NASA sheds light on icy Greenland's heated past

A new study uses thermal mapping to examine Greenland's heated geologic past.
By Tyler MacDonald | Aug 04, 2018
A NASA scientistmapped the heat that is escaping from underneath the Greenland Ice Sheet, shedding light on the dynamics that shape and dominate terrestrial planets.

The study was headed by Yasmina M. Martos, who gathered information on gravity, magnetic fields, and geology that to provide clues to the distribution and amount of heat that lies underneath part of Greenland.

The heat map she created revealed a thermal track underneath Greenland, a portion of the North American continent, and shows its movement throughout history.

"I don't think there is any other place on Earth where a plume history has been recorded by a piece of continent that hasn't been affected by it at the surface," Martos said. "But it's there, so we can use thermal heat to understand the history of the region."

By tracking these geodynamics, scientists can better understand the evolution of planets such as Earth. Not only that, the information feeds sea-level-change models on our planet by aiding in the prediction of behavior ice. This is important for land that is buried below ice and difficult to reach. And research suggests that over 80 percent of Greenland is covered by ice.

"We would expect Greenland to have a more uniform signal of geothermal heat flow in its interior, but that's not the case," Martos said.

Her modeling tools will help scientists shed light on the effect that below-surface heat exerts on things like breakage or melt at the base of glaciers and ice sheets on Earth. Not only that, it could help in the study of other rocky planets in the Milky Way.

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