Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers discover fate of melting glacial ice in Greenland

26.04.2016

Over the past several decades, scientists have observed a significant increase in the melting of glacial land ice on the island of Greenland, spurring concerns about global sea level rise and the long-term effects of atmospheric warming. What has been less clear, however, is what happens to this meltwater once it enters the ocean.

Now, a team of researchers led by faculty at the University of Georgia has discovered the fate of much of the freshwater that pours into the surrounding oceans as the Greenland ice sheet melts every summer. They published their findings today in the journal Nature Geoscience.


A team from Rutgers University and the University of Georgia, led by Asa Rennermalm of Rutgers, measures meltwater runoff from the ice sheet margin in Greenland during summer 2013.

Credit: Asa Rennermalm/Rutgers University

"Understanding the fate of meltwater is important, because research has shown that it can carry a variety of nutrients, which may impact biological production in the ocean," said study co-author Renato Castelao, an associate professor of marine sciences in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "There is also evidence that large freshwater inputs could alter ocean currents and affect the normal formation of sea ice."

The researchers created a simulation that tracks meltwater runoff under a variety of atmospheric conditions, and they were surprised to discover that most of the meltwater found off the west coast of Greenland actually originated from ice on the east coast.

"Meltwater from Greenland is directed by the surrounding ocean currents, but its fate depends on when and where the runoff occurs and the wind fields driving ocean currents," said study co-author Thomas Mote, Distinguished Research Professor of Geography at UGA.

According to the model, wind and ocean currents often transport meltwater around the southern tip of Greenland on a westward journey that can take upward of 60 days. After rounding the tip, the meltwater is largely deposited into the Labrador Sea, an arm of the Atlantic between Canada's Labrador Peninsula and the east coast of Greenland.

Meltwater originating from the west coast of Greenland, on the other hand, is often kept pinned to the coastline by strong winds, which push it northward toward Baffin Bay.

This isn't always how meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet disperses, as shifts in the prevailing winds can produce very different effects. But scientists must be aware of these shifts in order to fully understand how meltwater will affect the environment, Castelao said.

"The meltwater that comes from the east coast could have different qualities from the meltwater on the west coast, including different nutrient compositions," he said. "We need to take the origins of this meltwater into account when we study the effects of ice sheet melt, as it could impact the oceans differently depending on where it comes from."

And this is a problem that is only going to get worse, said Castelao, citing scientific models that suggest the amount of meltwater runoff from Greenland could more than double before the end of this century.

"We need to pay careful attention to where melt and runoff is occurring and how it interacts with surrounding ocean currents, in addition to measuring the total amount of melt," said Mote.

###

Other researchers working on this project include Hao Luo and Patricia Yager from UGA's department of marine sciences; Asa Rennermalm, Rutgers University; Marco Tedesco, Columbia University; and Annalisa Bracco, Georgia Institute of Technology.

Their study, "Oceanic transport of surface meltwater from the southern Greenland ice sheet," is available at http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2708.html.

Media Contact

Stephanie Schupska
schupska@uga.edu
706-542-6927

 @universityofga

http://www.uga.edu 

Stephanie Schupska | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting eruptions using satellites and math
28.06.2017 | Frontiers

nachricht NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora
27.06.2017 | 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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>