Surge-type glaciers in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland): distribution, temporal patterns and climatic controls

Harold Lovell, Jonathan L. Carrivick, Owen King, Jenna Sutherland, Jacob Yde, Clare Boston, Jakub Małecki

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We present the first systematic inventory of surge-type glaciers for the whole of Greenland compiled from published datasets and multitemporal satellite images and digital elevation models. The inventory allows us to define the spatial and climatic distribution of surge-type glaciers and to analyse the timing of surges from 1985 to 2019. We identified 274 surge-type glaciers, an increase of 37 % compared to previous work. Mapping surge-type glacier distribution by temperature and precipitation variables derived from ERA5-Land reanalysis data shows that the west and east clusters occur in well-defined climatic envelopes. Analysis of the timing of surge active phases during the periods ~1985 to 2000 (T1) and ~2000 to 2019 (T2) suggests that overall surge activity is similar in T1 and T2, but there appears to be a reduction in surging in the west cluster in T2. Our climate analysis shows a coincident increase in mean annual and mean winter air temperatures between T1 and T2. We suggest that as glaciers thin under current warming, some surge-type glaciers in the west cluster may be being prevented from surging due to (1) their inability to build-up sufficient mass, and (2) a switch from a polythermal to a largely cold-based thermal regime.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Early online date31 Aug 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 31 Aug 2023


  • Arctic glaciology
  • glacier surge
  • ice dynamics

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