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Estimates of iceberg submarine melting from high-resolution digital elevation models: application to Sermilik Fjord, East Greenland

  • E.M. Enderlin (a1) and G.S. Hamilton (a1) (a2)
Abstract

Observed increases in iceberg discharge from Greenland’s marine-terminating glaciers over the past two decades have altered the freshwater flux from glacial fjords into surrounding ocean basins. Although variations in freshwater flux due to ice-sheet discharge change have been investigated on a broad scale, the distribution of the freshwater flux due to melting of calved glacier ice (i.e. icebergs) has not been examined. Logistical challenges to collecting in situ data in glacial fjords have so far prevented a detailed examination of freshwater fluxes arising from melting beneath the waterline (i.e. submarine melting). Here we demonstrate that submarine melting of icebergs can be quantified using repeat digital elevation models derived from very high-resolution stereo satellite images. Analysis of volume changes for icebergs in Sermilik Fjord, East Greenland, yield area-averaged submarine melt rates of ~0.39 m d–1. These rates are in relatively good agreement with simulated winter melt rates along the submerged portion of the Helheim Glacier terminus, providing independent validation of the applied technique. Further, the volume flux of fresh water from iceberg melting scales with surface and submerged iceberg areas, which suggests that iceberg meltwater may be an important freshwater component in fjords with high iceberg concentrations and/or expansive ice melange.

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References
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Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
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