Winter motion mediates dynamic response of the Greenland Ice Sheet to warmer summers

Andrew Sole, Peter Nienow, Ian Bartholomew, Douglas Mair, Tom Cowton, Andrew Tedstone, Matt A. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Citations (Scopus)


We present ice velocities from a land-terminating transect extending >115?km into the western Greenland Ice Sheet during three contrasting melt years (2009?2011) to determine whether enhanced melting accelerates dynamic mass loss. We find no significant correlation between surface melt and annual ice flow. There is however a positive correlation between melt and summer ice displacement, but a negative correlation with winter displacement. This response is consistent with hydro-dynamic coupling; enhanced summer ice flow results from longer periods of increasing surface melting and greater duration ice surface to bed connections, while reduced winter motion is explicable by drainage of high basal water pressure regions by larger more extensive subglacial channels. Despite mean interannual surface melt variability of up to 70%, mean annual ice velocities changed by <7.5%. Increased summer melting thereby preconditions the ice-bed interface for reduced winter motion resulting in limited dynamic sensitivity to interannual variations in surface melting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3940-3944
Number of pages5
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Greenland ice sheet
  • Ice sheet dynamics
  • Ice sheet hydrology
  • Global Positioning Systems
  • Ice sheet melt


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