Rising temperatures have seen rapid fluctuations in the level of meltwater lakes, with scientists pointing the finger at climate change.
Greenland is the largest island in the world, located between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. As you would expect, it’s a chilly place, and one that is on the front line of climate change. One sub-glacial lake disappeared over the course of a single season, and it was not an significant body of water; it had a capacity of 6.7 billion gallons.
Greenland’s sub-glacial lakes disappearing: Worrying quantities of meltwater
Climate change researchers have watched on in dismay as that particular lake disappeared, and another one filled and emptied twice over the past two years. The scientists claim that these developments offer further proof of the dangers of climate change.
“The fact that our lake appears to have been stable for at least several decades, and then drained in a matter of weeks – or less – after a few very hot summers, may signal a fundamental change happening in the ice sheet,” said Ian Howat, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University.
Greenland is home to the second largest ice sheet in the world, which is melting due to rising temperatures. The ice sheet’s drainage system is then overrun by meltwater, apparently leading to the draining of the aforementioned lakes.
Rising sea levels
Another problem is that the lake fills with water that is warmer than the surrounding ice, reducing the stiffness of the ice and allowing the water to escape into the sea.
“If enough water is pouring down into the Greenland Ice Sheet for us to see the same sub-glacial lake empty and re-fill itself over and over, then there must be so much latent heat being released under the ice that we’d have to expect it to change the large-scale behavior of the ice sheet,” co-author Michael Bevis explained.
The scientists now believe that new areas of ice are being melted because of the underground tunnels which carry warmer water, and they claim that further research in Greenland is crucial in the development of updated climate models. This new research proving the rapid draining of sub-glacial lakes into the sea suggests that scientists may have found the main cause of rising sea levels.