Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves a Glacier in Greenland which scientist are saying that it’s melting fast and could cause rising sea levels.
Scientists are claiming that one of Greenland’s largest glaciers say it is melting far faster than expected in its most vulnerable region, a worrying sign that glaciers perched in the ocean could contribute to sea level rise more quickly than currently forecast. The scientists fear the phenomenon observed at Petermann Glacier could be happening to other glaciers in both Greenland and Antarctica, possibly leading to faster, more dramatic levels of sea level rise worldwide “potentially double” what is currently expected from glaciers, according to a study published on Monday.
Using satellite measurements of its surface, researchers found that Petermann has been bouncing up and down, dramatically shifting its seafloor moorings in response to the tides. All this movement has carved a large cavern at the base of the glacier and allowed warm water to regularly stretch beneath it. As the glacier lifts and migrates, the water can rush in for over a mile, thinning the ice by as much a 250 feet a year in some places.
“You have this constant flushing of seawater going many kilometers below the glacier and melting the ice,” said Eric Rignot, who is one of the study’s authors and a glaciologist at the University of California at Irvine and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. “We think that could change sea level projections quite a bit,” he said. The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Petermann Glacier is, in the context of climate change, the next big thing that our greenhouse gas emissions may break. The vast glacier, some 10 miles wide, is one of several major outlets for ice to escape from Greenland’s interior into the ocean. In total, the massive region of ice queued up behind Petermann could, if it all melted, raise global sea levels by over 1 foot.
Petermann hasn’ t changed much as some other Greenland glaciers, likely in part because it is so far north. But it has seen important shifts.
Petermann lost two massive chunks of ice from its floating ice shelf in 2010 and 2012, causing the shelf to lose roughly a third of its area. It has not since recovered. The glacier has also started to move backward, as the central region of its grounding line where it sits on the floor of the deep fjord retreated more than 2 miles inland toward Greenland’s interior. This has occurred in response to a warming of the water in the fjord in front of the glacier. The warming only amounts to a fraction of a degree, according to Rignot, but the water is now slightly above zero degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit). But it is more than warm enough to melt ice, especially at the depths and pressures seen at the grounding line.
This is what the new research captures at Petermann; showing that the tidal cycles have very large implications for the glacier’s melting. The satellites showed that there is no real grounding “line” rather, there is a vast zone, over a mile in length, over which the glacier moves back and forward along the seafloor. This movement accelerates melting as it allows seawater to mix in close to and even beneath the glacier.
The research was conducted by scientists at the three U.S. institutions the University of California at Irvine, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, and the University of Houston in collaboration with international colleagues at institutions in China, Finland, Germany and Italy.
Credit: The Washington Post.