me all the way to the Denver skyline, a poignant sight against the snow-covered mountains rising into an austere blue sky. By the time I arrived, I was in a state of grace.
It was very easy to connect with those who came to the meeting, and the energy in the room was palpable: gentle, enthusiastic, and upbeat, but fully grounded in the stark reality we had come to address.