There’s a Waterfall on Greenland Ice Sheet – Should We Be Worried?

Last year, the world’s tallest waterfall formed on the Greenland ice sheet, which drained a meltwater lake of about 5 million cubic meters of water. This is equal to 2000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This happened in 5 hours. A drone captured images in detail.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge recorded the phenomenon through the use of aerial drones. The study was published last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It studies the connection between the transfer of meltwater to the bottom of the ice and the rising global sea levels.

Before this study took place, they already knew that many lakes drain and that the fractures are very important in the lake drainage process, however, the formation of fractures – the when, how and where – were not studied before, not with the resolution and the details that we have now. This comes from Poul Christoffersen, who works at Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, who’s the leader of the research.

We’ve seen it thanks to a drone

These waterfalls happened because of the cracks that formed on the ice sheet, and they are the ones responsible for dumping vast quantities of surface water to the bed of ice – it can accelerate the movement of ice towards the sea. After the draining stops, lakes leave behind holes, which are called moulins, that allow meltwater to continue to go to the bottom of the ice sheet. The water basically lubricated the bed, and the ice flow becomes faster and faster.

Up until now, they believed that the acceleration of the Greenland ice sheet’s meltdown was thought to be short and that its impact was not as significant as it is on the ice sheet, but the team showed that the lakes could open fractures and result in more drainages of lakes.

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