The impact of glacier geometry on meltwater plume structure and submarine melt in Greenland fjords

D. Carroll*, D. A. Sutherland, B. Hudson, T. Moon, G. A. Catania, E. L. Shroyer, J. D. Nash, T. C. Bartholomaus, D. Felikson, L. A. Stearns, B. P Y Noël, M. R. van den Broeke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)
280 Downloads (Pure)


Meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet often drains subglacially into fjords, driving upwelling plumes at glacier termini. Ocean models and observations of submarine termini suggest that plumes enhance melt and undercutting, leading to calving and potential glacier destabilization. Here we systematically evaluate how simulated plume structure and submarine melt during summer months depends on realistic ranges of subglacial discharge, glacier depth, and ocean stratification from 12 Greenland fjords. Our results show that grounding line depth is a strong control on plume-induced submarine melt: deep glaciers produce warm, salty subsurface plumes that undercut termini, and shallow glaciers produce cold, fresh surface-trapped plumes that can overcut termini. Due to sustained upwelling velocities, plumes in cold, shallow fjords can induce equivalent depth-averaged melt rates compared to warm, deep fjords. These results detail a direct ocean-ice feedback that can affect the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9739-9748
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number18
Early online date29 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2016


  • Fjord
  • Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Modeling
  • Outlet glacier
  • Physical oceanography
  • Submarine melt


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