Water probe is a breakthrough on predicting glacial movement

By on July 26, 2012

Graduate students in Greenland monitoring glacial movements and the effect climate change has on the icy behemoths successfully tested a probe that shows real-time glacial fluctuation, according to a report in Scientific American by one of the researchers.

The probe, designed through a joint program between MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, detects cues from meltwater believed to be responsible for glacial movement. The probe predicted movements based on peaks in this specific type of water, and the predictions were confirmed with GPS stations installed on the glacier by an Edinburgh University lab.

Andrew Tedstone, a graduate student at Edinburgh University, tracks glaciers via GPS satellites. Ben Linhoff, a Ph.D student at MIT, said that he compared data from Tedstone’s GPS tracking to data from a water probe, which Linhoff and a team at MIT developed. They found that GPS data matched the probe’s predictions.

Last year, Linhoff installed the probe at the base of the Leverett Glacier to measure meltwater.

The breakthrough is important as it gives scientists the ability to analyze and predict how a glacier is growing or shrinking. Glacial melt raises sea levels and is an indicator for climate change.

Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

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