Jim's Blog

Watching Greenland Melt : A Well Thought Out Scream by James Riordan

So you all know that Greenland isn’t green, right? The story goes that once upon a time, war broke out among Norwegian Vikings. One band launched the boats and fled. They discovered a green island and settled. Afraid that their enemies might pursue them, they sent word back to Norway that their island was actually an ice-land, but that another island — more distant, larger and indeed covered by ice — was inhabitable green-land. And so the green island became Iceland, and the icy island became Greenland.  It’s a cool story, but it’s false.  The true story of Iceland’s founding is more complicated and had something to do with Ingolfur Arnason, a Norse chieftain who founded Reykjavik in 874.  Greenland, meanwhile, was not “discovered” (by Norsemen, that is) until a century or so later, when a Norwegian who was sailing to Iceland was blown off course. It was later named “green land” by Erik the Red, another Norwegian, who really was fleeing from Norway and first went to Iceland before settling in Greenland. He wanted to bring more settlers and was obviously good at branding and marketing — “green jobs” for his “green economy”, if you will.

GM1Greenland is the largest island in the world.  Australia is bigger but it is considered a continent (technically, all continents could be called islands as they are surrounded by water).  But the largest island in the world is shrinking and some people would say it’s happening way too fast.  Back in 2015, in a moment of science communication genius, NASA created a mission called “OMG.” The acronym basically ensured that a new scientific mission — measuring how quickly the Oceans are Melting Greenland — would get maximum press attention.  The subject is actually extremely serious. OMG amounts to a comprehensive attempt, using ships, planes, and other research tools, to understand what’s happening as warm seas creep into large numbers of fjords that serve as avenues into the vast ice sheet — many of which contain large and partly submerged glaciers that are already melting and contributing to sea-level rise.

Greenland is, in fact, the largest global contributor to rising seas — adding around a millimeter per year to the global ocean, NASA says — and it has 7.36 potential meters (over 24 feet) to give. The question is how fast it could lose that ice, and over five years, OMG plans to pull in enough data to give the best answer yet. “We’ve never observed Greenland disappearing before, and that’s what OMG is about,” says Josh Willis, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who is the principal investigator on the mission. “We want to watch how it shrinks over the next five years, and see how we can use that information to better predict the future.”

GM3And now, the first data are coming in, in the form of not one but two new studies published in the journal Oceanography by NASA scientists and affiliated university researchers, seeking to measure the swirl of oceans around Greenland and in particular how a warm, deep layer of Atlantic-originating water is moving and interacting with its glaciers.  Basically, it works like this: Waters swirl in a broadly clockwise rotation around the enormous island (see below), often darting inward toward the outlying glaciers along the way. And in fjords that are the deepest, the Atlantic layer, which tends to be over 200 meters (more than 650 feet) deep, has the greatest chance of causing sustained melting.  “Where it’s deep, there’s warm water,” says Willis. Above the Atlantic layer, meanwhile, is a layer of colder polar water that has far less of an effect on glaciers — meaning that the big and thick glaciers often get hit hard at their bases, even as the small and thin ones don’t necessarily get hit much at all.

GM2

Here’s a figure that the scientists have produced, showing the overall flow of waters around the ice island: © NASA/JPL-Caltech

The newly published research does not present any answer — yet — to the big question animating all of this: How fast will Greenland melt and raise seas in a way that threatens, say, Florida?

In order to answer this key question, the researchers need comprehensive data on the depths and shape of the fjords, the thickness of the glaciers, and the behavior of the oceans around a Greenland coastline that, NASA notes, is 27,000 miles in length. Then, they will need to feed all of that information into a computer simulation that projects climate change forward to 2100 and calculates the consequences, at a high resolution, for Greenland’s icy coasts.

“It’s too early” to run the model, said Mathieu Morlighem, a researcher at the University of California, Irvine and the lead author of one of the papers presenting the accumulating data. “I think you need to wait another year or two, maybe more. It was not possible at all before OMG.”

