Coastal Greenland reshaped as ice sheet mass loss accelerates

Coastal Greenland reshaped as ice sheet mass loss accelerates

Ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet has accelerated considerably over the previous 20 years, reworking the form of the ice sheet edge and due to this fact coastal Greenland, in keeping with scientific analysis led by Twila Moon, deputy lead scientist of the Nationwide Snow and Ice Knowledge Heart. These modifications to the ice sheet may have far-reaching impacts on ecosystems and communities, because the stream of water below the ice sheet in addition to nutrient and sediment stream are altered. 

Coastal Greenland reshaped as ice sheet mass loss accelerates
Greenland Ice Sheet [Credit score: Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute
for Polar and Marine Analysis]

“The pace of ice loss in Greenland is beautiful,” stated Moon. “We will now see many indicators of a remodeled panorama from house. And because the ice sheet edge responds to speedy ice loss, the character and conduct of the system as an entire is altering, with the potential to affect ecosystems and individuals who rely upon them.”

The researchers compiled information from NASA, the USA Geological Survey, and different satellites from 1985 to 2015 to check ice edge place, ice sheet floor elevation, and glacier stream over three many years. Developments in satellite tv for pc know-how allowed them to watch the modifications to the ice sheet in a lot higher element than was doable previously. A lot of the info used was from the NASA Inter-mission Time Sequence of Land Ice Velocity and Elevation (ITS_LIVE) undertaking, which facilitates ice sheet, ice shelf, and glacier analysis by offering a worldwide file of land ice velocity and elevation derived from practically three many years of satellite tv for pc observations.

Utilizing these comparisons, the researchers developed a number of key findings. Essentially the most constant development, discovered throughout all the ice sheet, is widespread ice edge retreat. Whereas there’s a vary of conduct amongst glaciers throughout the ice sheet, there’s a noticeable lack of sustained ocean-connected glacier advance. Out of 225 ocean-connected glaciers that had been measured, none have considerably superior whereas 200 have retreated, significantly since 2000. That is notable even in areas dominated by slower-moving glaciers and cooler ocean water, such because the northern and northeastern areas of the ice sheet. As well as, whereas the overwhelming majority of glaciers are retreating, ice stream response on these glaciers, reminiscent of rushing up or slowing down, is affected largely by topography and upstream components. This contains the slope of the panorama and the presence and form of bedrock and sediments beneath the glacier. Subsequently, even glaciers inside the similar regional or native space can behave in a different way.


Because the researchers examined modifications within the Greenland Ice Sheet, they discovered that zones of quick glacier stream are narrowing, ice is being rerouted, and in some instances, the stream of latest ice to glaciers is slowed, stranding glaciers in place. These processes may have quite a lot of downstream impacts, reminiscent of altering how water strikes below the ice sheet, which may have an effect on the provision of water to communities and animals, altering the place vitamins and sediment enter the ocean, exposing new land areas, opening new fjord waters, and altering ecosystems and bodily landscapes.

“Because the Arctic ocean and ambiance heat, we will clearly see the stream of ice into the ocean speed up and the ice edge retreat,” stated Alex Gardner, a analysis scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and co-author of the examine. “After we look extra intently, nonetheless, we will see the complexity of how particular person glaciers reply, owing to variations within the properties of the ocean water that attain the glacier entrance, the bedrock and until that lie beneath, and in how meltwater runoff is routed beneath. Understanding the complexity of particular person glacier response is crucial to bettering projections of ice sheet change and the related sea degree rise that can arrive at our shores.”

Outcomes of the analysis had been printed within the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Analysis: Earth Floor.

Supply: College of Colorado at Boulder [October 27, 2020]

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