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Effects of winds on glaciers flowing from the Greenland ice sheet into fjords

  • When storm winds blow
    "When storm winds blow-- Glaciers flow slowly from the upper reaches of the Greenland ice sheet down toward fjords on the coast. Chunks of ice calve off the glaciers ice tongue, a floating shelf of ice extending from the front of the glacier out onto the waters of the fjord. Prevailing storm winds push cooler surface waters toward the glacier and drive deeper, warmer waters in the fjord away from the glacier. (Illustration by Jack Cook, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)."
  • When winds die down
    When the winds die down-- When the wind stops, the flow of water reverses. Cooler surface layers move away from the glacier, and deeper, warmer waters flow from the ocean, reaching into the fjord and all the way to the front of the glacier.
  • A warming trend
    A recent warming trend-- In recent years, the deep waters coming in from the ocean have been much warmer than in the pastup to 6?C (nearly 43?F). The additional heat weakens the ice tongue and promotes cracking and calving from the glacier front.
  • Falling apart
    Falling apart-- After several years of exposure to warmer waters, the ice tongue collapses and huge chunks of ice calve from the glacier. The glacier front, still exposed to the warmer water, recedes. The entire glacier flows faster toward the fjord, perhaps because the ice tongue no longer impedes it. The warm, deep waters may also lubricate the interface where the glaciers bottom meets the ground.

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Illustrations by Jack Cook, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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