Still, the recently published findings mark a start. Morlighem’s study, for instance, looked at the depth and shape of the seafloor near the fronts of and beneath numerous Greenland glaciers. The research shows that numerous glaciers extend deeper beneath the surface of the ocean than previously thought.

For instance, Store Glacier in northwestern Greenland (at around 70 degrees North latitude in the image above) starts at 400 meters (around 1,300 feet) deep where its front touches the ocean, and then plunges to depths as high as 1,000 meters deep (3,280 feet) farther inland — making it quite vulnerable to the ocean. Prior research, however, had suggested the glacier was much shallower.  The same was true of numerous other glaciers, which also appear more vulnerable than previously thought.

GM6“OMG is transforming our knowledge of which glaciers are vulnerable to more warming or not,” Morlighem said. “So I wouldn’t say we have been surprised, it’s more, we had no idea, for many of these fjords, what they were looking like.”  Overall, the data are also showing that Greenland’s west coast is far more vulnerable, in general, than its east, Morlighem said.

The second study, meanwhile, examines at ocean circulation around the Greenland coast and finds, strikingly, that between 68 degrees North latitude along the coast and 77 degrees North (see above), the deepest warm layer of Atlantic water cools from 3.5 degrees Celsius down to 2.5 degrees Celsius. Moreover, it does so in part because the water busily melts away at a large and deep glacier called Upernavik at 73 degrees North, which touches the ocean in 675 meter (over 2,000 foot) deep waters. The cold meltwater from the glacier spills into the ocean and, through mixing, cools the warm Atlantic water somewhat.

“The glaciers there are actively losing enough ice, and enough fresh water, that it’s important for the oceanography, and how the water changes as it goes up the west coast of Greenland,” says Willis. That in itself is proof that Greenland is melting quite a lot.

The big picture is that NASA’s new data suggest — that’s right — new vulnerabilities.

“Overall, together I think these papers suggest that the glaciers as a whole are more vulnerable than we thought they were,” Willis said. He says that, of course, with the aforementioned caveat that NASA’s not ready yet to feed the data into a model that actually shows how this could play out over the decades of our future.

c1608052 - 16th Aug 2005 - Disko Bay, WEST GREENLAND Greenpeace crewmembers help scientists to take depth soundings from the bottom of 'melt-lakes' 4.5 Miles South of Swiss Camp, inland from Disko Bay in West Greenland. Two lakes were sounded, 2.5miles apart, the coordinates for these were. Lake 1 69¼32m N 49¼07m W Lake 2 69¼29m N 49¼12m W Greenpeace and an independent NASA-funded scientist completed measurements of melt lakes on the Greenland Ice Sheet that show its vulnerability to warming temperatures.The measurements are the last scheduled activity as the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise wraps up its two-month expedition to document the impacts of climate change on Greenland's ice sheet and glaciers. ©Greenpeace/ Nick Cobbing. GREENPEACE HANDOUT - NO ARCHIVE - NO RESALE - OK FOR ONLINE REPRO
c1608052 – 16th Aug 2005 – Disko Bay, WEST GREENLAND
Greenpeace crewmembers help scientists to take depth soundings from the bottom of ‘melt-lakes’ 4.5 Miles South of Swiss Camp, inland from Disko Bay in West Greenland. Two lakes were sounded, 2.5miles apart, the coordinates for these were. Lake 1 69¼32m N 49¼07m W
Lake 2 69¼29m N 49¼12m W
Greenpeace and an independent NASA-funded scientist completed measurements of melt lakes
on the Greenland Ice Sheet that show its vulnerability to warming temperatures.The measurements are the last scheduled activity as the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise wraps up its two-month expedition to document the impacts of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet and
glaciers.
©Greenpeace/ Nick Cobbing.
GREENPEACE HANDOUT – NO ARCHIVE – NO RESALE – OK FOR ONLINE REPRO

For now, we’re still stuck with official estimates from bodies like the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said in 2013 that Greenland’s melting might at most contribute 21 centimeters to sea-level rise by 2100, with some possible addition from rapid ice collapse (this is the high-end number for what scientists call the “likely” range in a worst-case global warming scenario, to be precise). But missions like OMG, in the meantime, are giving us plenty to worry about.

