By Larry Bell
Have you happened to notice that some news most of us would normally regard as very cheering is often treated by the mainstream media as tragic, or goes unreported altogether?
Like, for example, finding out that following more than two years of endless apoplectic echo chamber accusations that our president really isn’t a Russia-beholden traitor?
Or — more pertinent to this article — observable revelations of evidence that maybe your SUV isn’t causing glaciers to melt, or polar bears to starve either?
A case in point is a screaming lack of enthusiastic media coverage regarding recent evidence that Jakobshavn, the previously fastest-flowing, fastest-thinning glacier on Greenland’s west coast, has now gone rogue. Jakobshavn has represented the largest source of periodic ice mass loss over the last 20 years, and has produced about 10 percent of the country’s icebergs.
A study published last month in the journal Nature reported, “Here we use airborne altimetry and satellite imagery to show that since 2016, Jakobshavn has been re-advancing, slowing and thickening. We link these changes to current cooling in ocean waters in Disko Bay that spill over into Ilulissat Icefjord. Ocean temperatures in the bay’s upper 250 meters have cooled to levels not seen since the mid-1980s.”
In other words, the cooling is linked to heat losses in the ocean currents that circulate around southern Greenland.
Well, goodness galloping glaciers!
Wouldn’t we expect it would be glad tidings to know that previous reports in Science Alert, USA Today and other journals about Jakobshavn racing to the sea were at least premature?
Not according to CNN’s headline, which read: “Greenland’s most critical glacier is suddenly gaining ice, but that might not be a good thing.”
Why not good news?
Well because many other Greenland glaciers are shrinking. The reason that Jakobshavn isn’t, is primarily due to a periodic warm-cold phase shift in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) which occurs in the northern Atlantic Ocean every 20 or 30 years.
Nevertheless, the glacier’s recalcitrant failure to comply with predictions reportedly took scientists by surprise. As reported in Live Science, lead study researcher Ala Khazendar at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “At first we didn’t believe it. We had pretty much assumed that Jakobshavn would just keep going on as it had over the last 20 years.”
So being from NASA and all — the same agency that historically sent some of my very good friends to the moon and space station — why were they surprised about behaviors of glacier history?
As I reported in an August 2012 Forbes column, global warming hot lines were red with shocking news that NASA scientists were stunned as images from three satellite showed “unprecedented” thawing at or near the surface over most of Greenland’s ice sheet.
The event began on July 8, and lasted four days before refreezing. NASA ice scientist Tom Wagner observed, “You literally had this wave of warm air wash over the Greenland ice sheet and melt it.”
And to make this even more exciting, that happened only a few days after a giant iceberg broke off from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland during its warm NAO phase.
Based upon Summit Station ice core records, this occurs about every 150 years. According to Lora Koenig, a glaciologist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, “With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time.”
And why did it happen?
As University of Georgia climatologist Thomas Mote commented, “[This] summer in Greenland has been freakishly warm so far. That’s because of frequent high pressure systems that have parked over the island, bringing warm clear weather that melts ice and snow.”
Wagner further explained, “The Greenland ice sheet has a vast area with a varied history of change. This event, combined with other natural and not uncommon phenomena, such as the large calving event last week on Petermann Glacier, are part of a complex story.”
A study reported in the May 2012 issue of the journal Science had already confirmed that flow rates of 200 individual Greenland glaciers between 2000-2010 were complex and varied, both in location and time.
Glaciers with growth rates that were found to be accelerating during a few years, decelerated in others. Some accelerating glaciers were in proximity to others that were decelerating.
Glaciers in the northwestern portion of Greenland typically showed accelerations throughout the study period, while those in southeastern Greenland showed speed-up from about 2000-2005, then remained fairly steady rates from 2006-2010. Overall, the speed-ups across Greenland were much lower than IPCC had projected.
So rather than hold Henry Ford responsible, shouldn’t it be fairly noted that those “unprecedented” glacial retreats and advances have occurred even long before he acquired his first wrench?
And for that matter, maybe those observed thriving polar bear populations will forgive all the rest of us too.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including “Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity” (2019), “Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations” (2018), “Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), “Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self” (2016), and “Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom” (2015). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, “Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles.” To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.