OCT 16, 2019 7:17 AM PDT

Greenland's Summer Melt Helps Scientists Track Sea Level Rise

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

This summer, the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced a significant melting event not seen since 2002, mainly due to the heatwave that swept through most of Europe. According to Science, subsurface ice melt combined with warm Atlantic waters to cause a massive swell of meltwater and also a rare opening in the Helheim Glacier. Although an alarming event, this opening allowed scientists to directly sample the waters below the glacier, an otherwise daunting task. 

Fortunately, scientists were already in the region, including Fiamma Staneo—a physical oceanographer from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. Staneo and other researchers visited the Helheim Glacier this summer as part of a 4-year project to track the glacier and observe the warm waters below. The recent visual article from Science Magazine details the researchers' experiences and work, which is also summarized in the video below.

Science details each research component, including drilling into the pre-ice snow—known as firn—to measure how much Helheim grows through storms, monitoring hidden fractures with seismometers, and using autonomous lasers to record calving events. The team expects work to continue through 2022.

Their work contributes to the essential establishment of a long-term observation system of Greenland's most prominent glaciers. According to Science, the island's ice sheet holds enough water to cause 7 meters of sea level rise—or 25% of total global sea level rise and twice that of Antarctica's contribution. In addition to sea level rise, the melt will impact sediment discharge, ocean circulation, sea-ice, biogeochemistry, and marine ecosystems surrounding Greenland. 

However, scientists have not yet been able to estimate how quickly melting will occur. The establishment of this long-term observation system will allow researchers to cite patterns and create projections to help to remove some of the uncertainty surrounding the timeline of melting throughout Greenland. In an article published earlier this year in Frontiers in Marine Science detailing the need for such an observation system, Staneo and fellow authors suggest that observation system will consist of a "set of ocean, glacier, and atmosphere essential variables to be collected at a number of diverse sites around Greenland for a minimum of two decades."

Sources: Science Magazine, Frontiers in Marine Science

About the Author
BS Biology
Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
AUG 06, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Today in Science History: Most Complete Skeletal Remains of Neanderthal Still Tell a Story Today
AUG 06, 2022
Today in Science History: Most Complete Skeletal Remains of Neanderthal Still Tell a Story Today
114 years ago, the first and only nearly complete Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) skeleton was found in a cave in Fr ...
AUG 19, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
An Environmentally Friendly Filter That Removes Microplastics
AUG 19, 2022
An Environmentally Friendly Filter That Removes Microplastics
Harnessing the power of mechanical energy, researchers at the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science & Technology and ...
AUG 24, 2022
Plants & Animals
Threat Assessment of U.S Trees Provides Blueprint for Conservation Efforts
AUG 24, 2022
Threat Assessment of U.S Trees Provides Blueprint for Conservation Efforts
Extinction rates have accelerated around the globe. Changes in climate and habitat loss, in particular, are driving more ...
AUG 25, 2022
Cancer
Nearly Half of Global Cancer Deaths Attributed to Behavioral Risk Factors
AUG 25, 2022
Nearly Half of Global Cancer Deaths Attributed to Behavioral Risk Factors
Cancer is a broad description of various related diseases resulting from abnormal and excessive cell growth.  While ...
SEP 28, 2022
Plants & Animals
A Plant Prized by Ancient Greeks and Romans, Once Thought Extinct, May Have Reappeared
SEP 28, 2022
A Plant Prized by Ancient Greeks and Romans, Once Thought Extinct, May Have Reappeared
In its heyday, silphion, a gold flowering plant, was about as valuable as gold. This heyday, of course, was in antiquity ...
SEP 29, 2022
Technology
Predicting the Future with New Machine Learning Technology
SEP 29, 2022
Predicting the Future with New Machine Learning Technology
Machine learning technology has a range of applications in a range of industries in professions. For example, machine le ...
Loading Comments...