New measurements show that the flow of ice in the Greenland ice sheet has been accelerating since 1996 during the summer melt season. The results suggest that the ice sheet may be responding more quickly to the warming climate than previously thought.
In an article published in Science magazines online Sciencexpress June 7, Jay Zwally, an ICESat Project scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Waleed Abdalati, a Polar Program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington, and colleagues report that increases in ice velocity during the summer are correlated with the timing and the intensity of ice sheet surface melting.
Using periodic Global Positioning Satellite measurements from 1996 through 1999, the researchers discovered that the ice flow speeds up from 31.3 cm (12.3 inches) per day in winter to a peak of 40 cm (15.7 inches) per day in the summer when surface melting is largest. "This study demonstrates that surface meltwater travels quickly through the 1200 meter (approx. 3/4 mile) thick ice to the bedrock to make the ice slide faster. This process was known for decades to enhance the flow of small mountain glaciers, but was not known to occur in the large ice sheets," Zwally said.
Rob Gutro | EurekAlert
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