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On Greenland, Some Meltwater Moulins Now As Big As Niagara Falls: Subglacial Water Levels 500M Deep

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:43 PM
Original message
On Greenland, Some Meltwater Moulins Now As Big As Niagara Falls: Subglacial Water Levels 500M Deep
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 12:51 PM by hatrack
Glacial Acceleration - A Sea of Troubles
by Paul Brown, November 27, 2007

It is hard to shock journalists and at the same time leave them in awe of the power of nature. A group returning from a helicopter trip flying over, then landing on, the Greenland ice cap at the time of maximum ice melt last month were shaken. One shrugged and said: "It is too late already." What they were all talking about was the moulins, not one moulin but hundreds, possibly thousands. "Moulin" is a word I had only just become familiar with. It is the name for a giant hole in a glacier through which millions of gallons of melt water cascade through to the rock below. The water has the effect of lubricating the glaciers so they move at three times the rate that they did previously.

Some of these moulins in Greenland are so big that they run on the scale of Niagara Falls. The scientists who accompanied these journalists on the trip were almost as alarmed. That is pretty significant because they are world experts on ice and Greenland in particular.

EDIT

Robert Correll, chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, from Washington told me: "We have seen a massive acceleration of the speed with which these glaciers are moving into the sea. The ice is moving at 2 metres an hour on a front five kilometres long and 1,500 metres deep. "That means that this one glacier puts enough fresh water into the sea in one day to provide drinking water for a city the size New York or London for a year." Professor Correll, who is also director of the global change programme at the Heinz Centre in Washington said the estimates of sea level rise in the IPCC report in February 2007 had been "conservative" and based on data two years old. The range of rise this century had been predicted to be 20 to 60 centimetres, but would be the upper end of this range at a minimum and some now believed it could be two metres. This would have catastrophic effects for European and US coastlines.

He said newly invented ice penetrating radar showed that the melt water was pouring through to the bottom of the glacier creating a melt water lake 500 metres deep causing the glacier "to float on land. "These melt water rivers are lubricating the glacier, like applying oil to a surface and causing it to slide into the sea. It is causing a massive acceleration which could be catastrophic. The glacier is now moving at 15 kilometres a year into the sea although in periodic surges it moves even faster. He has seen a surge, which he had measured as moving five kilometres in 90 minutes - an extraordinary event.

EDIT

http://www.ecoworld.com/home/articles2.cfm?tid=443

My apologies for the sourcing - I couldn't find the Paul Brown story elsewhere. The page prefaces the story with hundreds and hundreds of words about how "we just don't believe that anthropogenic emissions are all that important blahblahblah".
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donsu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:54 PM
Response to Original message
1. kick
nt
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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:56 PM
Response to Original message
2. It's gonna go quick and hard
and it won't be a pretty sight...
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:57 PM
Response to Original message
3. I feel queasy.
:puke:
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Mojorabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:57 PM
Response to Original message
4. Scary stuff
I wish they could be harvesting that water.
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Emillereid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:57 PM
Response to Original message
5. Here's another link :
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yop Donating Member (55 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-30-07 06:06 AM
Response to Reply #5
27. Are these moulins what I'm seeing
along the western edge of the Greenland ice sheet in Google Maps?
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-30-07 08:40 AM
Response to Reply #27
28. The blue patches are likely ponds of surface melt water
Since moulins are tunnels down into the ice I'd expect them to be black in satellite imagery. I didn't see anything that looked like that in my quick glance at Google Maps. Many of the little blue patches I saw appeared to have ice pans floating in them, so I think they were all pools. It would be interesting if someone could definitively identify a moulin in a satellite image, or find some video of one in action.
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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:02 PM
Response to Original message
6. Needs one more rec for the Greatest Page...
n/t
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:05 PM
Response to Original message
7. And by the way, "floating on land??"
That can't be good.
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:06 PM
Response to Original message
8. This is what will drown our coasts, ports, cities, islands.
And all of us will be drowning at once. Or going...where? The inland won't be able to deal with the influx of flood refugees.

It ain't gonna be fun.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:19 PM
Response to Original message
9. OK, I'm going to confess a dirty little secret here.
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 01:32 PM by GliderGuider
I think this is an enormously exhilarating time to be alive. The speed and scale of change we're living through is unprecedented in modern human history, and rare in all of human history. We are witness to changes in our physical and social environments that are perceptible on a day-to-day basis. We are simultaneously experiencing an awakening of the human consciousness and perhaps even the human spirit that may mark a significant change of direction for humanity's understanding of and response to the world in which we live. The world is literally changing as we watch. No other generation has had this opportunity.

This sort of physical, social, psychological and spiritual flux carries enormous risks, but also presents enormous opportunities. For those who are awake right now, the opportunity to shape the course of events has never been more apparent. This is seriously exciting stuff.

As a counterbalance, though, I'd urge everyone who feels this way to read Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine". That book details what those on the other side of the fence will be doing with this once-in-a-civilization's-lifetime opportunity. Awakening is not the sole prerogative of well-intentioned progressives. There are people like the Chicago School economists and the British National Party who are totally clued into what's going on, and are preparing to seize the moment for their own advantage. The fluidity of the physical situation in the coming decade should give us powerful leverage against those forces if we are prepared.

Anyhow - moulins the size of Niagara Falls, glaciers moving 3 kilometers an hour, enough fresh water in a day to supply New York for a year - this is really heady stuff. It's a privilege to be alive right now.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:22 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. I also have been feeling that way, since around 2005 or so.
Our crime against the planet happens to provide an enormous opportunity for studying what happens during major phase-changes in the biosphere, climate, etc.

If there are any survivors with the resources to conduct field biology, those post-bottleneck field biologists will probably get to watch speciation, as the biosphere gradually re-fills niches left empty by our holocene extinction.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:29 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. I kind of thought you might
:toast:
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Delphinus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 09:27 PM
Response to Reply #9
15. Hey, Glider,
I'm in the midst of reading her book right now ... which gave me reason to wonder the very thing you bring into it. I told someone today my thoughts about how tptb seem to be letting this happen because they know we are in need of a massive die off - and that's just the start.

Glad to see a non-tinfoil hatter thinking something along the same lines. Glad, of course, in a weird kind of way. :crazy:
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 11:21 AM
Response to Reply #15
23. "Climate change - LIHOP or MIHOP?"
Now there's some industrial-strength tinfoil for ya! :tinfoilhat:
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 09:55 AM
Response to Reply #9
21. Oh, you're not the only one.
We've never seen a change like this in modern times before...
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Subdivisions Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 10:31 AM
Response to Reply #9
32. I knew there was a good reason that I like and respect
you so much Paul. You and I are on the same page. I feel that, between the onset of the global consequences of peak oil and global warming, that we are indeed privileged to be alive at such a pivotal, and fast-moving, point in human and planetary history.

When I was young and realized the immensity of the geologic timescales involved in this universe, I was a bit disappointed knowing that there would be no exciting geologic changes observable in my puny lifetime. That was 30-35 years ago. My how times have changed!
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nam78_two Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:28 PM
Response to Original message
11. K&R.nt
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pscot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 03:40 PM
Response to Original message
13. Phase change
I never thought I'd live long enough to actually see it happening. But it does seem to be going down somewhat faster than predicted.
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BornagainDUer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 03:40 PM
Response to Original message
14. You know I haven't felt immediate fear from global warming until
now. When this meltwater hits the Gulf Stream in enough quantity it could interrupt or even stop its flow. When that happens look forward to a new ice age. :scared:
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Nihil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 04:48 AM
Response to Original message
16. K & R for one of the most important posts in any DU forum.
> The water has the effect of lubricating the glaciers so they move at
> three times the rate that they did previously.

> The ice is moving at 2 metres an hour on a front five kilometres long
> and 1,500 metres deep.

> The glacier is now moving at 15 kilometres a year into the sea although
> in periodic surges it moves even faster. He has seen a surge, which he
> had measured as moving five kilometres in 90 minutes - an extraordinary
> event.

:wow:

:scared:
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lazyriver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 07:20 AM
Response to Original message
17. The natural world seeks equilibrium. Everything is an equation.
Humanity has been loading one side for many decades by pumping GH gases into the atmosphere and destroying the forests and other ecosystems that had been acting as carbon sinks. We learned the consequences will be severe but instead of stopping our activities, we've accelerated them in the last 10 years. The natural world does not tolerate inbalance and we are getting so dangerously close to finding out how it will react to reach equilibrium again. It is not going to be pretty and after reading about this situation in Greenland, I believe I will live to see some of the direct and catastrophic results.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 08:08 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. That's heading toward Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis
The world is a dynamic, self-regulating system that has both visible and obscure mechanisms to maintain or restore homeostasis.

