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article imageStudying the Earth's gravity reveals clues about climate change

By Tim Sandle     Apr 21, 2019 in Environment
By studying satellite measurements scientists are piecing together information about climate change based on the terrestrial water cycle, the mass balance of ice sheets and changes in sea levels.
It is hoped, based on current middling, that the collective information will lead to an an increased understanding about the main trends with the global climate system. The information is drawn from two special satellite launched in March 2002 for this purpose called GRACE. The two satellites contained instrumentation that could assess the Earth's gravity field more precisely than any current technology. The GRACE mission ended in 2017, and scientists are continuing to analyze the data.
GRACE is an acronym for 'Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment' and it is a collaborative mission between mission of NASA and the German Aerospace Center. Through assessing gravity anomalies, the GRACE duo indicated how mass is distributed around the planet. By understanding how mass varies over time, the data from the GRACE satellites has provided new inferences into the Earth's ocean, geology, and climate.
Analyzing some of the data, researchers from GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre (the German national research center for Earth Sciences), researchers have studied ice-mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers. This reveals clear signals of ice-mass loss in Greenland and Antarctica. Further analysis shows that 60 percent of the total mass-loss is the consequence of enhanced melt production, following Arctic warming trends.
The researchers have also studied water trends (the global hydrological cycle). GRACE data indicates a pattern of increasing water storage in high and low latitudes, with decreased storage in mid-latitudes. This provides a confirmation of the changes predicted by earlier climate models. A related water area connected to climate change is sea levels. Here the data suggests that the sea-level rise could accelerate to 10 millimetres per year, a movement at a higher rate than some earlier climate change data had predicted.
The research has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change, with the paper titled "Contributions of GRACE to understanding climate change."
More about Climate change, Gravity, Earth, Tidal
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