Climate change shrinking age-old glaciers
There are about 160,000 glaciers in the world, and most of them have been around for thousands of years. But glaciers are currently shrinking at an alarming rate.
Glacier expert Wendell Tangborn says glaciers are the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine” with regard to climate change, and the news isn't good. Over the past few decades, most glaciers have lost ice mass and many have disappeared completely, sending a clear warning of the consequences of runaway climate change.
In some regions, such as the Himalayas, glaciers act as naturally regulated water reservoirs that during dry years produce more water for human consumption than during wet years. The loss or decline of glaciers in these regions will create severe hardships for the people who live at the higher elevations of these glacierized areas.
But even more important than water supply is the sensitivity of glaciers to show minute changes in precipitation and temperature. In fact, glaciers are more sensitive to climate change than are humans. Glaciers are sending the world warning signals.
“Glaciers and humans have coexisted in many regions of the earth for at least 50,000 years. Extreme or even abnormal weather conditions threaten the existence of both glaciers and humans,” Tangborn says. “As the earth's glaciers melt and disappear, closely monitoring them may provide us with insights we need to respond to future climate changes.”
Tangborn's PTAA Glacier Mass Balance Project has gathered data showing the devastation firsthand. Specifically, the project was developed to monitor the daily mass balance of up to 200 glaciers worldwide using only routine weather observations collected at low-altitude stations.
The PTAAGMB project measures 40 glaciers from 13 countries. Detailed mass balance reports for nine of those glaciers are available at www.ptaagmb.com.
It is noteworthy that the cumulative mass balance of glaciers in the study does not reveal a plateau of global warming recently shown by temperature records for the 1998-2012 period. Since at least 1951, the annual mass balance of nearly all these glaciers has been predominantly negative, with no indication of leveling off since 1998.
The journal Cryosphere recently published an article about the application of the PTAA model to Bering Glacier. The article, titled "Mass balance, runoff and surges of Bering Glacier, Alaska", can be found at www.the-cryosphere.net/7/867/2013/tc-7-867-2013.pdf
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.