Data from satellites show how, why, and when the Greenland glaciers are currently shrinking. There’s also an increase in the glacial retreat, which began to accelerate in the year 2000.
At the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, researchers released time-lapse satellite images that date back 34 years. These photos are of 200 glaciers in Greenland. They are the first to show Greenland’s glacier retreat (that’s when a glacier shrinks from the ocean, pulling inland). We also know the speed at which the glaciers are retreating.
These glaciers are “releasing” more ice into the ocean than they were in the past. Michaela King is a graduate student in earth sciences at The Ohio State University. She stated that this is a correlation, where more retreat gets to a massive discharge of ice.
Greenland Glaciers Have Started to Shrink Faster Since 2000
In order to study the glaciers, King analyzed many imaged from NASA-U.S. Geological Survey’s Landsat missions, which is a project that’s bound to monitor the Earth’s surface from space. The satellites show the Earth’s surface, and scientists were also able to see ice fields in Antarctica and Alaska.
One thing that they noticed was that the retreat had become a pattern, which they have seen on ice sheets in Greenland. This means that it is not limited to only one region. So the glaciers are not just shrinking in the part of the ice sheet that covers Greenland, but that they are shrinking across the country that they have retreated.
The images that King studied date back to 1985, and they show how Greenland’s glaciers have retreated about 3 miles – that’s 5 km – between the years 1985 and 2018. The data also shows that, back in 2000, the retreat started to accelerate.