Scientists solve mystery of disappearing glacial lake

A group of researchers in the United States has succeeded in cracking the puzzle of disappearing glacial lakes in Greenland.

Last year, sudden disappearance of a meltwater lake resting on an ice sheet in Greenland left researchers around the globe shell-shocked. Now, a research team from the US is claiming that it has successfully figured out the factors that played key roles in the mysterious draining of the glacial lake. In addition, the team is also claiming that the findings of their research are indicating a global rise in sea level.

The said study is a joint effort of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Lake water tends to disappear rapidly due to the presence of an entity called “moulins”, which are basically vertical channels found in ice sheets. These vertical channels keep on funneling water above and underneath the glacier.

Glacial Lake

Continuous movements of the moulins trigger formation of cracks in the surface underneath the supra-glacial lakes; these cracks allow the water in the lakes to drain away within a very short period of time, usually just a few days.

According to Laura Stevens, the study’s lead author, the findings of this new study will help researchers to make more accurate predictions about the effects of supra-glacial lakes on rise in sea levels and flow of ice sheets when the region will become even warmer. Stevens is a graduate student of Oceanography in a joint program by MIT and WHOI.

Draining of the glacial lakes is one of the most prominent causes of the rise in sea levels. According to the research team under Stevens, the larger part of the water entering the ocean is coming from warmer parts of ice sheets exhibiting moulins’ activities. This means there are greater chances of flooding the sea from warmer regions of Greenland than other parts of the country.

Another related study was conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University and the University of Cornell. The said research team discovered that two lakes in Greenland have disappeared mysteriously. According to information provided by the research team, the vanished lakes had billions of gallons of water in it, all of which disappeared suddenly. You can read the paper on the June 4 edition of science journal Nature.

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  • Amazing. This is the first time in Earth’s geologic history that glaciers have melted.
    What shall we Chicken Littles DO?!?