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