Rain Is Melting Greenland’s Ice, Even in Winter
The Greenland ice sheet loses about 270 billion tons of ice each year to climate change, raising global sea levels by 7.5 millimeters (approximately 0.3 inches) between 1992 and 2011, Science Magazine explained. About half of that was due to the calving of icebergs, but recent satellite observations have revealed that 70 percent of Greenland's contribution to global sea level rise in recent years has come from meltwater running off into the ocean. Scientists wanted to understand what was driving the meltwater.
The results of one investigation, published in The Cryosphere Wednesday, show that a third of the runoff observed by the research team between 1979 and 2012 was caused by rainfall, Columbia University's Earth Institute reported. Over that same period, rain-caused melt doubled during summer and tripled during winter. Total precipitation over Greenland did not change, but the balance of snow to rain shifted.
Rainy weather is becoming increasingly common over parts of the #Greenland ice sheet, even in the winter. This ch… https://t.co/r7zoFleDkl— EGU (@EGU)1551967500.0
"We were surprised that there was rain in the winter," lead study author Dr. Marilena Oltmanns of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany told BBC News. "It does make sense because we're seeing flows of warm air coming up from the South, but it's still surprising to see that associated with rainfall."
In order to reach their conclusions, the researchers used satellite data to determine when melting was taking place as well as automated readings from 20 weather stations to determine when rainfall occurred. They pinpointed 313 incidents over the study period when rainfall triggered melting, according to Science.
Rain can lead to more melting even if it falls in winter and refreezes right away, study author Marco Tedesco explained to BBC News. That's because it leaves the ice both darker and smoother. Darker ice absorbs more heat from the sun, leading to more melt, and smooth ice enables that melt to flow faster over its surface.
"The potential impact of changes taking place in the winter and spring on what happens in summer needs to be understood," Tedesco said.
Professor Jason Box, a Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland glaciologist not involved with this study, told BBC News he had observed first-hand during a research trip how rain could transform the ice sheet:
"After weeks of sunshine, it started raining on us and it completely transformed the surface—it got darker.
"And I became convinced—only by being there and seeing it with my own eyes—that rain is just as important as strong sunny days in melting the Greenland ice sheet."
The winter rain usually falls in lower elevations in Greenland's south and southwest, where it is carried on warm, wet winds from the south that may be getting more common as climate change shifts the jet stream, The Earth Institute explained.
"This is what climate change looks like, it's the 'Atlantification' of the Arctic," climate scientist Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen, who did not participate in the study, told Science Magazine. "This paper identifies a really important mechanism and we need to figure out how it plays into our predictions of sea level rise."
If all the ice in Greenland melted, it would raise global sea levels by 7 meters (approximately 23 feet). Most projections say that sea levels will rise two to four feet by 2100, The Earth Institute said, but more research is needed to determine how much Greenland and Antarctica will contribute.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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