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A century of geometry and velocity evolution at Eqip Sermia, West Greenland



Rapid dynamic changes of ocean-terminating outlet glaciers of the Greenland ice sheet are related to atmospheric and oceanic warming but the detailed link to external forcing is not well understood. Observations show high variability in dynamic changes and are mainly limited to the past three decades with dense satellite observations. Here we compile a long-term record of dynamic changes of Eqip Sermia Glacier, West Greenland. Starting in 1912, we combine historical measurements of terminus positions, ice-surface elevation and flow velocity together with more recent in-situ and remote-sensing observations. In the 20th century, the glacier underwent small variations in terminus position and flow speed. Between 2000 and 2003, the terminus retreated substantially, but stabilized thereafter. In 2009, the northern terminus lobe started to retreat very rapidly; the southern lobe collapsed in 2013. The present terminus position, which has retreated by 4 km since 1920, is unprecedented in the historical record. Flow velocities were relatively stable until 2010. The recent acceleration reached threefold velocities in 2014 and rapidly affected the whole terminus region up to 15 km inland. Comparison with forcings from the atmosphere and the ocean over the past century shows that no dominant cause can be identified, and that local effects of bed geometry modulate the glacier response.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Correspondence: Martin P. Lüthi <>


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