Greenland Melt Increases – Warmer Ocean Water Melts 100 Times More Than Surface Melt

By February 16, 2010Greenland

Two new articles in Nature Geoscience describe greater melting from under ice sea water in fjords.  A team headed by Woods Hole oceanographer Straneo Fiammetta found, as their discovery paper implies, warm subtropical waters circulating beneath Helhiem Glacier in the Sermilik Fjord, East Greenland. the warm waters come from the Atlantic Ocean east of Greenland where a  changing climate has shifted ocean currents and wind patterns. Accelerated melting from underneath increases glacial discharge which is the main mode of ice discharge from Greenland. In another study by Eric Rignot and his team from the University of California, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of British Columbia looked at four glaciers on the west coast of Greenland. the study found that the warm waters are melting 100 times more water than surface melt. Rignot and his team say "…submarine melting must have a profound influence on grounding-line stability and ice-flow dynamics."

When I visited Illulisat on the West Coast of Greenland, I met Dr, David Holland of the University of New York. Dr. Holland pioneered under-ice investigation in Greenland fjords. He had this little submersible probe that he somehow piloted beneath the iceberg crammed waters of the Jakobhaven Isbrea from a helicopter. class="style40"> Fiammetta, et. al., Rapid circulation of warm subtropical waters in a major glacial fjord in East Greenland Nature Geoscience, February 2010.

Rignot, et. al., Rapid submarine melting of the calving faces of West Greenland glaciers, Nature Geoscience, February 2010.