Geodetic measurements reveal similarities between post–Last Glacial Maximum and present-day mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Shfaqat A. Khan
  • Ingo Sasgen
  • Michael Bevis
  • Tonie van Dam
  • Jonathan L. Bamber
  • John Wahr
  • Michael Willis
  • Kjær, Kurt H.
  • Bert Wouters
  • Veit Helm
  • Bea M. Csatho
  • Kevin Fleming
  • Bjørk, Anders Anker
  • Andy Aschwanden
  • Per Knudsen
  • Peter Kuipers Munneke
Accurate quantification of the millennial-scale mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) and its contribution to global sea-level rise remain challenging because of sparse in situ observations in key regions. Glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) is the ongoing response of the solid Earth to ice and ocean load changes occurring since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; ~21 thousand years ago) and may be used to constrain the GrIS deglaciation history. We use data from the Greenland Global Positioning System network to directly measure GIA and estimate basinwide mass changes since the LGM. Unpredicted, large GIA uplift rates of +12 mm/year are found in southeast Greenland. These rates are due to low upper mantle viscosity in the region, from when Greenland passed over the Iceland hot spot about 40 million years ago. This region of concentrated soft rheology has a profound influence on reconstructing the deglaciation history of Greenland. We reevaluate the evolution of the GrIS since LGM and obtain a loss of 1.5-m sea-level equivalent from the northwest and southeast. These same sectors are dominating modern mass loss. We suggest that the present destabilization of these marine-based sectors may increase sea level for centuries to come. Our new deglaciation history and GIA uplift estimates suggest that studies that use the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite mission to infer present-day changes in the GrIS may have erroneously corrected for GIA and underestimated the mass loss by about 20 gigatons/year.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1600931
JournalScience Advances
Issue number9
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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