Fibre-optic sensing technology being used to measure the Greenland Ice Sheet is providing scientists with new insights that will help fight climate change.
Through work led by a University of Cambridge research team in the region, a pioneering technique is being applied to gather vital information down to 1000 meters depths below the surface of the ice. Which is a really big deal. Because understanding the behaviours of glaciers and ice sheets allows researchers to better model how they move and are likely to move, in turn generating data on what that means for global sea-level rises.
“With typical sensing methods, we can only attach about a dozen sensors onto the cable, so the measurements are very spaced out,” said first author Robert Law, a PhD candidate at the Scott Polar Research Institute. “But by using a fibre-optic cable instead, essentially the whole cable becomes a sensor, so we can get precise measurements from the surface all the way to the base.”
The ability to accurately predict the future of the Greenland Ice Sheet is of huge importance, as it is the single largest contributor to global sea-level rise.
“This technology is a big advance in our ability to record spatial variations in ice temperature over long distances and at really high resolution. With some further adaptations, the technique can also record other properties, such as deformation, at similarly high resolution,” added Professor Bryn Hubbard, from Aberystwyth University.