Reconciled freshwater flux into the Godthåbsfjord system from satellite and airborne remote sensing

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    As the rapid reduction in ice volume of the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) continues, increased melt water flux from the GrIS enters the deep Greenlandic fjords. This increased freshwater flux may change the salinity and eventually the ecology of the fjords. Here, we present a case study in which we, from various remote-sensing data sets, estimate the freshwater flux from the GrIS into a specific fjord system, the Godthåbsfjord, in southwest Greenland. The area of the GrIS draining into Godthåbsfjord covers approximately 36,700 km2. The large areal extent and the multiple outlets from the GrIS hamper in situ observations. Here, we evaluate available data from remote sensing and find a drainage basin in rapid change. An analysis of data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites shows a mean seasonal freshwater flux into Godthåbsfjord of 18.2 ± 1.2 Gt, in addition to an imbalance in the mass balance of the drainage basin from 2003 to 2013 of 14.4 ± 0.2 Gt year−1. Altimetry data from air and spaceborne missions also suggest rapid changes in the outlet glacier dynamics. We find that only applying data from the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission the mass change of the Godthåbsfjord drainage basin is significantly underestimated. When including additional laser-altimetry surveys, to account for changes in the outlet glaciers elevation, not captured by ICESat, the altimetry data were able to reconcile the basin mass balance with the gravimetric estimate and provide a higher spatial resolution of the mass changes.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)361-374
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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