Global warming in action: World’s largest observed glacial calving

A “glacial calving” event occurs when a large hunk of a glacier breaks off into the sea. This is normal when glaciers near the ocean move into the warmer waters, but it’s increased dramatically with anthropogenic global warming. Greenland is one of the places that is shrinking rapidly as the glaciers retreat.

Here is a five-minute video showing the largest calving event even seen by humans, and it’s both stunning and saddening. As Slate reports:

Scientists know that Greenland is melting as the earth warms. Studies show that the island has been shedding ice at an incredible pace of 142 billion tons per year—five times faster than the rate as recently as the 1990s. But big numbers in scientific studies about far-off lands don’t always resonate in the public mind, and somehow a substantial portion of the U.S. population still doesn’t believe that the earth is getting hotter.

Over the years, the award-winning nature photographer James Balog grew so frustrated by that disconnect that he decided to dedicate his life to visually documenting the impact of climate change on the world’s glaciers. The documentary Chasing Ice, released in the United States last month, follows his relentless and at-times harrowing quest, which began in 2007 and continues today. The results are breathtaking. Perhaps the film’s greatest achievement is an enormous record of time-lapse images from multiple continents, which allow you to witness glaciers that are hundreds of thousands of years old disappearing from the earth before your eyes.

You can see more about the film “Chasing Ice” here, including a trailer, but have a look at this calving event. The scale of the event isn’t evident until the end, when they impose an image of Manhattan on the ice at about 3:30. But do watch the entire video.

The excerpt above shows the largest glacier-calving ever caught on film. Two young members of Balog’s team camped out for weeks in hopes of catching sight of exactly this. To climate scientists, the colossal event shown above is less persuasive evidence of global warming than the ever-mounting reams of data from ice cores, satellite altimetry, and so forth. After all, icebergs calving from glaciers is a natural process that would happen even if the earth’s temperature were holding steady.

But Balog recognizes that, for most people, believing requires seeing. And here his team succeeded in capturing the awesome effects of climate change in a way that papers published in Science just can’t.

Yep, we’re in huge trouble, and my only consolation is that I won’t be alive to see the real horrors beginning. But the next generation will.

h/t: S.

40 Comments

  1. Matt Bowman
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Amazing video. But really horrifying.

  2. Posted February 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Holy Cow!

    Amazing footage. Huge stroke of luck, on top of planning, to have been able to capture this event. But I fail to see the miracle to which the narrator referred. :)

  3. marycanada FCD
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Spectacular footage.

  4. Derek Morr
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    In case you can’t find Chasing Ice playing near you, PBS’ NOVA did a special with Balog a few years ago, Extreme Ice – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/extreme-ice.html. It has similar content and some stunning videography.

  5. Bob J
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Funny. We do, in principle, agree with the End Times folks. Just we have a whole different set of reasons. (Although I cringe at calling their stuff reason.)

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 8, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Go with explanations instead.

  6. Tim
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    We’re clearly past the beginning – what were 3 σ events are now 2 σ events. What would have been nasty storms are becoming $50 billion many-people killer storms. Arctic summer ice extents regularly dip below 5 σ levels and summer ice volumes have now dipped to 25% of the means they were exhibiting just 30 yeats ago. Of course, as you’ve said, it’s only going to get worse, a lot worse.

    • Gary W
      Posted February 8, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      What would have been nasty storms are becoming $50 billion many-people killer storms.

      What storms are you talking about? There is no long-term trend in the intensity or frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the U.S., and no trend in normalized losses from such storms.

      See http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/updated-normalized-hurricane-losses.html

      • BillyJoe
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:05 am | Permalink

        Congratualtions, you’ve just quoted a climate denier, obfuscator, and bait and switch merchant.

        • Gary W
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          Assuming “climate denier” is supposed to mean “climate change denier,” you’re wrong. You might want to try actually reading Pielke’s work.

          • BillyJoe
            Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

            Pielke has given evidence at senate enquiries opposing the evidence based views of climate scientists which he mischaraterises, and then misdirects by attacking the strawmen he has created. In doing so he has helped mitigate action against AGW

            • Gary W
              Posted February 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

              Pielke has given evidence at senate enquiries opposing the evidence based views of climate scientists which he mischaraterises

              [citation needed]

              • Davros
                Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

                Search for senate in his own publication list and you’ll find his testimony:

                http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/searchResults.php?field=author&pub_keyword=Pielke

                Happy reading.

              • Gary W
                Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

                Try again. A list of Pielke’s publications is obviously not evidence that he “has given evidence at senate enquiries opposing the evidence based views of climate scientists which he mischaraterises.”

                “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” –Christopher Hitchens.

            • BillyJoe
              Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

              In the following Roger Pielke takes a quote from Christopher Field and attempts to counter-argue by quoting from the IPCC. But the subject of the quote from the IPCC has nothing to do with the subject of the quote from Christopher Field.

