Tags: greenland | ice | skyscrapers | underground

Greenland's Ice Skyscrapers Caused by Years of Melting, Refreezing

By    |   Wednesday, 18 Jun 2014 10:32 AM

Greenland's northern ice sheet was described as containing underground "skyscrapers" by scientists who've looked deeply into the frozen world for the first time.

"They simply look spectacular," Kirsty Tinto, a geophysicist at Columbia University, said of the ice formations, according to The Guardian. "Everything was just flat parallel lines. That is how ice is supposed to be. But here it is breaking all the rules. You get these crazy, folded, distorted, overturned, undulating things at the bottom of the ice, and they are the size of skyscrapers."

The underground landscape was surveyed by NASA's IceBridge flights to map ice loss at both poles using ice-penetrating radar, and results were published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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Scientists were surprised to discover that the smooth columns of ice — some as big as Manhattan — were not underground mountain ranges made of rock and soil, but pure ice. They suspect the ice formed such patterns during alternating periods of warming and cooling — melting and re-freezing over hundreds of thousands of years.

"We think the refreezing process uplifts, distorts, and warms the ice above, making it softer and easier to flow," said the study's lead author, Robin Bell, a geophysicist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

According to a Columbia University post from The Earth Institute, Bell proposed in a 2011 study that ice sheets can grow from the bottom up, not just from the top-down accumulation of falling snow. The new findings may eventually support that theory, showing that re-freezing at the bottom of the ice sheet creates a more complex environment than previously thought.

Because of the unique layering of the ice, scientists also say the surveys of the sheets might provide new insights into the history of Earth's climate.

"If we want to understand how ice is going to respond to climate change, we have to understand its fundamental dynamic," said Tinto.

"It is not just that you are melting the surface and the surface is just running into the sea. There is a complicated and quite beautiful system running through the ice and you have to understand it top to bottom to understand what it is doing."

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Greenland's northern ice sheet was described as containing underground "skyscrapers" by scientists who've looked deeply into the frozen world for the first time.
greenland, ice, skyscrapers, underground
384
2014-32-18
Wednesday, 18 Jun 2014 10:32 AM
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