Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. Earth Science News .




ICE WORLD
Melting away: vanishing ice warning for 'Africa's Alps'
by Staff Writers
Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda (AFP) March 16, 2014


Warming melts last stable edge of Greenland icesheet
Paris (AFP) March 16, 2014 - The last edge of the Greenland ice sheet that had resisted global warming has now become unstable, adding billions of tonnes of meltwater to rising seas, scientists said on Sunday.

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, they said a surge in temperature from 2003 had eased the brakes on a long "river" of ice that flows to the coast in northeastern Greenland.

Known as an ice stream, the "river" takes ice from a vast basin and slowly shifts it to the sea -- in the same way that the Amazon River drains water.

In the past, the flow from this ice stream had been constrained by massive buildups of ice debris choking its mouth.

But a three-year spell of exceptionally high temperatures removed this blockage -- and like a cork removed from a bottle helped accelerate the flow, the study said.

The ice stream, called Zachariae, is the largest drain from an ice basin that covers a whopping 16 percent of the Greenland ice sheet.

From 2003 to 2012, northeastern Greenland disgorged 10 billion tonnes of ice annually into the ocean, the study found.

"Northeast Greenland is very cold. It used to be considered the last stable part of the Greenland ice sheet," said Michael Bevis, an Earth sciences professor at Ohio State University, who led the study.

"This study shows that ice loss in the northeast is now accelerating. So, now it seems that all the margins of the Greenland ice sheet are unstable."

Greenland is estimated to contribute 0.5mm (0.012 inches) to the 3.2 mm (0.13 inches) annual rise in global sea levels.

The main tool in the study was data from a network of 50 Global Positioning System (GPS) sensors along the Greenland coast.

The monitors use Earth's natural elasticity as a stethoscope of the ice sheet. Ice is heavy, so when it melts in massive quantities the land rebounds and the position of the sensors changes slightly.

To get a wider picture, the GPS data was then overlaid with data from three US satellites and a European one that measured ice thickness from space.

"The Greenland ice sheet has contributed more than any other ice mass to sea level rise over the last two decades and has the potential, if it were completely melted to raise global sea level by more than seven metres (22.75 feet)," said Jonathan Bamber, a professor at Britain's University of Bristol.

"About half of the increased contribution of the ice sheet is due to the speedup of glaciers in the south and northwest. Until recently, northeast Greenland has been relatively stable. This new study shows that it is no longer the case."

In swirling snow, John Medenge prods a thin ice bridge over a crevasse with an iron-tipped spear, guiding climbers scaling the steep glacial wall using crampons and axes.

"We are the last few who will climb on the ice, it is going so fast," said Medenge, after scaling the treacherous ridge up Mount Stanley, part of the dramatic Rwenzori mountain range straddling the border between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

At 5,109 metres (16,763 feet), Stanley's jagged peak is the third highest mountain in Africa, topped only by Mount Kenya and Tanzania's iconic Kilimanjaro.

But experts warn the ice is melting at "disturbing" rates, and that within two decades Africa's equatorial peaks will be bare rock, impacting agriculture and tourism.

"Every year the ice grows smaller," 54-year old Medenge added, who has been climbing the range since a teenager.

Ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy in Alexandria wrote of the snow-capped Rwenzoris around the second century AD, dubbing the mysterious peaks the "Mountains of the Moon", and identifying them as a source of the mighty White Nile.

- 'Canary in the mine' -

But after centuries of wonder at the spectacle of snow on the equator, the ice is vanishing, bringing with it multiple challenges.

"The melting glaciers are another warning sign, a 'canary in the mine' of mankind's inability to contain climate change and its negative consequences," said Luc Hardy of Pax Arctica, an organisation that promotes awareness of the impact of climate change, and who led an expedition in January to the mountains.

"The melting of this unique African glacier is a major threat to local communities, with the obvious loss of sustainable water supplies," said Hardy, a French-American explorer and a vice-president of the environmental Green Cross group.

Reduced glacial river flows are already impacting agricultural production and cutting the output of hydroelectric power plants, said Richard Atugonza, from the Mountain Resource Centre at Uganda's Makere University.

"It can be a big problem in the future for the region, with the river ecology already changing," Atugonza said.

Just a handful of kilometres (miles) north of the equator, the mist-covered Rwenzoris -- meaning "rain-maker" in the local Bakonzo language -- stretch for some thousand kilometres squared (386 square miles), and include several short glaciers, though on many peaks remaining ice is now tiny patches.

