Water Flow Could Accelerate Ice Warming

As global warming becomes an increasingly bigger concern, the issues because of it begin to make themselves known.  Rising water levels is one of these issues.  This is due to glacial ice melting.  We have seen the pictures of the polar bears barely hanging on to the tip of a melting ice cap.  Scientists have proven that populations of penguins and other animals in the Arctic and Antarctic are rapidly declining.  Basically, there is a lot of predicted trouble in the future with the current projected rate of glacier decline.  Now new evidence has arisen showing that the glaciers could be melting even faster then we believed.

The thermal models that have been used to measure temperature in ice sheets have only been measuring the warmth on the surface of the ice sheets.  What has been recently discovered is that when the water melts on the surface it can enter crevices and cracks warming the sheets even more. Once the water enters a new section of the ice sheet it will heat rather quickly, sometimes even within only ten years.  This process is called cryo-hydrologic warming. When thermal models only measured the presence of air due to climate change as a warming agent, ice warmed fairly slowly. In fact it would take centuries to a millennia for the ice to warm.

Using the Greenland ice sheet as a model, scientists projected the rate of ice melting using this new variable.  Scientists already knew that the ice sheet was not one giant, solid mass of ice that was smooth all over.  As the ice flows towards the coast, it hits against the bedrock and creates crevasses within the top 100 feet of the ice sheet.  This in turn creates “ice caves” and pipelines within the ice.  This is where the melted water slips into the ice and increases the speed of melting. With this knowledge, scientists measured what would happen if the melting occurred during the summer months.  The time would cover about eight weeks in the summer months.  What was discovered is that the warming could take place on the order of years to decades.

There are several factors that contribute to this warming and accelerated ice flow.  One factor includes that some of the water stays liquid in the ice sheets even during the winter.  This slows down the cooling period. Also, warmer ice is more susceptible to flow due to long understood mechanisms.  The last reason is that ice can run down into the ice warming the other ice around it.  Refreezing can occur and create more cracks in the already susceptible ice.

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One Response to Water Flow Could Accelerate Ice Warming

  1. ncreidler says:

    I have never heard of this, it is interesting. This seems like a process that would be hard to reverse. I think it is something that we to at least attempt because it would be terrible to loose species such as polar bears and penguins. Also, with the rising water levels, beach environments are in trouble due to these events as well. Anyways, this is all the more reason for us to try and do the best for our Earth and try not to harm our environment.

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