Oceans Melting Greenland

Mission Complete!

NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) mission completes six years of oceanographic measurements revealing the ocean plays a strong role in Greenland’s ice loss.

Image of the Apusiaajik Glacier in Greenland. Image of a fjord in Greenland. Image of Principal Investigator, Josh Willis. The calving front of Jakobshavn Glacier, center. A glacier along the east coast of Greenland is seen out the window of a Gulfstream jet. Tracy and Heilprin glaciers in northwest Greenland. The two glaciers flow into a fjord that appears black in this image. Steve Dinardo, OMG Project Manager, discussing OMG project goals with members of the public at the JPL Open House in June 2018.
NASA Greenland Mission Completes Six Years of Mapping Unknown Terrain

To learn how ocean water is melting glaciers, NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland mission extensively surveyed the coastline of the world’s largest island.

Warming Seas Are Accelerating Greenland’s Glacier Retreat

Scientists with NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland mission are probing deep below the island’s warming coastal waters to help us better predict the rising seas of the future.

NASA's OMG: Where the Water Meets the Ice

Join JPL scientist Josh Willis as he and the NASA Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) team work to understand the role that ocean water plays in melting Greenland’s glaciers.

Cold Water Currently Slowing Fastest Greenland Glacier

NASA research shows that Jakobshavn Glacier, which has been Greenland's fastest-flowing and fastest-thinning glacier for the last 20 years, has made an unexpected about-face.

The Hunt for Better Climate Science

NASA scientists are mapping the loss of ice in Greenland, part of a cutting-edge effort to understand how warming oceans melt ice sheets — a key factor in improving uncertain forecasts for sea-level rise.

OMG, the Water's Warm! NASA Study Solves Glacier Puzzle

A new NASA study explains why the Tracy and Heilprin glaciers, which flow side by side into Inglefield Gulf in northwest Greenland, are melting at radically different rates.

JPL Open House

Steve Dinardo, former OMG Project Manager, discussing OMG project goals with members of the public at the JPL Open House in June 2018.

About the OMG Mission

Global sea level rise will be one of the major environmental challenges of the 21st Century. Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) has paved the way for improved estimates of sea level rise by investigating the question: To what extent are the oceans melting Greenland’s ice from below? Over a six-year campaign, OMG measured changing water temperatures on the continental shelf surrounding Greenland, and how marine glaciers reacted to the presence of warm, salty Atlantic Water. OMG also facilitated improved measurements of the shape and depth of the sea floor because its complicated geometry steers currents and determines whether Atlantic Water can reach into the long narrow fjords to interact with the coastal glaciers.

Greenland Meltwater Animation

Click the image above to watch the narrated animation.

A typical Greenland glacier reaches the water in a long fjord or canyon, where a layer of cold, fresh surface water sits above a deeper layer of warm, salty water. The video above explains how the meltwater runs off at the bottom of the glacier and causes a plume which erodes the edge of the glacier. Temperature of the deep warm water layer is a key factor in how rapidly the plume will melt away the ice.

To measure changes in the deep layer of warm water around Greenland, OMG conducted an aircraft campaign each year in the summer to deploy 250 expendable temperature and salinity probes along the continental shelf. These measurements were matched with corresponding observations of the ice: OMG used NASA’s G-III to fly the Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN-A) in order to generate high resolution, high precision elevation measurements of Greenland’s coastal glaciers during the spring. These annual surveys by GLISTIN-A were used to quantify the thinning and retreat of ice over each season. These data, along with fundamental new observations of the sea floor geometry, provided a revolutionary data set which is being used to understand Greenland’s ice loss, model ocean/ice interactions, and improve estimates of global sea level rise.

Basler BT-67 aircraft in the air over Greenland.
Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) was a NASA Mission led by JPL Scientist Josh Willis to understand the role that the ocean plays in melting Greenland’s glaciers. From the sky and the sea, OMG gathered data about water temperatures and the glaciers all the way around Greenland to get a better idea of just how fast the ice is melting, and how fast global sea levels will continue to rise.

Animation depicting two aircraft taking measurements of the land and the ocean.
Animation depicting an aircraft with the Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN-A) instrument observing changes in the thickness and retreat of the glacier front as well as an aircraft deploying Airborne eXpendable Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (AXCTD) probes to measure ocean temperature and salinity on the shelf.

Contact Information

Principal Investigator
Josh Willis
Josh's JPL Science Profile
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA

Deputy Principal Investigator
Eric Rignot
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA

Project Manager
Ian Mccubbin
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA

Mission Manager
Jennifer Olson
Langley Research Center (LaRC)
Hampton, VA