Stories tagged ice sheets


Ice sheets in Greenland
Ice sheets in GreenlandCourtesy ...Tim
Did you know that glaciers could be up to two miles thick and weigh more than a million tons? Have you ever wondered how snowflakes become ice? And what’s the albedo effect?

The Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) has the answer to such questions and much, much more. Over the past four years, CReSIS has been developing technologies, conducting field investigations and compiling data to help understand the rapid changes in the polar ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. In conducting this research, their vision is to one day understand and predict the role of polar ice sheets in sea level change.

A total of five multi-disciplinary teams work together to conduct research allowing for efficient and well-coordinated progress. I took a closer look at the Satellite Measurements team and the instrumentation they’re using is quite fascinating. The instruments provide high-resolution information on everything from topography to temperature to surface melt. When comparing how these parameters change over time, the team can determine their effects on sea level, identify potential mechanisms controlling that effect, and then create computational models that explain these changes. You can even follow the field experiments that the center is currently conducting at their blog.

On top of all of that, CReSIS is also helping to inspire, educate and train K-12, undergrad and graduate students by encouraging the pursuit of careers in science and engineering as well as offering a variety of research opportunities. My personal favorite is the Ice, Ice, Baby lessons activities. Who cares if its designed for K-8 students! If you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day, I highly recommend making glacier goo. You can learn a lot while making a mess!


Ice capade: Aerial views of the ice sheet breaking at the Wilkins Ice Sheet in Antarctica show the massive amount of ice that's come free in the past month.
Ice capade: Aerial views of the ice sheet breaking at the Wilkins Ice Sheet in Antarctica show the massive amount of ice that's come free in the past month.Courtesy National Snow and Ice Data Center/NASA
So we’ve been grumbling the past few days about the latest round of snow and ice that’s descended upon us in the early days of spring. At least we’re a long way from Antarctica.

The National Snow and Ice Center today reported, and released photos, of a huge ice sheet collapse from the cold continent. About 160-square miles of ice have broken free from the Wilkins ice sheet since Feb. 28 in some major league size pieces. While the Wilkins ice sheet is about the size of Connecticut, one large portion of broken ice sheet is seven times larger than the Manhattan district of New York City.

While that’s a big chuck of ice to break free, larger ice collapses have happened two other times since scientists have been monitoring the site: in 1995 and 2002. Yet, the experts are saying that this latest ice break is another sign of global climate change.

Other portions of the ice shelf are hanging on by thin margins and one expert predicts that the entire shelf could be gone in 15 years. Cracks in the thin ice fill with water, which accelerates the melting, and leads to more major ice breaks.

Here's a link to some great video of the fragile ice sheet area from National Geographic.