Many of the world’s glaciers contribute to sea-level rise through ice breaking off into the ocean in a process called ‘calving’. However, the way ice calves from a glacier, which is poorly understood, may not occur in the way previously thought, according to a study published this week in Nature Geoscience by C3W scientists from Swansea University.
Over the summers of 2010 and 2011, Timothy James and colleagues from Swansea’s Glaciology Group monitored the front of a large glacier called Helheim on Greenland’s southeast coast using consumer-grade cameras and specialised mapping methods to produce daily 3D models of the glacier as it flowed into the ocean.
“This is an important finding because computer models that try to predict glacier behaviour currently do not account for this way of losing glacier ice to the sea.”
Understanding glacier behaviour is very important for predicting how much and how fast sea-level will rise in a warming climate and measurements like these will help to improve these predictions.
This research received support from The Leverhulme Trust, the Climate Change Consortium for Wales (C3W) and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the European Union 7th Framework Programme, and the Welsh Institute for Sustainable Environments (WISE).
The authors are part of the Swansea University’s Glaciology Group, world leaders in understanding the processes that drive changes in the earth’s ice stores and measuring past and future glacier contributions to sea-level rise.
Buoyant flexure and basal crevassing in dynamic mass loss at Helheim Glacier Timothy D. James*, Tavi Murray, Nick Selmes, Kilian Scharrer and Martin O’Leary Nature Geoscience, published online 13 July 2014. Abstract (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2204)