“These kinds of results suggest that we could be in for more sea level rise than we thought,” Willis said. “And we’re not alone, the fact is that almost every time some new results come out of Greenland or Antarctica, we find these glaciers are more vulnerable than we thought.”

Pictured to the left is a huge lake of melt water on top of a Greenland Glacier. The melting glaciers are fuelling sea level rise.

Melting Greenland fuels sea level rise | Greenpeace International

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The Author

James Riordan

James Riordan

Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by Amazon.com. Riordan’s The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco) was called “One of the best how-to books ever written” by the Los Angeles Daily News and “The ultimate career book on the music industry” by Recording, Engineer & Producer. Critics described Riordan’s The Bishop of Rwanda as “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” and The Coming of the Walrus, Riordan’s novel about the 60s as “the definitive book on the era” and “a hilarious tale of a harrowing search for the greatest truth of all”. With the release of A Well Thought Out Scream and Madman in the Gate, Riordan pushed the boundaries again with poetry/song lyric books that contain hundreds of stunning, beautiful and poignant images from artists and photographers from all over the world. In the summer of 2013 a new edition of The Coming of the Walrus was released to rave reviews followed by The Kill Switch. The author of thirty-three books, James Riordan’s career began in the music industry where as a songwriter, manager, producer and concert promoter he worked with several well known artists. In 1976 he began writing a newspaper column, Rock-Pop, which he later syndicated. Riordan soon became one of America’s premier rock journalists with articles reaching millions of readers including those of Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Circus, Musician, and newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and The Kansas City Star. His reputation for relating on a one-to-one level soon led to interviews with George Harri-son, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Mandrell, Crosby, Stills & Nash and countless others. His first book, The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco in 1980) became the largest selling book ever written about the music business. The guide to “succeeding in the music business without selling your soul” was praised by Variety ,The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune, Billboard, Record World and many more. The Platinum Rainbow became an industry-wide phenomenon and interviews with James Riordan were aired on over 1200 radio stations and numerous television talk shows. Next Riordan collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Jason Miller on a mini-series for network television (The Irish) and a movie of the week for CBS (Bless Me Father). In June 1991, William Morrow & Co. published Break On Through to outstanding sales and reviews. Riordan worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s film of Morrison’s life, The Doors, which led to his writing Stone’s biography. Published by Hyperion /Disney in December 1995, Entertainment Weekly called STONE “an unflinching biography... enough spectacle to fill a month of daytime-TV talk shows.” The New York Post said reading the book was like “the sensory overload of watching all of Oliver Stone’s movies back to back.” Riordan was interviewed by Inside Edition, People Magazine, The Tom Snyder Show, and many others. From 1997-2000, Riordan created and co-starred in a local television program, Kankakee Valley Prime Time, which won six Crystal Communicators, three Tellys, and earned Riordan a Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Nomination for Writing the program. In the summer of 1999, James Riordan wrote, directed and starred in Maddance, an hour long dramatic project which won Crystal Communicators for Drama, Writing, Acting and Directing. On April 9, 2000, James’ 16 year old son, Jeremiah, was killed as a passenger in an accident that involved three drunk drivers. Shortly after this, James founded Make it Stick which works to warn teens of the dangers of substance abuse and publishes a magazine distributed to high school students. In 2001, he founded Jeremiah’s – A Place to be Yourself to give teens a place to hang out away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Force to close by its incredible growth rate, Jeremiah’s was recognized as one of the fastest growing and most successful teen centers in the United States. In 2004, Toastmasters International named Riordan Communicator of the Year for Central Illinois, the YMCA gave him their Service to Youth Award and the United Way named him the