              References:

              Christopher Field:

              http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=fe138741-9ce8-4444-9912-c2004ae9e955

              Roger Pielke:

              http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/ipcc-lead-author-misleads-us-congress.html?showComment=1343871338228

              Field:
              “As the US copes with the aftermath of last year’s record-breaking series of 14 billion-dollar climate-related disasters and this year’s massive wildfires and storms, it is critical to understand that the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters is clear.

              Here Field is clearly talking about the link between climate change and extremes of weather. Pielke misdirects to the first part of Field’s quote and counterquotes from the IPCC:

              Pielke:
              “What the IPCC actually said: “There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change””

              Summary: Field is talking about the link between climate change and extremes of weather and Pielke thinks he has refuted that by linking to an IPCC quote about normalised losses!

              • Gary W
                Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

                Summary: Field is talking about the link between climate change and extremes of weather and Pielke thinks he has refuted that by linking to an IPCC quote about normalised losses!

                Field attributes “disasters” to climate change. In response, Pielke provides direct quotes from the IPCC that explicitly contradict Field’s claim. And Field is most definitely talking about losses (“14 billion-dollar climate-related disasters”). You’re the one who’s misrepresenting Field, not Pielke.

            • BillyJoe
              Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

              I apologise, though, Christopher Field gave testimony to the senate enquiry. Roger Pielke merely wrote his “refutation” in his personal blog.

              • BillyJoe
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 1:50 am | Permalink

                Gary,

                This is from the introduction to Christopher Field’s testimony, and it is a direct quote:

                “My testimony today will address the state of scientific knowledge concerning three key points.
                1) Overwhelming evidence establishes that climate change is real
                2) Strong evidence indicates that some kinds of climate extremes are already changing
                3) Climate change leads to changes in the risk of extreme events that can lead to disasters”

                Please point out where he says that one of those three points is about “losses” (by which Pielke means “economic losses”)

                If “economic loss” is what he meant by “disaster”, dont you think he would have stated that explicitly, and dont you think he would have listed that as his fourth point.

                Nowhere in his entire testimony does he explicitly state that climate change has caused economic losses. And if we remove that misunderstanding, his testimony is entirely consistent with the views of the IPCC.

                Finally, as far as I know, no one from the IPCC has objected to the testimony Field gave.

              • BillyJoe
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:08 am | Permalink

                I forgot to mention this…

                If you still insist on interpreting “disaster” as “economic loss”, I will insist on pointing out that he said, and I quote, “CAN LEAD to disaster”, not “HAS LED to disaster”.

                AlSo telling was Pielke’s complete silence on John Christie’s numerous factual errors at the same senate enquiry.

              • Gary W
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

                Please point out where he says that one of those three points is about “losses” (by which Pielke means “economic losses”)

                I’m not sure what you think the word “disasters” in point 3 means if not events that cause losses. What on earth is a “disaster” that doesn’t cause any loss? Field explicitly refers to the dollar costs of these disasters (“14 billion-dollar climate-related disasters”) in his testimony.

                If you still insist on interpreting “disaster” as “economic loss”, I will insist on pointing out that he said, and I quote, “CAN LEAD to disaster”, not “HAS LED to disaster”.

                No, Field clearly conflates actual “disasters” with “climate and weather extremes.” He says “For several of these categories of disasters … For other categories of climate and weather extremes …”

                The average global temperature has already increased by almost 1 degree celsius since pre-industrial times, but this increase has had no detectable impact at all on human welfare through more frequent or intense hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or other “climate-related weather events.” Even if future warming does create costs of this kind, the costs are likely to be modest. Climate change alarmists irrationally and irresponsibly exaggerate the likely costs of climate change for ideological ends.

              • BillyJoe
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

                And still no complaint from the IPCC that he misrepresented their position. Just a gripe from a person with an axe to grind.

                Regarding climate change in general: It all comes down to whether you believe 97% of climate scientists who agree with the consensus on climate change or the 3% who are still in denial.

                Regarding Field’s testimony: if you can find a statement by him where he clearly and unequivocally says that climate change has caused economic losses, I’ll take another look. Otherwise we’re just playing semantic games which prove nothing.

              • Gary W
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

                And still no complaint from the IPCC that he misrepresented their position.

                “Still” no complaint? The IPCC is not in the habit of complaining every time someone misrepresents its position.

                Regarding climate change in general: It all comes down to whether you believe 97% of climate scientists who agree with the consensus on climate change or the 3% who are still in denial.

                Presumably, this is a reference to the 2011 poll published in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research that found that 97% of scientists surveyed agreed that global temperatures have risen over the past century. Since Pielke completely agrees with that statement, your observation here is completely irrelevant.

                The issue here is not whether anthropogenic climate change is real (the evidence clearly shows that it is), but its alleged impact on human welfare through more frequent or intense weather events (there is no evidence of any such impact).

  7. Posted February 8, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    We just saw the film a few days ago at a film festival and it was both amazing and depressing.

