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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)...

Abstract

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.

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