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Dynamic inland propagation of thinning due to ice loss at the margins of the Greenland ice sheet

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Mass-balance analysis of the Greenland ice sheet based on surface elevation changes observed by the European Remote-sensing Satellite (ERS) (1992–2002) and Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) (2003–07) indicates that the strongly increased mass loss at lower elevations (<2000 m) of the ice sheet, as observed during 2003–07, appears to induce interior ice thinning at higher elevations. In this paper, we perform a perturbation experiment with a three-dimensional anisotropic ice-flow model (AIF model) to investigate this upstream propagation. Observed thinning rates in the regions below 2000 m elevation are used as perturbation inputs. The model runs with perturbation for 10 years show that the extensive mass loss at the ice-sheet margins does in fact cause interior thinning on short timescales (i.e. decadal). The modeled pattern of thinning over the ice sheet agrees with the observations, which implies that the strong mass loss since the early 2000s at low elevations has had a dynamic impact on the entire ice sheet. The modeling results also suggest that even if the large mass loss at the margins stopped, the interior ice sheet would continue thinning for 300 years and would take thousands of years for full dynamic recovery.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2012

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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