University of Tasmania

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Seasonal evolution of subglacial drainage and acceleration in a Greenland outlet glacier

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 15:25 authored by Bartholomew, I, Nienow, P, Mair, D, Hubbard, A, Matt KingMatt King, Sole, A
The Greenland ice sheet contains enough water to raise sea levels by 7 m. However, its present mass balance and future contribution to sea level rise is poorly understood. Accelerated mass loss has been observed near the ice sheet margin, partly as a result of faster ice motion. Surface melt waters can reach the base of the ice sheet and enhance basal ice motion. However, the response of ice motion to seasonal variations in meltwater supply is poorly constrained both in space and time. Here we present ice motion data obtained with global positioning system receivers located along a 35 km transect at the western margin of the Greenland ice sheet throughout a summer melt season. Our measurements reveal substantial increases in ice velocity during summer, up to 220% above winter background values. These speed-up events migrate up the glacier over the course of the summer. The relationship between melt and ice motion varies both at each site throughout the melt season and between sites. We suggest that these patterns can be explained by the seasonal evolution of the subglacial drainage system similar to hydraulic forcing mechanisms for ice dynamics that have been observedat smaller glaciers. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


Publication title

Nature Geoscience








School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences

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Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences