Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA researchers find snowmelt in Antarctica creeping inland

25.09.2007
On the world's coldest continent of Antarctica, the landscape is so vast and varied that only satellites can fully capture the extent of changes in the snow melting across its valleys, mountains, glaciers and ice shelves.

In a new NASA study, researchers using 20 years of data from space-based sensors have confirmed that Antarctic snow is melting farther inland from the coast over time, melting at higher altitudes than ever and increasingly melting on Antarctica's largest ice shelf.

With a surface size about 1.5 times the size of the United States, Antarctica contains 90 percent of Earth's fresh water, making it the largest potential source of sea level rise. It is also a place where snow melting is quite limited because even in summer, most areas typically record temperatures well below zero.

Nevertheless, NASA researchers using data collected from 1987 to 2006 found snow melting in unlikely places in 2005: as far inland as 500 miles away from the Antarctic coast and as high as 1.2 miles above sea level in the Transantarctic Mountains. The 20-year data record was three times longer than previous studies and reaffirmed the extreme melting irregularity observed in 2005. During the same period, they also found that melting had increased on the Ross Ice Shelf, both in terms of the geographic area affected and the duration of increased melting across affected areas.

"Snow melting is very connected to surface temperature change, so it's likely warmer temperatures are at the root of what we've observed in Antarctica," said lead author Marco Tedesco, a research scientist at the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology cooperatively managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, Baltimore. The study will be published on Sept. 22 in the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters.

The Special Sensor Microwave Imager radiometer aboard the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's satellites provided the researchers an update on previous studies by showing evidence of persistent snow melting – melting that occurs for at least three days or for one consecutive day and night. As the sensors fly over Antarctica, they measure the radiation naturally emitted by snow and ice at microwave frequencies. Unlike visible sensors, Microwave instruments can also detect melting below the snow surface.

"Microwave instruments are very sensitive to wet snow and can see through clouds day and night, allowing us to separate melting from dry snow to better understand when, where and for how long melting took place," said Tedesco.

Although the researchers observed less melting in some locations on the continent during the 20-year period, melting increased in others such as the Ross Ice Shelf. Increased snowmelt on the ice shelf surface can lead to melt ponds, with meltwater filling small cracks. The liquid water puts pressure on the cracks causing larger fractures in the ice shelf.

"Persistent melting on the Ross Ice Shelf is something we should not lose sight of because of the ice shelf's role as a 'brake system' for glaciers," said Tedesco. "Ice shelves are thick ice masses covering coastal land with extended areas that float on the sea, keeping warmer marine air at a distance from glaciers and preventing a greater acceleration of melting. The Ross Ice Shelf acts like a freezer door, separating ice on the inside from warmer air on the outside. So the smaller that door becomes, the less effective it will be at protecting the ice inside from melting and escaping."

The study's results from the satellite data support related research reporting a direct link between changes in near surface air temperatures and the duration and geographic area of snow melting on Antarctica. These studies, when taken together, indicate a relationship to climate change.

"Satellites have given us a remarkable ability to monitor the melting trends of glaciers and ice shelves on this immense and largely unknown continent, and to watch for unusual occurrences like those observed in 2005," said co-author Waleed Abdalati, head of the Cryospheric Sciences Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Through this space-based perspective, we are really only just beginning to understand the nature of the changes that are occurring in Antarctica, and what these changes will mean for Antarctica's future contributions to sea level."

Lynn Chandler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2007/antarctic_snowmelt.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica
05.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

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...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

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...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

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...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

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,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

Shape matters when light meets atom

05.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”

05.12.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>