Scientists Puzzled As Greenland’s Largest Glacier Slows Down And Thickens

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Greenland’s largest glacier, said to be one of the fastest shrinking ice and snow masses on the planet, is not only slowing its retreat but has also thickened in recent years.

The Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier has been gaining thickness of 20 metres a year leaving scientists, who study the impacts of global warming on ice in the northern hemisphere, baffled.

The Independent reports: The island is home to the second-largest ice sheet in the world after Antarctica and rapid warming in the northern hemisphere has major implications for continuing global sea-level rise.

The Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier on Greenland’s west coast used to lose more ice from this than anywhere else in the country. 

It is known for the huge blocks of ice it calves into Disko Bay, which then drift south into the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed to have calved the iceberg which sank the Titanic. 

Between 2000 and 2010, Jakobshavn Isbrae contributed the largest solid ice discharge in all of Greenland’s ice sheet and is estimated to have contributed to nearly 1mm of global sea rise. 

But despite the trend of rising temperatures, it is no longer the place where the territory loses most of its ice. 

Since 2013, when the glacier’s ice loss was at its fastest, the ice at the terminus of the glacier has stopped decreasing in height and started to thicken. 

The overall effect is that it is now flowing more slowly, thickening and advancing towards the ocean instead of retreating further inland. 

Measurements of the glacier’s elevation changes on its narrow trunk show that instead of losing 20 metres in height a year as it had previously, the glacier is now thickening by 20 metres a year. 

New data processing techniques applied to the information gathered by satellites have given a clearer picture of the extent to which the ice is returning to the glacier, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.