Accelerated Ice Loss in Greenland Raises Concerns for Ocean Circulation

Accelerated Ice Loss in Greenland Raises Concerns for Ocean Circulation

Greenland’s ice sheet has been losing ice mass at a much higher rate than previously estimated, according to a recent study by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The study, published in the journal Nature, reveals that the ice sheet lost about one-fifth more ice mass in the past forty years than previously thought.

Satellite data from nearly a quarter million pieces were analyzed to assess the retreat of glaciers around the edges of the ice sheet from 1985 to 2022. The results showed that out of the 207 glaciers studied, 179 had significantly retreated, while 27 maintained their positions and one advanced slightly.

Interestingly, most of the ice loss occurred below sea level in the fjords around Greenland. While this additional ice loss has a limited impact on sea levels, it does pose significant concerns for ocean circulation. The glaciers’ retreat acts like a plug being pulled out of a fjord, allowing ice to flow into the ocean at an accelerated rate. This, in turn, affects the movement of ice descending from higher elevations, ultimately contributing to sea level rise.

In recent years, the rate of retreat has far surpassed the rate of growth, which has led to a significant recession of the ice reserve. Notably, one glacier called Zachariae Isstrom experienced the most substantial ice loss, shedding a staggering 160 billion metric tons of mass due to retreat. The Jakobshavn Isbrae on the western coast lost 88 billion metric tons, making it the second most affected glacier.

While a glacier called Qajuuttap Sermia gained a small amount of ice, it was not enough to offset the losses from other glaciers. This highlights the overall trend of ice loss in Greenland.

Understanding the accelerated ice loss and its implications for ocean circulation is crucial for predicting future sea level rise and assessing its potential impact on coastal regions worldwide. Further research in this field will undoubtedly shed more light on the complex dynamics of Greenland’s ice sheet and its consequences for our planet.

FAQ Section:

1. What did a recent study by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reveal?
The study revealed that Greenland’s ice sheet has been losing ice mass at a much higher rate than previously estimated. It found that the ice sheet lost about one-fifth more ice mass in the past forty years than previously thought.

2. How was the retreat of glaciers around the edges of the ice sheet assessed?
Satellite data from nearly a quarter million pieces were analyzed to assess the retreat of glaciers from 1985 to 2022. Out of the 207 glaciers studied, 179 had significantly retreated, while 27 maintained their positions and one advanced slightly.

3. Where did most of the ice loss occur in Greenland?
Most of the ice loss occurred below sea level in the fjords around Greenland.

4. What are the implications of the additional ice loss for ocean circulation?
The retreat of glaciers acts like a plug being pulled out of a fjord, allowing ice to flow into the ocean at an accelerated rate. This affects the movement of ice descending from higher elevations and contributes to sea level rise.

5. Which glaciers experienced the most substantial ice loss?
The glacier called Zachariae Isstrom experienced the most substantial ice loss, shedding 160 billion metric tons of mass due to retreat. The second most affected glacier was Jakobshavn Isbrae on the western coast, which lost 88 billion metric tons.

6. Did any glaciers gain ice?
One glacier called Qajuuttap Sermia gained a small amount of ice. However, this gain was not enough to offset the losses from other glaciers.

Related Links:
NASA
Nature Journal