The glaciers in northern Greenland are rapidly retreating and have lost more than 30% of their total volume since 1978, according to a study published in Nature Communications. These glaciers have long been considered stable, but three of them have already completely melted since the 2000s.

Of the remaining five, the glacier mass losses are destabilizing nearby glaciers, which will continue to retreat as the ocean warms, with serious consequences for sea-level rise, suggest the authors. The ice loss from the Greenland glacier contributed to 17.3% of the observed sea-level rise between 2006 and 2018.

The last remaining ice platforms in Greenland are located on the northern edge of the glacier and contribute to stabilizing it by regulating the flow of ice flowing into the ocean. The northern glaciers of Greenland have only started destabilizing in the last 20 years, meaning more ice has been lost than gained due to the weakening and collapse of some floating extensions of the glaciers.

To better predict their contribution to sea-level rise, it is important to define the timing and factors influencing changes in the remaining ice platforms, as well as glacier responses. However, so far, a comprehensive overview of the evolution of these ice platforms and the complex processes influencing them has not been produced. Romain Millan and his colleagues at the University of Grenoble Alpes in France used thousands of satellite images along with climate models to analyze the interactions between glaciers, climate, and the ocean in northern Greenland. They observed a substantial and widespread increase in ice platform mass losses.

Since 2000, they found that the platforms are primarily losing ice at the bottom due to ocean warming. Additionally, the authors found that glaciers have retreated, and the flow of ice into the ocean has increased, coinciding with the losses of the ice platforms.

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