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Ice front change of marine-terminating outlet glaciers in northwest and southeast Greenland during the 21st century

  • CHARLIE BUNCE (a1) (a2), J. RACHEL CARR (a1), PETER W. NIENOW (a2), NEIL ROSS (a1) and REBECCA KILLICK (a3)...


The increasingly negative mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) over the last ~25 years has been associated with enhanced surface melt and increased ice loss from marine-terminating outlet glaciers. Accelerated retreat during 2000–2010 was concentrated in the southeast and northwest sectors of the ice sheet; however, there was considerable spatial and temporal variability in the timing and magnitude of retreat both within and between these regions. This behaviour has yet to be quantified and compared for all glaciers in both regions. Furthermore, it is unclear whether retreat has continued after 2010 in the northwest, and whether the documented slowdown in the southeast post-2005 has been sustained. Here, we compare spatial and temporal patterns of frontal change in the northwest and southeast GrIS, for the period 2000–2015. Our results show near-ubiquitous retreat of outlet glaciers across both regions for the study period; however, the timing and magnitude of inter-annual frontal position change is largely asynchronous. We also find that since 2010, there is continued terminus retreat in the northwest, which contrasts with considerable inter-annual variability in the southeast. Analysis of the role of glacier-specific factors demonstrates that fjord and bed geometry are important controls on the timing and magnitude of glacier retreat.

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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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: C. Bunce <>


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