A Major Collapse of Kangerlussuaq Glacier's Ice Tongue Between 1932 and 1933 in East Greenland

Flor Vermassen, Anders A. Bjørk, Marie-Alexandrine Sicre, John M. Jaeger, David J. Wangner, Kristian K. Kjeldsen, Marie-Louise Siggaard-Andersen, Vincent Klein, Jeremie Mouginot, Kurt H. Kjær, Camilla S. Andresen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, several large outlet glaciers in Greenland lost their floating ice tongue, yet little is known regarding their stability over a longer timescale. Here we compile historical documents to demonstrate a major ice tongue collapse of Kangerlussuaq Glacier between 1932 and 1933. This event resulted in a 9-km retreat, exceeding any of the glacier's recent major retreat events. Sediment cores from the fjord are used to reconstruct sea surface temperatures and to investigate a potential sedimentological trace of the collapse. During the 1920s, local and regional sea surface temperatures and air temperatures increased rapidly, suggesting a climatic trigger for the collapse. Fjord bathymetry played an important role too, as the (partially) pinned ice tongue retreated off a submarine moraine during the event. This historical analogue of a glacier tongue collapse emphasizes the fragility of remaining ice tongues in North Greenland within a warming climate.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019GL085954
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2020


  • alkenones
  • Glacier retreat
  • historical documents
  • IRD
  • Kangerlussuaq Glacier

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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