Climate Change

Published on April 17th, 2012 | by James Ayre


Greenland Ice Sheet Slipping into the Ocean

April 17th, 2012 by

The Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean than previously thought as a result of massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, similar to snow sliding off of a roof on a sunny day, according to a new study by the University of Colorado.

The draining of lakes may also lead directly to sea level rise. This is the first evidence that researchers have to suggest that surface lakes have been draining more often as a result of the increase in meltwater rather than increase in size. The meltwater pools on the surface of the ice sheet during the summer months, and when pressure gets too high, the ice cracks and the water drains to the space between the ice sheet and the ground.


The research was done by using satellite images and feature recognition software, monitoring around 1000 lakes over a ten year period. As the climate has warmed, the massive glacial lakes have been draining more frequently, with drainages 3.5 times more likely to occur during the warmest years compared to the coldest years.

20120417-124452.jpgAround 1 million cubic meters of melt waterdrains to the ground in a day or two during a typical drainage.

Once there, it lubricates the surface of the ice sheet and the ground, and accelerates the slip into the ocean.

However the meltwater can also form drainage channels that flow directly into the ocean and stop the meltwater from building up enough to accelerate the slippage of the ice sheet.

Research associate William Colgan is quoted as saying, “Lake drainages are a wild card in terms of whether they enhance or decrease the ice sheet’s slide.”

Source: University of Colorado Boulder
Image Credits: Konrad Steffens/University of Colorado, Ted Pheffer/University of Colorado

Keep up to date with all the most interesting green news on the planet by subscribing to our (free) Planetsave newsletter.

Tags: , , , , ,

About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

Back to Top ↑
  • Connect!

  • 5 Ingredients For A Green Life

    Green Living Info
  • Advertisement

  • 7 Ways to Go Solar

    Solar Power Growth
  • 8 Electric Car Benefits

    electric car benefits
  • Advertisement

  • 10 Bicycling Benefits

    Dutch Bicyclist
  • Save $10,000/Year Riding Transit

    transit savings
  • Advertisement

  • Electric Cars List (US & Europe)

    Solar Power Growth
  • Top Posts On Planetsave

  • Free News from Planetsave!

  • Tell us Your Sustainability Story!

  • Go Solar

    Want to save the planet? Want to live green? Want to save some serious cash money? Go solar! The cost of solar panels today is at a serious low. Go and get a solar quote and home solar report for your home... and then help save the planet!
  • Search the IM Network