Winter 2017 - Ellyn Enderlin

Understanding Variability in Glacier Behavior in a Changing Climate

March 31, 2017: Dr. Ellyn Enderlin

Talk abstract:

Over the last two decades, atmospheric and oceanic warming have driven increases in surface meltwater runoff and iceberg discharge from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Although spatial and temporal variations in surface meltwater runoff can largely be explained by changes in air temperature, the link between iceberg discharge variability and climate change is relatively poorly understood.
The over-arching goal of my research is to develop an improved understanding of the relative influence of changing air and ocean temperatures as well as the internal controls of glaciers, such as geometry, on iceberg discharge. Using remotely-sensed ice thickness and velocity observations, I’ve shown that spatial and temporal variations in iceberg discharge have resulted in large variability in the contribution of individual glaciers to sea level rise since 2000. My ongoing research projects use a combination of in situ and remotely sensed data to investigate potential explanations for the observed variability. In this presentation I will focus on one aspect of my ongoing research projects: ice-ocean interactions. Specifically, I will show how repeat stereo satellite images can be used to quantify spatial and temporal variations in glacier submarine melting. I will also show how a variety of remotely sensed datasets can be combined to assess the influence of changing ice-ocean interactions on iceberg discharge and the freshwater fluxes from the mélange of icebergs, bergy bits, and sea ice in Greenland’s glacial fjords. The results of these ongoing analyses support the need for the continued development of novel observational techniques and interdisciplinary research efforts to improve predictions of glacier change and the associated impacts on the Earth system.


Ellyn Enderlin is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Maine. She completed her Ph.D. research under the supervision of Dr. Ian Howat (Glacier Dynamics Group, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center) in 2013. Since then, she has been working at the University of Maine Climate Change InstituteEllyn’s research projects focus on combining remotely-sensed and in situ observations and numerical ice flow modeling to develop a better understanding of the environmental triggering mechanisms and internal controls of marine-terminating glacier behavior (i.e., glacier dynamics).  Ellyn is particularly interested in glacier-ocean interactions, namely submarine melting and iceberg calving, and how changes in these interactions influence the rate of mass loss from the fast-flowing glaciers that drain the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Ellyn is co-chair of the US national committee for the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (USAPECS). For more information about Ellyn Enderlin, visit her website: