Submarine melting of Greenland's glaciers: What are the relevant ocean dynamics?

Authors: Inga M. Koszalka, Thomas W. N. Haine (Johns Hopkins University, USA) and Marcello Magaldi (ISMAR-CNR, Italy)

The recent rapid increase in mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet has been primarily attributed to the acceleration of outlet glaciers. One possible cause of this acceleration is enhanced melting at the glaciers' terminus driven by the advection of warm waters of Atlantic origin over the SE Greenland shelf. We focus on two large glacial fjords in south-east Greenland, the Sermilik and Kangerdlugssuaq fjords, and use a high resolution model and simulated Lagrangian particles to identify processes controlling oceanic variability that could potentially be transmitted to the ice sheet and cause submarine melting of these glaciers. Preliminary results from model runs in summer 2003 suggest that  Atlantic-origin waters enter the shelf via the Sermilik Deep Opening and the Kangerdlugssuaq Fjord (Fig.1). The backward-traced Lagrangian particles suggest that the Atlantic Waters stem from either a branch of the Irminger Current coming directly from the Irminger Basin or one recirculating in the Denmark Strait and that some of the dense water overflow particles from the Denmark Strait may be mixed into this inflow as well (Fig. 2).