Wildfires can cause glaciers to melt from over a thousand miles away, scientists find

Tuesday, 27 June 2017, 12:13:21 AM. Scientists just proved that wildfires dumped a huge amount of soot on the Greenland ice sheet.
A snowstorm delivered soot from a Canadian wildfire to the surface of Greenland, a new study finds. (Whitney Shefte /The Washington Post) Scientists have for the first time tracked soot from Canadian wildfires all the way to the Greenland ice sheet, where they found that the dark, sunlight-absorbing particles landed on the ice and had the potential to significantly enhance its melting — pointing to a possible new driver of sea level rise. It’s the first end-to-end documentation of a process that, it’s feared, could hasten Greenland’s melting in the future — and since the ice sheet could contribute over 20 feet of eventual sea level rise, any such process is one that scientists weigh carefully. “That’s the first time we’ve been able to connect that whole logic chain from, here’s a fire and here’s where it ended up on the ice sheet,” said Chris Polashenski, one of the study’s authors and a researcher with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. The study found that a specific atmospheric event, a snowstorm in late July and early August of 2013, was the critical factor in delivering the soot to the surface of Greenland. Without that storm to bring them down from the atmosphere to the surface, the soot particles could have traveled over the ice sheet at a high altitude and never landed. “A lot of the time, the wind blows from a fire to the ice sheet and the black carbon doesn’t actually end up on the ice sheet,” said Polashenski. The...Read more
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