Modeling Circulation Dynamics and Submarine Melt in Greenland Fjords
MetadataShow full item record
Meltwater accumulated on the Greenland Ice Sheet drains to glacier beds, discharging into fjords hundreds of meters below sea level. The injection of meltwater at depth generates an upwelling plume that entrains warm ocean water as it rises along the terminus, increasing submarine melt and driving a fjord-scale exchange flow. However, due to sparse ocean-glacier observations, we lack a process understanding of how plumes control fjord circulation and submarine melt. Combining numerical modeling, theory, and observations, this dissertation investigates near-glacier plume dynamics, the influence of glacier depth on plume structure and submarine melt, and the role of fjord-glacier geometry on circulation in tidewater glacier fjords. In Chapter II, I use buoyant plume theory and a nonhydrostatic, three-dimensional ocean–ice model to investigate the sensitivity of plume dynamics to subglacial discharge, turbulent diffusivity, and conduit geometry. Large discharges result in plumes with positive temperature and salinity anomalies in the upper water column. Fjord circulation is sensitive to conduit geometry; distributed subglacial discharge results in a stronger return flow of warm water toward the terminus. In Chapter III, I use buoyant plume theory, initialized with realistic ranges of subglacial discharge, glacier depth, and ocean stratification, to investigate how plume structure and submarine melt vary during summer months in 12 Greenland fjords. Grounding line depth is a primary control on plume-induced submarine melt: deep glaciers produce warm, salty subsurface plumes that undercut termini, and shallow glaciers produce cold, fresh surface-confined plumes that can overcut. Finally, in Chapter IV, I use regional-scale numerical ocean simulations to systematically evaluate how fjord circulation forced by subglacial plumes, tides, and wind stress depends on fjord width, glacier depth, and sill height. Glaciers grounded below sill depth can draw shelf waters over a shallow sill and into fjord basins with seasonal subglacial discharge; this process is independent of external shelf forcing. These results underscore the first-order effect that subglacial discharge and fjord-glacier geometry have in controlling fjord circulation and, thus, ocean heat flux to the ice. This dissertation includes previously published and co-authored material.