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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/tcd-6-2005-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tcd-6-2005-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 01 Jun 2012

Submitted as: research article | 01 Jun 2012

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Recession, thinning, and slowdown of Greenland's Mittivakkat Gletscher

S. H. Mernild1, N. T. Knudsen2, J. C. Yde3, M. J. Hoffman4, W. H. Lipscomb4, R. S. Fausto5, E. Hanna6, and J. K. Malmros7 S. H. Mernild et al.
  • 1Climate, Ocean, and Sea Ice Modeling Group, Computational Physics and Methods, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, USA
  • 2Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 3Sogn og Fjordane University College, Sogndal, Norway
  • 4Climate, Ocean, and Sea Ice Modeling Group, Fluid Dynamics and Solid Mechanics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, USA
  • 5Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Denmark
  • 6Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, UK
  • 7Department of Geography and Geology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract. Glaciers in Southeast Greenland have thinned and receded during the past several decades. Here, we document changes for the Mittivakkat Gletscher, the only glacier in Greenland with long-term mass balance observations and surface velocity measurements (since 1995). Between 1986 and 2011, this glacier shrank by 18 % in surface area, 20 % in mean ice thickness, and 33 % in volume. We attribute these changes to summertime warming and to drier winter conditions. Meanwhile, the annual mean ice surface velocity decreased by 30 %, likely as a dynamic result of thinning. This dynamic thinning is predicted by ice deformation theory but has rarely been observed on decadal time scales. Mittivakkat Gletscher summer surface velocities were on average 50–60 % above winter background values, and up to 160 % higher during peak velocity events. The transition from winter to summer values followed the onset of positive temperatures. Satellite observations show area losses for most other glaciers in the region; these glaciers are likely also to have lost volume (in average around one-third) and slowed down in recent decades.

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S. H. Mernild et al.

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S. H. Mernild et al.

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