Direct measurement of warm Atlantic Intermediate Water close to the grounding line of Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden (79° N) Glacier, northeast Greenland

The Northeast Greenland Ice Stream has recently seen significant change to its floating margins and has been identified as vulnerable to future climate warming. Inflow of warm Atlantic Intermediate Water (AIW) from the continental shelf has been observed in the vicinity of the Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden (79∘ N) Glacier calving front, but AIW penetration deep into the ice shelf cavity has not been observed directly. Here, we report temperature and salinity measurements from profiles in an epishelf lake, which provide the first direct evidence of AIW proximal to the grounding line of 79∘ N Glacier, over 50 km from the calving front. We also report evidence for partial un-grounding of the margin of 79∘ N Glacier taking place at the western end of the epishelf lake. Comparison of our measurements to those close to the calving front shows that AIW transits the cavity to reach the grounding line within a few months. The observations provide support for modelling studies that infer AIW-driven basal melt proximal to the grounding line and demonstrate that offshore oceanographic changes can be rapidly transmitted throughout the sub-ice-shelf cavity, with implications for near-future stability of the ice stream.


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Authors: Bentley, Michael J., Smith, James ORCIDORCID record for James Smith, Jamieson, Stewart S. R., Lindeman, Margaret R., Rea, Brice R., Humbert, Angelika, Lane, Timothy P., Darvill, Christopher M., Lloyd, Jeremy M., Straneo, Fiamma, Helm, Veit, Roberts, David H.

On this site: James Smith
5 May, 2023
The Cryosphere / 17
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