Taking the Temperature of the Greenland Ice Sheet With Fiber Optics

Scientists have used fibre-optic sensing to obtain the most detailed measurements of ice properties ever taken on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Their findings will be used to make more accurate models of the future movement of the world’s second-largest ice sheet, as the effects of climate change continue to accelerate.

The research team, led by the University of Cambridge, used a new technique in which laser pulses are transmitted in a fibre-optic cable to obtain highly detailed temperature measurements from the surface of the ice sheet all the way to the base, more than 1000 metres below.

In contrast to previous studies, which measured temperature from separate sensors located tens or even hundreds of metres apart, the new approach allows temperature to be measured along the entire length of a fibre-optic cable installed in a deep borehole. The result is a highly detailed profile of temperature, which controls how fast ice deforms and ultimately how fast the ice sheet flows.

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