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Oceanic mechanical forcing of a marine-terminating Greenland glacier

  • Jacob I. Walter (a1), Jason E. Box (a2), Slawek Tulaczyk (a1), Emily E. Brodsky (a1), Ian M. Howat (a2), Yushin Ahn (a3) and Abel Brown (a2)...


Dynamics of marine-terminating major outlet glaciers are of high interest because of their potential for drawing down large areas of the Greenland ice sheet. We quantify short-term changes in ice flow speed and calving at a major West Greenland glacier and examine their relationship to the presence of the sea-ice melange and tidal stage. A field campaign at the terminus of Store Gletscher (70.40˚N, 50.55˚W) spanning the spring and summer of 2008 included four broadband seismometers, three time-lapse cameras, a tide gauge, an automatic weather station and an on-ice continuous GPS station. Sub-daily fluctuations in speed coincide with two modes of oceanic forcing: (1) the removal of the ice melange from the terminus front and (2) tidal fluctuations contributing to speed increases following ice melange removal. Tidal fluctuations in ice flow speed were observed 16km from the terminus and possibly extend further. Seismic records suggest that periods of intensive calving activity coincide with ice-flow acceleration following breakup of the melange in spring. A synchronous increase in speed at the front and clearing of the melange suggests that the melange directly resists ice flow. We estimate a buttressing stress (~30–60 kPa) due to the presence of the ice melange that is greater than expected from the range of observed tides, though an order of magnitude less than the driving stress.

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Annals of Glaciology
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