Calving Laws

A very thorough article in the New York Times about the collapse of Greenland’s Ice Sheet was less than precise about the timeline for rising ocean levels.   Melting on this scale is unprecedented in human history.  University of California – Irvine professor Eric Rignot was quoted saying ‘‘‘We’ve never seen it. No human has ever seen it.’’

The problem is made worse by the fact that ice is complicated.

“Glaciologists remain vexed, for instance, by the physics of how ice cleaves off the edge of the sheet. As Rignot told me, ‘‘We don’t have a set of mathematical rules to put in a numerical model to tell you how fast a glacier breaks into icebergs.’’ He emphasized that discovering these rules, known as calving laws, could be all-­important. Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State, told me: ‘‘Problems that deal with fracture mechanics — volcanic eruptions, or earthquakes, or things that involve the question ‘Will it break or not?’ — tend to be difficult. You ask, Will the ice shelf break off a lot or a little bit? Will the cliff left behind crumble? Will it crumble fast? Will it crumble slow?’’ So far, Alley says, we can’t be sure. But a formula might tell us in advance how fast the ice sheets might crash into the sea.”

After I told Trail Baboon’s sing-song poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler about this unfortunate gap in scientific understanding of the effects of climate change, he immediately warmed to the idea of taking it on as an artistic challenge.

The great glaciers up in Greenland look serene and sharp and still.
But they’re melting at the speed at which great glaciers often will.

If you want to know how fast that is I’ll share this helpful clue:
Mammoth  ice chunks liquefy as quickly as they’re wont to do,

They will crack and pop and shift and drain from bottom to the top.
Getting worse exactly at the rate that ice shelves go “ker-plop,”

when they drop into the ocean with sufficient force to flatten,
and to cause enough displacement to submerge lower Manhattan.

To assess the speed precisely you can do this computation –
Take the age of your old Buick times the planet’s population

Then subtract the number of bike trips you took to work last May
from the setting on your thermostat on any average day.

Then divide this by how often you drive to the corner store
plus how long you let it idle while you run back in for more.

Add that number to the time it takes to soak in a hot tub
and you’ll know how quickly glaciers melt!

Glub glub, glub glub.

Glub Glub.

Where’s your favorite spot to view the ocean?

52 thoughts on “Calving Laws”

  1. Good morning. I haven’t spent very much time along the shores of oceans. The best place along an ocean shore that I’ve seen is the sandy beaches at Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. We enjoyed lying on the beach and dipping in the ocean when we visited Playa several years ago. I suppose the beaches at Playa will be under water or partly under water if the ocean level rises due to the collapse of Greenland’s ice sheets.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rehobeth Beach, Delaware. But it only counts if it’s fall, pretty much deserted and I have coffee and warm caramel corn in hand.

    I got as far as “there is no mathematical model”, and threw up my hands in despair. If math can’t define it, you must trust to fate.

    Funnily enough, I thought this was going to be by Ben. Different calving, equally lawless.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m easy – it’s usually whatever oceanview I’ve had lately. LIke this:

    This is what I saw from my room in St. Thomas last week (full disclosure – I didn’t take this picture [internet] but it looks just like the picture on my phone that I can’t figure out how to get onto this blog…..)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I might add that this beach, Cannon Beach, is Oregon’s favorite image of itself. For example, an image of this beach is the symbol of Oregon Public Broadcasting. And if you wonder about the name of the beach, take a wild guess about what somebody found in the sand one day!


  4. I’ve seen the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland, Maine, Cape Cod, Iceland, and sailed on a boat crossing to England. I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean from Washington State, Oregon and northern California. The most powerful memories are the waves crashing at Point Reyes in California, sitting on a cliff several hundred feet above the Atlantic at Dun Aegnus, Ireland. Do seas count? Sailed in the Caribbean, swam in the Greek Mediterranean, taken the Espress Boat on the Norwegian Sea along the west coast of Norway and stood on the shore of the North Sea in Scotland. Also took a cruise boat along the southern coast of Alaska…Bering Sea or North Pacific Ocean–where is the boundary? And then there is the inland freshwater sea I live near and treasure the view coming down the hill into Duluth every time I see it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My first teaching job was in Port Angeles WA…I chose it because it was between the sea and the mountains so I wouldn’t have to choose which is my favorite. Love Norway for the same reason.


  6. Very enjoyable, STW. I’m always glad when Dale meets up with you.

    I think I’ll have to nominate Half Moon Bay, California, on Highway 1 south of SF. By now I’ve seen the ocean from several places, but the last summer I lived there, I got to spend enough time on at Pillar Point Harbor to really get a feel for the place, notice patterns and tides… I would really like to live there for another year or so.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The summer and fall I lived on Cape Cod I read all of Rachel Carson’s books…the ocean is a wondrous thing and I loved learning about the sea life. I especially remember loving the chapters on the Sargasso Sea. The summer I spent living near the shore on the juan de fuka straits in Washington I loved spending time with the tide pools. (my memory and spelling is being challenged this morning).

      and….oh, the fresh seafood and ocean fish!


