Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Greenland's rising air temperatures drive ice loss at surface and beyond

25.02.2008
A new NASA study confirms that the surface temperature of Greenland's massive ice sheet has been rising, stoked by warming air temperatures, and fueling loss of the island's ice at the surface and throughout the mass beneath.

Greenland's enormous ice sheet is home to enough ice to raise sea level by about 23 feet if the entire ice sheet were to melt into surrounding waters. Though the loss of the whole ice sheet is unlikely, loss from Greenland's ice mass has already contributed in part to 20th century sea level rise of about two millimeters per year, and future melt has the potential to impact people and economies across the globe.

So NASA scientists used state-of-the-art NASA satellite technologies to explore the behavior of the ice sheet, revealing a relationship between changes at the surface and below. The new NASA study appears in the January issue of the quarterly Journal of Glaciology.

"The relationship between surface temperature and mass loss lends further credence to earlier work showing rapid response of the ice sheet to surface meltwater," said Dorothy Hall, a senior researcher in Cryospheric Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of the study.

A team led by Hall used temperature data captured each day from 2000 through 2006 from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite. They measured changes in the surface temperature to within about one degree of accuracy from about 440 miles away in space. They also measured melt area within each of the six major drainage basins of the ice sheet to see whether melt has become more extensive and longer lasting, and to see how the various parts of the ice sheet are reacting to increasing air temperatures.

The team took their research at the ice sheet's surface a step further, becoming the first to pair the surface temperature data with satellite gravity data to investigate what internal ice changes occur as the surface melts. Geophysicist and co-author, Scott Luthcke, also of NASA Goddard, developed a mathematical solution, using gravity data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellite system. "This solution has permitted greatly-improved detail in both time and space, allowing measurement of mass change at the low-elevation coastal regions of the ice sheet where most of the melting is occurring," said Luthcke.

The paired surface temperature and gravity data confirm a strong connection between melting on ice sheet surfaces in areas below 6,500 feet in elevation, and ice loss throughout the ice sheet's giant mass. The result led Hall's team to conclude that the start of surface melting triggers mass loss of ice over large areas of the ice sheet.

The beginning of mass loss is highly sensitive to even minor amounts of surface melt. Hall and her colleagues showed that when less than two percent of the lower reaches of the ice sheet begins to melt at the surface, mass loss of ice can result. For example, in 2004 and 2005, the GRACE satellites recorded the onset of rapid subsurface ice loss less than 15 days after surface melting was captured by the Terra satellite.

"We're seeing a close correspondence between the date that surface melting begins, and the date that mass loss of ice begins beneath the surface," Hall said. "This indicates that the meltwater from the surface must be traveling down to the base of the ice sheet -- through over a mile of ice -- very rapidly, where its presence allows the ice at the base to slide forward, speeding the flow of outlet glaciers that discharge icebergs and water into the surrounding ocean."

Hall underscores the importance of combining results from multiple NASA satellites to improve understanding of the ice sheet's behavior. "We find that when we look at results from different satellite sensors and those results agree, the confidence in the conclusions is very high," said Hall.

Hall and her colleagues believe that air temperature increases are responsible for increasing ice sheet surface temperatures and thus more-extensive surface melt. "If air temperatures continue rising over Greenland, surface melt will continue to play a large role in the overall loss of ice mass." She also noted that the team's detailed study using the high-resolution MODIS data show that various parts of the ice sheet are reacting differently to air temperature increases, perhaps reacting to different climate-driven forces. This is important because much of the southern coastal area of the ice sheet is already near the melting point (0 degrees Celsius) during the summer.

Changes in Greenland's ice sheet surface temperature have been measured by satellites dating back to 1981. "Earlier work has shown increasing surface temperatures from 1981 to the present," said Hall. "However, additional years with more accurate and finer resolution data now available using Terra's imager are providing more information on the surface temperature within individual basins on the ice sheet, and about trends in ice sheet surface temperature. Combining this data with data from GRACE, arms us with better tools to establish the relationship between surface melting and loss of ice mass."

Lynn Chandler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems
23.01.2018 | University of Exeter

nachricht How climate change weakens coral 'immune systems'
23.01.2018 | Ohio State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'

23.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems

23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Transportable laser

23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>