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Research examines new links between retreating glaciers and global warming

Research examines new links between retreating glaciers and global warming

Increased volume of glacier melt water is increasing speed in which glaciers are retreating. Credit: University of Southampton

University of Southampton scientists are using innovative technology to monitor the behavior of glaciers in real time, in a new bid to understand the link between their retreat, global warming and rising sea levels.

The Southampton Researchers, who are part of the international Glacsweb project, have developed technology to monitor glacier behavior. They have a unique sensor probes placed on, and underneath the glacial ice. These sensors measure temperature, pressure, stress, weather and subglacial movement.

The information gathered is important in understanding and glacier's dynamics and this data helps the team to study climate change.

As part of the team's latest investigation, data retrieved from Skalafellsjökull, Iceland, showing the increased volume of glacier melt water is the speed in which glaciers in the area are shrinking.

Moreover, the study, published in Nature Communications, revealed how melt water produces a distinctive seasonal style of glacier stick-slip motion, showing that small small events occur every day during the summer and during the winter there are larger multi-day events related to warmer days. As a result, for the first time, the team has been able to relate these processes to sedimentology.

These findings demonstrate how small changes in melting, driven by air temperature rises, have a significant effect on glacier's behavior. They also show that during winter, contrary to expectations, they are very active.

Antarctic as well as the Quaternary ice sheets.

Jane Hart, Professor of Geography at the University of Southampton and author of the study, said: "All glaciers are retreating which is effecting sea level rises and glacier melt can accelerate the retreat. have designed probes which were put into them and we were able to retrieve live date for the first time.

"Glaciers all over the world are retreating, but the rate they are dependent on numerous factors. Those in Iceland are retreating at different rates and both have rapidly growing lakes, which threatens to cover the entire glacier front, and affect their stability."

"As part of this latest study we hope to determine what is controlling their velocity, the rate of lake growth and how this growth is affecting ice retreat as we continue to contribute to fundamental research in glaciology and wireless sensor networks."

The team is now developing new technologies to investigate and series of other glaciers resting on unconsolidated sediments from both Iceland and elsewhere. This includes the first connected GPS system. Initial results show that they are also responding to changes in melt during both summer and winter.

Glacsweb aims to use technological advances to understand what happens beneath glaciers and how they are affected by climate.

Kirk Martinez, Professor of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, added: "An important challenge today is to understand climate change and its effect on sea level rise. Glaciers are key element, but their behavior is poorly understood. of West Antarctica's ice is not only controlled by snow fall and surface melting but also by processes under the ice.

"This research gave us a lot of exciting technical challenges and it is great to see that the data it produced is useful to earth science. The emergence of small, low cost accurate GPS units has allowed us to put together and solar powered system which measures ice position and sends the data quickly and efficiently. "

Scientists pioneer wireless sensors to explore little known glacier phenomenon

More information:
Jane K. Hart et al. Surface melt driven summer diurnal and winter multi-day stick-slip motion and to sedimentology Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-019-09547-6

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University of Southampton

                                                 Research examines new links between retreating glaciers and global warming (2019, April 29)
                                                 retrieved 29 April 2019

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