Chain Reaction Of Draining Lakes Is Undermining The Greenland Ice Sheet's Stability

These supraglacial lakes are beautiful, but bad news. NASA/ESO

Robin Andrews 16 Mar 2018, 20:18

These supraglacial lakes happen to be growing in number as time ticks on and the atmosphere continues to warm, as do their drainage networks. This points to a future where these chain reactions become more severe or commonplace.

All in all, this means that “the interior ice sheet may respond more sensitively to climate change than indicated by observations made closer to the margin,” Christoffersen explained.

It is worth pointing out, however, that although the lakes and crevasses are real, the way in which they drain and affect the base of the GIS is based on a 3D model. Rigid though the data may be, additional fieldwork is required to confirm its validity, but at least it sheds light on a perhaps underappreciated phenomenon.

Just last November, a separate mapping study concluded that the GIS is exposed to warming ocean waters far more extensively than previously thought too. Make no mistake: this reservoir of ice is under attack, from above and below. Considering that its climate change-led collapse into the sea is driving global sea level rise, the implication here is that we’re in – to understate things – a spot of bother.

If anything, this new study reminds us that climate change, and ice, is deeply complex – and there are certainly plenty more scientific surprises to come.

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