Scientists' Explanation for Exploration 1

The Retreat of Jakobshavn Glacier

NASA scientists have been able to estimate the amount of retreat at the Jakobshavn Glacier as far back as 1851. For several decades, the glacier experienced a period of relative stability and little retreat or melting from the 1950s to the early 1990s. Then in the 1990s, the melting began to accelerate. Scientists attribute this acceleration to warmer temperatures, which lead to a longer melt period and more days each year where the ice melts rather than freezes. From 2000 to 2011, scientists estimate that Jakobshavn Glacier contributed nearly 1 mm to global sea level. While this may not sound like much, this glacier alone accounts for approximately 4% of the sea level rise recorded in the 20th century.

The graphic below shows that this acceleration seems to have leveled off in the late 2000s. However, recent studies are showing that we may begin to see another period of acceleration. They believe that in the next few decades the rate of retreat will accelerate yet again and by 2100, Jakobshavn Glacier will have retreated approximately 50 kilometers inland.

Jakobshavn Calving
Orthographic View of Jakobshavn Calving Front: 1851 to 2010. Image Credit: NASA