Discovery of Water in Helheim Glacier Leads Researchers Closer to Finding the Cause of Rising Sea Levels

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Helheim glacier!!!

A very hot topic that scientist are continuously researching is the fact that the sea levels are slowly rising. This is mostly due to the amount of glaciers melting because of the hot weather. Recently, studies have been conducted in Greenland by NASA, that show the melted water trapped in glaciers. This could actually be a major factor in our rising sea levels.

After the water escapes the glacier, it then has a clear pathway towards the ocean. The water that in the glacier is specifically trapped  in a layer of thin ice called a firn. In a glacier, this area is located between the solid ice, and newly fallen snow. However, within this compacted region of firn, large amounts of water get trapped. As the water slowly melts into the bedrock,  it soon has a clear path to the ocean. At first scientists thought that the water in the firn had nothing to do with the fact that the sea levels were constantly rising. They had hypothesized that the water confined in the region of the firn either froze, due to the temperature, or  the water simply reemerged onto the surface. However, in those two cases, the melted water would not have contributed to the rising sea levels.  

Different regions in Greenland also have varied ways in which the ice melts. In Western Greenland, most of the snow on the surface melts to create various lakes and rivers. Since the amount of snow that melts increases by each passing year, there are many networks of rivers that drain through the glacier’s ice into the bedrock underneath it,  where it will flow into the ocean. Southeast Greenland is totally different than Western Greenland. No lakes or rivers form at all in this part of the island from the meltwater. Instead, all of the meltwater gets trapped within the firn of glaciers. Since Southeast Greenland has many crevasses crisscrossing the land, the melted water in the firn will flow through them to create natural aquifers.

After conducting lots of research, NASA scientists claim that the water located within the firn would not freeze, no matter the circumstances of the temperature. Because the solid ice below it is colder, and the snow above it is warmer than the actual temperature of the air, the fresh fallen snow will act as an ‘incubator’ for the firn, making it so that the water will not freeze up. However, they still didn’t know if whether the liquid water would freeze up once it is flowing through the crevasses. NASA researches conducted an experiment by using a computer model to simulate the water flowing from one place to another, with temperature differences. The scientists found that the water would make the crevasses crack first, before it even had a chance to freeze up.

The amount of water that is draining into the bedrock and flowing into the ocean is increasing every year because of global warming. By modeling and experimenting with water channels within crevasses, NASA researchers will soon be able to understand better aquifer systems, and how  water that is stored away in a firn can actually make a big difference in sea level rise. Erika L, a seventh grader at Kraemer Middle School says, “ This new research could also help scientists stop sea level rise. ”.