Friday 28 September 2012

The Ice Man Cometh

The British Geological Survey (BGS) has over the past few years undertaken a series of observations related to glaciers in Iceland. In addition to monitoring volcanic processes (such as those from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that erupted from under a glacier and severely disrupted European air traffic in 2010), BGS with partners from Iceland and other UK universities have been monitoring glaciers with respect to their stability in a changing climate regime. 

Location of the BGS Glacial Observatory at Virkisjökull/ Falljökull in southeast Iceland
In particular, this suite of glaciers located on the south eastern extremity of Iceland may be susceptible to changes in temperature related to sea water temperature and sea current regimes. This week the BGS chief scientist, Professor Denis Peach, visited the observatory with BGS staff and discussed further developments in monitoring. In particular, they propose to look at groundwater in a suite of drill holes on the edge and toe of the glacier and listening to the glacier's movements with seismic and acoustic arrays.

BGS Chief Scientist, Professor Denis Peach, visits the Iceland Glacier Observatory
BGS with other earth science national laboratories across Europe recently met to design a coordinated earth science infrastructure programme of monitoring.  It will build on the complementary nature of observing networks throughout Europe and will look at applying solid earth monitoring programmes (normally used for volanoes, landslides and earthquakes) to environmental problems, focussing on glacial movement and structure and the stability of permafrost and the mass balance in erosion processes.

The Iceland observatory is one node of a multi node development across Europe and the globe.

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