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Winter motion mediates dynamic response of the Greenland Ice Sheet to warmer summers

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Matt King


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We present ice velocities from a land-terminating transect extending >115km into the western Greenland Ice Sheet during three contrasting melt years (2009-2011) to determine whether enhanced melting accelerates dynamic mass loss. We find no significant correlation between surface melt and annual ice flow. There is however a positive correlation between melt and summer ice displacement, but a negative correlation with winter displacement. This response is consistent with hydro-dynamic coupling; enhanced summer ice flow results from longer periods of increasing surface melting and greater duration ice surface to bed connections, while reduced winter motion is explicable by drainage of high basal water pressure regions by larger more extensive subglacial channels. Despite mean interannual surface melt variability of up to 70%, mean annual ice velocities changed by <7.5%. Increased summer melting thereby preconditions the ice-bed interface for reduced winter motion resulting in limited dynamic sensitivity to interannual variations in surface melting.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sole A, Nienow P, Bartholomew I, Mair D, Cowton T, Tedstone A, King MA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geophysical Research Letters

Year: 2013

Volume: 40

Issue: 15

Pages: 3940-3944

Print publication date: 06/08/2013

ISSN (print): 0094-8276

ISSN (electronic): 1944-8007

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1002/grl.50764


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Funder referenceFunder name
UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Edinburgh University
Research Councils UK
FT110100207Australian Research Council