Published: Jan. 31, 2011

The research of Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) Research Scientist Thomas Phillips, CEAE Professor Harihar Rajaram, and CIRES Director Konrad Steffen was recently published in Geophysical Research Letters and highlighted on the CU News Center website. Their study shows that water flowing through ice sheets can increase ice warming and ice flow much more rapidly than predicted by conventional models, which typically focus only on the effects of warmer air on the ice sheet surface and heat transfer processes within the ice. Their results suggest that ice sheets such as the Greenland ice sheet may warm in response to climate change within decades, much faster than previously thought.  Warmer ice (still well below the melting point) is less viscous and can flow more readily.  However, this process is not the "death knell" for the ice sheet. Even under such conditions, it would take thousands of years for the Greenland ice sheet to disappear.

The full research highlight can be viewed here and the paper abstract can be viewed here. The paper was also highlighted in Nature and as an American Geophysical Union (AGU) journal highlight.