Extensive Retreat of Greenland Tidewater Glaciers, 2000-2010

T. Murray, K. Scharrer, N. Selmes, A. D. Booth, T. D. James, S. L. Bevan, J. Bradley, S. Cook, L. Cordero Llana, Y. Drocourt, L. Dyke, A. Goldsack, A. L. Hughes, A. J. Luckman, J. McGovern

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Overall mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet nearly doubled during the early 2000s resulting in an increased contribution to sea-level rise, with this step-change being mainly attributed to the widespread frontal retreat and accompanying dynamic thinning of tidewater glaciers. Changes in glacier calving-front positions are easily derived from remotely sensed imagery and provide a record of dynamic change. However, ice-sheet-wide studies of calving fronts have been either spatially or temporally limited. In this study multiple calving-front positions were derived for 199 Greenland marine-terminating outlet glaciers with width greater than 1 km using Landsat imagery for the 11-year period 2000-2010 in order to identify regional seasonal and inter-annual variations. During this period, outlet glaciers were characterized by sustained and substantial retreat summing to more than 267 km, with only 11 glaciers showing overall advance. In general, the pattern of mass loss detected by GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) and other measurements is reflected in the calving record of Greenland glaciers. Our results suggest several regions in the south and east of the ice sheet likely share controls on their dynamic changes, but no simple single control is apparent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-447
Number of pages21
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


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