Increased Freshwater Runoff Projected for a Greenland Ice Sheet Fjord


Net mass balance from the Greenland Ice Sheet has an important influence on global sea level rise, ocean salinity and density, and thermohaline circulation. The ice sheet is an indicator of ongoing climate changes. Impacts have already been observed for the entire ice sheet and over individual drainage basins, for example, at Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland. In a DOE-supported model study, surface mass balance and freshwater runoff from the Greenland Ice Sheet and from the Kangerlussuaq drainage area were simulated until 2080, using a projected climate-warming scenario. Mean annual surface air temperatures and precipitation in the Kangerlussuaq area were simulated to increase by 3.4°C and 95 mm water equivalent, respectively, and the 2080 spring runoff season is projected to begin approximately three weeks earlier than currently. These simulations project that the average 2070–2080 Kangerlussuaq runoff will be nearly doubled compared to the present day with expected impacts on hydropower production and sensitive ecological systems in the Kangerlussuaq Fjord region and on the transport of freshwater to the ocean.


Mernild, S. H., G. E. Liston, C. A. Hiemstra, J. H. Christensen, M. Stendel, and B. Hasholt. 2011. “Surface Mass-Balance and Runoff Modeling Using HIRHAM4 RCM at Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strømfjord), West Greenland, 1950–2080,” Journal of Climate, 24, 609–23, doi: 10.1175/2010 JCLI3560.1.