Greenland is burning

Yes, that's right. As the Greenland ice sheet has receded, large areas of peatland have thawed, and those areas hold massive amounts of carbon. Now two large fires are occurring. Here's a ESA satellite photograph of the fires:

Greenland fires.png

Such fires have been rare events - in the past. But now, as the ice sheets in the Arctic recede, and more areas previously frozen year round thaw and dry out, we are likely to see more and more of these game changing wildfires.

Increased size and number of wildfires is one of the expected consequences of climate change. Scientists have warned the US West has already entered a "new era of wildfires" with average temperatures in that part of the world now two degrees Celsius higher and the burning season nearly three months longer than in the 1970s.

Greenland's vast ice sheet, which could raise global sea levels by six metres, lost a trillion tonnes of ice between 2011 and 2014, according to one recent study which found the rate of melting had tripled.

The likely result? It's not good. Read on:

Three-quarters of Greenland is covered by the only permanent ice sheet outside Antarctica, and permafrost is found on most of the rest of the island. These are reasons why it is very unusual, and possibly unprecedented, that two wildfires are burning on the giant island.

“These fires appear to be peatland fires, as there are low grass, some shrub, and lots of rocks on the western edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet”, Jessica L. McCarty, an Assistant Professor of Geography at Miami University told us Monday. She continued, “They are likely occurring in areas of degraded permafrost, which are predicted to have high thaw rates between now and 2050 with some evidence of current melt near Sisimiut. Fires in the High Northern Latitudes release significant CO2, CH4, N20, and black carbon. A fire this close to the Greenland Ice Shelf is likely to deposit additional black carbon on the ice, further speeding up the melt.

So what does it mean? Bad things, my friends, bad things:

Globally, the amount of carbon stored in peats exceeds that stored in vegetation and is similar in size to the current atmospheric carbon pool. Fire is a threat to many peat-rich biomes and has the potential to disturb these carbon stocks. Peat fires are dominated by smouldering combustion, which is ignited more readily than flaming combustion and can persist in wet conditions. In undisturbed peatlands, most of the peat carbon stock typically is protected from smouldering, and resistance to fire has led to a build-up of peat carbon storage in boreal and tropical regions over long timescales. But drying as a result of climate change and human activity lowers the water table in peatlands and increases the frequency and extent of peat fires. The combustion of deep peat affects older soil carbon that has not been part of the active carbon cycle for centuries to millennia, and thus will dictate the importance of peat fire emissions to the carbon cycle and feedbacks to the climate.

In lay person's terms, this is the equivalent of adding gasoline to an oil fire in your kitchen. Read that first sentence from the 2015 study in Nature, which is cited above, again.

Globally, the amount of carbon stored in peats exceeds that stored in vegetation and is similar in size to the current atmospheric carbon pool.

These peat fires in areas previously covered by ice sheets, or previously captured and held withing vast sections of frozen tundra, is now exposed to wildfires. The amount of greenhouse gases that Arctic wildfires will dump into the Northern Hemisphere's atmosphere is enormous. Such fires will create further warming there, and additional havoc for global climate patterns. This is one more feedback loop, but it's one from which we may not be able to recover.

Increased melt of the Greenland ice sheet from black carbon will accelerate sea level rise, the effects of which coastal communities in America are already seeing. The increase in warming on the Arctic already has led to unprecedented extreme weather patterns across North America, Europe and Northern and Central Asia.

The string of massive snowstorms and bone-chilling cold on the US east coast, as well as flooding in Britain and record temperatures in Europe, are linked to rapid ice loss in the Arctic, new research appears to confirm.

While the rapidly-thawing Arctic cannot be held responsible for specific weather events like the “snowmageddon” in 2009, Hurricane Sandy, or European heatwaves, researchers at Rutgers university said it appears to be a prime reason why the polar jet stream – a ribbon of winds that encircles the globe – gets ‘stuck’ with increasing frequency.

Western Europe and large parts of North America will experience more extreme weather because of “Arctic amplification” - the enhanced sensitivity of high latitudes to global warming, the team suggested in a paper published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.

This ain't no hoax. Those who believe otherwise, or think that this is merely the result of cyclical changes in the Earth's climate are fooling themselves.
The times they are a changing, and that change is coming faster than anyone predicted. As a former Senator and movie actor once noted on screen:

Indeed, this business of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption largely caused by a few greedy profit seeking corporations is already out of control. And doing nothing about it right now will ensure that the human species will not be lucky enough to "live through it."

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Comments

the cockroach people will attribute the soot layer to volcanoes and start the process all over.

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10 users have voted.

There is no such thing as TMI. It can always be held in reserve for extortion.

@ghotiphaze
but i repeat myself.

(to steal a line from Mark Twain).

