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Recent progress in understanding marine-terminating Arctic outlet glacier response to climatic and oceanic forcing: Twenty years of rapid change


Carr, J Rachel; Stokes, Chris R; Vieli, Andreas (2013). Recent progress in understanding marine-terminating Arctic outlet glacier response to climatic and oceanic forcing: Twenty years of rapid change. Progress in Physical Geography, 37(4):436-467.

Abstract

Until relatively recently, it was assumed that Arctic ice masses would respond to climatic/oceanic forcing over millennia, but observations made during the past two decades have radically altered this viewpoint and have demonstrated that marine-terminating outlet glaciers can undergo dramatic dynamic change at annual timescales. This paper reviews the substantial progress made in our understanding of the links between marine-terminating Arctic outlet glacier behaviour and the ocean-climate system during the past 20 years, when many ice masses have rapidly lost mass. Specifically, we assess three primary climatic/oceanic controls on outlet glacier dynamics, namely air temperature, ocean temperature and sea ice concentrations, and discuss key linkages between them. Despite recent progress, significant uncertainty remains over the response of marine-terminating outlet glaciers to these forcings, most notably: (1) the spatial variation in the relative impor- tance of each factor; (2), the contribution of glacier-specific factors to glacier dynamics; and (3) the limitations in our ability to accurately model marine-terminating outlet glacier behaviour. Our present understanding pre- cludes us from identifying patterns of outlet glacier response to forcing that are applicable across the Arctic and we underscore the potential danger of extrapolating rates of mass loss from a small sample of study glaciers.

Abstract

Until relatively recently, it was assumed that Arctic ice masses would respond to climatic/oceanic forcing over millennia, but observations made during the past two decades have radically altered this viewpoint and have demonstrated that marine-terminating outlet glaciers can undergo dramatic dynamic change at annual timescales. This paper reviews the substantial progress made in our understanding of the links between marine-terminating Arctic outlet glacier behaviour and the ocean-climate system during the past 20 years, when many ice masses have rapidly lost mass. Specifically, we assess three primary climatic/oceanic controls on outlet glacier dynamics, namely air temperature, ocean temperature and sea ice concentrations, and discuss key linkages between them. Despite recent progress, significant uncertainty remains over the response of marine-terminating outlet glaciers to these forcings, most notably: (1) the spatial variation in the relative impor- tance of each factor; (2), the contribution of glacier-specific factors to glacier dynamics; and (3) the limitations in our ability to accurately model marine-terminating outlet glacier behaviour. Our present understanding pre- cludes us from identifying patterns of outlet glacier response to forcing that are applicable across the Arctic and we underscore the potential danger of extrapolating rates of mass loss from a small sample of study glaciers.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:13 Nov 2013 15:51
Last Modified:21 Nov 2017 16:55
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN:0309-1333
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0309133313483163

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