Feature: Arctic Thaw

Measuring Change

A Focus on the Thinning Northwest Greenland Glaciers

by | 5.19.2011 at 11:30pm
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NW Greenland Glacier (Photo: LDEO/Hakim Abdi)

Blog by Hakim Abdi, LDEO

Satellite measures showing thinning ice on the Northwest Greenland glaciers prompted Operation IceBridge to include annual flights over this region. The area runs along the Baffin Bay coast, which is often covered in fog and low lying clouds forcing delays and reschedules. With the end of our season in sight we were forced to complete the flight in less than optimal conditions.

The landscape around Upernavik and Uummannaq is rugged and can reach up to 6000 feet in elevation. (Photo: LDEO/Hakim Abdi)

As we flew further south, approaching Upernavik, we encountered a dense cloud layer running inland along the glacier for several miles, and stopping at about the 2000 foot elevation. The scenery above the clouds showed high snowy peaks prompting a quick look at a digital elevation model of Greenland. The elevation around Upernavik and surrounding areas can reach up to 6000 feet, evident in the peaks we observed during the flight. This upper elevation was cloud free and we were able to collect data for monitoring any changes in ice thickness in these higher elevations.

The Pituffik Glacier – Although the temperature is getting warmer and the seasonal melting process has begun, there is a considerable amount of sea ice present. When their time comes, and when the sea ice has melted, the crevassed sections of the glacier break off and float as icebergs. (Photo: LDEO/Hakim Abdi)

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Arctic Hare (Lepus arcticus). Photo: LDEO/Hakim Abdi

The arctic is home to several species of wildlife, some of whom are circumpolar. As we prepare to wrap up this season in Greenland Ithought I would share a few images of its charismatic residents. As summer approaches (it is presently at 23 degrees F), it has become possible to observe some of these species around the base. These include the Arctic Fox Vulpus lagopus, Arctic Hare Lepus arcticus, Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis, Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus, (Greenlandic) Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus, and the Common Raven Corvus corax.

The (Greenlandic) Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus). Photo: LDEO/Hakim Abdi

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