Multi-decadal elevation changes of the land terminating sector of West Greenland

Jun Saito, Toby Meierbachtol, Joel Harper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regional assessments of ice elevation change provide insight into the processes controlling an ice sheet's geometric response to climate forcing. In Southwest Greenland's land terminating sector (SWLTS), it is presumed that ice surface elevation changes result solely from changing surface mass balance (SMB). Here we test this assumption by developing a multi-decadal (1985-2017) record of elevation change from digital elevation models (DEMs) and comparing it to regional climate model output and available records of ice speed. The SWLTS thinned by >12 m on average over the full 32-year period, but the change was highly variable in time and space. Thinning was amplified in the central region of the SWLTS, relative to the north and south. During 1985-2007, the north and south regions demonstrated net thickening while the central region thinned. Regional differences in elevation change are inconsistent with SMB anomalies, indicating that enhanced ice flow in the north and south contributed to thickening during this early time interval. While clear validation in the south is prevented by incomplete velocity data, historical surface speeds in the north were elevated. These findings support the interpretation that changing ice flow can influence ice surface elevation in the slow-moving SWLTS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-128
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number273
StatePublished - Feb 6 2023


  • glacier fluctuations
  • glacier monitoring
  • glacier volume
  • ice-sheet mass balance


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