In the 20 years or so that I have been reporting on the science of planet Earth, one of the things that has struck me is how fast scientists studying Greenland’s ice must run. Last summer’s intense, record island-wide melt, along with other rapid changes over the past two decades, have forced scientists to play catch up and sometimes employ methods that defy the slow, deliberate way science has traditionally been communicated.
The latest in this acceleration is the announcement this week by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) of a new website called Greenland Ice Sheet Today (technically ‘yesterday,’ since the data is one day old) which provides daily satellite data about the condition of the Greenland ice sheet. The website is backed by NASA and also provides analysis, when possible, and will serve not only scientists but interested members of the general public.
“We used to have at least a year to think about the data,” said NSIDC researcher Ted Scambos by phone. No more. Now people want to see the data a.s.a.p. and get some scientific analysis to boot. He and his colleagues need to be very careful, since they are forced to speak before going through the normal peer-review science publication process. “It’s tricky, like walking on eggshells,” he said.
The website grew out of work already being done by researchers Marco Tedesco and Thomas Mote, said Scambos. It was the folks at NASA who pressed to get it done so soon after the dramatic ice melt event of last year.
Now that the website is live, Scambos expects they will be adding to it over time so that it contains more deep background material, which researchers use in combination with the latest data to do their work. The first article on the new website is an analysis of the record 2012 melt. Bookmark it!