"Greenland" by Túrelio / CC BY-SA 2.5

Greenland ice melt is changing the shape of its coastline

Oct 28, 2020

By Stephanie Pappas

Rapid melt is reshaping coastal Greenland, potentially altering the human and animal ecosystems along the country’s coast.

New research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface on Oct. 27 finds that the ice retreat in Greenland has changed the way glaciers flow and where they dump into the sea. These changes could impact ice loss from Greenland in the future, the researchers wrote.

Recent studies have shown that Greenland is losing 500 gigatons of ice each year, more than can be replenished by new snowfall. Annual ice loss is 14% greater today than it was between 1985 and 1999. And the meltwater from this ice loss is lubricating the ice sheet so that it slides more easily on its underlying bedrock, hastening the continued melt.

The new study, led by National Snow and Ice Data Center research scientist Twila Moon, breaks down the changes in more detail. Moon and her colleagues combined two types of data from satellite imagery: how fast the ice sheet is moving and where glaciers terminate on their path downhill. When a glacier retreats, its terminus doesn’t reach as far downvalley as it once did.

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