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Sea ice and the stability of north and northeast Greenland floating glaciers

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The interaction between sea ice and glaciers has been studied for the floating tongue of Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden glacier, northeast Greenland (79°30' N, 22° W). Information from glacial geological studies, expedition reports, aerial photographs and satellite imagery is used to document the glacier front position and fast-ice conditions on millennial to decadal time-scales. The studies indicate that the stability of the floating glacier margin is dependent on the presence of a protecting fast-ice cover in front of the glacier. In periods with a permanent fast-ice cover, no calving occurs, but after fast-ice break-up the glacier responds with a large calving activity, whereby several years of accumulated glacier-ice flux suddenly breaks away. Climate-induced changes of sea-ice conditions in the Arctic Ocean with seasonal break-up of the near-shore fast ice could lead to disintegration of the floating glaciers. The present dominant mass loss by bottom melting would then to a large extent be taken over by grounding-line calving of icebergs. The local influx of fresh water from the north Greenland glaciers to the sea would be reduced and the local iceberg production would increase.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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