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worser ‘n worser…

Greenland’s Northeastern Ice Sheet Starting To Melt

Greenland’s Northeastern Ice Sheet Melting

18 Mar 2014

by Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

A new study suggests that Greenland’s northeast ice stream, located 600km to the interior of its ice sheet is thinning because of warming temperatures. The study used data from several dozen GPS  locations along Greenland’s coast.

Greenland’s previously stable northeastern ice sheet is starting to melt, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

While Greenland’s melting ice sheet has contributed to an increase in the world’s sea levels over the last 20 years, the recent study suggests that Greenland’s northeast ice stream, located 600km to the interior of the ice sheet is also thinning because of warming temperatures.

Greenland is believed to contribute 0.5 mm per year to the 3.2mm annual rise of the world’s sea levels.

VIDEO: How ice melt in Greenland is affecting its Inuit population

Longterm implications

The study used data from several dozen GPS locations along Greenland’s coast.

“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),” Jonathan Bamber, a professor at Britain’s University of Bristol and one of the study’s co-authors, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) this week.

“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.”

Go North

Nails for the coffins of climate change denialists from northern Ontario, 300~400 miles NE of Thunder Bay: “The warming trend goes back at least 30 years, and is exemplified by the increase in annual crop heat units (CHU) at Earlton from 1800 to 2300 CHU. This has had a major positive impact on crop production. For example, soybeans, corn grain and silage corn are now reliably grown in the Temiskaming region, while canola has supplemented the traditional barley, oat and wheat crops in the Cochrane-Kapuskasing area. Crop Yields in the Temiskaming District: Corn = 130 – 145 bu/ac, Soybeans = 50 – 60 bu/ac”

Northern Ontario Agriculture Facts and Figures in Brief

Climate change is having a global impact on agriculture, especially in Northeastern Ontario. What could this mean for the future of this region?

  • 2,800 farms which return $190 million in agricultural farm cash receipt
  • 700,000 acres of farmed land.
  • It has been estimated that most districts in Northern Ontario can increase active agricultural lands from 20 to 50% by drawing idled private lands back into use.
  • The Great Clay Belt (GCB) in Northeastern Ontario consists of 16 million acres of potentially fertile glaciolacustrine soils (Figure 1). This is double the amount of cropland currently being farmed in the province.

info_vbn0713a4f1.jpg
Figure 1. The Great Clay Belt

  • To date only about 2 per cent of this land has been developed for agriculture .
  • The GCB also stretches into Northwestern Quebec, which contains another 13 million acres.
  • The Canada Land Inventory has identified 4.4 million acres of Ontario’s GCB as Class 2, 3 or 4, which are suitable for cultivation. The remainder has either not been classified or is unsuitable for agriculture.
  • The main limitations to productivity are drainage and climate. Systematic tile drainage has been shown to address the first limitation, while long-term climate warming and the development of new crop varieties and agronomic techniques have revolutionized the crops which can be grown (Figure 2)
  • The warming trend goes back at least 30 years, and is exemplified by the increase in annual crop heat units (CHU) at Earlton from 1800 to 2300 CHU. This has had a major positive impact on crop production. For example, soybeans, corn grain and silage corn are now reliably grown in the Temiskaming region, while canola has supplemented the traditional barley, oat and wheat crops in the Cochrane-Kapuskasing area.

2011 -2012 Crop Yields*

Temiskaming District

  • Corn = 130 – 145 bu/ac
  • Soybeans = 50 – 60 bu/ac

Cochrane District

  • Canola = 1.45 tonnes/ac

info_vbn0713a4f2a.png
Figure 2. Kapuskasing CHU trend

  • In addition, these regions are well suited to forage production and are capable of supporting large herds of ruminant animals
  • Development potential for the GCB in Ontario is shown by the degree to which agriculture in Northwestern Quebec has progressed (Figure 3)

info_vbn0713a4f3.png
Figure 3. Development differences between Northeastern Ontario (west or left of border) and Northwestern Quebec (right or east of the line) in the Great Clay Belt

References

2006 Census of Agriculture. Statistics Canada.
Chapman and Brown. The Canada Land Inventory. 1966.
Environment Canada Weather Station, Earlton Airport. Ontario Climate Center, Kapuskasing Data –
Environment Canada, 2012. http://www.climateontario.ca
2011 Census of Agriculture (Preliminary data). Statistics Canada.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra

Author: Tom Hamilton – Beef Cattle Production Systems Program Lead/OMAF and MRA
Creation Date: 09 July 2013
Last Reviewed: 09 July 2013

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How’s your greenhouse? Lettuce up yet?

Science Matters – We can’t just geoengineer our way out of climate change

David Suzuki Foundation

We can’t just geoengineer our way out of climate change

sky
Photo Credit: Paul Bica

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.

DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then – toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans. Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes.

Oil, gas and coal are miraculous substances – energy absorbed from the sun by plants and animals hundreds of millions of years ago, retained after they died and concentrated as the decaying life became buried deeper into the earth. Burning them to harness and release this energy opened up possibilities unimaginable to our ancestors. We could create machines and technologies to reduce our toil, heat and light our homes, build modern cities for growing populations and provide accessible transport for greater mobility and freedom. And because the stuff seemed so plentiful and easy to obtain, we could build vehicles and roads for everyone – big cars that used lots of gas – so that enormous profits would fuel prosperous, consumer-driven societies.

We knew fairly early that pollution affected human health, but that didn’t seem insurmountable. We just needed to improve fuel efficiency and create better pollution-control standards. That reduced rather than eliminated the problem and only partly addressed an issue that appears to have caught us off-guard: the limited availability of these fuels. But the trade-offs seemed worthwhile.

Then, for the past few decades, a catastrophic consequence of our profligate use of fossil fuels has loomed. Burning them has released excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a thick, heat-trapping blanket. Along with our destruction of natural carbon-storing environments, such as forests and wetlands, this has steadily increased global average temperatures, causing climate change.

We’re now faced with ever-increasing extreme weather-related events and phenomena such as ocean acidification, which affects myriad marine life, from shellfish to corals to plankton. The latter produce oxygen and are at the very foundation of the food chain.

Had we addressed the problem from the outset, we could have solutions in place. We could have found ways to burn less fossil fuel without massively disrupting our economies and ways of life. But we’ve become addicted to the lavish benefits that fossil fuels have offered, and the wealth and power they’ve provided to industrialists and governments. And so there’s been a concerted effort to stall or avoid corrective action, with industry paying front groups, “experts” and governments to deny or downplay the problem.

Now that climate change has become undeniable, with consequences getting worse daily, many experts are eyeing solutions. Some are touting massive technological fixes, such as dumping large amounts of iron filings into the seas to facilitate carbon absorption, pumping nutrient-rich cold waters from the ocean depths to the surface, building giant reflectors to bounce sunlight back into space and irrigating vast deserts.

But we’re still running up against those pesky unintended consequences. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, studied five geoengineering schemes and concluded they’re “either relatively ineffective with limited warming reductions, or they have potentially severe side effects and cannot be stopped without causing rapid climate change.” That’s partly because we don’t fully understand climate and weather systems and their interactions.

That doesn’t mean we should rule out geoengineering. Climate change is so serious that we’ll need to marshal everything we have to confront it, and some methods appear to be more benign than others. But geoengineering isn’t the solution. And it’s no excuse to go on wastefully burning fossil fuels. We must conserve energy and find ways to quickly shift to cleaner sources.

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

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