OMG is NASA’s new ocean research project

CC BY 2.0 Nick Russill

OMG! The oft-texted exclamation is also the acronym for NASA’s new project to study melting ice sheets in Greenland. Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) is a five-year project that will study how warmer ocean temperatures are speeding the disappearance of ice sheets from below.

It’s known that Greenland’s ice is melting due to warmer air temperatures driven by greenhouse gases, but what’s not understood is how warmer, salty ocean water is also causing glaciers to melt. OMG will study the interaction between water and ice along the massive island’s complexly jagged coastline. A recent study found that some of Greenland’s fjords may be deeper than previously thought, which could mean that the glaciers which flow into those fjords might be more vulnerable to warmer waters.

NASA plans to use aircraft to measure glacier thinning, and to release 200 probes along the continental shelf to measure the temperature and salinity of the water. The project will also use research ships to map the seafloor surrounding Greenland.

The project will be helpful for understanding the consequences of global warming. If all of Greenland’s ice were to melt, it could increase global sea levels by over six meters.

As for the name? Joshua Willis, a principal investigator at NASA, tells The Guardian that OMG “barely squeezed past the censors.” Maybe the catchy name will bring more attention to the important work of climate change science.

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