From: University of Oregon
Published December 21, 2017 08:03 AM

Study opens window on meltwater from icebergs

Surface water conditions in Greenland’s fjords and in the northern Atlantic Ocean are dictated by what’s going on deep below the surface next to the massive Greenland Ice Sheet, UO-led research has found.

Breakaway icebergs, according to research findings appearing online Dec. 4 ahead of publication in the journal Nature Geoscience, are the biggest source of freshwater entering the ocean in key areas around Greenland. And the timing and location of meltwater are important factors that should be included in ocean modeling, report the paper’s six co-authors.

“What’s really interesting is that the majority of that meltwater from icebergs doesn’t make it to the surface of the ocean. It stays deep in the water column,” said UO oceanographer David Sutherland. “Summed up over the whole fjord system, this suggests that icebergs play a fundamental role in setting the temperature and salinity of the ocean waters, which then control the transport of heat to the terminus of a glacier.”

The study was conducted in Sermilik Fjord, which is fed by three glaciers in southeast Greenland, where seasonal melting conditions vary. In fjords where melting does not occur, Sutherland said, icebergs may move into currents of the North Atlantic, where they may endanger shipping lanes and offshore oil wells before they melt.

 

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