Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Greenland’s Not-So-Rapidly Flowing Glaciers

Greenland's glaciers are flowing at a slower pace than predicted, according to a team of experts who published results of their research in the latest issue of Science magazine. Studies at the turn of the 21st century forecasted as much as a doubling of glacier velocity by 2010, threatening a drastic rise in sea level. However, according to the new research from the University of Washington and Ohio State University, "Observed acceleration indicates that sea level rise from Greenland may fall well below proposed upper bounds."

The team collected satellite data from 2000 to 2010 tracking more than 200 of Greenland's outlet glaciers, ice rivers that flow directly from ice caps to the sea. Glacier velocity measures how fast this ice flows. Though actual speeds were significantly less than predicted, they found the ice sheets moving on average 30 percent faster than a decade ago.

This leaves climatologists worried about threats of land loss to coastal communities worldwide. "We know sea level is going to rise, but how much, and how fast, and where, we really still don't know," said co-author Josh Willis of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview with LiveScience. He also warned geologic records prove "ice sheets are capable of causing very rapid sea-level rise three to four times what we see today." Read More