Tracking the Greenland meltwater

glacier melting, with people

meltwater teaser.jpgVery interesting work in the context of a significant increase in the melting of glacial land ice on the island of Greenland due to atmospheric warming:

a team of researchers led by faculty at the University of Georgia has discovered the fate of much of the freshwater that pours into the surrounding oceans as the Greenland ice sheet melts every summer. They published their findings today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

"Understanding the fate of meltwater is important, because research has shown that it can carry a variety of nutrients, which may impact biological production in the ocean," said study co-author Renato Castelao, an associate professor of marine sciences in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "There is also evidence that large freshwater inputs could alter ocean currents and affect the normal formation of sea ice."

The researchers created a simulation that tracks meltwater runoff under a variety of atmospheric conditions, and they were surprised to discover that most of the meltwater found off the west coast of Greenland actually originated from ice on the east coast.

"Meltwater from Greenland is directed by the surrounding ocean currents, but its fate depends on when and where the runoff occurs and the wind fields driving ocean currents," said study co-author Thomas Mote, Distinguished Research Professor of Geography at UGA.

Enormously complex work involving modeling and spatial monitoring that highlights why interdiciplinary teams are so critical. Congratulations to this multi-institutional team for their commitment and perseverence to following these developments and informing us about difficult-to-assess trends that flow from melting glaciers and their implications.

Image: A team from Rutgers University and the University of Georgia, led by Asa Rennermalm of Rutgers, measures meltwater runoff from the ice sheet margin in Greenland during summer 2013.