Research highlight

Melting glaciers in Greenland fjords

Nature Geoscience

February 15, 2010

Marine melting in Greenland's fjords represents a key influence on the stability of the Greenland ice sheet, according to two studies published online this week in Nature Geoscience. Oceanographic measurements from several fjords outline how warm waters from the open ocean enter the fjords and melt the outlet glaciers on the edge of the ice sheet.

Fiammetta Straneo and colleagues measured the water properties in the fjord that connects Helheim Glacier, one of East Greenland's largest outlet glaciers, with the ocean. They report an active exchange between subtropical waters on the shelf and fjord waters, and suggest that the recent acceleration of the glacier could have been triggered by oceanic and atmospheric changes at a distance.

Eric Rignot and colleagues studied three glacial fjords in West Greenland, and found that ice loss through submarine melting is on the same order of magnitude as loss to icebergs breaking off, with high variability between the glaciers.

In an accompanying News & Views, Paul Holland writes, "The studies by Straneo and Rignot and their colleagues are vital steps towards an understanding of Greenland's ice loss into fjords."

doi: 10.1038/ngeo764

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