OMG – New NASA Program Findings

The research ship M/V Cape Race on Greenland's northwest coast during OMG's survey of the seafloor. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA does have a program called OMG; it actually stands for Oceans Melting Greenland.

A little background about the research program:

The program exists to track the extent of Greenland Ice melt. Scientists project global sea levels to rise. NASA is calling it one of the “major” challenges of this century.

The OMG program will help establish a basis of how quickly melting will occur and provide a better understanding why it is happening.
Melting ice on Greenland isn’t as simple as just knowing that warmer temperatures cause more melting. A multitude of factors can contribute to melting, including warm ocean water, different currents, layers of water (mixing of fresh water/salt water), the topography, and the way that coastal glaciers interact with all of those.

This program launched back in the spring of 2015.

Not only is OMG projected to help with all of that, but it will also provide improved mapping of the shape and depth of the sea floor in regions where possible melting will take place.

Simply put, OMG’s goal is to find out where and how fast seawater is melting the glacial ice.

Why is this Important?

Melting of Greenland ice is the largest source of ocean level rise right now.
The melting of the Greenland ice sheet has potential to add over 20 feet to sea level over time, but for now it is averaging 1 millimeter a year. While that seems small, that amount can start to increase if melting intensifies.

Some of the highlights

One of the main findings is that cold meltwater is significantly influencing downstream ocean temperatures. In one example they found cooled meltwaters 100 miles from the source.

In basic terms this helps spell out two things: how much melting has occurred and how much heat is available to melt glaciers. If more cool water is present, then more melting has occurred.

The data are showing that the west side of Greenland is more at risk of melting.

OMG is also giving insight into what particular glaciers are more prone to melt. It does so by being able to map how deep glaciers actually are and–based on water temperatures circulating around Greenland–can determine if glaciers are more vulnerable or not. Typically warmer water will be found at deeper depths. This is because the fresh cool water weighs less and will stay closer to the surface and the heavier warmer saltwater will stay below the cool layer. With warmer water typically being found at deeper depths, bigger glaciers will be more prone to ocean melting. This is because the warm water interacts with the glacier at its base.

OMG is giving researchers a better understanding of the topography surrounding glaciers. This will help future modeling concerning rate of melting and projecting future losses.

What happens next?

One of the goals of this project is to be able to model how quickly and how much melting can possibly occur, and much more information should be available in just a few years of the OMG program.

Links:
Overview of OMG:
https://omg.jpl.nasa.gov/portal/
For more information click the article below:
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasa-uci-reveal-new-details-of-greenland-ice-loss

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