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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 02 May 2019

Research article | 02 May 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Drivers for Atlantic-origin waters abutting Greenland

Laura C. Gillard1, Xianmin Hu1,2, and Paul G. Myers1 Laura C. Gillard et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 2Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

Abstract. The oceanic heat available in Greenland’s troughs is dependent on the location of the trough, the warm water origin, and how the water is impacted by local processes. This study investigates the mechanisms that bring warm water to the shelf and into the troughs abutting the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). Warm water that is exchanged from the trough into the fjord may influence the melt on the marine terminating glaciers. Regional ocean model experiments showed that Melville Bay troughs experienced warming following 2009. An increase in ocean heat in these troughs may drive a retreat of the GrIS. In 2004 to 2006, model experiments captured an increase in onshore heat flux in the Disko Bay trough, coinciding with the timing of the disintegration of Jakobshavn Isbrae's floating tongue and observed ocean heat increase in Disko Bay. Warm Irminger water can extend far north into Baffin Bay, reaching as north as Melville Bay troughs. However, it diminishes north of 67° N on the east coast. Seasonality of the maximum onshore heat flux differs due to distance away from the original source. The north-west coast and south-east coast respond differently to changes in meltwater from Greenland and high frequency atmospheric phenomena. With a doubling of the GrIS meltwater, Baffin Bay troughs brought ∼40 % more heat. The lack of presence of storms resulted in an increase in heat flux (∼20 %) through Helheim glacier’s trough. These results demonstrate the importance of onshore heat transport through troughs and its potential implications to the GrIS.

Laura C. Gillard et al.
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Laura C. Gillard et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Greenland's glaciers in contact with the ocean drain the majority of the ice sheet (GrIS). Deep troughs along the shelf branch into fjords, connecting glaciers with ocean waters. The heat from the ocean entering deep troughs may then accelerate the mass loss. Onshore heat transport through troughs was investigated with an ocean model. Processes that drive the delivery of ocean heat respond differently by region to increasing GrIS meltwater, mean circulation and filtering out of storms.
Greenland's glaciers in contact with the ocean drain the majority of the ice sheet (GrIS). Deep...