GLACIOLOGY

Losing traction at higher speeds

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Science  09 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6218, pp. 142
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6218.142-a

An Alaskan glacier sliding to its destruction

PHOTO: MOELYN PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

How, exactly, will glaciers and ice sheets respond to climate warming? We know that they will melt faster as temperatures rise, but the way they slide over the ground below also should be affected, and that could have a significant impact on how fast they fall apart at their margins. Zoet and Anderson conduct a laboratory study to investigate how drag between ice and the surface that supports it changes with increased sliding speed. They find that drag decreases with increased sliding speed if there exist the right kinds of gaps between the ice and the surface below, which means that weather or climate variability has the potential to cause even more rapid glacier motion, and thus faster sea-level rise.

J. Glaciology 10.3189/2015JoG14J174 (2014).

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