Using Icebergs to Constrain Fjord Circulation and Link to Glacier Dynamics

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Dave Sutherland1, Fiammetta Straneo2, Gordon S Hamilton3, Leigh A Stearns4 and George Roth1,5, (1)University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, United States, (2)WHOI, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (3)University of Maine, Orono, ME, United States, (4)University of Kansas, Department of Geology, Lawrence, KS, United States, (5)Polar Geospatial Center, St Paul, MN, United States
The importance of icebergs is increasingly being recognized in the ocean-glacier interactions community. Icebergs are ubiquitous in Greenland’s outlet glacial fjords and provide a physical link between the glacier and the ocean into which they melt. The iceberg shape is influenced by glacier size and calving mechanics, while the amount of melt produced depends on ambient water properties and the residence time of the iceberg in the fjord. Here, we use hourly positions of icebergs tracked with helicopter deployed GPS sensors to calculate velocities in the Sermilik Fjord/Helheim Glacier system. Data comes from three summertime deployments in 2012-2014, where icebergs were tagged in the ice mélange and moved through the fjord and onto the continental shelf. The iceberg-derived velocities provide information on ice mélange movement, fjord variability, and coastal currents on the shelf. Using simple melt rate parameterizations, we estimate the total freshwater input due to iceberg melt in Sermilik Fjord based on the observed residence times and satellite-derived iceberg distributions. These observations complement conventional oceanographic and glaciological data, and can quickly, and relatively inexpensively, characterize circulation throughout any given glacier-ocean system.