Home Science Hydrologically induced basal slip behind Greenland’s disappearing lake

Hydrologically induced basal slip behind Greenland’s disappearing lake


A new study has put an even clearer picture up for the science community to look at, as scientists have finally determined the true cause of the 2006 draining of 12 billion gallons of water from one of Greenland’s largest glacial lakes. The lake spanned more than 2.2-miles and was one of the largest on the entire body of land, but research published just a couple years after the original draining blamed what are called “hydro-fractures.”

Until now there has been a ton of speculation on the hydro-fractures, and what their role might be in this entire ordeal. However, new research has shown that melting ice sheets caused those hydro-fractures. What is reveals is that the melting caused movement, and when the movement took place – it spontaneously drained billions of gallons of water. The problem is that this spontaneous melting might be the biggest sign of global warming to date.

Laura Stevens of MIT, who was the first author of the study pointed out that, “The images would show the lake there one day, and gone the next day.” She went on to point out that, “So we’ve known for the last 10 to 15 years that the water could disappear quickly.” However, this isn’t the first piece of research that has shown that this could happen in a very short period of time.

Sarah Das, co-author of the study from 2008 pointed out that the lakes could disappear from these hydro-fractures. Stevens also pointed out that this study improves on the previous one, by taking advantage of more information and data. She continued, “The coverage of GPS stations was not dense enough. This study goes beyond previous studies on the lakes, because we have 16 GPS stations, as opposed to one or four.”


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Stevens also pointed out that the long-term benefits of this study would be immense. She added, “Our discovery will help us predict more accurately how supraglacial lakes will affect ice sheet flow and sea level rise as the region warms in the future.” As global warming continues to impact our bodies of water around the world, this is something that will become a chief need, in terms of data and research. This study sets the table for future studies that will likely go even further in-depth, in analyzing what this team has already found.

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