      1. Speaking of Cape Cod, I recently finished “The Outermost House” by Henry Beston, about a year spent in the dunes on the outer arm of the Cape. Do you know the book? He is such an elegant writer…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi–

    Missed out on commenting yesterday. Great article Renee and thanks for writing it.
    All the stories of dreams and dreamcatchers and things happening were very fascinating to read.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Things like that have happen to multiple people I know. It happens too often to just dismiss off hand. There’s something out there.

    Daughter has been bothered by dreams lately. I know we used to have a dream catcher in her room but it’s been gone for a while. Having read the comments yesterday we found something that could be a ‘do-fer’ until we come up with something better. The power of suggestion is strong too. And making our own is a possibility she was interested in.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ben, the internet is full of tutorials on making dreamcatchers, plus kits for them. I think making one would be fun.

      Meanwhile, I regret spouting off yesterday on borrowing elements of Native American religions. I meant to support respect for those religions, but I didn’t say it well.


      1. Personally I didn’t see it as spouting off. And it is an important issue – how we deal with the sacred of other cultures/religions. Reading the Rushdie for BBC right now makes me think back to when Satanic Verses came out and he had a price on his head for years!


  8. A love song for the glaciers by Hank Williams
    “If you only calved half as much as you used to do.
    You wouldn’t worry me half as much as you do.
    You raise the seas forcing me to higher ground.
    You only build up when temperatures are down.
    Ships will miss the calves when the glacier’s through.
    No more Titanic-like rendezvous.
    So climate change has it’s pluses too.
    If you only calved half as much as you used to do.”

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Ah, water! Lakes, streams, fjords, oceans, I love them all.

    First choice for viewing? Sitting in a small fishing boat bobbing on the waves with a fishing pole in one hand, and a cold beer in the other. Second choice, anywhere along the south-eastern tip of Long Island facing the Atlantic. Hiking through gorgeous sand dunes, windswept and wild with white-capped waves rolling toward shore, preferably accompanied by a dogs chasing a stick.

    But really, who am I kidding? Just about any ocean view holds a special power. Thanks for the inspiration for a little mental travel, Dale and TSW.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. OT: I got a call from the White House two days ago telling me that a letter of gratitude I’d written to Obama had wound its way through tens of thousands into his nightly routine of reading only 10 letters. I’d praised his work, his integrity, his vision, and steadfastness. I also apologized for my fellow man for the vile and disrespectful treatment he’s had to endure. I’ll quote his response; “Thank you for the very kind letter. Don’t be too discouraged, this country is full of goodness, as you have shown.
    Barack Obama”

    I just couldn’t have been more surprised. And touched.

    Liked by 9 people

        1. Even without a plaque, the years of Obama’s presidential term is only eight years, so it should not be difficult to determine approximate date of the letter.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Today the winds are a steady 33 MPH with gusts up to 55. I could hardly open the door to our agency today due to the strong winds. I lovely beach with gentle, warm winds is just what I could use right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. OT – I know several of the “local” baboons are avid bakers. Any chance that anyone would be willing to bake an extra dozen cookies or some extra bars next time you bake – of course, I’ll pay you?

    My friend Philip has just moved into an assisted living facility, and doesn’t like the food (vegetables all cooked to death, he says). I can fix that. But he misses something sweet to nibble on with his afternoon tea, and I’m no baker. He is an expert baker (once owned a bakery), so store-bought is not an option. Or can anyone tell me what local bakery might have some sweets that would be acceptable to him? Any suggestions would be appreciated.


    1. I have agreed to participate in a cookie exchange at work with 10 or so others, which means that i will have at least 10 dozen cookies on December 16. What will we do with 10 dozen cookies? Many of them will lend themselves to mailing. I would be delighted to send your friend some cookies. Let me know where to send them.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. PJ, I’ll have boatloads of cookies by the first of December – I do all my cookies Thanksgiving weekend. Send me the address too.


      1. Thanks, BiR. The reason I’m not doing it myself is that Philip is an expert baker (but he no longer has a kitchen, an oven, or, truth be told, the physical wherewithal to bake). But buying him a package of Oreos is just not an option. I need to do some research on area bakeries, I’m sure there are some around that would be producing baked goods that would meet with Philip’s approval.


        1. Oooh, I think I’ve found a place, right in my own back yard. Taste of Love bakery. I’ve driven past it many times, but have never had a reason to check it out; I do now, and will tomorrow. The reviews of their products sound promising.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. my favorite spot to view the ocean is where ever i am. i am trying to remember a view i didn’t like of the ocean and can’t

    early day yesterday . i even beatr the post out the door. late night made for todays response to be the timing


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