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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 2 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 565-575, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-565-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 20 Feb 2018

Research article | 20 Feb 2018

Greenland iceberg melt variability from high-resolution satellite observations

Ellyn M. Enderlin1,2, Caroline J. Carrigan2, William H. Kochtitzky1,2, Alexandra Cuadros3, Twila Moon4, and Gordon S. Hamiltona,b,† Ellyn M. Enderlin et al.
  • 1Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
  • 2School of Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
  • 3School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
  • 4National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80303, USA
  • aformerly at: Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
  • bformerly at: School of Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
  • deceased

Abstract. Iceberg discharge from the Greenland Ice Sheet accounts for up to half of the freshwater flux to surrounding fjords and ocean basins, yet the spatial distribution of iceberg meltwater fluxes is poorly understood. One of the primary limitations for mapping iceberg meltwater fluxes, and changes over time, is the dearth of iceberg submarine melt rate estimates. Here we use a remote sensing approach to estimate submarine melt rates during 2011–2016 for 637 icebergs discharged from seven marine-terminating glaciers fringing the Greenland Ice Sheet. We find that spatial variations in iceberg melt rates generally follow expected patterns based on hydrographic observations, including a decrease in melt rate with latitude and an increase in melt rate with iceberg draft. However, we find no longitudinal variations in melt rates within individual fjords. We do not resolve coherent seasonal to interannual patterns in melt rates across all study sites, though we attribute a 4-fold melt rate increase from March to April 2011 near Jakobshavn Isbræ to fjord circulation changes induced by the seasonal onset of iceberg calving. Overall, our results suggest that remotely sensed iceberg melt rates can be used to characterize spatial and temporal variations in oceanic forcing near often inaccessible marine-terminating glaciers.

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This paper aims to improve the understanding of variations in ocean conditions around the Greenland Ice Sheet, which have been called upon to explain recent glacier change. Changes in iceberg elevation over time, measured using satellite data, are used to estimate average melt rates. We find that iceberg melt rates generally decrease with latitude and increase with keel depth and can be used to characterize ocean conditions at Greenland's inaccessible marine margins.
This paper aims to improve the understanding of variations in ocean conditions around the...
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