22 Sep 2021
22 Sep 2021
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Unravelling the long-term, locally-heterogenous response of Greenland glaciers observed in archival photography

Michael Cooper1, Paulina Lewińska2, William A. P. Smith2, Edwin R. Hancock2, Julian A. Dowdeswell3, and David M. Rippin1 Michael Cooper et al.
  • 1Department of Environment and Geography, University of York, York, UK
  • 2Department of Computer Science, University of York, York, UK
  • 3Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Abstract. We present an approach for extracting quantifiable information from archival aerial photographs to extend the temporal record of change over a region of the central eastern Greenland Ice Sheet. The photographs we use were gathered in the 1930s as part of a surveying expedition, and so they were not acquired with photogrametric analysis in mind. Nevertheless, we are able to make opportunistic use of this imagery, as well as additional, novel data-sets, to explore changes at ice margins well before the advent of conventional satellite technology. The insights that a longer record of ice margin change bring is crucial for improving our understanding of how glaciers are responding to the changing climate. In addition, our work focuses on a series of relatively small and little studied outlet glaciers from the eastern margin of the Ice Sheet. We show that whilst air and sea surface temperatures are important controls on the rates at which these ice masses change, there is also significant heterogeneity in their responses, with non-climatic controls (such as the role of bathymetry in front of calving margins) being extremely important. In general, there is often a tendency to focus either on changes of the Greenland Ice Sheet as a whole, or to focus on regional variations. Here, we suggest that even this approach masks important variability, and full understanding of the behaviour and response of the Ice Sheet requires us to consider changes that are taking place at the scale of individual outlet glaciers.

Michael Cooper et al.

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-2021-256', Anonymous Referee #1, 29 Oct 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', David Rippin, 07 Jan 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-256', Anonymous Referee #2, 26 Nov 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', David Rippin, 07 Jan 2022

Michael Cooper et al.

Michael Cooper et al.


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Short summary
Here we use old photographs gathered several decades ago to expand the temporal record of glacier change in part of East Greenland. This is important because the longer the record of past glacier change, the better we are at predicting future glacier behaviour. Our work also shows that despite all these glaciers retreating, the rate at which they do this varies markedly. It is therefore important to consider outlet glaciers from Greenland individually to take account of this differing behaviour.