Outstanding Volunteer of Kankakee County. Returning to writing, Riordan went to Africa to write The Bishop of Rwanda, (with an intro by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren). In November of 2006, Harper Collins released a new edition of Break On Through followed by The Coming of the Walrus (Image Workshop) in December and The Bishop of Rwanda (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) to rave reviews (“Powerful …plumbs the depths of God’s forgiveness and finds no bottom – Publisher’s Weekly). In 2011, he won the Pledge For Life Harold Award for his work with area youth. In the summer of 2012, Lee and Shane Stanley (Gridiron Gang) optioned Maddance as a feature film followed by Apothecary Films optioning The Kill Switch in 2013 and Omni Films optioning Final Service to film in May. Riordan joined the staff of the Mancow Syndicated Television and Radio show in January of 2014 and is now seen and heard across America on a weekly basis. His biography is included in Who’s Who in Entertainment , Who’s Who in Poetry and Contemporary Authors of America. James Riordan – Works Books The Kill Switch, novel with Andrew Dahlmaine, Stonegate Ink, 2013 The Coming of the Walrus, Trade Paperback Editn, Image Workshop 2012 Springboard To Heaven ( Jojo Sayson Adventure), Image Workshop, 2012 The Elijah Collection, novel collection with Bill Myers, Zondervan, 2011 The Well Thought Out Scream (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 Madman in the Gate (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 The Deadly Loyalty Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Ancient Forces Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Enemy Strikes with Bill Myers (Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 Deception with Bill Myers (Book 2 Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 The Bishop of Rwanda (Finding Forgiveness) Thomas Nelson, March 2007 Paperback Edition May, 2012 The Coming of the Walrus (What Really Happened in the '60s) IW, 2006 Break on Through (The Life & Death of Jim Morrison), Morrow, 1991. (New York Times Bestseller, Published in 5 languages, Hardcover, 5 Paperback Editions, Harper Trade Paperback November, 2006) Stone (The Controversies, Excesses & Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker), Disney/Hyperion,1995. (Published in 3 languages, Hardcover, Paperback Edition). Making It in the New Music Business, Writers Digest Books, 1987, (Second Edition, Revised and Updated 1991, Two Hardcover Editions) The Platinum Rainbow (How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul) 250,000 copies with Bob Monaco, Swordsman Press, 1980, Twenty-Three Editions, Revised 1988) 25 Year Anniversary Edition, 2005 Capture the Wind (Microphones) w.Tom Lubin, Literary Mouse Press,1989 Private Biography of Russ Kalvin, founder of Kalvin Corp., 1990 Private Biography of Steve Stefano, founder of Joico Hair Products, 1993. Mystery of the Invisible Knight (Book 2 in the BloodHounds Series) with Bill Myers, Bethany House,1997. Matters of the Heart (The Life & Times of Edgar Cullman), Culbro, 1997. The Curse (Book 7 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1997. The Undead (Book 8 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1996. The Scream (Book 9 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1998 The Ancients (Book 10 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1999. The Cards (Book 11 Forbidden Doors Series) with Bill Myers, Tyndale,2000 Films Final Service, co-written with Gary Moore and based on his book, Omni Productions, to be filmed in May, 2014. Maddance, Writer/Director/Lead Actor, Search Engine Films, Simmcomm, 1999. (Winner of 4 Crystal Communicators including Best Drama, Screenplay, Director, Male Actor – Austin, TX.1999) Performance (The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Screenplay, Lancit Productions 1998. Returned to Author when film division closed)Rewritten2009 Shadowdancers, Story & Screenplay, Story with Bill Myers, 1997 Dr. Babylon, Story 1996. Air Guitar, Story & Screenplay, 1994 The Platinum Rainbow, Story & Screenplay, 1993 Television/Video Kankakee Valley Prime Time, Writer, Director, Producer, 1997-2000. (Nominated for Midwest/Chicago Emmy for Writing, 1998, 3 Telly Awards, 4 Crystal Communicators 1998-2000). Angels Among Us (The Amtrak City of New Orleans Train Disaster, Co- Producer, (Telly Award, 2000). River Valley Sports Authority, Producer, 1999-2003. I Hate The World (Hypnoises Music Video), Writer/Director/Producer, Crystal Communicator for Best Music Video Concept, 1998). The United Way (Video) Crystal Communicator for Best Video for a Charitable Organization, 1998.

If it isn't money and it isn't fame and it isn't sex... then what... God?

— James Riordan, 2000

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