The melting of the ice sheet in Greenland has been a cause for concern in recent years due to its impact on global sea levels. As the ice sheet melts, the bedrock beneath shifts slightly, allowing researchers to track the rate of ice melt. A new method developed by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) now enables daily monitoring of ice mass loss, providing valuable insights into the processes behind the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet.

The new GPS-based method developed by researchers at DTU allows for the measurement of daily ice mass loss in Greenland. By observing the movement of the bedrock beneath the melting ice sheet, researchers can accurately track the rate at which ice is disappearing. This method represents a significant advancement in monitoring ice mass loss, compared to previous methods that provided only monthly or yearly estimates.

Impact on Climate Change

Greenland is losing approximately 5 cubic kilometers of ice per week on average, equivalent to draining Denmark’s largest lake, Arresø, 40 times a week. This rapid rate of ice melt has important implications for global sea levels, as the meltwater contributes to the overall rise in sea levels. The new GPS-based method allows entities like the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to make better estimates for future ice sheet melting and its impact on sea level rise.

In addition to providing valuable data for understanding climate change, the new GPS-based method can also be used for practical purposes. For example, the method can help warn residents in Greenland of the risk of flooded rivers if large amounts of meltwater are suddenly released. This early warning system can help prevent disasters such as the collapse of the bridge at Kangerlussuaq in 2012 due to extreme melting.

Measurements for tracking ice mass loss in Greenland are made using the Danish state’s GNET, which consists of 61 GNSS stations located around the country. GNSS technology, which includes systems like the American GPS and the European Galileo, allows for precise detection of movements in the bedrock with sub-millimeter precision. This network of stations plays a crucial role in monitoring climate change in Greenland.

The new GPS-based method and the study were developed in collaboration between DTU Space and DTU Computing Center, located at DTU Compute. The expertise and computing power of the center have been essential for handling large amounts of GPS data and running simulations for the project. Moving forward, continued collaboration between research institutions and organizations will be vital for further advancements in monitoring ice mass loss and understanding its impact on climate change.

The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet has far-reaching consequences for global sea levels and climate change. The new GPS-based method developed by researchers at DTU represents a significant step forward in accurately tracking ice mass loss in Greenland. By leveraging innovative technology and collaboration, researchers can gain valuable insights into the processes behind ice melting and its impact on the environment.


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