News / Science & Technology

Massive Lake Found Under Greenland Ice

Water from the Greenland perennial firn aquifer draining from a core extracted 12 m below the surface of the ice sheet. The core was drilled in April, months prior to seasonal melt, with air temperatures -15 C confirming the water was retained at depth th
Water from the Greenland perennial firn aquifer draining from a core extracted 12 m below the surface of the ice sheet. The core was drilled in April, months prior to seasonal melt, with air temperatures -15 C confirming the water was retained at depth th

Related Articles

Huge Freshwater Aquifers Found Under Ocean Floor

Fresh water trapped under ocean could potentially provide drinking water to parts of the world that face shortages

Climate Change Affecting Water Resources

Latest computer models show different parts of the world will see varied effects, especially with regard to fresh water supplies
VOA News
A massive lake has been found under the ice in Greenland.  The 43,500 square kilometer body of water could have major implications for understanding sea level rise.

Researchers at the University of Utah say the lake, known as a “perennial firn aquifer,” remains liquid year-round despite the otherwise perpetually frozen landscape.

“Large amounts of snow fall on the surface late in the summer and quickly insulates the water from the subfreezing air temperatures above, allowing the water to persist all year long,” said Rick Forster, lead author and professor of geography at the University of Utah.

The Greenland Ice Sheet is vast, covering roughly the same area as the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah combined. The average thickness of the ice is 5,000 feet. In 2012, the ice sheet lost volume of 60 cubic miles – a record for melt and runoff.

“Of the current sea level rise, the Greenland Ice Sheet is the largest contributor – and it is melting at record levels,” said Forster. “So understanding the aquifer’s capacity to store water from year to year is important because it fills a major gap in the overall equation of meltwater runoff and sea levels.”

Since 2010, Forster’s team has measured snow accumulation Greenland and how it varies from year to year. The area they study covers 14 percent of southeast Greenland yet receives 32 percent of the entire ice sheet’s snowfall, but there has been little data gathered.

In 2010, the team drilled core samples in three locations on the ice for analysis. Team members returned in 2011 to approximately the same area, but at lower elevation. Of the four core samples taken then, two came to the surface with liquid water pouring off the drill while the air temperatures were minus 20 degrees centigrade. The water was found at about 10 meters below the surface at the first hole and at 25 meters in the second hole.

“This discovery was a surprise,” Forster says. “Although water discharge from streams in winter had been previously reported, and snow temperature data implied small amounts of water, no one had yet reported observing water in the firn that had persisted through the winter.”

The consequences of losing the Greenland Ice Sheet could be catastrophic. If all the water retained in the ice sheet melted, it is estimated that the global sea level would rise about 6 meters, says Forster.

Although no one is predicting a total meltoff all at once, keeping an eye on ice formation, runoff amounts and how the water is moving is critical to accurately predicting sea level changes.

Until now, calculations of the ice sheet mass changes did not include a year-round storage mechanism for liquid water.

Forster says the reservoir’s exact role is unknown. “It might conserve meltwater flow and thus help slow down the effects of climate change. But it may also have the opposite effect, providing lubrication to moving glaciers and exacerbating ice velocity and calving increasing the mass of ice loss to the global ocean.”

As for whether climate change caused the aquifer to form, Forster says that’s not clear, but simulations of the Greenland Ice Sheet going back to the early 1970s would suggest it has been around for some time.

The study was published online Sunday, Dec. 22, in the journal Nature Geoscience.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
December 23, 2013 2:00 PM
last one in is a dirty rotten egg.....


by: Edwin Thomas
December 23, 2013 12:45 PM
Every little bit of new data will help. Although, even now the climate change deniers are likely to greet any changes with "Liar, liar!"

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid