Melting Time Away

February 1, 2019

(Illustration: Salvador Dali’s ‘Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion,’ found here).

The dark-gray sense of storm apprehension this early afternoon Friday on California’s north coast, supposedly a decent-rainfall storm starting today and lasting though Monday. Forecasts for big rain totals for inland, with freezing temperatures and snow.
Reportedly, however, good sunshine Tuesday-thru-Thursday next week, then more rain…

Generally, that’s the climate up here for the season, which in turn produces the weather. And in the area I currently occupy, there’s also an apprehension about sea-level rise. Currently, Arcata  is recorded to be just 26-feet above sea level (Wikipedia lists our elevation at 23 feet), but what’s three feet tsunami-wise, and only a few feet of rise could make for a shitty experience.
In regard to that, and the warming of our environment, new research from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory indicates some sea-level rise is seemingly inevitable in our way-near future.

In Antarctica, there’s the Thwaites Glacier (about the size of Florida), which has developed a huge hole underneath, and appears to be getting bigger — Thwaites is responsible for about 4-percent of global sea level rise, and if it melted. It would supply more than 2-feet of ocean rise.
Via Science Daily this morning — a summary of the findings: ‘A gigantic cavity — two-thirds the area of Manhattan and almost 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall — growing at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is one of several disturbing discoveries reported in a new study of the disintegrating glacier.’

Gulp! And details:

Researchers expected to find some gaps between ice and bedrock at Thwaites’ bottom where ocean water could flow in and melt the glacier from below.
The size and explosive growth rate of the newfound hole, however, surprised them.
It’s big enough to have contained 14 billion tons of ice, and most of that ice melted over the last three years.
“We have suspected for years that Thwaites was not tightly attached to the bedrock beneath it,” said Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Rignot is a co-author of the new study, which was published in Science Advances. “Thanks to a new generation of satellites, we can finally see the detail,” he said.

“[The size of] a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting,” said the study’s lead author, Pietro Milillo of JPL.
“As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster.”

Addendum from Scientific American: ‘Some researchers are concerned that the giant glacier could become increasingly unstable in the coming years, eventually spiraling into a pattern of unstoppable retreat. If that were to happen, it could potentially unleash enough ice to raise global sea levels by 10 feet.


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