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Submarine melt rate estimates for floating termini of Greenland outlet glaciers (2000–2010)

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The rate of mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet has increased over the past decade due, in large part, to changes in marine-terminating outlet glacier dynamics. These changes are attributed to increased submarine melt rates of floating ice tongues and submerged calving faces resulting from increased coastal ocean heat transport. We use remotely sensed data to calculate submarine melt rates for 13 marine-terminating outlet glaciers in Greenland on a semi-annual basis between 2000 and 2010. We assess temporal and spatial variability in the calculated submarine melt rates and compare those variabilities to concurrent glacier change and offshore ocean temperatures. Over the period of study, average melt rates ranged from 0.03 to 2.98 m d–1 and account for 5–85% of the total volume loss from the floating ice tongue, with no clear spatial pattern. Only four glaciers show substantial interannual variability in melt rate during the decade. Melt rates were uncorrelated with front retreat, speed and changes in ocean temperature. Although the small sample size limits our analysis of the relationship between oceanographic forcing and glacier response, these data suggest that the calving rate may vary with discharge but that submarine melt rates are independent of grounding line discharge.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2013

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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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