If the recent heat and humidity have been getting to you — you could cool off by reading the recently published research of an Iowa State University professor on the movements of glaciers. Neal Iverson lived and worked beneath a 700-foot thick river of ice in Norway for weeks. He discovered new information indicating the material carried at the bottom of glaciers is what creates the friction that slows them down. He says people have always know that the friction exists, but he says they found it was much, much larger than people have thought. He says the friction has never been measured before. Iverson says it had been believed that the bumps and ridges of the rocks on the ground were the biggest brakes on the movement of the big sheets of ice. He says the bottom line is that the rocks and debris at the base of the glacier are what slows it down and don’t allow it to more catastrophically. Iverson, who is an associate professor of geology and atmospheric sciences at I-S-U, says the movement of glaciers has a big impact on the environment.He says they’re hoping their measurements can help modelers refine their predictions on how fast glaciers move, and improve their models for predicting sea level and climate change. Iverson says his research can be used to give some indications about the formation of our state.He says his measurements indicate that the glaciers likely skated along the Iowa landscape and did not do much to alter the land underneath. But, he says the glaciers which last slipped across Iowa 14 to 15-thousand years ago made a contribution. He says the stuff that was up in the glaciers was left behind when they melted, and that had more of an impact on the state than the sliding motion of the ice. The research report from Iverson and his colleagues is printed in the current issue of “Science” magazine.
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