By Kristen Pope
Melting and crumbling glaciers are largely responsible for rising sea levels, so learning more about how glaciers shrink is vital to those who hope to save coastal cities and preserve wildlife.
Groans, Creaks, Icebergs’ Calving Splashes<p>Oskar Glowacki already knew that melting glacial ice sounds like frying bacon. As ice bubbles burst, anyone nearby can hear crackling and popping, said Glowacki, a postdoctoral scholar at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Using hydrophones, he and other scientists now can make more nuanced measurements of how a changing climate sounds underwater, from the groans, creaks and splashes of a calving iceberg to the changes in whale songs as the ocean warms.</p><p>Glowacki recently used a pair of hydrophones to study the underwater world of glaciers, publishing his findings in <a href="https://www.the-cryosphere.net/14/1025/2020/" target="_blank">The Cryosphere</a>. He and co-author Grant B. Deane measured glacier retreat by <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/07/melting-glaciers-sound-like-frying-bacon/" target="_blank">recording the sounds of ice</a> – from small chunks to enormous slabs – falling off the glacier and splashing into the water.</p><p>During the summer of 2016, Glowacki's team placed two hydrophones near Hansbreen Glacier in Hornsund Fjord, Svalbard. For a month and a half, they recorded sounds, also using three time-lapse cameras to collect images – including the "drop height" (how far the ice fell into the water) – so they could compare photos to the recordings. The team created a formula to represent the relationship between the size of a piece of ice falling from a glacier and the sound it makes underwater, also accounting for the pieces of ice falling from varying heights. (Hear an example of the sound an iceberg makes while calving <a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-248456662/iceberg-calving-hansbreen-glacier" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p>
Unlocking Information About Antarctic Ice Shelf<p>Other researchers also are using hydrophones to learn more about crumbling glaciers. Bob Dziak, research oceanographer with the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory <a href="https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/acoustics" target="_blank">acoustics research group</a>, captured a massive calving event of the Nansen Ice Shelf in Antarctica with a hydrophone. He published the results with colleagues in <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feart.2019.00183/full" target="_blank">Frontiers in Earth Science</a></p><p>On April 7, 2016, satellite images showed a massive calving event had occurred on the ice shelf. The paper described it as the "first large scale calving event in >30 years."</p><p>However, once Dziak and colleagues delved into the data from three hydrophones deployed 60 kilometers east of the ice shelf, they uncovered a series of "icequakes" from January to early March 2016. He and other researchers believe that much of the ice actually broke free in mid-January to February, but it remained in the same location until an April storm – which their paper described as the "largest low-pressure storm recorded in the previous seven months" – broke the ice free.</p><p>"We suspected that the icebergs broke apart but remained in place – kind of pinned in place – until a major storm with high winds passed through the area and, finally, it was that last push that pushed the icebergs out to sea," Dziak says.</p><p>He and his co-authors wrote that "fortuitous timing and proximity of the hydrophone deployment presented a rare opportunity to study cryogenic signals and ocean ambient sounds of a large-scale ice shelf calving and iceberg formation event."</p>
Listening to Songs of Humpback Whales<p><a href="https://www.mbari.org/" target="_blank">Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute</a> studies the ocean, including its acoustics. One of the institute's projects involves examining the soundscape of California's Monterey Bay, including sounds from animals, humans, weather, and geologic processes like earthquakes. The researchers once even recorded an under-sea landslide. They also focus on recording and analyzing the <a href="http://www.mbari.org/humpback-song/" target="_blank">songs of humpback whales</a>. Male humpback whales' songs can be over 15 minutes in length, and they can be repeated for long periods of time – even hours. Listening to these songs and analyzing them can provide unique insights into the lives of these complex animals.</p><p>"Any time we want to study marine mammals, sound gives us a window into their lives because they use sound for all of their essential life activities, really," says institute biological oceanographer John Ryan. "Communication, foraging, reproduction, navigation – depending on the species, of course."</p><p>Previously, scientists had thought singing occurred only during courtship and mating, but now they think whales may also use song while migrating and hunting. They know song has a crucial role in the whales' lives.</p><p>"There's a whole other dimension to humpback whale song," Ryan says. "It is a mode of cultural transmission in this species. They learn songs from each other. They share songs as a population, and when populations mix and mingle, they learn new ideas, they explore with their song, improvise, and it's a real essential part of their culture."</p>
In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.
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Antarctica and Greenland Raised Sea Levels More Than Half an Inch in Just 16 Years, New NASA Data Shows
Greenland and Antarctica have raised global sea levels by more than half an inch in the last 16 years, according to data from the most advanced laser that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has ever launched into space to observe the earth.
Antarctica before and after its hottest day on record Feb. 6. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC.
- Greenland Lost 600 Billion Tons of Ice Last Summer, Raising Sea ... ›
- Scientist Suggests After Finding Warm Waters Below Greenland ›
- Trump Wants to Eliminate NASA's Climate Research Programs ... ›
By Richard Connor
Scientists have recorded Antarctica's first documented heat wave, warning that animal and plant life on the isolated continent could be drastically affected by climate change.
