Our objective is to map dynamic provinces and investigate dynamic changes in Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland. We use an approach that combines structural glaciology and remote-sensing data analysis, facilitated by mathematical characterization of generalized spatial surface roughness that provides parameters related to ice dynamics, deformation and interaction of the ice with bed topography. The approach is applied to derive time series of elevation and roughness changes and to attribute changes during rapid retreat. Different dynamic types of fast- and slow-moving ice can be mapped from ICESat Geoscience Laser Altimeter System data (2003–09) and Airborne Topographic Mapper data, using spatial roughness characterization, validated with ASTER and bed-topographic data. Results of comparative analysis of elevation changes and roughness changes of Jakobshavn south ice stream indicate (1) surface lowering of 10–15 m a-1 between 2004 and 2009 and (2) no change in surface roughness and dynamic types. These findings are consistent with a front retreat as part of a fjord-glacier cycle or following warming of fjord water and with climatic warming, but not with an internal dynamic acceleration as a cause of the observed changes during rapid retreat. Relationships to changes in basal water pressure are discussed. All glaciodynamic changes appear to have initiated near the front and propagated up-glacier.