Direct observation of winter meltwater drainage from the Greenland Ice Sheet

Lincoln H. Pitcher, Laurence C. Smith, Colin J. Gleason, Clément Miège, Jonathan C. Ryan, Birgit Hagedorn, Dirk van As, Winnie Chu, Richard R. Forster

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftArtikelForskningpeer review

10 Citationer (Scopus)


Meltwater runoff from the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) significantly contributes to sea level rise and is the dominant driver of enhanced mass loss. While most melt occurs during summer, little is known about its seasonal and/or interannual retention within the GrIS. Here, we document evidence of runoff during winter, ~4 months after summer melt. Ground-penetrating radar and borehole surveys in the proglacial Isortoq River reveal slowly flowing water beneath >0.5 m of river ice. Geochemical analysis of this water indicates previous contact with the ice sheet bed. Comparable surveys in proglacial rivers draining four neighboring catchments found no winter drainage, despite a brief surface melt event ~10 days prior. We attribute the observed runoff to residual meltwater storage and release enabled by a >600 m deep trough beneath Isunguata Sermia, but not neighboring glaciers. We conclude that the GrIS bed can stay wet and drain small amounts of meltwater year-round.

TidsskriftGeophysical Research Letters
Udgave nummer9
StatusUdgivet - 16 maj 2020


  • Programområde 5: Natur og klima


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