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Greenland run-off rates accelerating

24 October 2012

Freshwater losses in Greenland have accelerated since the early 1990s, with the south-east of the island seeing losses rise by 50 per cent in less than 20 years, according to new research from Professor Jonathan Bamber in the School of Geographical Sciences and colleagues.

An international team of scientists, led by Professor Jonathan Bamber from the School of Geographical Sciences, reconstructed Greenland's freshwater losses from 1958 to 2010 in a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Professor Bamber said: "Greenland has been losing increasing amounts of mass.  What had been unclear was how much of that was due to losing water to the ocean, as opposed to factors like reduced snowfall."

Such an increase in the volume of fresh water flowing into the Atlantic could interfere with the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), the current that carries warm tropical water to northern Europe.  It could also reduce the ocean's ability to store carbon. 

The research was covered by New Scientist: 'Run-off from Greenland may weaken carbon sink'.

Paper

'Recent large increases in freshwater fluxes from Greenland into the North Atlantic' by Jonathan Bamber, Michiel van den Broeke, Janneke Ettema, Jan Lenaerts and Eric Rignot in Geophysical Research Letters