Contrasts in the response of adjacent fjords and glaciers to ice-sheet surface melt in West Greenland

Timothy C. Bartholomaus, Leigh A. Stearns, David A. Sutherland, Emily L. Shroyer, Jonathan D. Nash, Ryan T. Walker, Ginny Catania, Denis Felikson, Dustin Carroll, Mason J. Fried, Brice P.Y. Noël, Michiel R. Van Den Broeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Neighboring tidewater glaciers often exhibit asynchronous dynamic behavior, despite relatively uniform regional atmospheric and oceanic forcings. This variability may be controlled by a combination of local factors, including glacier and fjord geometry, fjord heat content and circulation, and glacier surface melt. In order to characterize and understand contrasts in adjacent tidewater glacier and fjord dynamics, we made coincident ice-ocean-atmosphere observations at high temporal resolution (minutes to weeks) within a 10 000 km2 area near Uummannaq, Greenland. Water column velocity, temperature and salinity measurements reveal systematic differences in neighboring fjords that imply contrasting circulation patterns. The observed ocean velocity and hydrography, combined with numerical modeling, suggest that subglacial discharge plays a major role in setting fjord conditions. In addition, satellite remote sensing of seasonal ice flow speed and terminus position reveal both speedup and slow-down in response to melt, as well as differences in calving style among the neighboring glaciers. Glacier force budgets and modeling also point toward subglacial discharge as a key factor in glacier behavior. For the studied region, individual glacier and fjord geometry modulate subglacial discharge, which leads to contrasts in both fjord and glacier dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-38
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number73
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • atmosphere/ice/ocean interactions
  • ice velocity
  • ice/ocean interactions
  • iceberg calving
  • subglacial processes


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