Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UM Scientists Use New Approach to Reveal Function of Greenland’s Ice Sheet

16.08.2013
Findings from a large-scale ice drilling study on the Greenland ice sheet by a team of University of Montana and University of Wyoming researchers may revise the models used to predict how ice sheets move.

The work was published in Science on Aug. 15 in a paper titled “Basal Drainage System Response to Increasing Surface Melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet.”



The bed of the Greenland ice sheet, hidden beneath hundreds to thousands of meters of ice, is one of the most isolated locations on earth – making it difficult for scientists to understand just how the second largest ice body on the planet functions.Meierbachtol

Led by UM glaciologist Joel Harper and with backing from the National Science Foundation, the team of researchers set out to observe and record exactly how melt water flows along the bed of the ice sheet and how that water influences ice sheet acceleration.

“Our ability to predict and understand what’s going to happen in the future hinges on our ability to have an adequate understanding of the present processes and how those might influence future ice sheet behavior under climate changes,” said Toby Meierbachtol, the study’s lead author and a UM doctoral student.

The team employed a unique strategy for collecting widespread measurements of the conditions at the bottom of the ice sheet.

“Our approach was to be lightweight and nimble so that we could drill lots of boreholes all over the ice sheet.” Harper said.

Using a drill designed by Neil Humphrey, UW professor and co-author on the paper, the team melted 23 boreholes through the ice sheet to measure the pressure and flow conditions of the water under the ice. The drill was easily transported by helicopter and even could be carried short distances by six people.

The other component to their strategy was to carefully select a small and hard-working field team. The group comprised two professors, two doctoral students, two graduate students and two undergraduate students.

According to Harper, the team selection was of critical importance. He needed mentally tough team members who both excelled academically and also could withstand difficult conditions. “Our success relied on finding people who were equally comfortable fiddling with circuit boards or fixing a broken generator, and doing those things in the cold and with a relentless wind blowing,” he said.

Once the data was analyzed, the research team discovered that it didn’t match up with the working hypotheses for water flow beneath the ice sheet. This led the scientists to surmise that there are other critical processes at work that had been missing – one possibility being that as the ice sheet accelerates, the acceleration itself opens up space between the ice and bedrock and expands the drainage network.

“This process is largely neglected in current interpretations,” Meierbachtol said. “We need to pull ourselves away from the narrow vision and start to explore some of the other options for transient growth.”

Future warming likely will be enhanced over the Artic. This body of research will provide a more accurate assessment of the impacts of future warming on Greenland.

“Much climate research focuses on documenting recent and ongoing changes, or making projections about future change,” Harper said. “We can only go so far with that work before we hit stumbling blocks resulting from our incomplete understanding of how various components of the climate system work. Our research is focused on unraveling the fundamental physical processes controlling how ice sheets move when sitting on flowing melt water. This basic research is essential to increasing confidence in our understanding of climate and sea level change.”

The full paper can be accessed online at http://www.sciencemag.org/.

Joel Harper | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sciencemag.org/
http://www.umt.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Modeling magma to find copper
13.01.2017 | Université de Genève

nachricht What makes erionite carcinogenic?
13.01.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>