Petermann Glacier, North Greenland: massive calving in 2010 and the past half century
1Mohn – Sverdrup Center at the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Thormøhlensgate 47, 5006 Bergen, Norway
2Uni Research – Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Allégaten 70, 5007 Bergen, Norway
3Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA
Abstract. Greenland's marine-terminating glaciers drain large amounts of solid ice through calving of icebergs, as well as melting of floating glacial ice. Petermann Glacier, North Greenland, has the Northern Hemisphere's long floating ice shelf. A massive (~270 km2) calving event was observed from satellite sensors in August 2010. In order to understand this in perspective, here we perform a comprehensive retrospective data analysis of Petermann Glacier calving-front variability spanning half a century. Here we establish that there have been at least four massive (100+ km2) calving events over the past 50 years: (1) 1959–1961 (~153 km2), (2) 1991 (~168 km2), (3) 2001 (~71 km2) and (4) 2010 (~270 km2), as well as ~31 km2 calved in 2008. The terminus position in 2010 has retreated ~15 km beyond the envelope of previous observations. Whether the massive calving in 2010 represents natural episodic variability or a response to global and/or ocean warming in the fjord remains speculative, although this event supports the contention that the ice shelf recently has become vulnerable due to extensive fracturing and channelized basal melting.