Submarine Melting of Icebergs from Repeat High-Resolution Digital Elevation Models
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 10:50 AM
Icebergs calved from tidewater glaciers act as distributed freshwater sources as they transit through fjords to the surrounding ocean basins. Glacier discharge estimates provide a crude approximation of the total iceberg discharge on inter-annual timescales, but the liquid freshwater flux from icebergs in glacial fjords is largely unknown. Here we use repeat high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) to derive meltwater fluxes for 18 icebergs in Sermilik Fjord, East Greenland, during the 2011-2013 boreal summers, and for 33 comparably-sized icebergs in Ilulissat Fjord, West Greenland, during March-April 2011 and July 2012. We find that iceberg melt rates for Sermilik Fjord are in good agreement with simulated melt rates along the vertical terminus of Helheim Glacier in winter, i.e. when melting at the glacier front is not enhanced by subglacial discharge, providing an independent validation of our technique. Variations in meltwater fluxes from icebergs are primarily related to differences in the submerged area of individual icebergs, which is consistent with theory. The stratification of water masses in fjords has a noticeable effect on summertime-derived melt estimates, with lower melt rates (and meltwater fluxes) observed in the relatively cold and fresh Polar Water layer and higher melt rates in the underlying warmer and more saline Atlantic Water layer. The meltwater flux dependence on submerged area, particularly within the deeper Atlantic Water layer, suggests that changes in the characteristics of icebergs (size/shape/keel-depth) calved from a tidewater glacier will alter the magnitude and distribution of meltwater fluxes within the fjord, which may in turn influence fjord circulation and the heat content delivered to the glacier terminus.