This Week in Ice—Volcanoes!
The most sensational polar news this week was this study by NASA scientists, who say a mantle plume almost as hot as the Yellowstone supervolcano is beneath Marie Byrd Land in Antarctica. A mantle plume is a domed upwelling of magma beneath the earth’s surface. It’s what creates Yellowstone’s geothermal features—such as geysers like the iconic Old Faithful, steam vents, mud pots, and hot springs. The mantle plume beneath Marie Byrd Land is causing some melting of the ice from below, creating lakes and rivers beneath the ice.
This mantle plume isn’t new. In fact, it formed 50 to 110 million years ago. And it isn’t an increasing threat, according to NASA. But it may help explain why the ice sheet collapsed so rapidly during warming of the climate at the end of the last ice age, around 11,000 years ago. Now we are in a new era of rapid warming, ice sheets are increasingly thinned and weakened, the forces of human and geothermal activity working in concert against vulnerable ice shelves, it appears.
Prepare to be mesmerized by another stunning sea ice visual by Kevin Pluck (who was featured on Vox this week—check it out).
Earlier in the week, Kevin warned me that this month’s data was looking troubling, with a sudden sharp decline in global sea ice concentration:
Let’s zoom in a little. That red line at the bottom represents this year.
Kevin also created this look at the changes in carbon dioxide—a major greenhouse gas—over time.
It’s no wonder our planet’s ice is melting, is it?
If you’re interested in comparing sea ice extent on certain dates, there’s this handy tool.
Ice Shelves & Glaciers
Last week, I talked about the fact that Antarctica’s Totten glacier is melting from below. The same thing is happening to Greenland ice sheets.
I can’t stop watching these fascinating GIFS of Antarctic ice provided by CNRS Research scientist Simon Gascoin.
Thwaites Glacier ice shelf:
Larsen C ice shelf:
Pine Island Glacier:
Alas, this week’s This Week in Ice is much abbreviated due to an impending book deadline. And it’s all about a supervolcano!
Volcano Dreams—a story of the Yellowstone supervolcano and the area’s fauna, by award-winning author Janet Fox and illustrated by me—is set for release on September 25th, 2018, from Web of Life Children’s Books! Huzzah!
I’m looking forward to soon sharing my process for creating the images for this book, which included a week-long visit to Yellowstone in early June for research.
And I look forward to being back very soon!