Global Impact on Climate<p>The authors of the study said the local effects of climate change could have a global impact.</p><p>"Antarctica may be isolated from the rest of the continents by the Southern Ocean, but it has worldwide impacts," they said.</p><p>"It drives the global ocean conveyor belt, a constant system of deep-ocean circulation which transfers oceanic heat around the planet, and its melting ice sheet adds to global sea-level rise."</p><p>Co-author Dana Bergstrom said the hot summer could affect local populations positively at first, but could also lead to drought and heat stress on species adapted for the cold.</p>
- Scientists Warn We May Be on Track for 'Hothouse Earth' - EcoWatch ›
- Antarctica Breaks Its Hottest Recorded Temperature - EcoWatch ›
- Green Snow Is Spreading in Antarctica Due to the Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
Antarctica's Denman Canyon is the deepest gorge on the Earth's surface, and, if the ice inside it melted, it could raise sea levels by almost five feet.
- Man Swims Under East Antarctic Glacier to Highlight Impacts of the ... ›
- Antarctic Glacial Melt May Be Irreversible Causing Sea Rise ... ›
The Antarctic region just recorded a temperature higher than 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time.
- Scientists Melt a Mile-Deep Hole in Antarctica to Study Climate ... ›
- Antarctica Lost Sea Ice Greater Than 4x the Size of France in 3 ... ›
- Sea Ice Falls to Record Lows in Arctic and Antarctic - EcoWatch ›
The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than ever recorded in modern history. New research finds that the world's second-largest ice deposit is not just melting from the surface but from below as well, which adds a new twist to consider when predicting global sea level rise.
Scientists have discovered record warm water beneath Antarctica's "doomsday glacier" for the first time, leading to concerns for the glacier whose collapse could contribute nearly a meter (approximately 3 feet) to global sea level rise.
- 2020 Starts With the Plain Prospect of Rising Heat - EcoWatch ›
- New Zealand Glacier Experiences Record Ice Melt ›
Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.
Carbon Taxes Seen as the Most Effective Tool<p>According to Climate Interactive's climate and energy lead, Ellie Johnston, "Behind En-ROADS is a system dynamics model that weaves the interdependencies and feedbacks of our global climate system with the actions that we need to take globally to address climate change."</p><p>The simulation begins with a default business-as-usual scenario leading to 4.1 degrees Celsius (7.3 degrees Fahrenheit) global warming above pre-industrial temperatures by the year 2100. This outcome is essentially a worst-case scenario, assuming that current worldwide climate policies and pledges (which would limit warming to <a href="https://climateactiontracker.org/global/temperatures/" target="_blank">approximately 3 degrees C</a>, or 5.4 degrees F) are not successfully implemented. For context, the international Paris agreement set a target of no more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) global warming, whereas 3 to 4 degrees C warming would likely result in disastrous <a href="https://skepticalscience.com/climate-best-to-worst-case-scenarios.html" target="_blank">climate change consequences</a>.</p>
Complementary Policies Are Needed<p>Similarly, the En-ROADS model also shows that a carbon tax alone would dramatically reduce the share of energy generated by coal, leading to continued high emissions as a result of more oil and gas production.</p><p>Oil consumption can be reduced in the En-ROADS model by strengthening vehicle fuel efficiency and electrification policies. In the real world, this approach translates to policies like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_average_fuel_economy" target="_blank">vehicle fuel economy standards</a>, which can mandate increased efficiency and thus accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. Projects to improve and electrify public transportation systems can also reduce demand for oil. Natural gas consumption can similarly be reduced by expanding energy efficiency and electrification of buildings and industrial activities. Together, the En-ROADS model suggests that these steps could curb global warming by one-half a degree Celsius.</p>
- 3 Tools to Help You Channel Your Inner Climate Scientist - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Ways to Fight the Climate Crisis in 2020 - EcoWatch ›
200 Years of Exploring Antarctica — the World’s Coldest, Most Forbidding and Most Peaceful Continent
By Dan Morgan
Antarctica is the remotest part of the world, but it is a hub of scientific discovery, international diplomacy and environmental change. It was officially discovered 200 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1820, when members of a Russian expedition sighted land in what is now known as the Fimbul Ice Shelf on the continent's east side.
Antarctica is mostly covered by ice sheets on land and fringed by floating ice shelves. NOAA
Flags of the 12 original Antarctic Treaty member countries at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. U.S. Antarctic Program / Rob Jones
By Jason Bittel
High up in the mountains of Montana's Glacier National Park, there are two species of insect that only a fly fishermen or entomologist would probably recognize. Known as stoneflies, these aquatic bugs are similar to dragonflies and mayflies in that they spend part of their lives underwater before emerging onto the land, where they transform into winged adults less than a half inch long. However, unlike those other species, stoneflies do their thing only where cold, clean waters flow.
From left: meltwater lednian stonefly (Lednia tumana); a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey looks for aquatic insects in an alpine stream at Glacier National Park.
Clockwise from top: a meltwater stonefly at Glacier National Park; close-up of two meltwater lednian stoneflies; close-up of western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier)
Glacier NPS / Flickr. Western glacier stonefly: Joe Giersch / USGS