Join JPL scientist Josh Willis as he and the NASA Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) team work to understand the role that ocean water plays in melting Greenland's glaciers.

Transcript:

Josh Willis VO

There's enough ice here in Greenland to raise sea levels by twenty-five feet all the way around the world. It's an incredible amount of ice, and it's melting and adding to sea level rise.

For Oceans Melting Greenland, what we really want to do is measure the oceans, measure the ice, and watch them change together year on year and try to answer the question how much are the oceans melting away the ice as opposed to the air which is what most people studied so far.

It's really a breathtaking landscape. These giant mountains and canyons are all along the coast. When you look out the window, you really get a sense of just how huge these glaciers are, these gigantic rivers of ice that are draining the ice out of Greenland into the ocean. When they reach the ocean, then it's gets all broken and craggy and big chunks fall off. It's incredibly dramatic.

Kulusuk is just a tiny little town in Southeast Greenland, and we've been launching probes out

There's enough ice here in Greenland to raise sea levels by 25 feet, all the way around the world. It's an incredible amount of ice, and it's melting and adding to sea level rise.

For Oceans Melting Greenland, what we really want to do is measure the oceans, measure the ice, and watch them change together year on year and try and answer the question how much are the oceans melting away the ice as opposed to the air which is what most people studied so far.

It's really a breathtaking landscape. These giant mountains and canyons are all along the coast. When you look out the window, you really get a sense of just how huge these glaciers are, these gigantic rivers of ice that are draining the ice out of Greenland into the ocean. And then they reach the ocean, then it's gets all broken and craggy and big chunks fall off. It's incredibly dramatic.

Kulusuk is just a tiny little town in southeast Greenland, and we've been launching probes out of here for the past four or five days. It's already been a fantastic year for OMG measuring the oceans.

We launch 'em right out of this tube right over here. Open up the tube, you can look right down it and see the water passing by, or sometimes the icebergs, or clouds, or whatever it is we are flying over.

We slow down a little bit, and we just push these big grey cylinders out of the bottom of the plane, and they fall to the ocean and measure the temperature and salinity when they get there and radio it back to the plane.

We're really trying to look at the ice and the ocean all the way around Greenland, so we're dropping 250 profilers. We're going to cover the coastline all the way around, and in the spring we map out the glaciers with a radar also all the way around. So we're really looking at mapping all of the ocean-ice interactions in Greenland as best we can with one mission.

What we care about with OMG really is the breaking off at the edges. As the water eats away at the ice then it can actually speed up that breaking off part. And when you dump more ice in the oceans, then it causes sea level rise. So, OMG is really here to try and figure out how much are the oceans doing? How much is this kind of breaking off of the ice, it's called calving, how important is that relative to the melting at the surface? And more importantly, is the ocean causing some of this speed up of the calving. We think it is, but how widespread is it and how big an impact?

Even the smallest iceberg looks gigantic when you're right next to it. We saw an iceberg that was grounded in the bay. Remember, 90 percent of the iceberg is below sea level. So, if there's about ten meters, or about thirty feet of ice above sea level, then 300 feet are below.

It's a reminder that a lot of the stuff we're trying to measure is hidden below the surface of the ocean, hidden below the surface of the ice, and peering down into both of those is really at the core of what OMG is trying to do.

Every time a ton of ice comes off of Greenland, sea level goes up a tiny little bit and it's coming off Greenland at billions of tons per year.

It's interesting to meet some of the Greenlandic folks who have been here their whole lives. They've all watched the glaciers literally vanish before their eyes. They didn't need satellites and airplanes and scientists to tell them that Greenland was melting. They look out and see the glacier used to be here and now it's way up there.

Sea level rise is really a global problem. It's something we can't just ignore. Two thirds of the planet are covered by the oceans, and it's really the same ocean. I mean if ice is lost here, seal level rises back home in Los Angeles, it rises in Southeast Asia, in Australia, all across the planet.

Being here and seeing the ice disappearing and literally watching it fall into the ocean is really profound, and I think it's something that I, I hope that we help people understand with OMG that we all live on the same planet, and it's changing and we need to know how.

View all Videos