Record ice losses recorded the last two years
By Summit Voice
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SUMMIT COUNTY — Warmer temperatures around Greenland’s Mittivakkat Glacier since 1995 have caused the ice to melt faster than expected, according to a team of researchers led by Dr. Edward Hanna, of the University of Sheffield.
The Mittivakkat Glacier has been observed longer than any other glacier in Greenland, and the findings suggest that recent Mittivakkat Glacier mass losses, which have been driven largely by higher surface temperatures and low precipitation, are representative of the broader region, which includes many hundreds of local glaciers in Greenland.
Observations of other glaciers in Greenland show terminus retreats comparable to that of Mittivakkat Glacier. These glaciers are similar to the Mittivakkat Glacier in size and elevation range.
“The retreat of these small glaciers also makes the nearby Greenland Ice Sheet more vulnerable to further summer warming which is likely to occur,” Hanna said. “There could also be an effect on North Atlantic Ocean circulation and weather patterns through melting so much extra ice. An extended glacier observation program in east Greenland for the next few years is clearly needed to improve understanding of the links between climate change and response of the glaciers in this important region,” he added.
The Mittivakkat Glacier has lost mass during 14 of the last 16 years, with consecutive record losses in 2010 and 2011, with losses this year far exceeding the the 16-year observed average mass loss of 0.97 meters per year.
“Our fieldwork results are a key indication of the rapid changes now being seen in and around Greenland, which are evident not just on this glacier but also on many surrounding small glaciers,” Hanna said. It’s clear that this is now a very dynamic environment in terms of its response and mass wastage to ongoing climate change.”
Mittivakkat Glacier has been surveyed for mass balance and glacier front fluctuations since 1995 and 1931 respectively. In 2011 the glacier terminus has retreated about 22 metres, 12 metres less than the observed record of 34 metres in 2010, and approximately 1,300 metres in total since the first photographic observations in 1931. Local glacier observations in Greenland are rare, and the Mittivakkat Glacier is the only glacier in Greenland for which long-term observations of both the surface mass balance and glacier front fluctuations exist.
The team of researchers also included Dr Sebastian Mernild from the Los Alamos Laboratory, USA, and Professor Niels Tvis Knudsen from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, marking a collaborative venture of both the joint research centre of the Universities of Sheffield and Aarhus, and Los Alamos, with funding support provided by the European Community´s Seventh Framework Programme.
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, global warming, Summit County news Tagged: | Environment, global warming, greenland, Greenland glaciers, Greenland ice sheet, Mittivakkat Glacier melting, University of Sheffield