Skip to main content Accessibility help

Stable dynamics in a Greenland tidewater glacier over 26 years despite reported thinning

  • Suzanne L. Bevan (a1), Tavi Murray (a1), Adrian J. Luckman (a1), Edward Hanna (a2) and Philippe Huybrechts (a3)...


Daugaard Jensen Gletscher, Greenland, is a large tidewater glacier terminating in the northwest corner of the Scoresby Sund fjords. We present a time series of surface flow speeds spanning 1985–2010 based on feature tracking of satellite images. The time series confirms that flow speeds remained stable and reveals a persistent summer acceleration of up to 10% over the lower 10 km of the glacier. The front of the 6 km floating tongue fluctuates by little more than the average size of calved icebergs, ~1 km. While we are unable to detect any imbalance between ice discharge and surface mass balance within our error estimates, observations suggest that the region is losing mass and experiencing decreases in surface elevation. We conclude that as flow speeds and surface mass balance have remained steady since 1985, the shift from balance to imbalance, leading to elevation decrease, must have occurred prior to this date. As for other stable Greenland tidewater glaciers, the seasonal melt cycle is the dominant influence on flow velocity variation but, if the apparent current thinning rates continue, there is potential for the grounding line to retreat, for calving rates to increase and for the glacier to accelerate.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Stable dynamics in a Greenland tidewater glacier over 26 years despite reported thinning
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Stable dynamics in a Greenland tidewater glacier over 26 years despite reported thinning
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Stable dynamics in a Greenland tidewater glacier over 26 years despite reported thinning
      Available formats



Hide All
Amundson, JM, Fahnestock, M, Truffer, M, Brown, J, Lüthi, MP and Motyka, RJ (2010) Ice mélange dynamics and implications for terminus stability, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland. J. Geophys. Res., 115(F1), F01005 (doi: 10.1029/2009JF001405)
Andersen, ML and 14 others (2010) Spatial and temporal melt variability at Helheim Glacier, East Greenland, and its effect on ice dynamics. J. Geophys. Res., 115(F4), F04041 (doi: 10.1029/2010JF001760)
Bales, RC, McConnell, JR, Mosley-Thompson, E and Csatho, B (2001) Accumulation over the Greenland ice sheet from historical and recent records. J. Geophys. Res., 106(D24), 33 813–33 825 (doi: 10.1029/2001JD900153)
Bales, RC and 8 others (2009) Annual accumulation for Greenland updated using ice core data developed during 2000–2006 and analysis of daily coastal meteorological data. J. Geophys. Res., 114(D6), D06301 (doi: 10.1029/2008JD010600)
Bamber, JL, Layberry, RL and Gogineni, SP (2001) A new ice thickness and bed data set for the Greenland ice sheet. 1. Measurement, data reduction, and errors. J. Geophys. Res., 106(D24), 33 773–33 780 (doi: 10.1029/2001JD900054)
Bassis, JN (2011) The statistical physics of iceberg calving and the emergence of universal calving laws. J. Glaciol., 57(201), 3–16 (doi: 10.3189/002214311795306745)
Box, JE and 8 others (2006) Greenland ice sheet surface mass balance variability (1988–2004) from calibrated polar MM5 output. J. Climate, 19(12), 2783–2800 (doi: 10.1175/JCLI3738.1)
Chen, JL, Wilson, CR and Tapley, BD (2006) Satellite gravity measurements confirm accelerated melting of Greenland ice sheet. Science, 313(5795), 1958–1960 (doi: 10.1126/science. 1129007)
Christoffersen, P and 7 others (2011) Warming of waters in an East Greenland fjord prior to glacier retreat: mechanisms and connection to large-scale atmospheric conditions. Cryosphere, 5(3), 701–714 (doi: 10.5194/tc-5-701-2011)
Chylek, P, Dubey, MK and Lesins, G (2006) Greenland warming of 1920–1930 and 1995–2005. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33(11), L11707 (doi: 10.1029/2006GL026510)
Costa-Cabral, MC and Burges, SJ (1994) Digital elevation model networks (DEMON): a model of flow over hillslopes for computation of contributing and dispersal areas. Water Resour. Res., 30(6), 1681–1692
Ekholm, S (1996) A full coverage, high resolution topographic model of Greenland computed from a variety of digital elevation data. J. Geophys. Res., 101(B10), 21 961–21 972
Gray, L, Short, N, Mattar, KE and Jezek, KC (2001) Velocities and flux of the Filchner Ice Shelf and its tributaries determined from speckle tracking interferometry. Can. J. Remote Sens., 27(3), 193–206
