This morning I had the honor of chatting with presenter Mike Hill on BBC Tees Radio, covering Whitby and northeast England, about my current crowdfunding campaign for a trip to England and a new biography of William Scoresby. I’m excited to share the story of one of the northeast’s famous sons with listeners in the region! I’ll post the link to the radio interview after it airs.
The local newspaper in Whitby, Yorkshire, ran a feature story about my campaign to raise money for a trip to England! The Whitby Gazette reports that I’m planning to research the personal letters and diaries of my third-great uncle William Scoresby, the first polar scientist, at the Whitby Museum.
“She also aims to find out more about how his observations influenced leading explorers, naturalists and statesmen,” reporter Sam Jones writes.
Scoresby himself bequeathed his voluminous collection of writings, scientific instruments and artifacts he collected on his many whaling voyages to the Whitby Museum. I gather that since his death in 1857, few people have examined the collection. That’s where I come in, and I’ll use the information I find in a new biography of this pioneering polar explorer and naturalist.
I’m working on a book about my ancestor: a polar explorer and whaling ship captain named William Scoresby whose 200-year-old discoveries are helping today’s scientists understand global warming. I’m raising money for a trip to England to research his letters, and–because environmental progress is in jeopardy these days–write a book that offers valuable insight into climate change, wrapped up in adventure. I’d be so grateful if you checked out my Indiegogo campaign, watched my short video, and spread the word! Thanks!
Scientists at Cornell University have discovered that meltwater from the surface of an ice cap can seep downward and become trapped beneath it, adding heat to the bottom of the cap. It’s the first time that researchers have seen the potential for atmospheric warming to affect glaciers from above and below.
The Cornell team, led by Earth and Atmospheric Sciences researcher Michael Willis, said that the warmer water could make the ice sheet slide faster over ground and change how the ice responds to the changing climate. They conducted the study in Greenland and published the results Jan. 21 in the journal Nature.
The Greenland ice sheet makes up 80 percent of the island’s land mass, and previous studies have shown that the ice sheet is melting at a faster fate. Willis said his study was sparked in 2012, when he noticed a 70-meter-deep hole in Greenland’s ice cap, a remnant of a rare subglacial lake.
“Between 2012 and 2014, Willis watched as summer meltwater on the surface of the ice made its way down cracks around the hole and refilled the empty lake basin at the base of the ice cap. When water was flowing on the surface, the subglacial lake filled. When water stopped flowing on the surface, the subglacial lake stopped refilling.
“Each summer scientists see bright blue streams form on the surface of Greenland as warm air melts the ice sheet. What happens to this water when it disappears into cracks in the ice has remained a mystery.
‘This discovery that water can be stored in lakes beneath the ice shows how the plumbing on the surface is linked to the plumbing at the base,’ said co-author Robin Bell.”
The refilling tells scientists that the ice cap’s resilience has reached a tipping point.
“‘We can actually see the meltwater pour down into these holes and then watch these subglacial lakes drain out and fill up again in real time. With melting like that, even the deep interior of the ice sheet is going to change. If enough water is pouring down into the Greenland Ice Sheet for us to see the same subglacial lake empty and refill itself over and over, then there must be so much latent heat being released under the ice that we’d have to expect it to change the large-scale behavior of the ice sheet,’ said study co-author Michael Bevis.”
The study was conducted at the Flade Isblink ice cap in northeastern Greenland. I’m told that another place in Greenland where glacial change is obvious is Ittoqqortoormiit, formerly Scoresbysund. William Scoresby named the area in 1822, when he charted more than 400 miles of the eastern coast of Greenland. Ittoqqortoormiit is a hotspot for earth scientists who say that glaciers appear to be sliding toward the sea at faster rates, a result of atmospheric warming.
My latest story, “250-Year-Old Eyewitness Accounts of Icier Arctic Attest to Loss of Sea Ice,” has just been posted on Scientific American‘s website. This marks my debut for the nation’s most prestigious science magazine!
My story looks at ARCdoc, the research project based at the University of Sunderland, that data-mined old ships’ logbooks for weather information. The books came from the Royal Navy, Hudson’s Bay Company, and commercial whaling voyages, and all focused on Baffin Bay and Davis Strait in the North Atlantic. The team proved what many climatologists had theorized: that the region was significantly stormier and colder prior to anthropogenic climate change, and sea ice extended much further across open water.
Scientists can now look at ARCdoc’s reconstruction of this polar region before human-influenced warming, and draw conclusion about the current and future state of the Arctic.
I’ve followed ARCdoc’s progress for more than two years–since I came across an article in the Sunderland Echo that described the use of my third-great uncle William Scoresby’s whaling logbooks to create a sea ice dictionary. The story, and the project, spurred me to frame my biography of this unfairly forgotten explorer within his contributions to modern climate science.
I’m so proud to have my story about ARCdoc’s results, and Scoresby’s role in them, appear in Scientific American. It’s one step toward my goal of restoring Scoresby’s reputation as a polar pioneer.