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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.



With graduation just a few months away, James Robert Wilson, senior in sport management, took this photo of the Memorial Campanile while looking forward to KU commencement traditions. After walking through the campanile and down the Hill in May, Wilson plans to take a summer road trip, then pursue a master’s degree and help coach track and field. Wilson, who is from Abilene, Kansas, says, "Coming to KU has put me in contact with people from all over the world and opened my eyes to many new cultures.” His advice to all Jayhawks: "Make the most of your time here by trying new things.” Our advice to graduating Jayhawks: Enjoy your last semester. Where will your time at KU take you? Tags: #exploreKU #Graduation University of Kansas School of Education

She’s a legend — with a genius grant. See how Sarah Deer earned this prestigious award. http://t.co/o8cvXdKvjz https://t.co/6TxAurc4ME
KU welcomes President Obama Jan. 22, 2015, was a historic day on the Hill: President Barack Obama visited the University of Kansas campus (http://bit.ly/POTUSatKU), the first sitting president to do so in a century. More than 7,000 people — including many students and faculty who had spent hours in line to get tickets for the event — packed inside KU’s Anschutz Sports Pavilion to hear the president speak. Welcomed by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little with “Barack Chalk, Jayhawk!” Obama told the gathering “I’m a Kansas guy,” because his mother was from Wichita and grandparents were from Augusta and El Dorado. In his 35-minute talk, the president discussed themes (see official White House transcript http://1.usa.gov/1yMWJqy) from his 2015 State of the Union address, including his goal to lower the cost of attending college.


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