Graph of the Day: Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Changes

February 9, 2011


The mass changes of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) are computed from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) inter-satellite range-rate observations for the period April 5, 2003 – July 25, 2009. The mass of the GIS has been computed at 10-day intervals and 200km spatial resolution from a regional high-resolution mascon solution (Luthcke and others, 2008 and 2006). The animation shows the change in mass referenced from April 5, 2003. The spatial variation in surface mass is shown in centimeters equivalent height of water. The time variation of the GIS mass is shown in the x-y plot insert with units of Gigatons.

credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

OK, that’s the geekspeak description. But in plain english, how do we know? What are the Grace Satellites? Heidi Cullen explains below.

The Grace satellite has been a powerful tool for weighing and measuring ice sheet changes north and south, as the indispensable The Way Things Break has discussed. Some of the most recent published research has noted:

Dynamic thinning of glaciers now reaches all latitudes in Greenland, has intensified on key Antarctic grounding lines, has endured for decades after ice-shelf collapse, penetrates far into the interior of each ice sheet and is spreading as ice shelves thin by ocean-driven melt.

Original paper here. Check Things Break for the discussion part 1 and part 2.

I like this video of scientists climbing into a roaring Greenland Moulin.  Climate deniers claim that greenhouse science comes from climate models and computers.  You’ll never see armchair critics like Anthony Watts, Lord Monckton or James Delingpole climbing down the lip of a roaring Greenland Moulin. This is science as it’s really practiced.

My favorite moment is at 00:45. Whoah, dude!

2 Responses to “Graph of the Day: Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Changes”


  1. Powerful videos, especially the one showing the scientists’ cushy grant money guzzling jobs.

    Geeky fact: The Grace satellites orbit the Earth separated by about 220 kilometers. The resolution of the measured distance between them is 1 micron. As the Earth spins below their polar orbit, they build a gravitational map of the entire planet.

    Data collected shows that Antarctica has been losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers of ice each year since 2002. The latest data reveal that Antarctica is losing ice at an accelerating rate, too.

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/20100108_Is_Antarctica_Melting.html


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