    While watching the calving footage, you can appreciate the sheer scale of the thing by realizing it is *not* being shown in slow motion. That’s real time, and that is massive.

  8. Richard Smith
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    That sound

  9. Posted February 8, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Amazing video and worrisome conclusion!

  10. Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    It’s really sad, isn’t it, when we start being grateful we won’t be alive when things get really bad? I share your sentiment there. I find myself saying often these days, “I’m just glad I’m getting old.”

    • Tardis_blue (@tardis_blue)
      Posted February 10, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      I’m not that old. I’m deeply afraid for my old age. And my son’s adulthood. He has many food allergies that would make surviving a massive disaster or apocalypse-type event unlikely.

  11. Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Perhaps if humans worried more about their own survival than about their lunch, our grandchildren would have a better chance.

    • Gary W
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      This alarmist hyperbole is just absurd. Our grandchildren have an excellent chance of not just “surviving,” but of living longer and far more prosperous lives than we do.

      • BillyJoe
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        After quoting Pielke, why am I not surprised at your comment.

      • BillyJoe
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

        Gary:
        “Our grandchildren have an excellent chance of not just “surviving,” but of living longer and far more prosperous lives than we do”.

        Christopher Hitchens:
        “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

        • Gary W
          Posted February 10, 2013 at 12:01 am | Permalink

          The evidence is a continuous historical record of economic growth from scientific, technological and social advances that has lasted hundreds of years. Inter-generational GDP per capita has been rising for centuries, if not millenia. There is absolutely no evidence that this record of economic growth will end in the foreseeable future. Even high-end projections of plausible warming imply costs of just a small fraction of GDP. Our grandchildren will almost certainly be much richer and healthier than we are, regardless of the impact of climate change.

          • BillyJoe
            Posted February 10, 2013 at 1:56 am | Permalink

            You ae apparently unaware that at one point in human history, the population of the earth was reduced to about ten thousand.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck

            • Gary W
              Posted February 10, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

              I am aware of that. I’m not sure what you think it has to do with the lives of our grandchildren.

              • BillyJoe
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

                It should be obvious but apparently it isn’t. Your graph is not proof or evidence of anything related to climate change. Your graph tells a story that is contrary to historical fact. And your graph is certainly not a prognostic tool.

  12. Gary W
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Your graph is not proof or evidence of anything related to climate change.

    On the contrary, it’s proof of a number of things related to climate change.

    Your graph tells a story that is contrary to historical fact.

    Since the graph is historical fact, I’m not sure how you think it can be contrary to historical fact.

    And your graph is certainly not a prognostic tool.

    Of course it is. Unless you can produce evidence that the long-standing trend of economic growth is about to come to an end, there’s no reason to believe it will. Where is your evidence?

    • BillyJoe
      Posted February 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Hitchens to your first response

      To your second response:
      Presumably history only extends back to the 1800s

      To your third response:
      My stawberry field’s yield increased exponentially – until I ran out of field.

      • Gary W
        Posted February 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Hitchens to your first response

        Huh? You claimed that the graph “is not proof or evidence of anything related to climate change.” You are wrong. The graph is evidence that, for example, our civilization has not been destroyed by climate change.

        Presumably history only extends back to the 1800s

        Yet another nonsequitur. You claimed that the graph is “contrary to historical fact.” You are wrong. The graph is historical fact since the 1880s. The fact that history extends back further than the 1880s is completely irrelevant to this point.

        My stawberry field’s yield increased exponentially – until I ran out of field.

        Incomprehensible as an answer to my question. I ask yet again: where is your evidence that the long-standing trend of economic growth is about to come to an end?

        • BillyJoe
          Posted February 11, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

          You are using that graph as evidence that the trend is going to continue. You clearly cannot do that. I have shown how the graph missed downturns prior to the time covered by the graph. It is did include those downturns from the distant past it might have cause you to stop and think that maybe, just maybe, this could happen again. So, no, you cannot just extrapolate your graph into the future. Whatever gave you that idea?

          • Gary W
            Posted February 12, 2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink

            You are using that graph as evidence that the trend is going to continue.

            No, I’m using the graph to show the long-standing trend. Unless you can provide evidence that this trend is likely to end in the foreseeable future, it’s irrational to believe that it will.

            I have shown how the graph missed downturns prior to the time covered by the graph.

            No, you haven’t shown anything whatsoever regarding economic downturns, let alone anything that is relevant to what is likely to happen within the next few generations.

            It is did include those downturns from the distant past it might have cause you to stop and think that maybe, just maybe, this could happen again.

            Maybe, just maybe, we’ll all be wiped out shortly by an asteroid impact, or nuclear war, or a deadly new virus, or something else. The issue here isn’t mere possibilities, but plausible projections of the near-term future. You have offered absolutely nothing to suggest that it is even plausible, let alone likely, that our grandchildren will be poorer than we are. You’re just peddling irrational and irresponsible alarmism.


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