Model shows possibility of rapid glacial breakup

By on July 26, 2013

A newly released study on melting glaciers points to the possibility of rapid dissipation the ice giants, according to a University of Michigan press release.

A model developed for the study shows how glaciers crumble and drop icebergs, which then melt as they freely drift in the ocean.

Primary author Jeremy Bassis, assistant professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the U-M College of Engineering, said the model focuses on gravity as it relates to the thickness of a glacier.

Once a glacier passes an approximated threshold of one kilometer thick, it has a much greater tendency to crumble into the sea.

What’s more, vibration caused by an iceberg breaking off a glacier may cause more rapid disintegration as cracks spread throughout the behemoths.  The cracks can cause rapid dissipation of a glacier even when it is thicker than one kilometer.

If the model holds true, rapid glacial melting within the next 100 years could cause sea level rises to be closer to high estimates.

Image: The Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated and collapsed into the sea. Researchers have devised a new model of iceberg calving that can mirror this event. (Credit: NASA)

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