Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Greenland's ice loss accelerating rapidly, gravity-measuring satellites reveal

15.08.2006
A new analysis of data from twin satellites has revealed that the melting of Greenland's ice sheet has increased dramatically in the past few years, with much of the loss occurring primarily along one shoreline potentially affecting weather in Western Europe.

The loss of ice has been occurring about five times faster from Greenland's southeastern region in the past two years than in the previous year and a half. The dramatic changes were documented during a University of Texas at Austin study of Greenland's mass between 2002 and 2005.

The study was published today in the journal Science. Related results on the significant loss of ice from Antarctica were published in Science in March by other researchers participating in the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission. The GRACE mission is funded by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, and led by Aerospace Engineering Professor Byron Tapley at the university.

"Our latest GRACE findings are the most complete measurement of ice mass loss for Greenland," said Tapley, director of the university's Center for Space Research (CSR) and holder of the Clare Cockrell Williams Centennial Chair in Engineering. "The sobering thing to see is that the whole process of glacial melting is stepping up much more rapidly than before."

Antarctica is considered the largest, and Greenland the second largest, reservoir of fresh water on Earth, with the latter containing about 10 percent of the world's fresh water. Melting of ice from these two regions is expected to impact sea level and ocean circulation, and potentially the future of climates worldwide.

The Greenland study, for example, suggests that the amount of fresh water contributed from the melting of its ice sheet could add 0.56 millimeters annually to a global increase in sea levels, higher than all previously published measurements.

"These findings are consistent with the most recent independent measurements of Greenland's mass done by other techniques like satellite radar interferometry, but in this case they provide a direct measure of ice-mass changes," said Geology Professor Clark Wilson, a co-author on the latest Science article who helped analyze the estimates for Greenland. Wilson chairs the Department of Geological Sciences at the university and holds the Wallace E. Pratt Professorship in Geophysics.

Within the subpolar zone that includes Greenland, the rapid rise in meltwater along its eastern coast could add to other warming-related factors believed to be weakening the counterclockwise flow of the North Atlantic Current. For instance, the increased meltwater could change how more buoyant fresh water mixes with salt water in a branch of this flow called the Norwegian Current. This change could lower the temperatures of water, and thus wind, that travels past the west coast of Ireland and Great Britain.

That ocean temperature change would occur because the current might not move northward past Norway before returning to more southerly latitudes. Warmer, southerly waters would be stalled from moving northward if that happened, resulting in chillier winters in parts of Western Europe.

"If enough fresh water enters the Norwegian Current," Tapley said, "and you interrupt return flow, then there could be climate effects in Europe."

The twin GRACE satellites provide the most comprehensive monthly estimates of Greenland's ice-mass balance The satellites are sensitive to the gravitational pull of mass changes on Earth, which produce micrometer-scale variations in the distance (137 miles or 220 kilometers) that separates the two satellites as they fly in formation over Earth.

Lead author Jianli Chen, a CSR research scientist, developed a method to improve the effective spatial resolution of mass change estimates. The method used the known locations of major glaciers as information in estimating the sources of mass change.

"By using this special filtering procedure," Chen said, "we teased out additional details of mass changes in Greenland along its Southeastern and Northeastern shores separately."

The estimates showed that 69 percent of the ice-mass loss in recent years came from eastern Greenland. Of the 57 cubic miles (239 cubic kilometers) of water mass lost on average each year, 39 cubic miles (164 cubic kilometers) were from the eastern shoreline. More than half of that eastern loss involved ice from the glacier complex in southeast Greenland.

"This melting process may be approaching a point where it won't be centuries before Greenland's ice melts, but a much shorter time-frame," Tapley said, noting that it isn't possible to tell how much sooner this will be.

Tapley in the College of Engineering, and Wilson, whose department is part of the Jackson School of Geosciences, lead grants funded primarily by NASA to pursue research questions related to large-scale mass changes impacting Earth's features.

Becky Rische | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utexas.edu
http://www.engr.utexas.edu/news/action_shots/pages/GRACE_Tapley.cfm

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Monitoring lava lake levels in Congo volcano
16.05.2018 | Seismological Society of America

nachricht Ice stream draining Greenland Ice Sheet sensitive to changes over past 45,000 years
14.05.2018 | Oregon 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: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>