Sea ice breakup and marine melt of a retreating tidewater outlet glacier in northeast Greenland (81°N)

Jørgen Bendtsen, John Mortensen, Kunuk Lennert, Jens K. Ehn, Wieter Boone, Virginie Galindo, Yu Bin Hu, Igor A. Dmitrenko, Sergei A. Kirillov, Kristian K. Kjeldsen, Yngve Kristoffersen, David G. Barber, Søren Rysgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Rising temperatures in the Arctic cause accelerated mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet and reduced sea ice cover. Tidewater outlet glaciers represent direct connections between glaciers and the ocean where melt rates at the ice-ocean interface are influenced by ocean temperature and circulation. However, few measurements exist near outlet glaciers from the northern coast towards the Arctic Ocean that has remained nearly permanently ice covered. Here we present hydrographic measurements along the terminus of a major retreating tidewater outlet glacier from Flade Isblink Ice Cap. We show that the region is characterized by a relatively large change of the seasonal freshwater content, corresponding to ∼2 m of freshwater, and that solar heating during the short open water period results in surface layer temperatures above 1 °C. Observations of temperature and salinity supported that the outlet glacier is a floating ice shelf with near-glacial subsurface temperatures at the freezing point. Melting from the surface layer significantly influenced the ice foot morphology of the glacier terminus. Hence, melting of the tidewater outlet glacier was found to be critically dependent on the retreat of sea ice adjacent to the terminus and the duration of open water.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4941
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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