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Ocean forcing drives glacier retreat in Greenland.

  • Author(s): Wood, Michael;
  • Rignot, Eric;
  • Fenty, Ian;
  • An, Lu;
  • Bjørk, Anders;
  • van den Broeke, Michiel;
  • Cai, Cilan;
  • Kane, Emily;
  • Menemenlis, Dimitris;
  • Millan, Romain;
  • Morlighem, Mathieu;
  • Mouginot, Jeremie;
  • Noël, Brice;
  • Scheuchl, Bernd;
  • Velicogna, Isabella;
  • Willis, Josh K;
  • Zhang, Hong
  • et al.
Abstract

The retreat and acceleration of Greenland glaciers since the mid-1990s have been attributed to the enhanced intrusion of warm Atlantic Waters (AW) into fjords, but this assertion has not been quantitatively tested on a Greenland-wide basis or included in models. Here, we investigate how AW influenced retreat at 226 marine-terminating glaciers using ocean modeling, remote sensing, and in situ observations. We identify 74 glaciers in deep fjords with AW controlling 49% of the mass loss that retreated when warming increased undercutting by 48%. Conversely, 27 glaciers calving on shallow ridges and 24 in cold, shallow waters retreated little, contributing 15% of the loss, while 10 glaciers retreated substantially following the collapse of several ice shelves. The retreat mechanisms remain undiagnosed at 87 glaciers without ocean and bathymetry data, which controlled 19% of the loss. Ice sheet projections that exclude ocean-induced undercutting may underestimate mass loss by at least a factor of 2.

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