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Greenland’s Glaciers: Going, Going…

April 20th, 2008. By Dave Oei. 6,644 views.
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Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have captured nearly conclusive evidence of glacial surface meltwater draining in Greenland, and its corresponding effect on ice sheet movement.

Until now, it was hypothesized that some of the vast quantity of meltwater that originates at the surface of Greenland’s glaciers during the summer season may filter all the way down through thousands of feet of ice sheet to the surface. And, once there the meltwater would have a lubricating effect, allowing the glacier to slide at a faster rate toward it’s meeting with the Atlantic.

Well, these folks actually witnessed the event in progress, and by their accounts the overall effect was quite colossal.

Their instruments were placed by a relatively large lake, one holding more than 10 billion gallons of water. Then, over the period of a day or two, they recorded its disappearance. Think: very large bath tub, very large drain hole, all within the size and magnitude of Niagara Falls.

Then, they also recorded a shift up in elevation of the ice sheet. And, to top it off, a nearly doubling of the rate of movement of the sheet.

What are the ramifications? It’s not certain yet. But, some scientists suggest that the ice sheets act like giant solar reflectors, taking the sun’s rays and reflecting it back to space, helping keep the planet cool. Plus, ice is like a huge heat sink. And, it’s an excellent insulator. If it were to go, or diminish in size significantly, you can probably expect to see changes in our climate and ocean patterns.

Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

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