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Iceberg properties and distributions in three Greenlandic fjords using satellite imagery

  • Daniel J. Sulak (a1), David A. Sutherland (a1), Ellyn M. Enderlin (a2), Leigh A. Stearns (a3) and Gordon S. Hamilton (a2)...

Abstract

Icebergs calved from tidewater glaciers represent about one third to one half of the freshwater flux from the Greenland ice sheet to the surrounding ocean. Using multiple satellite datasets, we quantify the first fjord-wide distributions of iceberg sizes and characteristics for three fjords with distinct hydrography and geometry: Sermilik Fjord, Rink Isbræ Fjord and Kangerlussuup Sermia Fjord. We estimate average total iceberg volumes in summer in the three fjords to be 6.4 ± 1.5, 1.7 ± 0.40 and 0.16 ± 0.09 km3, respectively. Iceberg properties are influenced by glacier calving style and grounding line depth, with variations in size distribution represented by exponents of power law distributions that are −1.95 ± 0.06, −1.87 ± 0.05 and −1.62 ± 0.04, respectively. The underwater surface area of icebergs exceeds the subsurface area of glacial termini by at least one order of magnitude in all three fjords, underscoring the need to include iceberg melt in fjord freshwater budgets. Indeed, in Sermilik Fjord, we calculate summertime freshwater flux from iceberg melt of 620 m3 s−1 (±140 m3 s−1), similar in magnitude to subglacial discharge. The method developed here can be extended across Greenland to assess relationships between glacier calving, iceberg discharge and freshwater production.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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