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Greenland’s Sediment Flux: Filling a White Spot-On Global Sediment


Sedimentary dynamics largely determine the shape of Earth and nutrient cycles (Bendixen et al., 2017). Sediment flux transports organic and inorganic matter across the terrain, mainly induced by erosion. Greenland, which has ice sheets covering 80 % of the island, only through the process of glacial melt and with erosion and subglacial discharge, makes a unique contribution to global sediment flows over long timescales (Overeem, 2020). Greenland’s rivers and, fjords, and seas receive this sediment (Overeem, 2020; Bendixen et al., 2017). With domestic and overseas recognition, this research explores and quantifies Greenland’s role in global sediment transport. The primary greenhouse in Hong Kong This research, which has received domestic and international recognition, explores and quantifies Greenland’s contribution to global sediment transport.

A geologically varied landscape The largest island in the world, Greenland, shows a complex interplay between old and new processes. The bedrock is primarily crystalline (Overeem, 2020), consisting mainly of gneisses, granites, schists, and metamorphic rocks, with some volcanic formations for pizzazz. Even more importantly, 80 % of the island is covered by the surviving Greenland Ice Sheet from the last ice age, which exerts profound control on sediment dynamics. (Overeem 2020) The tectonic activity that sculpted Greenland’s terrain combines brisk glacial activity to determine sediment source distribution and pathways. Moreover, fjords and coastal bays scoured by glaciers become depositional basins, in which sediments accumulate at rates higher than erosion rates to create sedimentary ecosystems. It underlines correctly understanding Greenland’s geology in the greater sediment flow.

Greenland’s global sediment contributions are starting to attract interest. As one of the few remaining gaps left in international sediment studies, deciphering how this massive island generates and transports complex sediments to export them is a critical scientific endeavor. Recently research has been published describing large fluxes of suspended sediment into the oceans from Greenland (Overeem et al., 2017). The scale of glacially-induced erosion has significant implications for local and global sediment budgets. Increasingly, this related work has focused on sedimentary processes in the fjords of Greenland. This work has also shown that organic carbon burial rates are high in fjord sediments worldwide (Smith et al., 2015). Greenland’s sediment flux thus has wider repercussions on marine biogeochemical cycles. Moreover, ideas that Greenland’s deposits could yield bioavailable iron to oceans (Bhatia et al., 2013) suggest far-flung effects on global processes and marine productivity.

Spatial Distribution of Sediment Flux in Greenland.

Due to its distinctive geological and landform characteristics, the sediment transport pattern is closely related to Greenland. One of the functions of the river networks on the island is to drive silt from inland regions and wash it out into coastal areas. The rock types in the critical watersheds, such as rivers like the Kangertittivaq, Ilulissat Icefjord, and Kangerlussuaq, control sediment mobilization along these channels. These factors give rise to unique characteristics (Bendixen et al., 2017). These channels carry sediment downstream in a complex interaction with the terrain they are eroding. Current velocity, particle size, and hydraulic conditions are among the factors controlling sediment transport processes. In addition, icebergs carrying land-based substances break off glaciers and are moved to coastal zones (Overeem et al., 2017).

A complex subglacial topography beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet controls sediment flux patterns. