Even though the Jakobshavn Glacier has been melting over the past 20 years, the fastest melting glacier in West Greenland is unexpectedly growing again, but only temporarily.
New research published in Nature Geoscience revealed that since 2016, the ice of Jakobshavn Glacier has slightly thickened due to cooling of waters at its base.
Greenland Glacier Is Slowly Growing Again
The research team found that the waters around the opening of the glacier, which is also called Sermeq Kujalleq, in Greenland, are now their coolest temperature since the 1980s. Consequently, the ice of Jakobshavn Glacier stops melting and instead, it is now thickening and growing toward the ocean.
"At first we didn't believe it," said Ala Khazendar of Jet Propulsion Laboratory from NASA.
He said that they assumed that Jakobshavn Glacier would just continue to melt as it had over the last 20 years.
Temporary Cooling Of Ocean Temperatures
Over the last three years, according to Oceans Melting Greenland mission's data, the cold water has kept coming as a result of the temporary cooling of the ocean temperatures in the region. OMG uses ships and planes to measure the ocean temperatures. It found that between 2016 and 2017, Jakobshavn Glacier thickened slightly and the rate of losing its mass slowed down.
Khazendar and his team traced the cooling that began the North Atlantic Ocean, 966 kilometers south of the glacier. It is triggered by a climate pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation.
The atmospheric pressure at sea level fluctuates every five to 20 years, which results in either warming or cooling of the waters. The cold waters are then carried northward by the ocean currents up the southwestern coast of Greenland where Jakobshavn Glacier is located.
Jakobshavn Glacier Will Sink Again
Inevitably, however, and the glacier will shrink again.
"Jakobshavn is getting a temporary break from this climate pattern. But in the long run, the oceans are warming.," said Josh Willis, OMG principal investigator.
"This cooling is going to pass," said Khazendar. And when the cooling stops, "the glacier is going to retreat even faster than it was before."