Abundance meltwater stretches across Western Greenland's store glacier in the summer. Photo: Sean Peters Greenland can look like a big,…
Abundance meltwater stretches across Western Greenland’s store glacier in the summer. Photo: Sean Peters
Greenland can look like a big, strong ice crusher. But hidden under the shiny surface, the truth is a bit more complicated.
A first class analysis has revealed a surprising amount of liquid water contained in solid ice in Western Greenland’s Great Glacier. Alex Kendrick, and Geophysics Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, discovered the hidden waterway while analyzing radardata researchers had collected from May to November 201
4 to investigate the ice’s internal structure. Radar signal reflections of electromagnetic waves transmitted through the ice to the bedrock initially looked quite until Kendrick paired it with weather data and realized that he was not just looking at ice. He watched the ice to be wrapped in melting water over the summer.
And not just a little water. Kendrick and his colleagues recently wrote about writing four to nearly nine meters of melt water from the glacier surface to cracked and damaged ice 15-150 feet below where it got stuck.  So far, it’s only a single measurement, but Kendrick told Earther that it appears that most of the water melted in the summer was stuck in the underlying ice. And it may be important to understand the glaciers’ behavior in a warming world.
Rising temperatures cause more water to melt over Greenland’s surface during the summer. Some of the water flows straight across the glaciers and out to the sea, but some percolate down to the bedrock, lubricate the grounds of the glaciers and make them flow into the sea more quickly.
However, if some of the downstream water is getting caught in damaged ice during the trip, which may delay or stop it from reaching the bed, which possibly gives the glaciers some relief from the melting water that speeds up their descent. Anyway, it is a process that most models do not consider.
The glaciologist at Columbia University Idrani Das told Earther that we have known for a while that cracks in ice can store water. We have seen it earlier in fir-a layer of non-fairly snow, no ice is present on some glaciers – and now we have compelling evidence of water objects in solid ice.
“I think this paper calls for more comprehensive observations” to determine how important this stored water may be, “Easher told.
Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, warned that we can not be sure how caught water affects ice behavior without knowing what’s going on in the long run. “From my perspective, it would probably be an even bigger issue if it seemed that the stored water was stuck year after year” something that the new study did not assess, said Moon.
Still, the moon celebrated the paper to “use a dataset in this new and creative way” to observe something that is very hard to see.