The early 2000s accelerated ice-mass loss from large outlet glaciers in W and SE Greenland has been linked to warming of the subpolar North Atlantic. To investigate the uniqueness of this event, we extend the record of glacier and ocean changes back 1700 years by analyzing a sediment core from Sermilik Fjord near Helheim Glacier in SE Greenland. We show that multidecadal to centennial increases in alkenone-inferred Atlantic Water SSTs on the shelf occurred at times of reduced solar activity during the Little Ice Age, when the subpolar gyre weakened and shifted westward promoted by atmospheric blocking events. Helheim Glacier responded to many of these episodes with increased calving, but despite earlier multidecadal warming episodes matching the 20 th century high SSTs in magnitude, the glacier behaved differently during the 20 th century. We suggest the presence of a floating ice tongue since at least 300 AD lasting until 1900 AD followed by elevated 20 th century glacier calving due to the loss of the tongue. We attribute this regime shift to 20 th century unprecedented low sea-ice occurrence in the East Greenland Current and conclude that properties of this current are important for the stability of the present ice tongues in NE Greenland.
- Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate