Data from Uncharted Waters Provides Key Insights into Glacial Melting Processes

New bathymetric and oceanographic data collected by an international team of ocean scientists provide important insights into the processes that are controlling the rapid loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet over the last four decades. The ground-breaking data, published in the Nature Journal Communications Earth & Environment, will be contributed to The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, which aims to have the definitive and complete map of the ocean floor by 2030.

The Swedish icebreaker Oden ventured into the previously unmapped Sherard Osborn Fjord, where the Ryder Glacier drains into the Arctic Ocean. Melting and calving glaciers act as key catalysts for the increasing loss of ice sheet. But the processes controlling advance and retreat of outlet glaciers remain relatively unknown, limiting the ability to assess their fate and contribution to global sea level rise.

The data show that warmer subsurface water of Atlantic origin enters the fjord, but Ryder Glacier’s floating shelf, at its present location, is partly protected from the inflow by a bathymetric sill located in the innermost fjord. This reduces under-ice melting of the glacier, providing insight into Ryder Glacier’s dynamics and its vulnerability to inflow of Atlantic warmer water. The data may also play a valuable role in undertaking assessments of the North Greenland Ice Sheet’s future retreat.

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