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Summer surface melt thins Petermann Gletscher Ice Shelf by enhancing channelized basal melt



Increasing ocean and air temperatures have contributed to the removal of floating ice shelves from several Greenland outlet glaciers; however, the specific contribution of these external forcings remains poorly understood. Here we use atmospheric, oceanographic and glaciological time series data from the ice shelf of Petermann Gletscher, NW Greenland to quantify the forcing of the ocean and atmosphere on the ice shelf at a site ~16 km from the grounding line within a large sub-ice-shelf channel. Basal melt rates here indicate a strong seasonality, rising from a winter mean of 2 m a−1 to a maximum of 80 m a−1 during the summer melt season. This increase in basal melt rates confirms the direct link between summer atmospheric warming around Greenland and enhanced ocean-forced melting of its remaining ice shelves. We attribute this enhanced melting to increased discharge of subglacial runoff into the ocean at the grounding line, which strengthens under-ice currents and drives a greater ocean heat flux toward the ice base.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Peter Washam <>


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Present address: College of Earth Ocean and Environment University of Delaware Newark DE USA.



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