Thermodynamics of a fast-moving Greenlandic outlet glacier revealed by fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing

Robert Law*, Poul Christoffersen, Bryn Hubbard, Samuel H Doyle, Thomas R Chudley, Charlotte M Schoonman, Marion Bougamont, Bas des Tombe, Bart Schilperoort, Cedric Kechavarzi, Adam Booth, Tun Jan Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Measurements of ice temperature provide crucial constraints on ice viscosity and the thermodynamic processes occurring within a glacier. However, such measurements are presently limited by a small number of relatively coarse-spatial-resolution borehole records, especially for ice sheets. Here, we advance our understanding of glacier thermodynamics with an exceptionally high-vertical-resolution (~0.65 m), distributed-fiber-optic temperature-sensing profile from a 1043-m borehole drilled to the base of Sermeq Kujalleq (Store Glacier), Greenland. We report substantial but isolated strain heating within interglacial-phase ice at 208 to 242 m depth together with strongly heterogeneous ice deformation in glacial-phase ice below 889 m. We also observe a high-strain interface between glacial- and interglacial-phase ice and a 73-m-thick temperate basal layer, interpreted as locally formed and important for the glacier's fast motion. These findings demonstrate notable spatial heterogeneity, both vertically and at the catchment scale, in the conditions facilitating the fast motion of marine-terminating glaciers in Greenland.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabe7136
Number of pages11
JournalScience Advances
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2021


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