Hamilton, GS and Whillans, I (2002) Local rates of ice-sheet thickness change in Greenland. Ann. Glaciol., 35, 79–83 (doi: 10.3189/172756402781817383)
Hanna, E, Huybrechts, P, Janssens, I, Cappelen, J, Steffen, K and Stephens, A (2005) Runoff and mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet: 1958–2003. J. Geophys. Res., 110(D13), D13108 (doi: 10.1029/2004JD005641)
Hanna, E and 8 others (2008) Increased runoff from melt from the Greenland ice sheet: a response to global warming. J. Climate, 21(2), 331–341
Hanna, E, Cappelen, J, Fettweis, X, Huybrechts, P, Luckman, A and Ribergaard, MH (2009) Hydrologic response of the Greenland ice sheet: the role of oceanographic warming. Hydrol. Process., 23(1), 7–30 (doi: 10.1002/hyp.7090)
Holland, DM, Thomas, RH, de Young, B, Ribergaard, MH and Lyberth, B (2008) Acceleration of Jakobshavn Isbræ triggered by warm subsurface ocean waters. Nature Geosci., 1(10), 659–664 (doi: 10.1038/ngeo316)
Howat, IM, Joughin, I, Tulaczyk, S and Gogineni, S (2005) Rapid retreat and acceleration of Helheim Glacier, east Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 32(22), L22502 (doi: 10.1029/2005GL024737)
Howat, IM, Joughin, IR and Scambos, TA (2007) Rapid changes in ice discharge from Greenland outlet glaciers. Science, 315(5818), 1559–1561 (doi: 10.1126/science.1138478)
Howat, IM, Box, JE, Ahn, Y, Herrington, A and McFadden, EM (2010) Seasonal variability in the dynamics of marine-terminating outlet glaciers in Greenland. J. Glaciol., 56(198), 601–613 (doi: 10.3189/002214310793146232)
Janssens, I and Huybrechts, P (2000) The treatment of meltwater retardation in mass-balance parameterizations of the Greenland ice sheet. Ann. Glaciol., 31, 133–140 (doi: 10.3189/172756400781819941)
Joughin, I, Abdalati Wand Fahnestock, MA (2004) Large fluctuations in speed on Greenland’s Jakobshavn Isbræ glacier. Nature, 432(7017), 608–610 (doi: 10.1038/nature03130)
Joughin, I, Das, SB, King, MA, Smith, BE, Howat, IM and Moon, T (2008) Seasonal speedup along the western flank of the Greenland ice sheet. Science, 320(5877), 781–783 (doi: 10.1126/science.1153288)
Khan, SA, Wahr, J, Bevis, M, Velicogna, I and Kendrick, E (2010) Spread of ice mass loss into northwest Greenland observed by GRACE and GPS. Geophys. Res. Lett., 37(6), L06501 (doi: 10.1029/2010GL042460)
Krabill, W and 12 others (2004) Greenland ice sheet: increased coastal thinning. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31(24), L24402 (doi: 10.1029/2004GL021533)
Le Brocq, AM, Payne, AJ and Siegert, MJ (2006) West Antarctic balance calculations: impact of flux-routing algorithm, smoothing algorithm and topography. Comput. Geosci., 32(10), 1780–1795 (doi: 10.1016/j.cageo.2006.05.003)
Lucchitta, BK, Rosanova, CE and Mullins, KF (1995) Velocities of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, from ERS-1 SAR images. Ann. Glaciol., 21, 277–283
Luckman, A and Murray, T (2005) Seasonal variation in velocity before retreat of Jacobshavn Isbræ, Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 32(8), L08501 (doi: 10.1029/2005GL022519)
Luckman, A, Murray, T and Strozzi, T (2002) Surface flow evolution throughout a glacier surge measured by satellite radar interferometry. Geophys. Res. Lett., 29(23), 2095 (doi: 10.1029/2001 GL014570)
Luckman, A, Murray, T, Jiskoot, H, Pritchard, H and Strozzi, T (2003) ERS SAR feature-tracking measurement of outlet glacier velocities on a regional scale in East Greenland. Ann. Glaciol., 36, 129–134 (doi: 10.3189/172756403781816428)
Luckman, A, Murray, T, de Lange, R and Hanna, E (2006) Rapid and synchronous ice-dynamic changes in East Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33(3), L03503 (doi: 10.1029/2005GL025428)
Luthcke, SB and 8 others (2006) Recent Greenland ice mass loss by drainage system from satellite gravity observations. Science, 314(5803), 1286–1289 (doi: 10.1126/science.1130776)
Moon, T and Joughin, I (2008) Changes in ice front position on Greenland’s outlet glaciers from 1992 to 2007. J. Geophys. Res., 113(F2), F02022 (doi: 10.1029/2007JF000927)
Motyka, RJ, Truffer, M, Fahnestock, M, Mortensen, J, Rysgaard, S and Howat, I (2011) Submarine melting of the 1985 Jakobshavn Isbræ floating tongue and the triggering of the current retreat. J. Geophys. Res., 116(F1), F01007 (doi: 10.1029/2009JF001632)
Murray, T and 10 others (2010) Ocean regulation hypothesis for glacier dynamics in southeast Greenland and implications for ice sheet mass changes. J. Geophys. Res., 115(F3), F03026 (doi: 10.1029/2009JF001522)
