It was once widely thought that once a glacier started retreating, the process would continue and nothing could stop it, but research has found that assumption is not true. A pulse of cooler water along the edge of Jakobshavn Glacier has allowed the glacier to gain mass. NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland project revealed the island’s biggest glacier has been growing since 2016.
The findings suggest other Arctic glaciers could also be growing and therefore predicting changes in glaciers in a warming world is more difficult than was once thought.
One important factor is that oceans are doing a huge part in driving Greenland’s ice melt. A recent influx of cold water from the north Atlantic pushing into the Arctic has dropped the temperature two degrees Celsius in some areas since 2014.
There is a natural cycle in the Atlantic Ocean that switches between warm and cold temperatures once every 20 years or so, and now cooler waters are penetrating far up the western coast of Greenland. When the temperature cycle switches back to a warm one, scientists believe the glacier will likely begin to lose mass even faster than it was before.