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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Norway's Glacial Wisdom

               Pleistocene deglaciation, Eurasian ice sheet, 36K BCE to 8K BCE (credit: CAGE)

As the Pleistocene ended in Europe, deglaciation produced massive quantities of water as the ice sheets began to collapse. The process began ~22,000 year ago and was largely complete ~12,000 years later. Vast rivers flowed from the ice-covered landscapes emerging from beneath the ice. By the end of process, Northern Europe, the British Isles, Siberia, and most of the European continental outlines were ice-free. The resulting landforms would be largely recognizable today.


        Pleistocene icecap and off-flowing rivers, 22K BCE (CAGE)

Research at the Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment, and Climate (CAGE) has reconstructed these deglaciation events, their impact on sea levels, and the resulting continental boundaries. The Norwegian agency investigates frozen methane hydrates, and their effects on the Arctic Ocean and regional climate. Glaciologist Henry Patton, commenting in Quaternary Science Reviews said:

"Our model shows that from 15000 to 13000 years ago, the Eurasian ice sheet lost 750 cubic kilometers of ice a year. For short periods, it peaked at ice loss rates of over 3000 cubic kilometers per year."

(for perspective, 1 cubic km of ice = 1,000,000,000 tons of water, so this cubic volume of ice must be multiplied x 3000)

The influence of the melting ice extended well beyond what was covered by the ice sheet itself. According to the Norwegian glaciologists, one of the most dramatic impacts resulted from a mega-river system that drained into the present-day Vistula, Elbe, Rhine, and Thames rivers. Meltwater also entered the North Atlantic ocean dramatically rising its sea level. This colossal volume of water meant areas previously dry land had now became the seabed. As this Journal previously noted, a solid chalk dam landmass burst from all the water pressure and erosion in a massive event that separated the the British Isles from Europe.

“Britain and Ireland, which had been joined to Europe throughout the last ice age, finally separated with the flooding of the English Channel around 10,000 years ago." 

One of the CAGE researchers added a note on present-day consequences of melting glacial ice:

“The Ice Age melting is almost 10 times the current rates of ice being lost from Greenland and Antarctica today. What is fascinating is that not all Eurasian ice retreat was from surface melting alone. They underwent rapid collapse through calving of vast armadas of icebergs and the undercutting of ice margins by warm ocean currents. This is a harbinger of what is starting to happen to Greenland today."

The Arctic and Antarctic play major roles in the global climate regimes, weather, and sea levels. As the climate change accelerates, it would be wise to listen to the advice from the glaciologists in Norway. WHB

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