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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Greenland's Rivers and other stories

Greenland's Rivers and other stories

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, January 13, 2015/Categories: natural history, photography, environment, climate change

When you think of Greenland, images of a frozen, ice-bound, glacial landscape come to mind. However, the huge island is covered with huge rivers that drain off melt-water into the north Atlantic Ocean. Publishing in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  ( PNAS ) researchers at  UCLA  and  CalTech-JPL  noted:

"rivers of glacial melt-water flowing over Greenland's frozen surface may be contributing as much to global sea level rise as all other processes that drain water from the melting ice sheet combined."

Greenland rivers observed from aerial helicopter surveys  (credit: UCLA and Caltech/JPL)

According to a UCLA announcement, because the ice sheet is so unsteady and the amount of territory to be covered was so vast, the researchers moved around by helicopters. To map the river networks and compute their flow rates, they used military-grade satellite imagery, buoys outfitted with GPS technology, and a drone boat especially designed for them by a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer who had worked on the Mars Rover. 
A short video documents some of the UCLA/JPL findings from their field research in Greenland:

It is worth remembering that environmental factors, like ice melting, ignore political, social, and national boundaries responding in their own geophysical realities, In another environmental report published separately, re-evaluation of 20th Century sea-level data, appearing  Nature , re-evaluated the rate of sea-level rise. During last 20 years of the Century, the rise increased significantly in comparison to the preceding 80. The Harvard authors noted the: "new acceleration is about 25% higher than previous estimates and it could mean some projections for future  (sealevel) rises will  have to be revised upwards."

You might assume findings in these two unrelated environmental studies might have a connection. As one researcher commented: “Greenland is really the big player for sea level rise in the future.”

It seems like it might be wise to keep all those life-boats on ready alert.


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