Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Expanding rivers on the Greenland ice sheet’s surface drain more meltwater into the sea

We tracked the annual extent of rivers on the Greenland ice sheet, revealing that the ice sheet's runoff area expanded by 29% between 1985 and 2020. Strong melting and refreezing has transformed the upper snow and firn layers into thick ice, enabling runoff from higher elevations even during cooler summers.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Rising runoff around the Greenland ice sheet.

References

  1. Pfeffer, W. T., Meier, M. F. & Illangasekare, T. H. Retention of Greenland runoff by refreezing: implications for projected future sea level change. J. Geophys. Res. 96, 22117–22124 (1991). This paper reports on the concept of excess melt in Greenland firn.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Nienow, P. W., Sole, A. J., Slater, D. A. & Cowton, T. R. Recent advances in our understanding of the role of meltwater in the Greenland Ice Sheet system. Curr. Clim. Change Rep. 3, 330–344 (2017). A review article that addresses knowledge and uncertainties in Greenland surface runoff.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Yang, K. & Smith, L. C. Internally drained catchments dominate supraglacial hydrology of the southwest Greenland Ice Sheet. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf. 121, 1891–1910 (2016). This paper presents supraglacial river network extraction from remotely sensed optical imagery.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. MacFerrin, M. et al. Rapid expansion of Greenland’s low-permeability ice slabs. Nature 573, 403–407 (2019). This paper presents ice-sheet-wide mapping of ice slabs in the accumulation zone.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Fettweis, X. et al. GrSMBMIP: intercomparison of the modelled 1980-2012 surface mass balance over the Greenland Ice Sheet. Cryosphere 14, 3935–3958 (2020). This paper presents the results of an intercomparison of the major models of surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This is a summary of: Tedstone, A. J. & Machguth, H. Increasing surface runoff from Greenland’s firn areas. Nat. Clim. Change https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01371-z (2022).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Expanding rivers on the Greenland ice sheet’s surface drain more meltwater into the sea. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01382-w

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01382-w

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing