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Keywords:

  • Greenland;
  • mass balance;
  • remote sensing

[1] Acceleration of Greenland's three largest outlet glaciers, Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq and Jakobshavn Isbræ, accounted for a substantial portion of the ice sheet's mass loss over the past decade. Rapid changes in their discharge, however, make their cumulative mass-change uncertain. We derive monthly mass balance rates and cumulative balance from discharge and surface mass balance (SMB) rates for these glaciers from 2000 through 2010. Despite the dramatic changes observed at Helheim, the glacier gained mass over the period, due primarily to the short-duration of acceleration and a likely longer-term positive balance. In contrast, Jakobshavn Isbræ lost an equivalent of over 11 times the average annual SMB and loss continues to accelerate. Kangerdlugssuaq lost over 7 times its annual average SMB, but loss has returned to the 2000 rate. These differences point to contrasts in the long-term evolution of these glaciers and the danger in basing predictions on extrapolations of recent changes.