Greenland tidewater glacier advanced rapidly during era of Norse Settlement

Danni M. Pearce, James M. Lea, Douglas W.F. Mair* (Corresponding Author), Brice Rea, James Schofield, Nicholas A. Kamenos, Kathryn M. Schoenrock, Lukasz Stachnik, Bonnie Lewis, Iestyn D. Barr, Ruth Mottram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Our ability to improve prognostic modeling of the Greenland Ice Sheet relies on understanding the long-term relationships between climate and mass flux (via iceberg calving) from marine-terminating tidewater glaciers (TWGs). Observations of recent TWG behavior are widely available, but long-term records of TWG advance are currently lacking. We present glacial geomorphological, sedimentological, archaeological, and modeling data to reconstruct the ~20 km advance of Kangiata Nunaata Sermia (KNS; the largest tidewater glacier in southwest Greenland) during the first half of the past millennium. The data show that KNS advanced ~15 km during the 12th and 13th centuries CE at a rate of ~115 m a–1, contemporaneous with regional climate cooling toward the Little Ice Age and comparable to rates of TWG retreat witnessed over the past ~200 years. Presence of Norse farmsteads proximal to KNS demonstrates their resilience to climate change, manifest as a rapidly advancing TWG in a cooling climate. The results place limits on the magnitude of ice-margin advance and demonstrate TWG sensitivity to climate cooling as well as warming. These data combined with our grounding-line stability analysis provide a long-term record that validates approaches to numerical modeling aiming to link calving to climate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704–709
Number of pages6
Issue number6
Early online date24 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

We thank the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources for providing logistical support in Nuuk. Martin Blicher, Thomas Juul-Pedersen, and Johanne Vad are thanked for their research and field assistance. We acknowledge the support of the National Museum of
Greenland for permission to undertake excavations near Norse ruin sites (permit 2015/03). Project funding was provided by the Leverhulme Trust Research Project grant 2014-093, and J.M. Lea was supported by funding from the Quaternary Research Association, British Society for Geomorphology, and a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship (MR/S017232/1). We thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for constructive comments, which helped to substantially improve this paper. D.M. Pearce would like to dedicate this paper to her father Richard M. Pearce.


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