Greenland’s glaciers may move differently in the future

Glaciers the world over are inretreat – this is generally agreed. The effects of the unprecedented loss of Greenland’s ice sheet have been well documented: rising Arctic temperatures, accelerating ice loss, and the possibility that this will lead to significant sea level rises, affecting the world’s coastal communities. But a new study published in Nature is skeptical that Greenland’s ice sheet will act the same way in the future.

The Petermann, Kangerdlugssuaq, Helheim and Jakobshavn glaciers – the four major fast-flowing Greenland glaciers – together drain about 22% of the island’s ice sheet. Based on computer models of these, scientists have found that the ground on which the glaciers lie has a remarkable impact on how they move, and that the shape of the fjords they in habit and the rocks under them determine how quickly they lose ice.

In short, ice loss will still be considerable, but sea level changes may be less dramatic than previous estimates, based only on current glacial trends, have pictured. The scientists stress that these sea-facing glaciers are poorly understood, and that the next key step is to learn more about the topography under the glaciers of Greenland, to build a more accurate picture of their future activity.