Archive | Snowpack & Ice

Gigantic Ice Sheet Breaks Away From Greenland Glacier

August 7 (EcoWorld) – A huge ice sheet measuring 100 square miles has broken off of the Petermann Glacier in northwest Greenland. The giant ice sheet has fallen into the water and is likely to begin moving south, where it could interfere with important shipping lanes. In fact, it was an iceberg that broke off from a similar area in Greenland that caused the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. This ice block, however, is much larger than historic separations.

The ice block that has broken free is four times the size of Manhattan, and contains enough fresh water to supply the drinking needs of the entire United States for 120 days, according to University of Delaware researcher Andreas Muenchow.

While it is difficult to determine exactly what caused the giant sheet of ice to break free, climate change is most likely an important factor. Research has shown that the first six months of 2010 are already the hottest on record globally.

The giant floating iceberg is expected to head south and could reach the major shipping lanes within two years.

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Dog Rescued from Ice Twice

NEW YORK, March 17 (UPI) — Authorities in New York state said a dog rescued from the thawing ice of Lake Erie had to be rescued a second time when he sprinted back onto the ice.

The Erie County Sheriff’s Department said the dog was first spotted Monday night on the ice near Westfield. The department’s Air One Helicopter tracked the canine down Tuesday morning and Capt. Kevin Caffery was lowered from the chopper to rescue the dog, WGRZ-TV, Buffalo, N.Y., reported Wednesday.

However, Caffery said the dog fled shortly after being turned over to the Westfield Fire Department and had to be rescued from the ice a second time.

The captain said the incident was an opportunity for rescuers to keep their skills sharp in the event of a human in similar danger.

The dog, which belonged to a Farnham man, had been missing for four or five days. He was taken a veterinarian to be checked out.

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Avalanches Disable Major Russian Road

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia, March 16 (UPI) — The only direct road between Russia and South Ossetia has been cut off due to approximately 30 avalanches, officials said Tuesday.

All maintenance crews for the Transcauscasian highway are working in emergency mode, RIA Novosti reported.

The snowy weather in the region “guarantees avalanches” and the road has already been closed for more than a day, said Yulia Starchenko, a spokeswoman for North Ossetia’s emergency ministry.

The heavy snow and avalanches are blamed for downed power lines that cut electricity supplies from Russia to South Ossetia, RIA Novosti said.

“Since 1 o’clock in the morning, the republic (South Ossetia) has been completely without electricity,” Starchenko said.

South Ossetia relies on Russian supplies for energy and contact with the rest of the world, RIA Novosti reported.

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Avalanche Kills 3, Injures 12 in Canada

REVELSTOKE, British Columbia, March 14 (UPI) — Search teams Sunday sought survivors of a massive avalanche in the Canadian Rockies that killed three people and injured at least 12, authorities said.

The avalanche struck about 3:30 p.m. Saturday as 200 people watched the Big Iron Shootout, an informal snowmobile competition, on Boulder Mountain near Revelstoke in southeastern British Columbia, the Revelstoke (British Columbia) Times Review reported.

Authorities were unsure if more victims were buried in the snow, said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“At this time there are (reports) of people missing but we don’t have that confirmed,” Moskaluk said.

Four search-and-rescue teams were looking for survivors Sunday morning.

On Saturday, at least five helicopters transported the victims to Revelstoke airport, and ambulances took them to Queen Victoria Hospital.

Moskaluk said he didn’t know the extent of the injuries.

At least 10 avalanches have occurred in the Kootenay-Boundary area since Friday.

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Colorado Avalanche Claims Life of Snowboarder

KEYSTONE, Colo., March 11 (UPI) — The coroner’s office for Summit County, Colo., said a 20-year-old snowboarder was killed in an avalanche near the state’s Arapahoe Basin.

The Summit County coroner’s office said the victim of Wednesday’s avalanche near the popular Colorado ski area was a man who relocated to Colorado from Spring Grove, Ill., last November, The Denver Post reported Thursday.

The coroner’s office did not release the victim’s name.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the deadly avalanche was 150 feet wide and was able to travel nearly 800 feet down a steep gully in Summit County.

Two individuals who were traveling with the victim at the time of the avalanche were able to avoid the large flow of snow and survived, the Post reported.

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Flagstaff Leading Anchorage in Snowfall

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., March 12 (UPI) — It’s hard to believe but Flagstaff, Ariz., has had more snow this year than either Anchorage, Alaska, or Buffalo, N.Y., the National Weather Service says.

