And the picture isn’t pretty.
In the last decade, two of the largest three glaciers draining that frozen landscape have lost enough ice that, if melted, could have filled Lake Erie.
The three glaciers – Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq and Jakobshavn Isbrae – are responsible for as much as one-fifth of the ice flowing out from Greenland into the ocean.
“Jakobshavn alone drains somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of all the ice flowing outward from inland to the sea,” explained Ian Howat, an assistant professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University. His study appears in the current issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
As the second largest holder of ice on the planet, and the site of hundreds of glaciers, Greenland is a natural laboratory for studying how climate change has affected these ice fields.
Researchers focus on the “mass balance” of glaciers, the rate of new ice being formed as snow falls versus the flow of ice out into the sea.
The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years’ worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.
“Kangerdlugssuaq would have to stop flowing and accumulate snowfall for seven years to regain the ice it has lost,” said Howat, also a member of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State.
Surprisingly, the researchers found that the third glacier, Helheim, had actually gained a small amount of mass over the same period. It gained approximately one-fifteenth of what Jakobshavn had lost, Howat said.
The real value of the research, however, is the confirmation that the new techniques Howat and his colleagues developed will provide scientists a more accurate idea of exactly how much ice is being lost.
“These glaciers change pretty quickly. They speed up and then slow down. There’s a pulsing in the flow of ice,” Howat said. “There’s variability, a seasonal cycle and lots of different changes in the rate that ice is flowing through these glaciers.”
Past estimates, he said, have been merely snapshots of what was going on at these glaciers in terms of mass loss. “We really need to sample them very frequently or else we won’t really know how much change has occurred.
“This new research pumps up the resolution and gives us a kind of high-definition picture of ice loss,” he said.
To get this longer-timeframe image, Howat and colleagues drew on data sets provided by at least seven orbiting satellites and airplanes, as well as other sources.
“To get a good picture of what’s going on, we need different tools and each one of these satellites plays an important role and adds more information,” Howat said.
The next step is to look at the next-largest glaciers in Greenland and work their way down through smaller and smaller ice flows.
“Currently, the missing piece is ice thickness data for all of the glaciers, but a NASA aircraft is up there getting it. When that’s available, we’ll be able to apply this technique to the entire Greenland ice sheet and get a monthly total mass balance for the last 10 years or so,” he said.
Along with Howat, Yushin Ahn, a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State’s Byrd Polar Research Center; Ian Jouglin of the University of Washington; Michael van den Broeke and Jan Lenaerts, both of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, worked on the project.
The work is supported in part by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and by the Climate, Water and Carbon Program at Ohio State.Contact: Ian Howat, (614) 247-8944; Howat.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ian Howat | EurekAlert!
A new dead zone in the Indian Ocean could impact future marine nutrient balance
06.12.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie
NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica
05.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering