Deformation motion tracks sliding changes through summer, western Greenland

Nathan Maier, Neil Humphrey, Toby Meierbachtol, Joel Harper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Surface speeds in Greenland's ablation zone undergo substantial variability on an annual basis which are presumed to mainly be driven by changes in sliding. Yet, meltwater-forced changes in ice-bed coupling can also produce variable deformation motion, which impacts the magnitude of sliding changes inferred from surface measurements and provides important context to flow dynamics. We examine spatiotemporal changes in deformation, sliding and surface velocities over a 2-year period using GPS and a dense network of inclinometers installed in borehole grid drilled in western Greenland's ablation zone. We find time variations in deformation motion track sliding changes through the summer and entire measurement period. A distinct spatial deformation and sliding pattern is also observed within the borehole grid which remains similar during winter and summer flow. We suggest that positively covarying sliding and deformation across seasonal timescales is characteristic of passive areas that are coupled to regions undergoing transient forcing, and the spatial patterns are consistent with variations in the local bed topography. The covarying deformation and sliding result in a 1.5-17% overestimate of sliding changes during summer compared to that inferred from surface velocity changes alone. This suggests that summer sliding increases are likely overestimated in many locations across Greenland.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number267
StatePublished - Feb 13 2022


  • Basal ice
  • Glacier flow
  • Ice dynamics


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