Unexpected disintegration of ice shelves in North Greenland
Alarm bells ringing as rapid disintegration and weakening of ice shelves in North Greenland is observed!
Glaciers in North Greenland have, until now, been considered relatively stable. This stability has been important, as 2.1m of potential sea level rise is held within this part of the island—a sizable percentage of the estimated 7.4m held within the entire ice sheet.
However, new research, released on 7 November 2023 in Nature Communications authored by scientists from the CNRS as well as their Danish and American colleagues, casts a dark shadow. The ice in this part of Greenland is supported, or buttressed, by smaller glaciers, which in the past 45 years have lost 35% of their volume. The majority of this thinning is due to the rise in surrounding ocean temperatures, which causes the glaciers’ floating extensions to melt. These ice shelves play an essential role in regulating the amount of ice discharged into the ocean by acting as huge frozen “dams.”
Although Greenland has already contributed to over 17% of the current rise in sea levels from 2006 and 2018, any weakening of these barriers may have even more dramatic consequences for the stability of Greenlandic glaciers. This could lead to an increase in the amount of ice released, further accelerating sea level rise and associated global risks.
Figure 3(e) from this publication (attached above) shows cumulative Greenland ice sheet ice mass loss changes related to glacial basal melting, glacial calving and glacial SMB (Surface Mass Balance – calculated by subtracting ice sheet surface ice losses from snowfall gains) for the five remaining Greenland ice shelves. They are all in decline.
Source article is available HERE.