Thu, Nov 05, 2015 - Page 9 News List

Scientists add to climate data on Greenland mission

The US government spends about US$1 billion per year to support Arctic and Antarctic research, while the researchers are aware their work costs ‘a tremendous amount of taxpayer money’

By Coral Davenport, Josh Haner, Larry Buchanan and Derek Watkins  /  NY Times News Service, ON THE GREENLAND ICE SHEET

But the battery continued to wane, so Pitcher took gel hand warmers from his gloves and tucked them into the battery’s silver jacket. Success. The battery stayed warm and functional.

For the rest of their time on the ice, the scientists would have to ration the hand warmers. Saving the life of the battery would save the mission to record the first comprehensive on-the-ground, empirical data on the flow of a river off the ice sheet.

The scientists are to use the data, which they expect to publish in the coming months, to test whether climate models are accurate. The data can then be used to create a new model to estimate the amount of water flowing from thousands of similar rivers.

The data gathered from the river at the top of the sheet will be compared with measurements the scientists have taken at its foot. With both sets of data, the scientists can help create the most accurate projections to date of the rate of sea level rise.

They might even learn, Smith said, that the water is refreezing within the ice sheet and that sea levels are rising more slowly than models project.

For three days and three nights, the scientists continued to measure the river, as up to 1.6 million liters of water a minute poured off the ice and into the moulin. On the final morning, the team, tired but elated, gathered by the river as the boogie board made its final trip. By then, Ryan’s backup drone had safely completed its mapping mission. Overstreet broke open a celebratory bag of dried mangoes — a lavish treat for the ice campers.

“It’s hard to make the choice to come on projects like this, but everything in my life has prepared me to come out here,” Overstreet said. “We go from battling the river to working with it, and then we learn so much from it.”

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