Pimentel Sam (author), Gwenn E. Flowers (author), Martin J. Sharp (author), Bradley Danielson (author), Luke Copland (author), Wesley Van Wychen (author), Angus Duncan (author), Jeffrey L. Kavanaugh (author), NSERC (funder)
Significant intra-annual variability in flow rates of tidewater-terminating Arctic glaciers has been observed in recent years. These changes may result from oceanic and/or atmospheric forcing through (1) perturbations at the terminus, such as enhanced submarine melt and changes in sea-ice buttressing, or (2) increased surface melt, in response to atmospheric warming, reaching the bed and promoting glacier slip. We examine the influence of these processes on Belcher Glacier, a large fast-flowing tidewater outlet of the Devon Island ice cap in the Canadian Arctic. A hydrologically-coupled higher-order ice flow model is used to estimate changes in glacier flow speed as a result of changes in sea-ice buttressing and hydrologically-driven melt-season dynamics. Daily run-off from five sub-catchments over the 2008 and 2009 melt seasons provides meltwater forcing for the model simulations. Model results are compared with remotely-sensed and in situ ice-surface velocity measurements. Sea-ice effects are found to have a minor influence on glacier flow speed relative to that of meltwater drainage, which is clearly implicated in short-term velocity variations during the melt season. We find that threshold drainage is essential in determining the timing of these short-lived accelerations.