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Published By

Dr. Dick van der Wateren



Hydrology, Climate Change, Modelling Studies, Ice Sheets, Glacier Hydrology, Greenland, Global Warming, meltwater


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Combined effect of ice warming and meltwater seepage may cause rapid melting of Greenland Ice Sheet

23.10.2010, Age: 3981 days

New in Geophys. Res. Lett.: Cryo-hydrologic warming: A potential mechanism for rapid thermal response of ice sheets.


Cryo-Hydrologic (CH) warming is proposed as a potential mechanism for rapid thermal response of glaciers and ice sheets to climate warming. We present a simple parameterization to incorporate CH warming in thermal models of ice sheets using a dual-continuum concept, which treats ice and the cryo-hydrologic system (CHS) as overlapping continua with heat exchange between them. The presence of liquid water in the CHS due to surface melt leads to warming of the ice. The magnitude and time-scale of CH warming is controlled by the average spacing between elements of the CHS, which is often of the order of just 10's of meters. The corresponding time-scale of thermal response is of the order of years-decades, in contrast to conventional estimates of thermal response time-scales based on vertical conduction through ice (∼102–3 m thick), which are of the order of centuries to millennia. We show that CH warming is already occurring along the west coast of Greenland. Increased temperatures resulting from CH warming will reduce ice viscosity and thus contribute to faster ice flow.

Phillips, T., H. Rajaram, and K. Steffen (2010), Cryo-hydrologic warming: A potential mechanism for rapid thermal response of ice sheets, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L20503, doi:10.1029/2010GL044397.

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