Glacial fjords in Greenland are flushed rapidly with warm subtropical waters

A new paper in the March issue of the journal Nature Geoscience describes the first direct evidence of warm subtropical waters circulating deep inside glacial fjords in Greenland. These source waters are carried north by the Gulf Stream to the subpolar gyre in the Irminger Sea off Greenland’s east coast. Until now, it was unclear if and how these warm offshore waters reach the glacial fjords, but observations show that along-shore winds drive a vigorous circulation pattern that is capable of rapidly replenishing the fjords with warm waters from the Irminger Sea. The presence of warm waters in close proximity to the ice sheet’s outlet glaciers raises the possibilty of a large submarine melt rates, and a possible mechanism for the recent change in ice dynamics. The paper was co-authored by Gordon Hamilton and former CCI postdoc Leigh Stearns (now at the University of Kansas), and oceanographers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Canada and Greenland.