Structure and dynamics of a subglacial discharge plume in a Greenlandic fjord

Kenneth D. Mankoff, Fiammetta Straneo, Claudia Cenedese, Sarah B. Das, Clark G. Richards, Hanumant Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Discharge of surface-derived meltwater at the submerged base of Greenland's marine-terminating glaciers creates subglacial discharge plumes that rise along the glacier/ocean interface. These plumes impact submarine melting, calving, and fjord circulation. Observations of plume properties and dynamics are challenging due to their proximity to the calving edge of glaciers. Therefore, to date information on these plumes has been largely derived from models. Here we present temperature, salinity, and velocity data collected in a plume that surfaced at the edge of Saqqarliup Sermia, a midsized Greenlandic glacier. The plume is associated with a narrow core of rising waters approximately 20 m in diameter at the ice edge that spreads to a 200 m by 300 m plume pool as it reaches the surface, before descending to its equilibrium depth. Volume flux estimates indicate that the plume is primarily driven by subglacial discharge and that this has been diluted in a ratio of 1:10 by the time the plume reaches the surface. While highly uncertain, meltwater fluxes are likely 2 orders of magnitude smaller than the subglacial discharge flux. The overall plume characteristics agree with those predicted by theoretical plume models for a convection-driven plume with limited influence from submarine melting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8670-8688
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Volume121
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • fjord
  • glacier
  • Greenland
  • ice
  • ocean
  • plume

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate

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