In the past, the Steenstrup Glacier in northwest Greenland was one of the nation’s most reliable glaciers. But according to recent studies, this ice creation is currently among the glaciers that contribute the most to regional ice melt, ranking in the top 10%.
The glacier retreated a staggering 5 miles between 2018 and 2021, which is a significant and unusual amount of movement. According to a recent study by Ohio State University researchers, the formation thinned by around 20% and produced twice as much ice in the ocean as usual. Nature Communications published the study.
Because Steenstrup Glacier is more remote and situated in shallower seas than other glaciers in the region, researchers thought it was mostly unaffected by warming temperatures, even while other Greenland glaciers experienced dramatic losses.
Thomas Chudley, the study’s lead author, stated in a statement that their current working hypothesis is that the ocean’s temperatures have compelled this retreat. The speed of the glacier has increased by four times in just a few years, raising new concerns about how quickly huge ice masses may actually adapt to climate change.
The temperature of the ocean is rising. The most recent record-breaking ocean surface temperature was 21.1 C on average, which was observed in early April of this year, surpassing the previous mark of 20.0 C from 2016. Scientists are worried about these glaciers as a result of rising temperatures, especially when a glacier like Steenstrup, which was long stable, is now retreating and releasing ice at previously unheard-of rates.
According to the authors of the study, a quadrupling of speed within 5 years is unheard of among the relative accelerations of huge Greenland glaciers, including the doubling of velocity over 5 years of Sermeq Kujalleq in the early 2000s. Only Harald Moltke Br, whose annual ice discharge tripled over the course of a decade, has experienced a short-term doubling of ice discharge.
Greenland is particularly vulnerable to global warming. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research estimates that the average temperature increase over the past century has been 1 F worldwide, whereas the average air temperature in Greenland has climbed by almost 7 F since the 1990s. Greenland loses 234 billion tons of ice annually, which means there is more ice melting there than ice being created.
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If fast action is not taken to lower rising ocean temperatures, the retreat and ice discharge of Greenland’s ice formations might put coastal settlements at risk. The findings of the Steenstrup Glacier’s unusual retreat are a warning for scientists to explore what is happening to comparable glaciers and how it could affect sea level rise in the future. The researchers stated that additional observation of the Steenstrup Glacier is vital.
According to Chudley, what is currently occurring in Greenland is somewhat indicative of what may occur in West Antarctica over the coming millennia. In order to understand how and why Steenstrup has changed, it would be fantastic to be able to enter the fjord and make direct observations there.