Greenland Glaciers Lose Enough Ice to Fill Lake Erie, Study Says

The rate of ice loss at two of Greenland’s largest glaciers has increased so much over the last decade that, if melted, the amount would be enough to fill Lake Erie, according to a new study. Using new techniques to calculate ice loss that include greater reliance on satellite data, researchers found that the rate of ice loss from the Jakobshavn and Kangerdlugssuaq glaciers far exceeded the amount needed to balance snowfall in their catchment basins. According to the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Jakobshavn — which drains 15 to 20 percent of all the ice flowing from interior Greenland to the sea — had lost enough ice to equal 11 years of typical snowfall, or about 300 billion tons of ice. Meanwhile, the Kangerdlugssuaq glacier “would have to stop flowing and accumulate snowfall for seven years to regain the ice it has lost,” said Ian Howat of Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar Research Center. However, researchers found that the Helheim glacier had actually gained a small amount of mass over the same period. The greatest value of the research, Howat said, is improvements in data gathering on glaciers, including use of at least seven orbiting satellites, as well as airplanes and other sources.