Ocean forcing of the Greenland Ice Sheet: Calving fronts and patterns of retreat identified by automatic satellite monitoring of eastern outlet glaciers
Article first published online: 23 AUG 2011
Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface (2003–2012)
Volume 116, Issue F3, September 2011
How to Cite
2011), Ocean forcing of the Greenland Ice Sheet: Calving fronts and patterns of retreat identified by automatic satellite monitoring of eastern outlet glaciers, J. Geophys. Res., 116, F03013, doi:10.1029/2010JF001847., , , and (
- Issue published online: 23 AUG 2011
- Article first published online: 23 AUG 2011
- Manuscript Accepted: 17 MAY 2011
- Manuscript Revised: 7 APR 2011
- Manuscript Received: 12 AUG 2010
 We have developed an automatic method to identify changes in the position of calving glacier margins using daily MODIS imagery. Application of the method to 32 ocean-terminating glaciers in East Greenland produced 26,802 margin positions for a 10 year long period (2000–2009). We report these high-resolution data and show that the glaciers exhibit seasonal cycles with magnitudes of advance and retreat proportional to glacier width. Despite similar seasonality there is a distinct difference between the interannual trends of calving front positions north and south of 69°N. All glaciers above this latitude showed very limited or no change when seasonality was excluded, while glaciers south of 69°N retreated significantly between 2001 and 2005 (∼2.3 km on average). Approximately 26% of the retreat of southern glaciers was regained by readvance from 2005 to 2009. To explain the latitudinal boundary of glacier dynamics, we review basic climatic factors, including summer and winter atmospheric forcing, sea ice conditions, and ocean temperature. We conclude that the southern retreats were strongly influenced by warm oceanic conditions associated with increased transport of subtropical waters to the Irminger Sea and to fjords and coastal regions south of 69°N. Northern glaciers remained stable despite significant increase in runoff in this region because fjords at latitudes higher than 69°N are less exposed to subtropical waters. The southern retreats illustrate sensitive behavior of calving glaciers, and we hypothesize that the calving fronts retreated because they were exposed to rapid ice-front melting.