Nick, FM, Vieli, A, Howat, IM and Joughin, I (2009) Large-scale changes in Greenland outlet glacier dynamics triggered at the terminus. Nature Geosci., 2(2), 110–114 (doi: 10.1038/ngeo394)
Pritchard, H, Murray, T, Luckman, A, Strozzi, T and Barr, S (2005) Glacier surge dynamics of Sortebræ, East Greenland, from synthetic aperture radar feature tracking. J. Geophys. Res., 110(F3), F03005 (doi: 10.1029/2004JF000233)
Pritchard, HD, Arthern, RJ, Vaughan, DG and Edwards, LA (2009) Extensive dynamic thinning on the margins of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Nature, 461(7266), 971–975 (doi: 10.1038/nature08471)
Reeh, N and Olesen, OB (1986) Velocity measurements on Daugaard Jensen Gletscher, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland. Ann. Glaciol., 8, 146–150
Rignot, E and Kanagaratnam, P (2006) Changes in the velocity structure of the Greenland ice sheet. Science, 311(5673), 986–990 (doi: 10.1126/science.1121381)
Rignot, E, Gogineni, S, Joughin, I and Krabill, W (2001) Contribution to the glaciology of northern Greenland from satellite radar interferometry. J. Geophys. Res., 106(D24), 34 007–34 019
Rignot, E, Braaten, D, Gogineni, P, Krabill, WB and McConnell, JR (2004) Rapid ice discharge from southeast Greenland glaciers. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31(10), L10401 (doi: 10.1029/2004GL019474)
Rignot, E, Velicogna, I, Van den Broeke, MR, Monaghan, A and Lenaerts, J (2011) Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise. Geophys. Res. Lett., 38(5), L05503 (doi: 10.1029/2011GL046583)
Scambos, TA, Dutkiewicz, MJ, Wilson, JC and Bindschadler, RA (1992) Application of image cross-correlation to the measurement of glacier velocity using satellite image data. Remote Sens. Environ., 42(3), 177–186
Schrama, EJO and Wouters, B (2011) Revisiting Greenland ice sheet mass loss observed by GRACE. J. Geophys. Res., 116(B2), B02407 (doi: 10.1029/2009JB006847)
Stearns, LA, Hamilton, GS and Reeh, N (2005) Multi-decadal record of ice dynamics on Daugaard Jensen Gletscher, East Greenland, from satellite imagery and terrestrial measurements. Ann. Glaciol., 42, 53–58 (doi: 10.3189/172756405781812565)
Strozzi, T, Luckman, A, Murray, T, Wegmuller, U and Werner, CL (2002) Glacier motion estimation using satellite-radar offset-tracking procedures. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 40(11), 2834–2391 (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2002.805079)
Sundal, AV, Shepherd, A, Nienow, P, Hanna, E, Palmer, S and Huybrechts, P (2009) Evolution of supra-glacial lakes across the Greenland ice sheet. Remote Sens. Environ., 113(10), 2164–2171 (doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2009.05.018)
Sundal, AV, Shepherd, A, Nienow, P, Hanna, E, Palmer, S and Huybrechts, P (2011) Melt-induced speed-up of Greenland ice sheet offset by efficient subglacial drainage. Nature, 469(7331), 521–524 (doi: 10.1038/nature09740)
Thomas, RH and 8 others (2000) Substantial thinning of a major east Greenland outlet glacier. Geophys. Res. Lett., 27 (9), 1291–1294
Van den Broeke, M and 8 others (2009) Partitioning recent Greenland mass loss. Science, 326(5955), 984–986 (doi: 10.1126/science.1178176)
Van der Veen, CJ (2002) Calving glaciers. Progr. Phys. Geogr., 26(1), 96–122 (doi: 10.1191/0309133302pp327ra)
Vaughan, DG and Doake, CSM (1996) Recent atmospheric warming and retreat of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula. Nature, 379(6563), 328–331
Velicogna, I (2009) Increasing rates of ice mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets revealed by GRACE. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36(19), L19503 (doi: 10.1029/2009GL040222)
Velicogna, I and Wahr, J (2005) Greenland mass balance from GRACE. Geophys. Res. Lett., 32(18), L18505 (doi: 10.1029/2005GL023955)
Wake, L, Huybrechts, P, Box, JE, Hanna, E, Janssens, I and Milne, GA (2009) Surface mass-balance changes of the Greenland ice sheet since 1866. Ann. Glaciol., 50(50), 178–184 (doi: 10.3189/172756409787769636)
Wouters, B, Chambers, D and Schrama, EJO (2008) GRACE observes small-scale mass loss in Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 35(2), L20501 (doi: 10.1029/2008GL034816)
Zwally, HJ and Giovinetto, MB (2001) Balance mass flux and ice velocity across the equilibrium line in drainage systems of Greenland. J. Geophys. Res., 106(D24), 33 717–33 728
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
  • URL: /core/journals/annals-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed