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An aerial view of 80 years of climate-related glacier fluctuations in southeast Greenland

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Anders Anker Bjørk, Kurt H. Kjær, Niels Jákup Korsgaard, Shfaqat Abbas Khan, Kristian Kjellerup Kjeldsen, Camilla Snowman Andresen, Jason Box, Nicolaj Krog Larsen, Svend Visby Funder

Widespread retreat of glaciers has been observed along the southeastern margin of Greenland. This retreat has been associated with increased air and ocean temperatures. However, most observations are from the satellite era; presatellite observations of Greenlandic glaciers are rare. Here we present a unique record that documents the frontal positions for 132 southeast Greenlandic glaciers from rediscovered historical aerial imagery beginning in the early 1930s. We combine the historical aerial images with both early and modern satellite imagery to extract frontal variations of marine- and land-terminating outlet glaciers, as well as local glaciers and ice caps, over the past 80 years. The images reveal a regional response to external forcing regardless of glacier type, terminal environment and size. Furthermore, the recent retreat was matched in its vigour during a period of warming in the 1930s with comparable increases in air temperature. We show that many land-terminating glaciers underwent a more rapid retreat in the 1930s than in the 2000s, whereas marine-terminating glaciers retreated more rapidly during the recent warming.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume5
Pages (from-to)427-432
Number of pages6
ISSN1752-0894
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2012

ID: 38251324