Seasonal mass variations show timing and magnitude of meltwater storage in the Greenland Ice Sheet
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Seasonal mass variations show timing and magnitude of meltwater storage in the Greenland Ice Sheet

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  • Journal Title:
    The Cryosphere
  • Description:
    The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is currently losing ice mass. In order to accurately predict future sea level rise, the mechanisms driving the observed mass loss must be better understood. Here, we combine data from the satellite gravimetry mission Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), surface mass balance (SMB) output of the Regional Atmospheric Climate Model v. 2 (RACMO2), and ice discharge estimates to analyze the mass budget of Greenland at various temporal and spatial scales. We find that the mean rate of mass variations in Greenland observed by GRACE was between −277 and −269 Gt yr−1 in 2003–2012. This estimate is consistent with the sum (i.e., −304±126 Gt yr−1) of individual contributions – surface mass balance (SMB, 216±122 Gt yr−1) and ice discharge (520±31 Gt yr−1) – and with previous studies. We further identify a seasonal mass anomaly throughout the GRACE record that peaks in July at 80–120 Gt and which we interpret to be due to a combination of englacial and subglacial water storage generated by summer surface melting. The robustness of this estimate is demonstrated by using both different GRACE-based solutions and different meltwater runoff estimates (namely, RACMO2.3, SNOWPACK, and MAR3.9). Meltwater storage in the ice sheet occurs primarily due to storage in the high-accumulation regions of the southeast and northwest parts of Greenland. Analysis of seasonal variations in outlet glacier discharge shows that the contribution of ice discharge to the observed signal is minor (at the level of only a few gigatonnes) and does not explain the seasonal differences between the total mass and SMB signals. With the improved quantification of meltwater storage at the seasonal scale, we highlight its importance for understanding glacio-hydrological processes and their contributions to the ice sheet mass variability.
  • Source:
    The Cryosphere, 12, 2981–2999, 2018
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    CC BY
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    Submitted
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