British-American explorer Henry Morton Stanley was the first Westerner to sight the ice in 1889, but the dramatic sight of glinting snow in hot sunshine is fading fast, with maps showing the ice has shrunk from some seven square kilometres (2.7 square miles) when they were first climbed in 1906, to just a single square kilometre (a third of a square mile) today.

Fifty years ago, the glacier once began a stone's throw from the cliff-top Elena camp, where mountaineers shiver in basic huts before making a pre-dawn attempt to scale Stanley's peaks.

Now the ice lies almost an hour's tough scramble up a steep track on loose rocks along sheer cliffs.

- Impacting agriculture and tourism -

Mountain guides say the local king sends elders to sacrifice chickens and goats at the foot of the mountains to appease the gods that live in the peaks, to stem the vanishing ice.

"Global warming was not caused by people here, but it is harming us," Baluku Stanley said, chairman of one of the main trekking companies, the community-run Rwenzori Mountaineering Services.

"Of course when the ice goes it will affect tourism, even though trekking in the valleys is amazing," he added.

Spectacular valleys with fantastical vegetation akin to a fairy story -- including bizarre twisted trees draped in near luminous green lichen, giant lobelia plants and heather some five metres (15 feet) tall -- offer extraordinary trekking, even once the ice has gone.

Elephant, leopards, monkeys and chimpanzees hide in the thick lower jungle, while at higher altitudes, colourful birds endemic to the range swoop over the vast bogs that line the valleys.

But in higher reaches, new climbing routes have to be found, as the retreating ice make old paths unusable, with dangling rusting ladders once used to climb onto the glaciers now ending dangerously in mid-air.

The peaks offer some of the only proper ice climbing in Africa, attracting mountaineers from across the world to the challenging climb, though numbers reaching the top summits are tiny compared to those scaling peaks in neighbouring Kenya or Tanzania.

"The Rwenzoris are some of the most exciting glacier trekking and climbing I've done, rivalling peaks in Europe and South America," said Paul Drawbridge, a keen British mountaineer on an eight-day expedition to climb Stanley.

"It is such a shame to think that any children I may have will never get to see the ice-capped peaks."

.


Related Links
Beyond the Ice Age






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





ICE WORLD
NASA Data Sheds New Light on Changing Greenland Ice
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 13, 2014
Research using NASA data is giving new insight into one of the processes causing Greenland's ice sheet to lose mass. A team of scientists used satellite observations and ice thickness measurements gathered by NASA's Operation IceBridge to calculate the rate at which ice flows through Greenland's glaciers into the ocean. The findings of this research give a clearer picture of how glacier flow aff ... read more


ICE WORLD
31 dead, nine missing in China lorry blast

Thousands sue nuclear giants over Japan Fukushima disaster

Contaminated Fukushima water may be dumped as problems mount

Fukushima: three years on and still a long road ahead

ICE WORLD
Build me a face in 3D: British man's life 'transformed'

3D X-ray Film: Rapid Movements in Real Time

Microsoft hopes 'Titanfall' can boost Xbox One

Acoustic Cloaking Device Hides Objects from Sound

ICE WORLD
Ocean food web is key in the global carbon cycle

Water-rich gem points to vast 'oceans' beneath the Earth

Pakistani Kashmir turns to water to solve power crisis

Earth has a secret reservoir of water, say scientists

ICE WORLD
NASA Data Sheds New Light on Changing Greenland Ice

Volcanoes helped species survive ice ages: study

NASA Satellite Sees Great Freeze Over Great Lakes

Warm Rivers Play Role in Arctic Sea Ice Melt

ICE WORLD
Success of new bug-fighting approach may vary from field to field

Bordeaux gets Chinese hangover

Tropical grassy ecosystems under threat

Penn team links Africans' ability to digest milk to spread of cattle raising

ICE WORLD
Floods kill 7 in Saudi Arabia: media

Strong 6.3-magnitude quake hits off southern Japan: USGS

Philippine typhoon mother rises from ruins

Endless torment for Philippine typhoon widow

ICE WORLD
What sculpted Africa's margin?

South Sudan intercepts 'mislabelled' UN weapons shipment

Up to 12 'terrorists' in Mali killed by French forces

Fighting breaks out in South Sudan army barracks

ICE WORLD
Stirring the simmering 'designer baby' pot

Empathy chimpanzees offer is key to understanding human engagement

Natural selection has altered the appearance of Europeans over the past 5,000 years

'Seeing' bodies with sound (no sight required)




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.