. Earth Science News .

Two Greenland Glaciers Lose Enough Ice To Fill Lake Erie
by Staff Writers
Columbus OH (SPX) Jun 01, 2011

"Jakobshavn alone drains somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of all the ice flowing outward from inland to the sea," explains Ian Howat.

A new study aimed at refining the way scientists measure ice loss in Greenland is providing a "high-definition picture" of climate-caused changes on the island. And the picture isn't pretty. In the last decade, two of the largest three glaciers draining that frozen landscape have lost enough ice that, if melted, could have filled Lake Erie.

The three glaciers - Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq and Jakobshavn Isbrae - are responsible for as much as one-fifth of the ice flowing out from Greenland into the ocean.

"Jakobshavn alone drains somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of all the ice flowing outward from inland to the sea," explained Ian Howat, an assistant professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University. His study appears in the current issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

As the second largest holder of ice on the planet, and the site of hundreds of glaciers, Greenland is a natural laboratory for studying how climate change has affected these ice fields.

Researchers focus on the "mass balance" of glaciers, the rate of new ice being formed as snow falls versus the flow of ice out into the sea.

The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years' worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.

"Kangerdlugssuaq would have to stop flowing and accumulate snowfall for seven years to regain the ice it has lost," said Howat, also a member of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the third glacier, Helheim, had actually gained a small amount of mass over the same period. It gained approximately one-fifteenth of what Jakobshavn had lost, Howat said.

The real value of the research, however, is the confirmation that the new techniques Howat and his colleagues developed will provide scientists a more accurate idea of exactly how much ice is being lost.

"These glaciers change pretty quickly. They speed up and then slow down. There's a pulsing in the flow of ice," Howat said. "There's variability, a seasonal cycle and lots of different changes in the rate that ice is flowing through these glaciers."

Past estimates, he said, have been merely snapshots of what was going on at these glaciers in terms of mass loss. "We really need to sample them very frequently or else we won't really know how much change has occurred.

"This new research pumps up the resolution and gives us a kind of high-definition picture of ice loss," he said.

To get this longer-timeframe image, Howat and colleagues drew on data sets provided by at least seven orbiting satellites and airplanes, as well as other sources.

"To get a good picture of what's going on, we need different tools and each one of these satellites plays an important role and adds more information," Howat said.

The next step is to look at the next-largest glaciers in Greenland and work their way down through smaller and smaller ice flows.

"Currently, the missing piece is ice thickness data for all of the glaciers, but a NASA aircraft is up there getting it. When that's available, we'll be able to apply this technique to the entire Greenland ice sheet and get a monthly total mass balance for the last 10 years or so," he said.

Along with Howat, Yushin Ahn, a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State's Byrd Polar Research Center; Ian Joughin of the University of Washington; Michael van den Broeke and Jan Lenaerts, both of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, worked on the project.

Related Links
Ohio State University
Beyond the Ice Age

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Trucks lose, ships win in warmer Arctic
Paris (AFP) May 29, 2011
Global warming will have a devastating effect on roads in the Arctic but open up tantalising routes for shipping, according to a study published on Sunday in the specialist journal Nature Climate Change. "As sea ice continues to melt, accessibility by sea will increase, but the viability of an important network of roads that depend on freezing temperatures is threatened by a warming climate, ... read more

Japan's PM faces no-confidence motion

Haiti report shines light on rush to inflate death tolls

IAEA says Japan underestimated tsunami threat

Blast at Japan nuclear plant 'likely gas cylinder'

Researchers develop environmentally friendly plastics

Google given more time to reach book settlement

iPad challenge looms large at Asia IT show

Making materials to order

Experts create first legal roadmap to tackle local ocean acidification hotspots

Tiny bubbles signal severe impacts to coral reefs worldwide

Brazil approves huge Amazon power plant

Human impacts of rising oceans will extend well beyond coasts

Two Greenland Glaciers Lose Enough Ice To Fill Lake Erie

Trucks lose, ships win in warmer Arctic

Caltech-led team debunks theory on end of Snowball Earth ice age

Study reveals most biologically rich island in Southern Ocean

China, S. Korea ban Taiwan drinks over chemical

High risk of Parkinson's disease for people exposed to pesticides near workplace

Keeping Dairy Cows Outside is Good for the Outdoors

'Perfect storm' looms for world's food supplies: Oxfam

Top US official warns of 'heavy' hurricane season

Hurricane season starting with high US, Caribbean risk

Scientists warn of more quake danger in N.Z.

Iceland's Grimsvoetn volcano eruption over: official

Obama has 'deep concern' over Sudan forces in Abyei

US offers $14.5 million for Somalia food aid

Somalia war: Surreal twists and turns

Sudan slides toward another civil war

When it comes to warm-up less is more for athletes

Scientists trick the brain into Barbie-doll size

New level of genetic diversity in human RNA sequences uncovered

Standing up to fight

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement