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Retreat of Humboldt Gletscher, North Greenland, Driven by Undercutting From a Warmer Ocean.

  • Author(s): Rignot, Eric
  • An, Lu
  • Chauche, Nolwenn
  • Morlighem, Mathieu
  • Jeong, Seongsu
  • Wood, Michael
  • Mouginot, Jeremie
  • Willis, Josh K
  • Klaucke, Ingo
  • Weinrebe, Wilhelm
  • Muenchow, Andreas
  • et al.

Humboldt Gletscher is a 100-km wide, slow-moving glacier in north Greenland which holds a 19-cm global sea level equivalent. Humboldt has been the fourth largest contributor to sea level rise since 1972 but the cause of its mass loss has not been elucidated. Multi-beam echo sounding data collected in 2019 indicate a seabed 200 m deeper than previously known. Conductivity temperature depth data reveal the presence of warm water of Atlantic origin at 0°C at the glacier front and a warming of the ocean waters by 0.9 ± 0.1°C since 1962. Using an ocean model, we reconstruct grounded ice undercutting by the ocean, combine it with calculated retreat caused by ice thinning to floatation, and are able to fully explain the observed retreat. Two thirds of the retreat are caused by undercutting of grounded ice, which is a physical process not included in most ice sheet models.

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