Oregon State University

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

Greenland's Petermann Fjord

Petermann Glacier, in the northwest corner of Greenland about 200 miles from the North Pole, is one of a few major outlet glaciers that drain the great Greenland Ice Sheet. The landscape stuns the imagination. Massive walls of layered rock rise up like sentinel guards capped by frosty remnants of the last ice age. Petermann Glacier fills a deep subglacial canyon that reaches 500 miles into the heart of Greenland. A floating ice shelf that protects the glacier from ocean attack now terminates in Petermann Fjord, a half drowned trough nearly a mile and a half deep.

The Greenland Ice Sheet is getting smaller — the floating Petermann Ice Shelf lost a third of its area as the outer shelf collapsed in 2010 and 2012. The ocean beneath the shelf is warming at alarming rates, and further changes are expected in the future. Scientists from across the world, led by Oregon State University, are using Petermann as a natural laboratory for understanding dynamic changes on a warming planet. They are monitoring the ice and ocean as it adjusts to new warmth and are examining geologic records that track past interactions among the atmosphere and ocean temperatures, advances and retreats of the ice, and changes in sea level — ultimately hoping to understand how our planet changed and may change again.

Learn more about their work in this video.

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