Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Jason E. Box

Byrd Polar Research Center

The ocean's trigger effect on Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet instability

Wednesday — March 2, 2011
Pacific Forum — 3:00 p.m.

Suddenly, we appreciate that ongoing increases in global ocean heat content are destabilizing Earth's ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland. Rapid and synchronous ice sheet outlet glacier acceleration has recently been linked with marine-based glacier thinning triggered by incursion of warm ocean currents. Future projections of global sea level rise are being revised upwards, currently by a factor of 2, above those published as part of the Nobel Peace Prize winning 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fourth major assessment report.

Uncertainty still abounds. Developing knowledge to characterize ice-ocean interactions is a frontier that is leading glaciologists to recruit oceanographers and add to their repertoire a new science: marine glaciology. A leading glaciologist writes "the ocean environment around Greenland is vast, varied and complex. In order to constrain ice sheet evolution models, we will need to characterize the entire ocean system, not just a few ice shelves and fjords. At the zeroth order would be great. Right now, we are not even at order zero, we are still at the premonition stage."

This presentation will review the recent scientific history, colorfully illustrated with images and video from the field and with copious satellite imagery and animations.


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