Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Significant contribution of Greenland's peripheral glaciers to sea-level rise

Date:
March 18, 2013
Source:
University of Zurich
Summary:
Glaciers at the edge of Greenland which are not connected to its huge ice sheet, or can be clearly separated from it, are contributing to sea-level rise much more than previously thought. Scientists have found that, though these peripheral glaciers make up just 5 to 7 percent of total ice coverage on the land mass, they account for up to 20 percent of the rise in sea level created by the region's melting.

This is the Elephant Foot Glacier from space.
Credit: Landsat ETM; image editing: Tobias Bolch (University of Zurich)

Glaciers at the edge of Greenland which are not connected to its huge ice sheet, or can be clearly separated from it, are contributing to sea-level rise much more than previously thought. Scientists from the University of Zurich together with colleagues from Denmark have found that, though these peripheral glaciers make up just 5-7 % of total ice coverage on the land mass, they account for up to 20% of the rise in sea level created by the region's melting.

The scientists looked at glaciers which behave independently from the ice sheet, despite having some physical connection to it, and those which are not connected at all.

The discovery, just published in Geophysical Research Letters, is important as it will help scientists improve the predictions of the future contribution of Greenland's ice to sea-level rise.

Using lasers which measure the height of the ice from space, and a recently completed inventory of Greenland's glaciers and ice caps, scientists from the European-funded ice2sea programme, were able to determine changes in the mass of those ice bodies, separate from the main ice sheet.

It also showed that the contribution to sea-level rise from the glaciers of Greenland separated from the ice sheet makes up around 10% of the estimated contribution of the entire world's glaciers and ice caps, and that contribution is higher than expected.

Lead author Dr. Tobias Bolch, from the University of Zurich, says, "The melting of ice on Greenland is known to be one of the major sources for global sea-level rise. Beside the large ice sheet, there are thousands of peripheral glaciers which are not connected to the ice sheet or can be separated from it due to the existence of ice divides. The area of those glaciers is about 50 times higher than the ice cover of the European Alps. Consequently, it is important to investigate not only the ice sheet but also these local glaciers."

The paper, "Mass loss of Greenland's glaciers and ice caps 2003 -- 2008 revealed from ICESat laser altimetry data," showed glaciers with no or weak connection to the main ice sheet contributed to around 30 Gigatons (Gt) of water per year to sea level between 2003 and 2008.

When they added in glaciers which had some link to the ice sheet, but which were still distinct from it in the way they flowed, this figure increased to up to around 50 Gt per year. This yearly figure represents more than half the water contained in one of Europe's largest lakes, Lake Geneva.

The study gives more detail to the make-up and stability of Greenland's glaciers showing that mass loss is highest in the warmer south east of the land mass and lowest in the colder north.

It also shows that the loss of ice is about 2.5 times higher for those separate glaciers than for the ice sheet, leading to the 15-20% figure.

Dr. Bolch says, "The other 80-85% comes from the ice sheet. The new figure for the local glaciers is higher than expected. It matters because the ice loss with respect to the area is significantly higher than of the ice sheet. This means that the local glaciers react faster with respect to climate change. This information will help to improve the predictions of the future contribution of Greenland's ice to sea-level rise."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Zurich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Bolch, L. Sandberg Sψrensen, S. B. Simonsen, N. Mφlg, H. Machguth, P. Rastner, F. Paul. Mass loss of Greenland's glaciers and ice caps 2003-2008 revealed from ICESat laser altimetry data. Geophysical Research Letters, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/grl.50270

Cite This Page:

University of Zurich. "Significant contribution of Greenland's peripheral glaciers to sea-level rise." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318104956.htm>.
University of Zurich. (2013, March 18). Significant contribution of Greenland's peripheral glaciers to sea-level rise. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318104956.htm
University of Zurich. "Significant contribution of Greenland's peripheral glaciers to sea-level rise." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318104956.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) — A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Malaysia's last "fish listeners" -- practitioners of a dying local art of listening underwater to locate their quarry -- try to keep the ancient technique alive in the face of industrial trawling and the depletion of stocks. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins