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A chance discovery of 80-year-old photo plates in a Danish basement is providing new insight into how Greenland glaciers are melting today.

Researchers at the National Survey and Cadastre of Denmark — that country’s federal agency responsible for surveys and mapping — had been storing the glass plates since explorer Knud Rasmussen’s expedition to the southeast coast of Greenland in the early 1930s.

In this week’s online edition of Nature Geoscience, Ohio State University researchers and colleagues in Denmark describe how they analyzed ice loss in the region by comparing the images on the plates to aerial photographs and satellite images taken from World War II to today.

Taken together, the imagery shows that glaciers in the region were melting even faster in the 1930s than they are today, said Jason Box, associate professor of geography and researcher at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State. Read more.

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