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Interaction between the warm subsurface Atlantic water in the Sermilik Fjord and Helheim Glacier in Southeast Greenland
Johannessen, O.M.; Korablev, A.; Miles, V.; Miles, M.W.; Solberg, K.E. (2011). Interaction between the warm subsurface Atlantic water in the Sermilik Fjord and Helheim Glacier in Southeast Greenland. Surveys in Geophysics 32(4-5): 387-396.
In: Surveys in Geophysics. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht; Tokyo; Lancaster; Boston. ISSN 0169-3298, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Greenland outlet glaciers; Ocean warming; Surface melting

Authors  Top 
  • Johannessen, O.M.
  • Korablev, A.
  • Miles, V.
  • Miles, M.W.
  • Solberg, K.E.

    Recent observations of ocean temperature in several Greenland fjords suggest that ocean warming can cause large changes in the outlet glaciers in these fjords. We have observed the Helheim outlet-glacier front in the Sermilik Fjord over the last three decades using satellite images, and the vertical fjord temperature and salinity during three summer expeditions, 2008–2010. We show that the subsurface water below 250 m depth is the warm saline Atlantic Water from the Irminger Sea penetrating into the fjord and exposing the lower part of the Helheim glacier to warm water up to 4°C. Lagged correlation analysis spanning the 30-year time series, using the subsurface Atlantic Water temperature off the coast as a proxy for the variability of the subsurface warm Atlantic Water in the fjord, indicates that 24% of the Helheim ice-front movement can be accounted for by ocean temperature. A strong correlation (–0.75) between the ice-front position and the surface air temperature from a nearby meteorological station suggests that the higher air temperature causes melting and subsequent downward percolation of meltwater through crevasses leading to basal lubrication; the correlation accounts for 56% of the ice-front movement. The precise contribution of air temperature versus ocean temperature however, remains an open question, as more oceanographic and meteorological measurements are needed close to the glacier terminus.

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