The researchers used a fiber-optic detection system to obtain more accurate estimates of the properties of ice anywhere in the Greenland ice sheet.
Tracking changes in vast ice masses is key to understanding the impact of climate change on the planet. Researchers in Greenland have developed a new instrument that has increased the accuracy of such measurements to an unprecedented level. The technology uses a combination of fiber optic cables and laser pulses to obtain temperature readings from the surface to the bottom of the Greenland Ice Sheet. With the help of such a system, scientists have gained a clear understanding of the changes that are taking place in the second largest ice sheet in the world.
The technology uses a fiber optic cable that emits laser pulses along its entire length, extending from the surface of the shield to its base – 1,000 meters down. By analyzing the distortion of scattered light when the pulses hit ice, the system determines its temperature.
The new tool is already changing scientists’ ideas about the distribution of temperature in ice sheets.
Previously, it was believed that the temperature of ice sheets shifts at a smooth angle. Moreover, the hottest segments are located at the surface level, where sunlight enters, and also at the base, where they are heated by geothermal energy and friction, when the ice sheet slides along the subglacial scene towards the coastline.
A new study has shown that temperature dispersion is more heterogeneous. It is characterized by spatial deformations that heat the ice. They accumulate at the boundaries between ice of different ages and types. Perhaps the deformations appeared due to volcanic emissions in the past.