Posted by Stanford University Measurement of glacier core melt is an important factor in understanding rising sea levels.
The study noted areas across Antarctica that are not currently losing significant amounts of mass but could become major contributors to rising sea levels if they were thawed.
Dustin Schroeder, assistant professor of geophysics at the Stanford Doyer School of Sustainability, explained the reasoning behind the research: “You can’t necessarily assume that every place that is currently frozen will remain frozen. These areas may not be appreciated enough for potential contributors.”
Contribution of basal ice melt to sea level rise
Previously, scientists had not thought that the melting of permafrost is a possible cause of sea-level rise. Elisa Dawson, a PhD student in geophysics, said: “There has been little, or no, work on the continent, looking at the onset of thawing — that transition from frozen ice to ice at melting point, where there is little water at the point of melting. Melting point. A bed can cause ice to slip.”
“We were interested in knowing how big the impact the thaw could have and what areas of the ice sheet are likely to be most vulnerable.”
The researchers used numerical models of the ice sheets to test whether the onset of basal melt could lead to significant ice loss over a 100-year period. Previous research does not usually link ice melting, mass loss and rising sea levels, but the researchers wanted to test the hypothesis.
They identified the George V Land region in East Antarctica as the most sensitive to bed melt. In the George V Land area, the Wilkes Basin has been highlighted as a major contributor to sea level rise if snowmelt occurs.
Scientists are concerned that research is focusing only on more unstable glaciers, such as the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. “The whole community is really focused on Thwaites now,” Schroeder said.
“But some of the areas that are the usual suspects of significant and impactful changes are not the most provocative and influential areas in this study.”
The importance of temperature when measuring basic solubility
Information about the glacier’s base is scarce due to the location of Antarctica and the harsh weather conditions.
“Measuring a bed is a huge effort in these remote places — we have the technology to do it, but you really need to choose where, and sometimes it takes years, field camps, and special equipment to do it,” Schroeder said. “It is difficult and expensive.”
The researchers studied the physics of how ice slides to determine how changes in temperature affect the way glaciers flow and develop at the base, but the research needs further development.
The study shows that measuring, understanding and modeling the core temperature of glaciers is important in understanding the future of rising sea levels, but scientists have not yet developed a detailed understanding of how the processes that change the behavior of glaciers contribute to this.
“Follow-up work will be needed to take a closer look at these areas identified in this paper,” Dawson said. “Showing that bed melting can lead to mass loss from the ice sheet is a process that society needs to understand and really start looking at – especially in these potentially vulnerable areas.”