Rapid response of Helheim Glacier, southeast Greenland, to early Holocene climate warming

Anna L.C. Hughes, Eleanor Rainsley, Tavi Murray, Christopher J. Fogwill, Christoph Schnabel, Sheng Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent changes in speed, thinning, and retreat rates of marine-terminating outlet glaciers have raised concerns about the future stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Establishing a longer term record of outlet glacier retreat rates is essential to provide a context for present-day observations and to improve and constrain numerical models of outlet glacier behavior. New exposure dating (10Be) of streamlined bedrock surfaces and glacial erratic boulders of Sermilik Fjord, southeast Greenland, the present-day drainage route of Helheim Glacier, documents rapid retreat (~80 m a-1) of this major marine-terminating outlet glacier at the close of the last glaciation. The glacier front retreated ~80 km to within 20 km of the present-day (2010) position of Helheim Glacier in <1 ka, ca. 10.8 ± 0.3 ka ago. Retreat followed rapidly rising air temperatures at the start of the Holocene, and at this temporal resolution there is no evidence that fjord geometry influenced glacier behavior. The significant response to climatic amelioration at the end of the last glacial suggests a high sensitivity to abrupt temperature increases, which has major implications for the future stability of present-day Greenlandic outlet glaciers in a warming climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-430
Number of pages4
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Rapid response of Helheim Glacier, southeast Greenland, to early Holocene climate warming'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this