Satellite shows Greenland's ice sheets getting thicker

All down to more snow falling, it seems


While the edges of the glaciers are melting, the ice sheets in Greenland's interior are getting thicker, according to satellite data collected over the last 11 years. On average the ice sheets have got thicker by about six centimetres each year, the researchers say.

The researchers, based at Norway's Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC), say that this is probably because snowfall in the region has increased, due to a weather pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

The research was conducted using the European Space Agency's ERS satellites. These carry radar altimeters that send 1800 radar pulses to Earth each second, and record how long they take to return to the satellite. The sensor can time this journey down to the nanosecond, ESA says, meaning that the instrument is accurate to within two centimetres.

In total tens of millions of data points were collected. The results were then compared to the known fluctuations in the NAO over the period. The researchers found a strong relationship between changes in the height of the ice sheet and the strong positive and negative phases of the NAO.

Professor Ola Johannessen of NERSC says that the results suggest that the role of the NAO in ice thickness is more significant than previously thought, making it something of a wildcard in climate modelling.

"There is clearly a need for continued monitoring using new satellite altimeters and other observations, together with numerical models to calculate the Greenland Ice Sheet mass budget," Johannessen commented.

It is just the kind of work that the CryoSat mission would have taken on, had it not been lost during its launch.

The NAO was first identified in the 1920's, and is an imbalance in atmospheric masses between the high pressure of the subtropicals the low pressure of the northern polar regions. The size of the difference influences the weather across the whole of the northern hemisphere, and is much more important in the winter months.

Finding out whether or not the Greenland ice sheet is shrinking overall is important because it is so large. While plenty of data has been collected on the retreating glaciers and thinning edges of the ice sheets, much less in known about the interior.

If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt entirely, it would raise global sea levels by seven metres. The addition of such a large quantity of fresh water to the oceans would also disrupt familiar ocean currents, such as the gulf stream, which could have a huge knock on effect on weather systems.

The research was published in Science Express late last month. ®


Other stories you might like

  • AWS adds bare metal support to EKS Anywhere
    And throws some cold water on the 'K8s works best inside a VM' argument

    Amazon Web Services has made a small but important change to its EKS Anywhere on-prem Kubernetes offering – the option to install it on bare metal servers instead of exclusively inside a VMware vSphere environment.

    "Amazon EKS Anywhere on bare metal enables customers to automate all steps from bare metal hardware provisioning to Kubernetes cluster operations using a bundled open source toolset built on the foundation of Tinkerbell and Cluster API," states the cloud colossus's announcement of the offering.

    The offering is free, but AWS generously offers service subscriptions.

    Continue reading
  • Windows 11: The little engine that could, eventually
    Stalled marketshare seems to be creeping upwards again in consumer, enterprise – but adoption still a slog

    Advertising company AdDuplex has published its latest set of Windows usage figures and it looks like there might be light at the end of the tunnel for Windows 11.

    Only the most ardent Microsoft apologists would insist all is well with Windows 11 adoption. Share growth of the OS stalled earlier this year and between March and April, with AdDuplex registering less than a 0.4 per cent increase. Windows 11 stood at a 19.7 per cent share, well behind the 35 percent and 26.4 percent of Windows 10 21H2 and 21H1 respectively.

    The figures for the end of June show Windows 11 has clawed its way to a 23.1 percent share of PCs surveyed by AdDuplex, within touching distance of the chunk occupied by Windows 10 21H1 (23.9 percent) but still a long way behind Windows 10 21H2, which grew its share to 38.2 percent. Microsoft itself has not produced any official usage statistics.

    Continue reading
  • Tencent Cloud slaps googly eyes on a monitor, says it can care for oldies
    It's called 'i-Care' and it screams 'I don't, actually'

    Tencent Cloud has released an odd robot-adjacent device designed to provide telemedicine services.

    The effort is called i-Care and is the result of a tie up with USA-based IT services Millennium Technology Services (MTS)'s subsidiary Invincible Technology. The two companies set out to create "a digital solution that aims to improve patients' experience and quality of life as well as draw patients, families and caregivers closer than ever."

    "Customers' habits and expectations have evolved dramatically over the last few years across various industries including the medical and healthcare field, driven by the further emergence of digital technologies and cloud computing," said Tencent Cloud in a canned statement.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022