< INTERACT presented WP deliverables in France
2011-08-16 

An INTERACT Trans-National Access award helps scientists to observe record ice losses from Greenland Glaciers

Greenland – Glaciers in Greenland are melting faster than expected.


Glacier observations indicate that the total 2011 mass budget loss of the longest-observed glacier in Greenland – Mittivakkat Glacier – was 2.45 metres: 0.29 metres higher than the previous observed record loss in 2010. The 2011 value was also significantly above the 16-year average observed loss of 0.97 metres per year. The 2011 observations further illustrate, even comparing the mass balance value against simulated glacier mass balance values back to 1898, that 2011 is a record-breaking glacier mass loss year.Two consecutive record mass loss years from Greenland’s longest observed glacier – Mittivakkat Glacier – occurred in 2010 and 2011.

 

Figure 1: Time series 1995-2011 of observed annual mass balance for the Mittivakkat Gletscher, SE Greenland.

 

Mittivakkat Glacier has been surveyed for mass balance and glacier front fluctuations since 1995 and 1931 respectively. The glacier terminus has in 2011 retreated about 22 metres, 12 metres less than the observed record of 34 metres in 2010, and approximately 1,300 metres in total since the first photographic observations in 1931.
These observations suggest that recent Mittivakkat Glacier mass losses, which have been driven largely by higher surface temperatures and low precipitation, are representative of the broader region, which includes many hundreds of local glaciers in Greenland. Observations of other glaciers in Greenland, show terminus retreats comparable to that of Mittivakkat Glacier. These glaciers are almost similar to the Mittivakkat Glacier in size and elevation range.

The glacier suffers a record mass loss this year.


Local glacier observations in Greenland are rare, and the Mittivakkat Glacier is the only glacier in Greenland for which long-term observations of both the surface mass balance and glacier front fluctuations exist. Since 1995, the general trend for the Mittivakkat Glacier has been toward higher temperatures, less snowfall, and a more negative glacier mass balance, with record mass loss in 2011. In 14 of the last 16 years, the Mittivakkat Glacier had a negative surface mass balance.

Figure 2: The location of the Mittivakkat Gletscher margin delineated as thick lines for 1931, 1943, 1972, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011 (pink line). The 1931, 1943, and 1972 margins were estimated from aerial photos, the 1999 margin from Landsat 5, and the 2005 margin from Quickbird. The more recent 2009, 2010, and 2011 margins were obtained from topographic surveys (Kern Theodolite observations) and GPS measurements. The Mittivakkat Gletscher outline is shown at left with a black square indicating the photographic area (background photo: DigitalGlobe, Quickbird, 2005, and updated from Mernild et al. 2011).


The glacier observations have been carried out by Drs Sebastian H. Mernild (mernild@lanl.gov) , Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA, Niels Tvis Knudsen (nkt@geo.au.dk), University of Aarhus, Denmark, and Edward Hanna (ehanna@sheffield.ac.uk), University of Sheffield, UK.


For further information please contact one of the three principal investigators mentioned above.