Greenland’s Northern Glaciers Are in Trouble, Threatening ‘Dramatic’ Sea Level Rise, Study Shows

The Ross Ice Shelf at the Bay of Whales

The Ice Shelves: They are expanses of floating ice that extend from certain glaciers to the sea. Understanding how they are evolving in the context of climate change is particularly important because they act as massive natural barriers, holding back the flow of glaciers. Without these ice shelves, sea levels could rise unreasonably.

About a year ago, researchers from CNRS raised concerns about the dynamics of a significant platform in northern Greenland. Data indicated signs of weakness in the Petermann Glacier, which had remained stable since the 1990s.

Ice Shelves Melt

Today, the team publishes new findings in the journal Nature Communications. Using field observations, airborne images, satellite data, and regional climate models, they demonstrate that the largest floating ice shelves of the Arctic ice cap have lost more than a third of their volume since 1978. This is primarily due to the increase in ocean temperatures in response to our greenhouse gas emissions, which is a surprising development for these previously stable platforms.

Irreversible Melting of Ice Shelves

CNRS researchers remind us that Greenland is already estimated to be responsible for 17% of the current rise in sea levels. The weakening of these ice shelves could accelerate this phenomenon, especially since glaciologists doubt the ability of these floating ice expanses to regenerate. In May of last year, a team showed that if the Petermann platform were to disintegrate, it could only reform if our climate were to cool significantly.

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