Clickbait Greenland Ice Headline is Misleading

December 26, 2022

I did a double take when I first saw this headline, and didn’t spread it around.
Things are bad enough, folks, you don’t have to make shit up.
In this case, an over-eager University Press office was going for clicks over accuracy.

Hyped headline shows the danger (again) of University Press offices writing wildly distorted press releases and journalists running with them.

Geophysical Research Letters:

Plain Language Summary

Where Greenland’s glaciers terminate in the ocean, the relatively warm waters in the fjords melt the ice. This is a very important process, as the rate of melt determines how fast the glaciers are losing mass and inject freshwater into the ocean, which contributes to sea level rise and can change ocean currents. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to calculate how much glacial ice is melted by the warm ocean around Greenland, as it is unfeasible to measure the small melting processes so close to the calving glacier front. Up to now, melt rate calculations rely on estimates for floating glacier tongues in Antarctica, which are more accessible, but it has become increasingly apparent that important differences exist for these two cases. In this study, we try to find a better way to calculate melt rates for marine terminating glaciers with vertical fronts, by reconsidering the underlying physics of submarine melt, and by using observations of submarine melt waters near a vertical glacier front in Alaska.


So, (ice guys correct me here if necessary) in summary, the leading edges of Greenland glaciers that terminate in the ocean may ( or may not) be melting at a higher rate than previously known, which could make a difference in models of how quickly these ice streams move.
However, marine glaciers, while concerning, are not the biggest factor in Greenland mass loss – what’s really been increasing rapidly is the overall surface melt and runoff, as warmer air, and increasingly, unseasonable rain events, are eating away at the upper layers of ice.

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