Contact

Cody Howard
School of Engineering
785-864-2936

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.



KU in the news
Discovery NewsTue, 12/16/2014
The Huffington PostTue, 12/16/2014
Jaclyn Carpenter, a junior studying American Studies, took a moment after finishing her finals to wander around Marvin Grove — know the feeling? But Jaclyn told us her semester was a good one. Her favorite class this year? Jewish American Literature, "because professor Cheryl Lester really knows how to engage with her classes." This made us want to know: What was your favorite class and why? Jaclyn added some advice: “You're only on this campus for four years, so take any free time you have to explore all the unique wonders it has." We love that idea, Jaclyn. #exploreKU

We want to know: What was your #BestofKU moment from 2014? http://t.co/NPZne1phJ9
Curiosity sparks KU paleontologist Chris Beard’s quest for man’s ancient cousins When he’s not scrutinizing ancient primate fossils in his KU lab, world-renowned paleontologist Chris Beard (http://bit.ly/1w3TQSj) is out stalking human evolutionary ancestors in remote corners of Libya, Turkey, China, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Egypt, Tunisia, or Kenya. Beard, who came to KU as a Foundation Distinguished Professor, has a passion for being out in the middle of nowhere and making a discovery — “There’s nothing better than that. It’s fabulous.”


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
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times