A sensitivity study of annual area change for Greenland ice sheet marine terminating outlet glaciers: 1999-2013

Trine S. Jensen, Jason E. Box, Christine S. Hvidberg

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The mass flux from marine terminating glacier outlets from the Greenland ice sheet is a significant mass budget term. Yet, glacier calving sensitivity to climate parameters is not well understood. In this study, the front area changes of 42 marine terminating Greenland outlet glaciers were measured annually from 1999 to 2013 using optical satellite imagery. Thirty-five glaciers retreated, while seven remained stable. The average front position change was -240 m a -1 and the total rate of front area change was -114 km 2 a -1. The yearly average area changes of all measured glaciers are compared with interannual variations in sea surface temperature (SST), sea-ice concentration (SIC), surface melt, Northern Hemisphere (NH) surface air temperatures and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index. We find: (1) northwestern glaciers area change have a significant correlation with surface melt and NH land temperature variations; (2) southeastern glaciers have a significant correlation with local SST, SIC and NH temperatures; and (3) southwestern glaciers area change correlate significantly with local SST and NAO index. We conclude that a climate sensitivity signal emerges considering a population of glaciers. Further, we find a significant correlation between the date of minimum extent and glacier latitude. Area change data are available from http://GAC.geus.dk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-81
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number231
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Ice/ocean interaction
  • Remote sensing
  • Tidewater glaciers

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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