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KU scientists key in uncovering Greenland aquifer

Tue, 01/07/2014

LAWRENCE — A hidden aquifer the size of Ireland recently discovered within the ice layers of a glacier in Greenland could hold the key to better understanding how annual melting at the ice surface could affect sea level rise.

The Dec. 22 issue of the prestigious scientific journal Nature details the existence of a significant amount of melt water stored in old compacted snow, known as firn. Radar technology developed by researchers at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) at the University of Kansas played a key role in identifying and confirming the previously undetected pool of water within the ice sheet. Richard Forster, professor of geography at the University of Utah, led the research project. Four KU researchers were cited as contributing authors.

Discovery of the aquifer could provide more details on how much melt water from firn-covered regions is partitioned into runoff and flows into the sea and how much is left behind in the ice sheet to refreeze. This, in turn, provides a bigger-picture look at how much annual surface heating could contribute to sea level rise.

The Nature article details how in April 2011, researchers stumbled upon the existence of vast amounts of water pooled below the glacial surface. The discovery happened during routine work drilling cores in the ice to measure the thicknesses of annually accumulating snow layers.

Forster and his colleagues were surprised to hit water 10 meters deep on their first drill, so they packed their equipment and moved a few miles in search of a spot that was solid ice. After hitting water a second time, they turned to thousands of radar images of the ice from the surface to the bed gathered by CReSIS. These data helped determine the size of the subsurface layer of water, which ranges from five to 50 meters deep across an area of nearly 850 kilometers of southern Greenland.

The article also makes the case for further research and additional measurements of Greenland’s unexplored interior regions.

KU’s contributing authors are Prasad Gogineni, distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science and CReSIS director; Carl Leuschen, associate professor of electrical engineering and CReSIS deputy director; John Paden, associate scientist, and Cameron Lewis, graduate research assistant.

Nature was first published in 1869 and is one of the most cited interdisciplinary scientific journals in the world.

CReSIS was established by the National Science Foundation in 2005 with the mission of developing new technologies and computer models to measure and predict the response of sea level change to the mass balance of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Data collected with CReSIS technologies have helped uncover a massive canyon buried under miles of ice in Greenland and provided an updated, more detailed topographic map of Antarctica under its blanket of ice.



Travel to New York and perform on one of the greatest stages in the nation? KU's Wind Ensemble did just that. In March 2013, the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble made the trip of a lifetime to perform the world premiere of composer Mohammed Fairouz’s Symphony No. 4, In the Shadow of No Towers at Carnegie Hall. http://bit.ly/1nXMXr9 Tags: University of Kansas Wind Ensemble KU School of Music Carnegie Hall #KUdifference #music #symphony
Journey to Carnegie Hall
One of America’s most esteemed concert bands, the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble, came to Carnegie Hall to introduce a commissioned work with the potential to resonate well beyond the usual college circuit... - New York Times review

A #KUprof is working to get mobile phones to identify disease-spreading insects. http://t.co/h64UAof9K2 http://t.co/RPgC4uLXVy
University of Kansas Homecoming Parade 2014 The University of Kansas celebrated its 102nd Homecoming, "Roll with the 'Hawks,'" Sept. 21-27, 2014. Watch the video to see highlights from some of the week's activities, and from Friday's Homecoming Parade and pep rally featuring our Grand Marshal and KU Alumnus, Rob Riggle. Rock Chalk!


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
1 of 9 public universities with outstanding study abroad programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
$260.5 million in externally funded research expenditures
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times