24 July 2024
Greenland ice motion unaffected by late-season melt

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Understanding Greenland Ice Motion

The Greenland Ice Sheet is a massive body of ice covering about 80% of the surface of Greenland. In recent decades, the melting of this ice sheet has raised concerns due to its implications on global climate change. A recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters has shed light on the impact of late-season melting on the motion of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Research Findings on Greenland Ice Sheet Motion

The study, led by Ryan Ing and his colleagues from the University of Edinburgh, focused on analyzing intense melting events that occurred during the late summer of 2022. They found that despite a significant acceleration in ice motion during these events, the overall annual motion of the ice sheet was not significantly affected. The researchers used satellite imagery and meteorological data to study the movement of glaciers in west Greenland, both on land and in the ocean.

During the late-melt season in 2022, the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced a large daily runoff due to warm air brought over the ice sheet by an atmospheric river. This led to intense surface melting and a rapid increase in air temperatures. The melt events overwhelmed the subglacial drainage system, causing an increase in basal water pressure and a temporary acceleration in ice motion by up to 240%.

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Impact of Seasonal Melting on Ice Sheet Dynamics

The study highlighted the significance of late-season melt events in intensifying surface melting on the Greenland Ice Sheet. While the transient accelerations in ice motion during these events did not significantly impact the annual ice discharge of the ice sheet, they did contribute to a notable increase in total annual runoff. This increase in meltwater runoff from late-season melt events was found to be critical, considering that half of the Greenland Ice Sheet’s annual mass loss is due to meltwater runoff.

The researchers also observed that the efficiency of the subglacial drainage system played a crucial role in determining the impact of seasonal melting on ice motion. During late-melt season events, the overwhelmed drainage channels led to rapid accelerations in ice flow. In contrast, during the peak of the melt season in summer, the larger channels could accommodate extra meltwater more easily, resulting in less pronounced increases in ice motion.

Implications for Future Climate Change

The findings of this study have important implications for understanding the dynamics of the Greenland Ice Sheet and its response to climate change. While the increase in annual ice discharge from late-season melt events may not be a primary factor in ice sheet mass loss, the increase in meltwater runoff is significant. As Earth’s climate continues to warm, the effects of enhanced late melt-season events on ice sheet dynamics may become increasingly important in the future.

Ryan Ing emphasized that the results of this study could be relevant to other ice sheets and glaciers worldwide, indicating the need for further research in this field. The behavior observed in the Greenland Ice Sheet during late-season melt events may have implications for understanding the responses of other glaciers and ice sheets to climate change. Overall, this research contributes to our understanding of how seasonal melting influences ice motion and mass loss in ice sheets, providing valuable insights into the complex interactions between climate change and ice dynamics.

Links to additional Resources:

1. NASA 2. National Snow and Ice Data Center 3. ScienceDirect

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Greenland Ice Sheet, Climate change, Glaciers

Greenland ice sheet
The Greenland ice sheet is an ice sheet about 1.67 km (1.0 mi) thick on average, and almost 3.5 km (2.2 mi) at its thickest point. It is almost 2,900 kilometres (1,800 mi) long in a north–south direction, with the greatest width of 1,100 kilometres (680 mi) at a latitude...
Read more: Greenland ice sheet

Climate change
In common usage, climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. Climate change in a broader sense also includes previous long-term changes to Earth's climate. The current rise in global average temperature is more rapid than previous changes, and is primarily...
Read more: Climate change

A glacier (US: ; UK: ) is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. It acquires distinguishing features, such as crevasses and seracs, as it slowly flows...
Read more: Glacier

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