Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
The Cryosphere, 6, 211–220, 2012
The Cryosphere, 6, 211–220, 2012

Research article 17 Feb 2012

Research article | 17 Feb 2012

Changes in the marine-terminating glaciers of central east Greenland, 2000–2010

K. M. Walsh1,2,*, I. M. Howat1,2, Y. Ahn2,**, and E. M. Enderlin1,2 K. M. Walsh et al.
  • 1School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
  • 2Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
  • *now at: NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
  • **now at: the School of Technology, Michigan Technical University, Houghton, Michigan, USA

Abstract. Marine-terminating outlet glaciers of the Greenland Ice Sheet have undergone substantial changes over the past decade. The synchronicity of these changes suggest a regional external forcing, such as changes in coastal ocean heat transport and/or increased surface melt and subglacial runoff. A distinct contrast in rates of ice front retreat has been observed between glaciers north and south of 69° N latitude on along the East Greenland coast. This latitude corresponds with the northward limit of subtropical waters carried by the Irminger Current, suggesting variability in ocean heat transport as the dominant forcing. Glacier surging, however, is yet another mechanism of change in this region. In order to provide further spatial and temporal constraint on glacier change across this important oceanographic transition zone, we construct time series of thinning, retreat and flow speed of 37 marine-terminating glaciers along the central east Greenland coast from 2000 to 2010. We assess this dataset for spatial and temporal patterns that may elucidate the mechanisms of glacier change. We confirm that glacial retreat, dynamical thinning, and acceleration have been more pronounced south of 69° N, with a high degree of variability along the Blosseville Coast and little inter-annual change in Scoresby Sound. Our results support the conclusion that variability in coastal ocean heat transport is the primary driver of regional glacier change, but that local factors, such as surging and/or individual glacier morphology, are overprinted on this regional signal.