(ORDO NEWS) — For the past seven years, a team from the University of Cambridge has been studying meltwater lakes at the top of the Greenland ice sheet. Recent results show that water is penetrating inside the ice through cracks, causing melting from the bottom up.
Looks like nature has gone mad! How can ice melt from the bottom up?
As part of the work, the scientists tried to learn more about how meltwater flows, and what makes this process happen so quickly. Today, meltwater lakes form on the surface of the ice every summer as the ice sheet is exposed to higher temperatures.
Scientists note that earlier, when studying the basal melting of ice sheets and glaciers, they considered heat sources such as friction, geothermal energy, and latent heat released when water freezes.
However, they had never previously paid attention to the heat generated by flowing melt water. “The water that forms on the surface stores a lot of gravitational energy, and when it drains, the energy must go somewhere,” the authors write.
Studying the conditions at the bottom of the ice sheet proved difficult, but the scientists used a technique called phase-sensitive radio echo sounding, which allowed them to measure the rate of melt at the base of the glacier.
Some of these speeds have been found to be as high as on the surface, even though the surface is illuminated by sunlight but the base is not.
To understand the reasons for this, the authors of the study calculated the amount of meltwater flowing to the bottom of the glacier, which they concluded was as much as 82 million cubic meters daily during the summer of 2014.
The power generated by this amount of water is comparable to the power generated by the world’s largest hydroelectric plant at the Three Gorges Dam in China, the team said.
If we talk about the power that is applied to the entire ice sheet in the height of summer (almost a million square kilometers), then it produces more hydropower than the 10 largest hydroelectric power plants in the world combined!
The researchers believe that this effect, which was not accounted for in the ice sheet’s contribution to sea level rise, can only increase as the planet continues to warm.
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