Melting Of Laurentide Ice Sheet Offers Insights To Climate Change Future

By on July 15, 2015

Scientists are using records of the Laurentide Ice Sheet to predict how ice may change in a warmer climate. (Courtesy of Oregon State University)


Scientists at Oregon State University have used historical records from the Laurentide Ice Sheet to determine how ice might respond to a warming climate in the future. The scientists looked back 9,000 years ago to a time when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising.

They used the surface mass balance of the ice sheet to determine that when the balance was generally positive, meaning the accumulation of snow was higher than the level of melting, the ice sheet began to disappear. However, a major shift happened when CO2 spiked. The ice sheet not only began melting, but was separating itself from the coast of Canada. From there, the ice dissolved entirely.

The biggest discovery of the study was that big shifts happen from small changes. The study also shows how sensitive glaciers can be to atmospheric changes. And scientists believe that there may be a ‘climatic threshold’ that must be reached before events like the melting of the Laurentide Ice Sheet happen.

Top image: Scientists are using records of the Laurentide Ice Sheet to predict how ice may change in a warmer climate. (Courtesy of Oregon State University)

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