Home Natural Resource Management Navigation sats can quickly detect ice loss: Research

Navigation sats can quickly detect ice loss: Research

Ohio, US: Researchers from Ohio State University formulated a system whereby navigation satellites (GPS) can measure short term changes in the rate of ice loss in just six months. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hints at the potential of GPS to detect many consequences of climate change, including ice loss, the uplift of bedrock, changes in air pressure – and perhaps even sea level rise.

The method of detecting ice loss via GPS has been used before in Antarctica and Greenland. But previously, GPS could only detect changes over a period of several years, said project leader Michael Bevis, Ohio Eminent Scholar in Geodynamics and professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State. The new method aims to deliver results in only six months.

“Within the next year or so, we should be able to process the GPS data within a month of its being collected,” he said, “and then we can monitor abrupt changes in ice mass only a month or two after they occur.”

The key to the improvement is the network of GPS stations called, Greenland GPS Network (GNET ), that the researchers stationed around the Greenland ice sheet. More than 50 transmitters are planted close enough together to detect changes in uplift along most of the Greenland coast. These GPS antennas are supported on poles anchored into bare rock, and so they record the rise of the bedrock itself.

GNET’s measurements were so detailed that the researchers were able to determine what portion of bedrock motion was due to the ice melting away and what portion was due to seasonal swings in air pressure above the ice.

Source: Ohio University