Today’s Video of the Day from NASA Goddard describes why glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica are out of balance. The processes that cause glaciers and ice sheets to lose mass are extremely complex.
When meltwater bores holes into the ice, it ultimately makes its way to the glacier base and into the ocean. This plume of warm freshwater floats to the surface of the ocean, where it melts the glacier even further and can lead to calving.
Josh Willis is the principal investigator of NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG), a project that is investigating the effects of ocean water temperature on melting ice in the region.
“It’s basically like pointing a hairdryer at an ice cube, while the ice cube is also sitting in a warm pot of water,” said Willis. “The glaciers are being melted by heat from above and below simultaneously.”
It is critical for scientists to understand what influences glacial retreat in an effort to accurately predict future sea-level rise. When studying glacial retreat, experts focus a lot on Antarctica and Greenland, which are the sites of the world’s only two ice sheets.
According to NASA, if all of the ice was lost from Greenland and Antarctica, the ocean would rise by nearly 215 feet. While this is not going to happen anytime in the near future, even just a few feet of sea-level rise could devastate coastal communities.
Video Credit: NASA Goddard
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer