Recurring dynamically induced thinning during 1985 to 2010 on Upernavik Isstrøm, West Greenland



[1] Many glaciers along the southeast and northwest coasts of Greenland have accelerated, increasing the ice sheet's contribution to global sea-level rise. In this article, we map elevation changes on Upernavik Isstrøm (UI), West Greenland, during 2003to 2009 using high-resolution ice, cloud and land elevation satellite laser altimeter data supplemented with altimeter surveys from NASA's Airborne Topographic Mapper during 2002 to 2010. To assess thinning prior to 2002, we analyze aerial photographs from 1985. We document at least two distinct periods of dynamically induced ice loss during 1985 to 2010 characterized by a rapid retreat of the calving front, increased ice speed, and lowering of the ice surface. The first period occurred before 1991, whereas the latter occurred during 2005 to 2009. Analyses of air and sea-surface temperature suggest a combination of relatively warm air and ocean water as a potential trigger for the dynamically induced ice loss. We estimate a total catchment-wide ice-mass loss of UI caused by the two events of 72.3 ± 15.8 Gt during 1985 to 2010, whereas the total melt-induced ice-mass loss during this same period is 19.8 ± 2.8 Gt. Thus, 79% of the total ice-mass loss of the UI catchment was caused by ice dynamics, indicating the importance of including dynamically induced ice loss in the total mass change budget of the Greenland ice sheet.