Millennial-scale migration of the frozen/melted basal boundary, western Greenland ice sheet

Aidan Stansberry, Joel Harper, Jesse V. Johnson, Toby Meierbachtol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The geometry and thermal structure of western Greenland ice sheet are known to have undergone relatively substantial change over the Holocene. Evolution of the frozen and melted fractions of the bed associated with the ice-sheet retreat over this time frame remains unclear. We address this question using a thermo-mechanically coupled flowline model to simulate a 11 ka period of ice-sheet retreat in west central Greenland. Results indicate an episode of ~100 km of terminus retreat corresponded to ~16 km of upstream frozen/melted basal boundary migration. The majority of migration of the frozen area is associated with the enhancement of the frictional and strain heating fields, which are accentuated toward the retreating ice margin. The thermally active bedrock layer acts as a heat sink, tending to slow contraction of frozen-bed conditions. Since the bedrock heat flux in our region is relatively low compared to other regions of the ice sheet, the frozen region is relatively greater and therefore more susceptible to marginward changes in the frictional and strain heating fields. Migration of melted regions thus depends on both geometric changes and the antecedent thermal state of the bedrock and ice, both of which vary considerably around the ice sheet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-784
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number270
StatePublished - Aug 10 2022


  • Basal ice
  • ice temperature
  • ice-sheet modeling


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