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Scientists find 56 lakes under the Greenland Ice Sheet
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Jun 26, 2019

Defense bill calls for military port on Arctic Ocean
Washington (UPI) Jun 24, 2019 - The defense bill in the U.S. Congress specifies that a new strategic port in the Arctic Ocean must be identified and designated.

The action is meant to counter Russian advances in the Arctic, notably by its submarine fleet, as the ocean warms and becomes easier to navigate.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act is expected to receive a vote in the Senate this week. It directs the Secretary of Defense to work with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration to submit a report to Congress evaluating potential sites for the port. The defense secretary must then designate, within 90 days, one or more of the choices as a "Department of Defense Strategic Arctic Port."

Russia has 7,000 miles of Arctic coast. It regards the region as an area in need of security, as well as a potential economic jackpot. Russian President Vladimir Putin estimated the Russian Arctic region's mineral wealth at $30 trillion. A Senate Armed Services Committee report to Congress said that the polar circle contains undiscovered oil and gas as well as an "abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds and millions of square miles of untapped resources."

The U.S. Congress has noted that melting ice caps could open new trade routes in the region, but a lack of icebreakers, ships designed to break through thick ice. The United States Coast Guard has two, both in need of repair, while Russia has about 40, several of which are nuclear-powered, in the region.

Russia also has a military base, known as "Northern Clover," under construction in northern Siberia, as well as 19 deep-water ports and 14 airfields in the region.

"The opening of the Arctic is an opportunity to work collaboratively with other nations to maintain security and stability in the region and with those who are willing to help maintain the freedom of the seas," said Adm. James Foggo, commander of US Navy in Europe, earlier this month.

Researchers have found an additional 56 lakes under the Greenland Ice Sheet, bringing the island's total number of subglacial lakes to 60.

Projecting ice loss in Greenland remains difficult, but studies suggest the island's glaciers are melting more rapidly than they were a few decades ago. As Greenland continues to melt, sea levels are expected to rise.

Understanding the movement of water beneath the ice sheet is vital for scientists trying to predict the ice sheet's future behavior.

Subglacial lakes form when meltwater becomes trapped and pools at the bottom of an ice sheet. Ice melted by the pressure of the thick, heavy icy above can supply the lakes with water, as can ice melted by Earth's geothermal heat or heat produced by the flow of the ice. Surface meltwater can also filter to the base of the ice sheets through crevices.

By more accurately mapping and tracking the changes of Greenland's subglacial lakes, scientists can gain a better understanding of how the island's ice sheet drains. A more detailed understanding of the ice sheet's drainage dynamics can help researchers better predict how the Greenland Ice Sheet will respond to climate change.

Scientists found 54 of the lakes by analyzing airborne radio echo sounding data, which provides a map of the bed of the ice sheet. Another two were identified by studying ice-surface elevation changes.

"Researchers have a good understanding of Antarctic subglacial lakes, which can fill and drain and cause overlying ice to flow quicker," Jade Bowling, PhD student at Lancaster University, said in a news release. "However, until now little was known about subglacial lake distribution and behavior beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet."

Thanks to the new research, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, scientists now have a better idea of where the ice sheet's meltwater pools.

"This is important for determining their influence on the wider subglacial hydrological system and ice-flow dynamics, and improving our understanding of the ice sheet's basal thermal state," Bowling said.

Though most of the lakes were found beneath slow moving ice on the periphery of the ice sheet's thicker, more stable interior, researchers suggest climate change could trigger melting at higher elevations in the future, triggering the formation of subglacial lakes beneath the heart of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

"The lakes we have identified tend to cluster in eastern Greenland where the bed is rough and can therefore readily trap and store meltwater and in northern Greenland, where we suggest the lakes indicate a patchwork of frozen and thawed bed conditions," said Stephen J. Livingstone, senior lecturer in physical geography at the University of Sheffield. "These lakes could provide important targets for direct exploration to look for evidence of extreme life and to sample the sediments deposited in the lake that preserve a record of environmental change."

Related Links
Beyond the Ice Age

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Hungry polar bear found wandering in Russia industrial city
Moscow (AFP) June 18, 2019
A hungry polar bear has been spotted on the outskirts of the Russian industrial city of Norilsk, hundreds of miles from its natural habitat, authorities said Tuesday. Images of the visibly exhausted animal roaming the roads of the Arctic city in search of food have been widely shared on social media in Russia. "He is still moving around a factory, under observation by police and the emergency services, who are ensuring his safety and those of residents," environmental services official Alexand ... read more

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