Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-164
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-164

  18 Jun 2021

18 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Multi-decadal retreat of marine-terminating outlet glaciers in northwest and central-west Greenland

Taryn E. Black1,2 and Ian Joughin2 Taryn E. Black and Ian Joughin
  • 1Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195, United States
  • 2Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, 98105, United States

Abstract. The retreat and acceleration of marine-terminating outlet glaciers in Greenland over the past two decades has been widely attributed to climate change. Here we present a comprehensive annual record of glacier terminus positions in northwest and central-west Greenland and compare it against local and regional climatology to assess the regional sensitivity of glacier termini to different climatic factors. This record is derived from optical and radar satellite imagery and spans 87 marine-terminating outlet glaciers from 1972 through 2021. We find that in this region, most glaciers have retreated over the observation period, and widespread regional retreat accelerated around 1996. The acceleration of glacier retreat coincides with the timing of sharp shifts in ocean surface temperatures, duration of sea-ice season, ice-sheet surface mass balance, and meltwater and runoff production. Our findings suggest that a variety of processes – such as ocean-interface melting, mélange presence and rigidity, and hydrofracture-induced calving – contribute to, but do not conclusively dominate, the observed regional retreat.

Taryn E. Black and Ian Joughin

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-164', Michael Wood, 19 Jul 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-164', Anonymous Referee #2, 05 Aug 2021

Taryn E. Black and Ian Joughin

Taryn E. Black and Ian Joughin

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Short summary
We used satellite images to create a comprehensive record of annual glacier change in northwest Greenland from 1972 through 2021. We found that nearly all glaciers in our study area have retreated, and glacier retreat accelerated around 1996. Comparing these results with climate data, we found that several processes likely contribute to glacier retreat, but no process clearly dominates.