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Rapid reconfiguration of the Greenland ice sheet margin
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  • Beata Csatho,
  • Twila Moon,
  • Alex Gardner,
  • Ivan Parmuzin,
  • Mark Fahnestock,
  • Ash Narkevic
Beata Csatho
University at Buffalo

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Twila Moon
National Snow and Ice Data Center
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Alex Gardner
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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Ivan Parmuzin
University at Buffalo
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Mark Fahnestock
University of Alaska
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Ash Narkevic
University at Buffalo
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The rapid acceleration of Greenland Ice Sheet mass loss over, particularly the last two decades, is well documented.However, limits in early remote sensing restricted the details with which we could examine local changes on an ice-sheet-wide scale, particularly in areas of slow motion, along shear margins and complex coastal terrain. We explore the localcharacter of rapid contemporary change marine-terminating glaciers using satellite-derived ice sheet surface velocities,glacier terminus advance/retreat history, and surface elevation-change data from the 1980s to the present. Widespread glacierterminus retreat is a strong and more consistent climate response indicator than velocity change, but local changes in velocityare critical indicators of rapid ice sheet reconfiguration. Ice thickness changes related to changing ice dynamics often providethe first evidence of processes that initiate outlet glacier retreats and mass loss, such as the development of sub-ice shelfcavities and subglacial hydrology changes. Reconfiguration is observed locally as narrowing zones of fast-flow, ice flowrerouting, shear margin migration, and likely glacier outlet abandonment. These patterns are apparent in all ice sheet sectorsand observable from space-borne instruments. The rapid reconfiguration now well underway in Greenland has wide-rangingimplications, including expected changes in subglacial hydrology, ice discharge, freshwater flux to the ocean, and transport ofnutrients and sediment. Lacking detailed observations of earlier deglaciations and current limits on ice-sheet modelcapabilities, the expanding details of these combined observational records may provide a valuable analog for studying pastice sheet dynamics and projecting future ice loss.