An aerial view of 80 years of climate-related glacier fluctuations in southeast Greenland

Anders A. Bjørk, Kurt H. Kjær, Niels J. Korsgaard, Shfaqat A. Khan, Kristian K. Kjeldsen, Camilla S. Andresen, Jason E. Box, Nicolaj K. Larsen, Svend Funder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

151 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Widespread retreat of glaciers has been observed along the southeastern margin of Greenland. This retreat has been associated with increased air and ocean temperatures. However, most observations are from the satellite era; presatellite observations of Greenlandic glaciers are rare. Here we present a unique record that documents the frontal positions for 132 southeast Greenlandic glaciers from rediscovered historical aerial imagery beginning in the early 1930s. We combine the historical aerial images with both early and modern satellite imagery to extract frontal variations of marine- and land-terminating outlet glaciers, as well as local glaciers and ice caps, over the past 80 years. The images reveal a regional response to external forcing regardless of glacier type, terminal environment and size. Furthermore, the recent retreat was matched in its vigour during a period of warming in the 1930s with comparable increases in air temperature. We show that many land-terminating glaciers underwent a more rapid retreat in the 1930s than in the 2000s, whereas marine-terminating glaciers retreated more rapidly during the recent warming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-432
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume5
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate

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