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10 users have voted.

Sigh

boriscleto's picture

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8 users have voted.

" In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and is generally considered to have been a bad move. -- Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy "

https://youpic.com/photographer/boriscleto/

@boriscleto

Thanks; great tune, if all too freaking true...

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1 user has voted.

Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

boriscleto's picture

@Ellen North But Part IV (The Index Fossil) is the one song from it they've never performed live.

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1 user has voted.

" In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and is generally considered to have been a bad move. -- Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy "

https://youpic.com/photographer/boriscleto/

@boriscleto

Probably afraid corporate-hired mercenaries/military drones would take them out while on stage for playing it...

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0 users have voted.

Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

riverlover's picture

water cycling? Now it's all undone and we need to learn carbon cycling. Too late.

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7 users have voted.

Hey! my dear friends or soon-to-be's, JtC could use the donations to keep this site functioning for those of us who can still see the life preserver or flotsam in the water.

dkmich's picture

My only hope is that what goes round, comes round, and bites the oligarchs in the ass.

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*donate *follow us on Twitter *like us on Facebook

lately telling me she "just doesn't believe in that" and I'm still pissed as hell at her for that. Listening to Rush Limpdick every single day and reveling in her willful ignorance. I laughed in her face the day she said that to me and told her it doesn't matter what in hell she believes, it's happening whether she and Limpdick believe it or not.

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magiamma's picture

Posting this again because it's critical information.

The Extinction Event Gains Momentum
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/08/the-extinction-event-gains-momen...

"Phytoplankton feeds everything from microscopic zooplankton to multi-tonne Blue Whales (the largest animal on Earth). But first and foremost, every 2nd human breath is oxygen produced by phytoplankton. Without phytoplankton, life dies."

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7 users have voted.

en este momento todo es possible

edg's picture

Before being burned to a crisp.

Greenland, the icy island nation in the Arctic, gets its name from an Icelandic murderer exiled there, who called it "Greenland" in hopes that the name would attract settlers. But it turns out that long ago, Greenland was actually quite green.

"More than 2.5 million years ago Greenland looked like the green Alaskan tundra, before it was covered by the second largest body of ice on Earth," the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said.

Source: Icy Greenland was Once Pretty Green, Study Finds

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WoodsDweller's picture

@edg
but 2.5 million years ago was right about the last time there was an ice-free Arctic. That's long before Homo Sapiens arose (other genus Homo were present). Modern humans have never co-existed with an ice-free Arctic, but we're heading there fast.

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The lesser evil is still evil. Vote your conscience, not your fear.

@WoodsDweller

I don't have a handy reference

but 2.5 million years ago was right about the last time there was an ice-free Arctic. That's long before Homo Sapiens arose (other genus Homo were present). Modern humans have never co-existed with an ice-free Arctic, but we're heading there fast.

Only to discover that we cannot co-exist with it, no doubt.

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2 users have voted.

Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

WoodsDweller's picture

@Ellen North we're heading into uncharted territory.

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The lesser evil is still evil. Vote your conscience, not your fear.

@WoodsDweller

All I can see on that chart is "Here there be monsters" - and wouldn't you think that that would be enough to put a halt to this suicidal corporate/military profiteering/global take-over?

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1 user has voted.

Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

ours in Alaska, there are additional problemw with fire.

First, permafrost is webbed with lateral rootlets, and a fire can go underground, sustain itself through the winter and reanimate the next summer. This happened near my place, and that is what the firefighters told me.

Second, there are massive amounts of methane in/under permafrost. Melting releases that methane, which is a big contributor to global warming.

This is one of the reasons I think it's too late. There is a momentum to global climate change that would not stop even if we shut down every internal combustion engine and pollution source today.

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WoodsDweller's picture

@gustogirl
is Clint Eastwood.
Clint is standing there, squinting into the camera. He's got one of those Hollywood bundles of dynamite in one hand, a long fuse hanging out of it, and that nasty stump of a cigar in his mouth.
He takes the cigar and lights the fuse.
The fuse is anthropogenic global warming. Each stick of dynamite is a natural reservoir of carbon, such as permafrost. They are loosely capped by ice or whatnot, but represent in aggregate more carbon that humans have ever released.
As long as the fuse burns we are in control. Clint can tear the fuse off, snuff it out, or throw the whole thing into the river. But there are interests that profit greatly from letting it burn, and we all benefit to some extent. So we let it burn just a little while longer, don't take any action yet, kick the can down the road, there isn't really any dynamite it's just someone trying to scare you.
Once the fuse burns into the dynamite we are no longer in control. We're just waiting for the Earth-shattering kaboom. This represents positive feedbacks in the system, which are reflected in few if any models.

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The lesser evil is still evil. Vote your conscience, not your fear.