110 years of local glacier and ice cap changes in Central- and North East Greenland

Monday, 15 December 2014: 10:20 AM
Anders A Bjork1, Soren Aagaard1, Kurt Henrik Kjaer1, Shfaqat Abbas Khan2 and Jason Box3, (1)Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, (2)Technical University of Denmark - Space, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark, (3)Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Copenhagen, Denmark
The local glaciers and ice caps of Greenland are becoming more apparent players in global sea-level rise, and their contribution to future changes is significant. Very little information on their historical fluctuations exists as much of the focus has been on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Now, we can for the first time present historic data that spans 110 years for more than 200 of the local glaciers and ice caps covering this large and important region of the Arctic.

The central- and north eastern part of Greenland is of particular interest as these areas are predicted to exhibit a more active behavior with higher mass loss in the future - simultaneously with an increase in precipitation. Our results show that the glaciers and ice caps in the region are responding very rapidly to changes in temperature and precipitation. The present retreat is the fastest observed within the last eight decades, only surpassed by the rapid post LIA retreat.

The 1930s was the golden era for scientific exploration in Central- and North East Greenland as several large expeditions visited the area and photographed from land, sea and air. We use historic recordings from Danish and Norwegian aerial missions and terrestrial recordings from the renowned American Explorer Louise Boyd. These unique pictures from the early 1930s form the backbone of the study and are supplemented the more recent aerial photographs the 1940s and onwards and satellite imagery from the mid-1960s and up until present. From high resolution aerial photographs we are able to map the maximum extent of the glaciers during the LIA (Little Ice Age), from which retreat in this area is estimated to commence in 1900. Using a new SMB (Surface Mass Balance) model and its components covering the entire observational period along with high resolution DEMs and historic sea-ice records we are now able to extract valuable information on the past and present triggers of glacial change.