Exceptional retreat of Kangerlussuaq Glacier, east Greenland, between 2016 and 2018

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2019.00123.

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Authors

Stephen Brough , J. Rachel Carr, Neil Ross , James M. Lea

Abstract

Kangerlussuaq Glacier is one of Greenland’s largest tidewater outlet glaciers, accounting for approximately 5% of all ice discharge from the Greenland ice sheet. In 2018 the Kangerlussuaq ice front reached its most retreated position since observations began in 1932. We determine the relationship between retreat and: (i) ice velocity; and (ii) surface elevation change, to assess the impact of the retreat on the glacier trunk. Between 2016 and 2018 the glacier retreated ∼5 km and brought the Kangerlussuaq ice front into a major (∼15 km long) overdeepening. Coincident with this retreat, the glacier thinned as a result of near-terminus acceleration in ice flow. The subglacial topography means that 2016–2018 terminus recession is likely to trigger a series of feedbacks between retreat, thinning, and glacier acceleration, leading to a rapid and high-magnitude increase in discharge and sea level rise contribution. Dynamic thinning may continue until the glacier reaches the upward sloping bed ∼10 km inland of its current position. Incorporating these non-linear processes into prognostic models of the ice sheet to 2100 and beyond will be critical for accurate forecasting of the ice sheet’s contribution to sea level rise.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.31223/osf.io/u5ydx

Subjects

Earth Sciences, Glaciology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics

Keywords

remote sensing, Sea level rise, basal topography, glacier retreat, Greenland ice sheet, ice discharge, marine-terminating glaciers, mass balance

Dates

Published: 2018-12-28 10:51

Last Updated: 2019-05-31 09:32

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License

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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