Greenland Ice Sheet to Melt Quicker and Seas to Rise Quicker, Finds UC Irvine/NASA Research

Sukkertoppen-ice-cap-southwest-Greenland_Michael-Studinger-NASA.jpg
Photo by Michael Studinger/NASA
A glacier in the Sukkertoppen ice cap in southwest Greenland flows down a rocky canyon like those mapped in a new UCI-NASA study.

The Greenland Ice Sheet is expected to erode much quicker--and lead to sea levels rising much higher--based on revelations included in UC Irvine-NASA research published Monday.

The work, published in Nature Geoscience, shows previously uncharted deep valleys stretching for dozens of miles under the Greenland Ice Sheet. Think of the long, deep valleys connecting the ice cap to the ocean as autobahns for melting ice. The new UCI-NASA mapping uncovered hundreds of them, all previously unknown.

"The glaciers of Greenland are likely to retreat faster and farther inland than anticipated--and for much longer--according to this very different topography we've discovered beneath the ice," says lead author Mathieu Morlighem, a UCI associate project scientist, in a university statement. "This has major implications, because the glacier melt will contribute much more to rising seas around the globe."

I've read and re-read three times trying to figure out how Morlighem and his team came to that topography, which includes Greenland's rugged, rocky subsurface that descends as much as 3 miles beneath the thick ice cap. It has something to do with improved measurements of Greenland's topography since 2009 thanks to NASA Operation IceBridge flights, as well as a novel "mass conservation algorithm" Morlighem developed that combined the previous ice thickness measurements with information on the velocity and direction of its movement and estimates of snowfall and surface melt.

"Operation IceBridge vastly improved our knowledge of bed topography beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet," says co-author Eric Rignot of UCI and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the university release. "This new study takes a quantum leap at filling the remaining, critical data gaps on the map."

Morlighem, Rignot and their co-authors Jeremie Mouginot of UCI and Helene Seroussi and Eric Larour of JPL also reported stark new findings last week on accelerated glacial melt in West Antarctica. Call them the good news club. Morlighem posted this video on YouTube which shows Greenland's surface topography and ice velocities on the left and bed topography beneath the ice sheet inferred from mass conservation on the right:

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!



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30 comments
JGlanton
JGlanton topcommenter

Dr. Tom Sheahen explains this for dumb-dumb reporters:


Geologists deal with changes in the earth that occur over epochs of millions of years. Anything that happens in less than 10,000 years is “sudden,” and something happening in only 1,000 years is “instantaneous.” To geologists, the word “collapse” is appropriate for a 10,000 year process.

A hot-topic in the media these days has to do with the West Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS), a region comprising about 8% of the ice covering Antarctica. Within that region, there are two glaciers that are sliding down to the sea at a steady pace, as glaciers always do. They comprise about 10% of the WAIS, less than 1% of Antarctic ice. This descent has been in progress for several thousand years, and is neither new nor man-caused. It will go on for a few thousand more, after which they’ll be gone. In the parlance of geology, those two glaciers are collapsing.

If that doesn’t sound to you like your usual meaning of the word “collapse,” you’re absolutely right. It’s a specialized geological term.

Unfortunately, the major media overlook the distinction of meanings, and then make the further generalization from two specific glaciers to the entire WAIS, and moreover to Antarctica in general. Scientists who point out the small actual glacier size (and volume of ice) are brushed aside in the rush to get a headline or a flamboyant sound byte that will keep the viewers tuned in. Words like unavoidable collapse carry a sense of foreboding.

Cindy Bock
Cindy Bock

Got Arizona beach front property for sale? Anyone?

Marco Salgado
Marco Salgado

I don't like Obam. But how in the world is this his fault. You know, this is why Republicans are lossing elections....

Barry McPhee
Barry McPhee

I remember when we came out of the last ice age,it's kinda the same now, you know when it starts warming up and the ice melts.But that was 73,000 years ago.

Marilyn Karol-Skaggs
Marilyn Karol-Skaggs

They didn't have my Lipton diet green tea with citrus at Kroger. Thanks Obama. Doh! That's how blamers sound. The carbon problem is not his fault by any means. M

John Hald
John Hald

lol yep. blame obama. not the US as a whole or anything...

Scott Weller
Scott Weller

We've been fucking this planet off for years and now it's Obamas fault you guys are crazy

David Schade
David Schade

It seems people don't understand the sarcasm in this post

Joseph T. Dilger
Joseph T. Dilger

How exactly is this Obama's fault? Kinda makes you seem like an A-hole !

Rocky Neidhardt
Rocky Neidhardt

Bush and Obama.. and alot of other people who should be in Jail.

Yana Moreno Rodriguez
Yana Moreno Rodriguez

What?! How's this his fault? Lets all be accountable for this! Obama didn't do this by himself.... smh

Luke Armstrong
Luke Armstrong

Surely all of them, but probably none. There is too much money out there for the opposite sort of research funding if you haven't noticed yet.

Greg Toomes
Greg Toomes

"I got a flat tire yesterday .. Thanks Obama" lol

David Schade
David Schade

It's not Obama ' s fault Savanna Smith, it's AL Gores fault for creating global warming after he lost the election to Bush in '00. Everyone knows this

David Schade
David Schade

That's kind of racist to call our president a "whipping boy," don't ya think Steven

Savanna Smith
Savanna Smith

Wait how is this Obama's fault, this is the worlds problem!

Steven Osweiler
Steven Osweiler

Mr. Obama is well aware of my respect and defense of him.

Steven Osweiler
Steven Osweiler

You're still trying to make Obama into a whipping boy?

Garrett Gnu
Garrett Gnu

How many scientists were bought off to fudge these numbers?

JGlanton
JGlanton topcommenter

There's a sucker born every minute and this time it's the OC Weekly for printing rubbish that's clearly designed for gullible periodical writers with no science background. Sea level rise has been constant for the last several hundred years. Nothing is accelerating, no rates are changing, but congrats to the UCI scientists for finding a new way to measure what they couldn't before, then tacking on their usual calamitous predictions to get more funding.


As far as the "stark new findings" in Antarctica, give me a break. Antarctica sea ice is now at an all-time high since we've been measuring it. The only thing "stark" is the scientist's abilities to raise alarm over a glacial trend that's been constant since the end of the last ice age over 10,000 years ago. That study says it may take up to 1000 years for that one relatively small sheet to melt, but sshhhh, don't tell that to the readers.


Make sure to send the new headlines it to Gov. Brown so he can make an ass of himself again, saying we'll have to move LAX due to sea level rise from man-caused global warming. Yeah, sure, in 45,000 years at the current rate. Gov. Jerry Brown 1500th will have to deal with that.


20ftjesus
20ftjesus topcommenter

So what you're saying is my house is about to become ocean front property?

Factcheckerismyname
Factcheckerismyname

@JGlanton  Any way you could provide links to back up your assertions or are we just supposed to take you word for it?

JGlanton
JGlanton topcommenter

@20ftjesus   Yeah if it's right on the coast and still standing in 45,000 years 

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