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What is really happening to the Greenland icecap?
Date:11/3/2008

ctions. In the case of the meltwater, estimates of the annual total vary by a factor of five from 50 gigatons (GT) to around 250 GT, and this level of uncertainty makes future predictions almost meaningless. "Laser satellites can detect elevation changes within 10 cm accuracy - but do not consider compaction of the snow," said Murray. "Other satellites using radio waves have a problem with penetration of the signal into the snow. And, yet another method from satellites, measuring the 'weight' of the ice sheet covers too large areas - so you also detect weight changes outside the ice sheet." But at least these multiple sources of data have the potential of being combined to yield more accurate estimates.

Not surprisingly, given these uncertainties, it is unclear even what the immediate future holds for the Greenland ice cap. As Murray noted, recent high levels of thinning in the south and around the edges have taken climatologists by surprise, but there is no guarantee it will continue. "There is much uncertainty presently, because observations of thinning have come as a surprise," said Murray. "We can basically say that three scenarios are possible regarding the enhanced thinning which has been observed recently. One is that it will keep escalating. Secondly it may remain constant even though the climate gets warmer, and thirdly the enhanced rate of thinning may stop altogether, with future thinning being purely the result of melting."

It is not clear yet which of these scenarios will transpire, but Murray and Bggild are convinced that the ESF workshop has prepared the ground for substantial progress, by bringing together the relevant diverse skills in glaciology, climatology, geology, modelling and satellite imaging. The workshop, Sea-Level Rise From The Greenland Ice Sheet, was held in Mallorca, Spain in May 2008.


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Contact: Professor Tavi Murray
t.murray@swansea.ac.uk
44-017-926-02269
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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