Elmer/Ice News

Never underestimate smaller Greenland glaciers

The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass at an accelerating rate and consequently sea-level contributions have also risen. Hitherto, the main contributors to this increase were believed to be outlet glaciers in the west and southeast of Greenland. However, we show that significant changes are also occurring in at least one of the major outlet glaciers (79Deg glacier) in the northeast of the ice sheet. While the floating tongue’s area of 79Deg glacier has been unchanged over the last century, we show through a combination of observations and ice-sheet modelling that the tongue has been thinning since 2001. 


An increased ocean heat flux is the most plausible cause of the observed thinning. If similar conditions continue to persist over the coming decades, our modelling shows that large parts of the floating tongue will be lost, reducing the buttressing onto the grounded ice sheet, and resulting in thinning upstream of the grounding line.


Read more: Mayer, C., J. Schaffer, T. Hattermann, D. Floricioiu, L. Krieger, P.A. Dodd, T. Kanzow, C. Licciulli, and C. Schannwell, 2018. Large ice loss variability at Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden Glacier, Northeast-Greenland, Nature Communications 9 (1), 2768, doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05180-x

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