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Research reveals northernmost glaciers on globe are melting at record speed

Baku, June 22, AZERTAC

Greenland's many small glaciers are melting at great speed, and the melting is increasing, especially in the Arctic regions, where the temperature rise is worst.

Now, researchers have studied precisely how much mass these glaciers - not connected to the ice sheet - have lost in recent decades.

In the Arctic, temperatures are rising more than in the rest of the world, and this is causing the northernmost glaciers in Greenland to melt at record speed. This is shown in a new study by researchers led by DTU Space in collaboration with Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Utrecht University, University of Bristol, Technical University Munich, and the University of Copenhagen.

The study focuses on smaller glaciers with no connection to the Greenland Ice Sheet. These peripheral glaciers make up only about four percent of Greenland's ice-covered areas, corresponding to approximately the same area as Ireland (72,000 km2), but they contribute as much as 11 percent of the total loss of ice from Greenland's ice-covered areas. Thus, they are a major contributor to global sea level rise.

"The loss of ice from these small glaciers occurs because they are more sensitive to ongoing temperature changes and therefore melt faster than we see in many other places in the Arctic," said Professor Shfaqat Abbas Khan from DTU Space, lead author of the paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The new study shows that the melting of the peripheral glaciers has increased dramatically over the past two decades. On average, 42.3 gigatons of ice melted per year from October 2018 to December 2021. In comparison, "only" 27.2 gigatons melted annually in the period February 2003 to October 2009.

"We can see that there is a marked increase in the melting of the glaciers in northern Greenland. This shows that the ice masses in Greenland are very unstable and that they make a considerable contribution to the global sea level rise," said Professor Khan.

"It is disturbing, but to be expected, that the northernmost ice sheet on the planet is hit hard by the ongoing temperature rises, because it is evident that the temperature here has also risen the most in the last 20 years."

The changes have been recorded using altimetry (altitude measurements) with the American satellites ICESat and ICESat-2.

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