Asian glaciers, which supply water sources for over a billion people, are 50% less thick then thought. That means what you might think it means – all the previous estimates on how fast they are melting and how long they will last, providing water for all these people is off by half (at least). But wait, there’s more. As glacial volume decreases, melt rate increases (albedo effect) from the surrounding warming rocks, so you can up the melt rate estimate even higher.
Glacier evolution modeling with these new results suggests that 50% of the glacial area in High Mountain Asia will be gone by the mid-2060s rather than the late 2070s, as predicted by previous estimates. And simulations of glacial discharge with the new data are similarly worrying: Summertime runoff rates near the end of the 21st century will be roughly 6 billion cubic meters lower per month. “In light of the importance of glacier melt for the regional water supply, these differences are unsettling,” the authors concluded in their study, which was published this week in Nature Geoscience.
The actual global glacier ice volume (not just Asia) is also significantly lower then previously estimated according to new research. New estimates indicate that there is a 18% drop in global glacial ice volume (not including Greenland and Antarctica which are also declining). Once again, science is having to play catch-up to real world measurements. By the time these figures make it into published reports and assessments, two years may have passed (depending on the report). It’s clear that the Earth is changing far faster then ‘expected’ (or admitted to).
Next, we have the curious notion that carbon dioxide is being released from underneath the sea bed. It’s happened before, and it caused massive extinctions, and it’s happening again (now).
Undersea gases could superheat the planet, but they don’t know how fast nor how extensive this is (yet). That will take some more time. Meanwhile, these ‘leaks’ will continue to add to the escalating carbon dioxide content of Earth’s atmosphere. Who knows? Maybe a massive blow-out event will occur and bring about a swift extinction again.
What does this then for deep ocean carbon sequestering? Nobody knows. But there’s indeed a problem when the ocean starts ‘naturally’ releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, along with methane. The sea floor is one of the least understood components of the Earth system, and so far, it’s not gotten any of the attention it really deserves, despite being the largest surface area on the entire planet. There’s a lot of sea floor ‘down there’ and what it holds and how it reacts to warming should be of intense interest to us.