How Greenland melts
Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research, Utrecht University, PO Box 8005, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands
Satellite altimetry and gravimetry show that the Greenland ice sheet has been losing volume and mass since the beginning of this century. However, from these short time series of direct measurements we cannot infer what the causes of the mass loss are, i.e. ice dynamics or surface processes, or that maybe the ice sheet returns to normal after a period of volume increase and mass gain. By modelling and observing the individual components of the ice sheet mass balance, i.e. snowfall, meltwater runoff and iceberg production, we are able to identify the processes that led to the recent mass loss. We conclude that the Greenland ice sheet is significantly out of balance. Acceleration of outlet glaciers and increased runoff have contributed equally to recent Greenland mass loss. The potential for mass loss by surface processes, however, was three times greater than actually observed, due to refreezing and enhanced snowfall.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2010