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Retreat and advance

A Greenland glacier’s growth shocks climate scientists

Patches of bare land next to the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland in 2016 NASA via AP

Retreat and advance
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Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier, formerly one of the fastest-shrinking glaciers on earth, is suddenly growing again—and many climate scientists are stunned.

“At first we didn’t believe it,” Ala Khazendar, a NASA researcher who co-authored a new study on the glacier, said in a statement.

Scientists worried about global warming say that even Jakobshavn’s unexpected growth is ultimately bad news for the planet. But skeptics of man-made climate change say the glacial surprise is further evidence that the dire predictions of global warming alarmists aren’t reliable.

For 20 years the Jakobshavn Glacier continued to thin and move inland at ever-increasing speeds. In the summer of 2012, its retreat accelerated to a record speed of 10 miles per year, three times the rate it moved in the 1990s, NASA reported.

Scientists studying the glacier believe its recent growth is likely due to a flip in the North Atlantic Oscillation, a natural cooling and warming cycle in parts of the ocean. That natural cycle has caused the water in Disko Bay, where Jakobshavn flows into the ocean, to cool by about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the past few years.

All of this seems like good news: Researchers previously warned that the shrinking glacier was draining a large portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet and significantly contributing to sea level rise in the Northern Hemisphere—a phenomenon they warned would prove disastrous for agriculture and bird and fish habitats. But Ian Joughin, a University of Washington ice scientist, told The Associated Press it would be a “grave mistake” to interpret the latest data as contradicting climate change science. The glacier’s reversal is just “a temporary blip,” he said.

According to Josh Willis, a co-author of the study, published March 25 in Nature Geoscience, the glacier’s new growth isn’t good news in the long term. Instead, it shows that ocean temperature influences glacier shrinkage and growth even more than previously thought.

But John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama, told me that glacial regions are very complex and thus predictions are often unreliable. Glaciers come and go: “It’s the natural variability of the system.”

Christy said climate alarmists may turn even a failed prediction into a reason to foresee disaster. “You can’t let a potential catastrophe go to waste if you want to advance some type of environmental political agenda.”

Researchers Matt Kemp and Haruo Usuda

Researchers Matt Kemp and Haruo Usuda Women & Infants Research Foundation

Imitation incubation

Japanese and Australian scientists have developed an artificial womb that could help save extremely premature babies. Previous technology has increased the survival rate of late preterm animal fetuses, but the new experiment marks the first time researchers have used an artificial womb to treat animal fetuses at the border of viability.

For humans, the border of viability—when preemies can survive outside the womb—is currently 21 to 24 weeks of gestation. Such babies require specialized treatment due to their underdeveloped lungs and cardiovascular system.

In a study published March 7 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the scientists maintained seven lamb fetuses in an artificial womb for five days, without ill effects. The lambs were at a gestational age equivalent to an unborn human baby at 24 weeks.

Researcher Matt Kemp said he hopes artificial wombs will become standard care for human babies born extremely early. “The goal is to offer a bridge between a natural womb and the outside world to give babies born at the earliest gestational ages more time for their fragile lungs to mature.” —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.


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