Researchers now have the tools to map the speed and changing sizes of ice with the GoLIVE project, according to NASA.
Scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the University of Bristol, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have come together to start the Global Land Ice Velocity Extraction project, known as “GoLIVE.” This project will aim toward examining how ice flow is changing, including shifting sizes and movements.
“We are now able to map how the skin of the ice is moving,” said Ted Scambos, senior research scientist at NSIDC and lead for the GoLIVE project. “From now on, we’re going to be able to track all of the different types of changes in glaciers. There’s so much science to extract from the data.”
Data suggests that glaciers losing ice is the largest contributor to rising sea levels in the past 30 years. One of the purposes of the GoLIVE project is to determine why ice mass are changing, and how much of that ice will flow into the oceans.
Gathering information via satellite, like scientists are doing in the GoLIVE project, is a great approach for areas where ground- and plane-based observations are expensive or dangerous, like in Alaska or Canada.
Most glaciers in these areas are so remote that any changes can easily go unnoticed until a pilot reports changes from the air, said Mark Fahnestock of the University of Alaska.
“By measuring ice flow all the time, we can identify a surge as it starts, providing an entirely new way to follow this phenomenon,” Fahnestock said. “We can also follow large seasonal swings in tidewater glaciers as they respond to their environment. Scientists need to see all of this variability in order to identify trends.”
Landsat 8 collects pictures of roughly 700 sunlit parcels of the Earth every day. The satellite then observes the entire surface of the earth from visible and infrared wavelengths, for 16 days.
To determine the speed of the surface flow, the scientists compare images of the same location on different dates, taking note of subtle features like bumpy or dune-like patterns in the ice.
Due to the recent advances in technology like Landsat 8, scientists now have many more opportunities to explore the ice in certain areas. Alex Gardner of JPL is focusing on Antarctica, while Twila Moon of the University of Bristol is examining Greenland.
We can group these glaciers by looking at the similarities in their behavior,” Moon said. “It’s providing an opportunity to get at the underlying drivers of why they change.” With measurements of what the seasonal shifts do to glacier speed, scientists can extrapolate what might happen to those glaciers as global temperatures continue to climb.”
Credit: Earth.com author Laura Porecca