Ice flow dynamics and surface meltwater flux at a land-terminating sector of the Greenland ice sheet

Andrew Alexander William Fitzpatrick, Alun Lloyd Hubbard, Ian Joughin, Duncan Joseph Quincey, Dirk Van As, Andreas Mikkelsen, Samuel Huckerby Doyle, Bent Hasholt, Glenn Arthur Jones

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We present satellite-derived velocity patterns for the two contrasting melt seasons of 2009–10 across Russell Glacier catchment, a western, land-terminating sector of the Greenland ice sheet which encompasses the K(angerlussuaq)-transect. Results highlight great spatial heterogeneity in flow, indicating that structural controls such as bedrock geometry govern ice discharge into individual outlet troughs. Results also reveal strong seasonal flow variability extending 57 km up-glacier to 1200 m elevation, with the largest acceleration (100% over 11 days) occurring within 10 km of the margin coincident with spring melt. By late July 2010, 2 weeks before peak melt and runoff, 48% of the 2400 km2 catchment had slowed to less than the winter mean. This observation supports the hypothesis that the subglacial hydrological system evolves from an inefficient distributed to an efficient drainage system, regulating flow dynamics. Despite this, the cumulative surface flux over the record melt year of 2010 was still greater compared with the perturbation over the average melt year of 2009. This study supports the proposition that local surface meltwater runoff couples to basal hydrology driving ice-sheet dynamics, and although the effect is nonlinear, our observations indicate that greater meltwater runoff yields increased net flux over this sector of the ice sheet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-696
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number216
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2013


  • Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Velocity
  • Remote Sensing


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