Annual variation of coastal uplift in Greenland as an indicator of variable and accelerating ice mass loss

Qian Yang, Shimon Wdowinski, Timothy H. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Seasonal melting of the coastal part of the Greenland ice sheet is investigated using GPS vertical displacement data from coastal stations, combined with data on atmospheric and ocean temperatures. Using a high pass filter and cubic spline models, we estimate five variables describing seasonal uplift, a proxy for proximal mass loss, including duration of the melt season and the amount of summer uplift. Our analysis shows both temporal and spatial variations of uplift. Southern coastal Greenland experienced anomalously large uplift in summer 2010, implying significant melting that year. However, the northwest coast did not experience significant change in uplift at that time. Our data suggest that a combination of warm summer air temperature and warm sub-surface ocean water temperature drove the large mass losses in 2010. Using the uplift pattern of 2008-2010, and comparing to atmospheric data and ocean water temperature data, we show that warm Irminger Water (IW) exerted significant influence on coastal melting in southeastern, southern and southwestern Greenland, reaching about 69°N in 2010. North of this, IW did not exert significant influence, in effect defining the northward limit of the sub-polar gyre for that year. Thus, short-term variability in the coastal GPS uplift signal can be used to infer an oceanographic parameter that has a critical influence on Greenland ice sheet health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1569-1589
Number of pages21
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • GPS vertical displacement
  • Greenland's ice sheet
  • climatic forcings
  • seasonal melting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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