Increased ablation of Wisconsin ice in eastern north Greenland: observations and modelling

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In Kronprins Christian Land at 80° N in eastern north Greenland, it has been observed that the surface of the Wisconsin ice is significantly darker than the Holocene ice found immediately upstream from a transition located 710 m from the ice margin. Delta-18O analysis has shown the dark surface is of Wisconsin origin. Deep ice cores from the Greenland ice sheet all indicate that the Wisconsin ice contains orders of magnitude more micro-particles which could be the reason for the dark appearance of the Wisconsin surface. Photographic documentation, spectral surface-albedo measurements and satellite-image analysis all indicate a reduced albedo of Wisconsin ice. The effect of this reduced albedo is not confirmed by the ablation measurements. However, measurements of ablation variability within small test sites has documented that large errors will arise if only one stake per measuring point is used. Energy-balance calculations show ablation rates should be 10-70%, i.e. 1.8-8.4 mm d(-1), respectively, less than experienced. Additionally, a satellite-image analysis shows even higher albedo contrasts 20-30 km to the south of our transect locality. Immediately after the termination of the ice age, most of the surface in the ablation zone consisted of this low-reflectance ice. So, in the early Holocene, the dark ice of Wisconsin origin is likely to have resulted in higher ablation rates than previously considered. This may probably partly explain the fast rate of retreat/disintegration of the ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere, after the termination of the Wisconsin ice age.

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Bøggild, C. E. , Oerter, H. and Tukiainen, T. (1996): Increased ablation of Wisconsin ice in eastern north Greenland: observations and modelling , Annals of Glaciology, 23 , pp. 144-148 .

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