The weather service says Flagstaff has racked up more than 11 feet of snow so far and is on the way to recording one of its snowiest seasons ever, the Arizona Republic reported Friday.

March usually produces a lot of snow so this winter could end up being Flagstaff’s fifth snowiest, the forecasters say.

“I’m ready for it to be over,” said David Blanchard of the NWS. “We’re all getting a little tired of shoveling.”

This season’s heavy snowfall is attributed to warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that can steer wetter storms to Arizona.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Dangerous Arctic Ocean Methane Leak Found

FAIRBANKS, Alaska, March 4 (UPI) — U.S.-led scientists say part of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane has started leaking the gas into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The international team of researchers warns the release of just a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.

The scientists led by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Assistant Professor Natalia Shakhova and Associate Professor Igor Semiletov say the frozen methane is becoming unstable because of the melting of permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

The scientists said their study suggests the permafrost that had long been thought to be an impermeable barrier has become perforated.

“The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world’s oceans,” said Shakhova. “Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.”

Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is a methane-rich area that encompasses more than 772,000 square miles of seafloor in the Arctic Ocean, more than three times as large as the Siberian wetlands that have been considered the primary Northern Hemisphere source of atmospheric methane.

“The climatic consequences of this are hard to predict,” Shakhova said.

The research is reported in the journal Science.

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Global Warming is Real, Despite Snowfall

DURHAM, N.C., March 2 (UPI) — A U.S. professor says one of the nation’s snowiest winters in recent history has led some people to erroneously question whether global warming is a fact.

Duke University Professor William Chameides — dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and a member of the National Academy of Sciences — says global warming is a fact, no matter what the current temperature might be.

“There is a reason we call it global warming,” Chameides said. “Global temperatures can be warming, even if temperatures in the United States are not.”

He notes that while some areas have been experiencing wintry extremes, other regions of the world have had to contend with extreme heat waves, including Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

Even in the United States, January was the fourth-warmest January on record, he noted.

“This pattern of (higher) temperatures and stronger storms is consistent with climate models that show global warming will bring more extreme weather, specifically more severe storms with greater amounts of precipitation,” Chameides said. “A careful, objective, complete reading of the scientific literature reveals the scientific evidence that the globe is warming — and that this warming is connected to human activities.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Antifreeze Proteins Can Stop Ice Melt

ATHENS, Ohio, March 2 (UPI) — U.S. and Canadian scientists say they’ve discovered antifreeze proteins that prevent freezing in cold conditions also prevent melting in warmer environments.

Researchers from Ohio University and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said their findings mark the first direct measurements of the “superheating” of ice crystals in antifreeze protein solutions and have implications for various technologies that use superconductor materials and nanoparticles.

Antifreeze proteins are found in insects, fish, bacteria and other organisms that need to survive in low temperatures, the researchers said. The proteins protect the organisms by arresting the growth of ice crystals in their bodies.

“During recrystallization, a larger ice crystal grows while a smaller one melts. Antifreeze proteins can help control both of these processes,” said Ohio University Associate Professor Ido Braslavsky, who worked on the study with doctoral student Yeliz Celik and Queens University Professor Peter Davies.

The research that also included postdoctoral fellow Maya Bar of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and Queen’s University Assistant Professor Laurie Graham and postdoctoral researcher Yee-Foong Mok is reported in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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All Southern Antarctic Ice Shelves Melting

RESTON, Va., Feb. 24 (UPI) — The U.S. Geological Survey says every ice shelf in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula is retreating because of climate change.

The USGS says its report is the first to document that every ice front in that area has been retreating overall from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990.

The retreat, scientists said, could result in sea-level rise if warming continues, threatening coastal communities and low-lying islands worldwide.

The USGS previously documented the majority of ice fronts on the entire peninsula have also retreated during the late 20th century and into the early 21st century.

Officials said the ice shelves are attached to the continent, holding in place the Antarctic ice sheet that covers about 98 percent of the Antarctic continent. As the ice shelves break off, it becomes easier for outlet glaciers and ice streams from the ice sheet to flow into the sea. That transition of ice from land to the ocean is what raises the sea level.

“This research is part of a larger ongoing USGS project that is for the first time studying the entire Antarctic coastline in detail, and this is important because the Antarctic ice sheet contains 91 percent of Earth’s glacier ice,” USGS scientist Jane Ferrigno said.

“The loss of ice shelves is evidence of the effects of global warming,” she added. “We need to be alert and continually understand and observe how our climate system is changing.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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