Ice-front variation and tidewater behavior on Helheim and Kangerdlugssuaq Glaciers, Greenland

TitleIce-front variation and tidewater behavior on Helheim and Kangerdlugssuaq Glaciers, Greenland
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsJoughin, I, Howat, I, Alley, RB, Ekstrom, G, Fahnestock, M, Moon, T, Nettles, M, Truffer, M, Tsai, VC
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Date Publishedjan
ISBN Number0148-0227

We used satellite images to examine the calving behavior ofHelheim and Kangerdlugssuaq Glaciers, Greenland, from 2001 to 2006, a period in which they retreated and speed up. These data show that many large iceberge-calving episodes coincided with teleseismically detected glacial erthquakes, suggesting that calving-related processes are the source of seismicity. For each of several events for which we hace observations, the ice front calved back to a large, pre-existing rift. These refits form where the ice has thinned to near flotation as the ice front retreats down back side of a bathymetric high, which agrees well with earlier theoretical predictions. In adition to recent retreat in a period of high temperature, analysis of several images shows that Helhaim retreated in the 20th Century during a warmer period and then re-adcanced during a subsequent cooler period. This apparent sensitivity to waming suggests that higher temperatures may promote an initial retread off a bathymetric high that is then sustained by tidewater dynamics as the ice front retreats into depper water. The cycle of frontal advance and retreat in less than a century indicates that tidewater glaciers in Greenland can advance rapidly. Greenland's larger resorvoir of inland ice and conditions that favor the formation of ice shelves likely contribute to the rapid rates of advance.