I agree in principle, but in the presence of so many positive feedbacks it is hard to tell what sort of mechanisms will be triggered to help define the new equilibrium. The further out of stasis we get the more severe the limiting mechanisms will inevitably be.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 09:33 AM
Response to Reply #18
19. I dislike the Gaia hypothesis...
Complex dynamic systems are not best characterized as "self regulating." They are best characterized as having basins of attraction, which have regions of stability in phase space. If you push the system within the stable region it will tend to "correct" itself. I think that is the property that people like Lovelock call "the Gaia hypothesis."

But if you push a complex system far enough, it will find itself in a new basin of attraction, and it will immediately begin seeking the bottom of that new basin.

Mars and Venus represent a couple possible basins of attraction, which are also reachable for earth, if we push hard enough. And there are others, which are not as extreme as Mars or Venus, but which still would yield mass-extinctions.

There. I said it. I feel liberated.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 09:49 AM
Response to Reply #19
20. Yes, that is a more sensible way to look at it.
I keep forgetting about attractors for some reason. Viewing the world as a single basin, whether from the perspective of resources, climate, population or anything else homogenizes the influences beyond usability.

Thanks for the insight.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 11:18 AM
Response to Reply #20
22. I think that attractors...
may be the most under-appreciated concept in contemporary science. If we survive long enough to properly appreciate them, I think that our descendants will view our "sciences" of politics, economics, ecology, climate, etc, in about the same way that we view the physical sciences prior to the laws of thermodynamics, Newtonian mechanics, etc. We were trying to solve problems without the right tools.

Everybody's perpetual surprise with recent climate events (faster than expected!11!) indicates to me that even climate scientists have not yet adopted concepts from complex systems, and it really should be their bread and butter.
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:31 AM
Response to Reply #22
33. You can develop empirical models from complex systems
such as the relationship between erosion, weather, and soil factors, but there comes a point when the complex system does something so unexpected that the model just doesn't extend that far.

We're seeing that right now with the climate, methinks, especially in Arctic regions.
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Nihil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-30-07 03:48 AM
Response to Reply #19
25. Not just attractors ...
... I'll have to dig out my book on catastrophe theory to help my brain
retrieve more from my particularly random access memory but the quote
that I kept handy seems pretty damn appropriate:

"Small changes in certain parameters of a nonlinear system can cause
equilibria to appear or disappear, or to change from attracting to
repelling and vice versa, leading to large and sudden changes of the
behaviour of the system."


Ring any bells with anyone in this forum?
:scared:
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-01-07 10:03 AM
Response to Reply #19
30. Based on the stuff by Lovelock I've read that is what he actually means by "self-regulating."
What I understand about the Gaia Hypothesis, at least the version of it I follow, is that life inadvertently acts to create and or intensify such "basins of attraction" that allow the continuation of the biosphere.
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Javaman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 04:10 PM
Response to Original message
24. We are so screwed. My new neighbors are from Alaska and here's what they said last night...
Edited on Thu Nov-29-07 04:11 PM by Javaman
They just moved in this week. And here are a few choice things they said to me...

"the caribou are dying from massive insect bites due to the warm weather"

"polar bears are resorting to cannibalism"

"the disease rates in alaska have gone up and diseases never reported in alaska are now showing up regularly"

"the permafrost is so soft in some areas, whole villages are sinking, the big worry is the pipelines"

This last one gave me a shiver...

"sure, down here, the temp has gone up 1 maybe 2 degrees, but up there because there is so much less snow now to reflect back the heat, the temps there are as much as 5-10 degrees hotter" !!!!!!!!

I remit, we are so fucked.
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yop Donating Member (55 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-30-07 05:46 AM
Response to Original message
26. Video?
Why are we only reading about this and only seeing still photos? Someone needs to post videos of these giant waterfalls online somewhere.
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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-30-07 08:51 AM
Response to Reply #26
29. No video yet, but here's a photo that gives a good sense of scale of the meltwater lakes
Edited on Fri Nov-30-07 08:55 AM by hatrack
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-01-07 10:07 AM
Response to Reply #29
31. Holy fuck!
We are SOOOO screwed!!!
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Subdivisions Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-02-07 11:33 AM
Response to Reply #26
34. Video here:
Edited on Sun Dec-02-07 11:53 AM by Texas Explorer
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