KU Researchers Make New Discoveries in Glaciers

Oct 2nd, 2014 | By | Category: News, Research

Kansas University researchers say they have discovered new details below two glaciers that will help provide more accurate predictions about rising sea levels caused by climate change.

The findings by the KU-based Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) were published in the lead article in the most recent issue of Journal of Glaciology.

The research focuses on the Jacobshavn Glacier in Greenland and Byrd Glacier in Antarctica.

The research team successfully gathered data to map the topography of the beds of the two glaciers.

“Bed topography is very important to understanding and modeling of the speedup of glaciers like Jakobshavn,” said Prasad Gogineni, distinguished professor in the KU School of Engineering and director of CReSIS.

The Jakobshavn Glacier is moving ice into the ocean at a record rate, traveling 150 feet per day or about 10 miles per year. This is adding more ice to the ocean and making sea levels rise.

“Models that accurately represent the processes causing this speedup of fast-flowing glaciers are essential to predicting the behavior of ice sheets in a warming climate,” Gogineni said.

Using high-sensitive radars, CReSIS was able to capture signals that were weakened by rough ice surfaces.

“We actually improved the technology where we could get the necessary data and do better predictions in the future,” Gogineni said.

At Byrd Glacier, CReSIS researchers found that data collected in the late 1970s on the glacier’s depth, which has served as the basis for all computations on the ice sheet’s behavior, were off by more than a mile in some areas. That means computer models must now be overhauled.

CReSIS collaborated with the University of Arkansas on image processing of radar echograms.

Gogineni credited the National Science Foundation and NASA for helping improve radars and extraction techniques.

KU is the lead institution of CReSIS, which has made numerous advancements in research on ice sheets and their effect on sea levels. The team includes six institutional partners and scientists, researchers and engineers throughout the world.

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