October 21, 2016

Tasermiut Fjord, Greenland loses its Glacier Connection

Posted by Mauri Pelto



Landsat image sequence from 1999-2016.  Red arrows mark the 1999 terminus, yellow arrows the 2016 terminus and the purple arrow a tributary that detaches from Semitsiaq (S). Tasermiut Sermeq (T) retreats from the fjord. 

Tasermuit Fjord in southern Greenland is noted for its beauty, and until recently the fjord terminated at a glacier front. Currently no glacier reaches to the fjord. The retreat over the last two decades is similar to neighboring glaciers Kangersuneq Qingordleq and Qaleriq.  The loss of direct glacier connection is also occurring at Alangordlia. Here we examine Landsat images from 1999-2016 to observe glacier change. At the head of the fjord is Sermeq Tasermiut and on the east side is Sermitsiaq.

In 1999 the Sermitsiaq Glacier terminated at the eastern end of a small lake, red arrow.  Tasermiut Sermeq terminated in the fjord, red arrow.  By 2002 Sermitsiaq had retreated from the lake, while Tasermiut Sermeq still reached the fjord.  In 2013 Tasermiut Sermeq had retreated from the fjord and Sermitsiaq had retreated substantially from the lake and also had a significant tributary from the north detach, purple arrow. In 2016 Sermitsiaq has retreated 700 m since 1999, yellow arrow.  Biggs (2011) had noted a 610 m retreat of the glacier from 1987-2009, a slower rate than since 1999. Tasermiut Sermeq has retreated 300 m since 1999,and has a narrow steep tongue that will melt back quickly in the near future.

Murray et al (2015) examined 199 tidewater glaciers in Greenland and noted significant retreat of 188 of them. This is changing fjord dynamics, which will in the case of Tasermiut affect the marine biology, which has not been studied in any detail yet. Students on Ice 2014 Arctic Expedition provides exceptional imagery of this fjord and the Nanotarlik region.


Google Earth imagery of the region. illustrating the loss of fjord connection after 2009.


Map of the region