For the past three years Von P. Walden has been part of a team conducting research in the ice covered country of Greenland. Walden and his team are trying to find a correlation between clouds and the rapid melting of the world’s ice.
Walden has been a faculty member at the University of Idaho since 2001. He is a professor in the geography department and teaches courses in meteorology, climatology and global climatic change.
Walden gave a presentation detailing the results of their research Wednesday.
“Climate change is extremely important on a global scale and it is cool to have a professor from UI doing research that could potentially save us,” UI geology student Cory Yergensen said.
Walden said the world’s ice is melting at an alarming rate that is not normal, nor is it a natural cycle.
The research project he is working on is called the Integrated Characterization of Energy, Clouds, Atmospheric state, Precipitation at Summit. ICECAPS is focusing its research on clouds and their effect on the melting glaciers of Greenland.
Greenland is covered in ice, making it a great place for climate change research, Walden said. The research was conducted in Greenland on what is known as the Summit, the highest point of Greenland, where ice rarely melts.
On July 11, Walden and his team were able to monitor a rare occurrence known as an Ice Melt Event.
The last Ice Melt Event occurred in 1889, so even if scientists were there they would not have had the technology to monitor it. Walden said it was a great opportunity for him and the research team to be the first to monitor such a rare occurrence, and it was the first time modern science was able to fully analyze such an event.
An Ice Melt Event occurs when the surface snow of a glacier melts. In July’s Ice Melt Event, Greenland’s glacier lost 90 percent of its surface snow.
When scientists look at Greenland’s layers of ice, they can determine when Ice Melt Events happened based on how each particular layer of ice froze, Walden said. He said after the surface snow melts it refreezes to a particular kind of ice that has no bubbles frozen in it, and when scientists see that they know there was an Ice Melt Event.
Walden said a lot of the research focused on the clouds over Greenland and if specific clouds caused increased melting.
Greenland has clouds above its skies 80 to 90 percent of the time. ICECAPS found there is no surface snow melting at the summit when there are no clouds in the sky Walden said.
They also found there was no surface snow melting when thick clouds were above Greenland because they blocked out the sun, Walden said. But when the right cloud, known as a thin super cooled water cloud, is in the atmosphere, there is a dramatic increase of melting. The thin super cooled water cloud consists of water that is below freezing temperatures, but the water has nothing to freeze on to so it is liquid not ice.
Walden said the increase of melting happens because the sun is able to penetrate through the cloud and it heats the ice. The ground releases infrared heat into the atmosphere, and the thin super cooled water cloud traps that heat and the solar heat in the atmosphere above the ice and that causes the increase melting of ice.
This type of research is the first of its kind, Walden said.
“We only have three years of data, so it is hard to predict trends,” Walden said.
With additional research and information other scientists will be able to predict trends and even plausible solutions that will combat climate change, Walden said.
John Fish can be reached at email@example.com