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Sebastian H. Mernild
David M. Holland
Denise Holland
Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid
Jacob C. Yde
Glen E. Liston
, and
Konrad Steffen


The distribution of terrestrial surface runoff to Ilulissat Icefjord, west Greenland, is simulated for the period 2009–13 to better emphasize the spatiotemporal variability in freshwater flux and the link between runoff spikes and observed hydrographic conditions at the Greenland Ice Sheet tidewater glacier margins. Runoff model simulations were forced with automatic weather station data and verified against snow water equivalent depth, equilibrium line altitude, and quasi-continuous salinity and temperature observations obtained by ringed seals. Instrumented seals provide a novel platform to examine the otherwise inaccessible waters beneath the dense ice mélange within the first 0–10 km of the calving front. The estimated mean freshwater flux from land was 70.6 ± 4.2 km3 yr−1, with an 85% contribution of ice discharge from Jakobshavn Isbrae (also known as Sermeq Kujalleq), 14% from runoff, and the remaining 1% from precipitation on the fjord surface area, subglacial geothermal melting, and frictional melting due to basal ice motion. Runoff was simulated to be present from May to November and to vary spatially according to glacier cover and individual catchment size. Salinity and temperature observations correlate (significantly) with simulated runoff for the upper part of both the main fjord and southern fjord arm. Also, at the tidewater glacier margins in the northern and southern arm of Ilulissat Icefjord, salinity changes in the upper water column (upper 50 m) are significant after temporal spikes in runoff during late summer, while small-amplitude runoff variability during the recession of runoff did not create a clear signal in observed salinity variability. Also, in the southern arm near the glacier margin (between 100- and 150-m depth), the heterogeneous distribution in salinity could be because of the mixing of meltwater going upward from passing the grounding line. The effect of runoff spikes on observed salinity is less pronounced near the ice margin of Jakobshavn Isbrae than in the north and south arms.

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