Oceanic boundary conditions for Jakobshavn Glacier. Part I: Variability and renewal of Ilulissat Icefjord waters, 2001-14

Carl V. Gladish, David M. Holland, Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid, Jane W. Behrens, Jesper Boje

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jakobshavn Glacier, westGreenland, has responded to temperature changes in Ilulissat Icefjord, into which it terminates. This study collected hydrographic observations inside Ilulissat Icefjord and fromadjacentDisko Bay between 2001 and 2014. The warmest deepDiskoBaywaterswere blocked by the entrance sill and did not reach Jakobshavn Glacier. In the fjord basin, the summer mean temperature was 2.8°C from 2009 to 2013, excluding 2010, when it was 1°C cooler. Despite this variability, summer potential densities in the basin were in the narrow range of 27.20 ≤ σθ ≤ 27.31 kgm-3, and basin water properties matched those of Disko Bay in this layer each summer. This relation has likely held since at least 1980. Basin waters from 2009 and 2011-13 were therefore similar to those in 1998/99, when JakobshavnGlacier began to retreat, while basin waters in 2010 were as cool as in the 1980s. The 2010 basin temperature anomaly was advected into Disko Bay, not produced by local atmospheric variability. This anomaly also shows that Ilulissat Icefjord basin waters were renewed annually or faster. Time series fragments inside the fjord did not capture the 2010 anomaly but show that the basin temperatures varied little subannually, outside of summer. Fjord velocity profiles from summer 2013 implied a basin renewal time scale of about 1 month. In model simulations of the fjord circulation, subglacial discharge from Jakobshavn Glacier could drive renewal of the fjord basin over a single summer, while baroclinic forcing from outside the fjord could not, because of the sill at the mouth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-32
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Arctic
  • Atm/Ocean Structure/ Phenomena
  • Density currents
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Glaciers
  • In situ oceanic observations
  • Models and modeling
  • Observational techniques and algorithms
  • Ocean models
  • Oceanic variability
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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