Scientists have uncovered a presence of water stored in a glacier in Greenland that, they claim, could contribute to a major sea-level rise over the next 100 years.
The rapidly changing ice sheet has apparently been a missing component for models aiming to predict how melting glaciers will impact the planet.
The group of researchers, from Stanford University, made the discovery of the stored water when looking at existing data, which was originally intended to reveal the changing shape of Store Glacier in West Greenland.
University graduate student, Alexander Kendrick, figured out that the same data could measure something much more difficult to observe: its capacity to store water.
The resulting study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, presents evidence of glacier meltwater from the surface being stored within damaged, solid ice.
"Things like this don't always come along, but when they do, that is the real 'joy of the discovery' component of Earth science," said Dustin Schroeder, an assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford University's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.
"This paper not only highlights this component's existence but gives you a way to observe it in time."
Surface meltwater plays an important role in Greenland by lubricating the bottoms of ice sheets and impacting how retreating glaciers are affected by the ocean. The process of how the glaciers melt and where the water flows contributes to their behavior in a changing climate, as these factors could alter glaciers' response to melting or impact the timeline for sea-level rise.
Knowing that some liquid is intercepted within glaciers after melting on the surface may help scientists more accurately predict oceanic changes and help people prepare for the future, Schroeder said.
"All of our predictions of sea-level rise are missing this meltwater component," Schroeder said. "I think we're only just realizing how important it is to understand at a fundamental physical scale what glacier meltwater does on its way from the surface to the bed."
the researchers hope this new geophysical method can be used to understand how meltwater impacts other glaciers and glacial systems, as well.
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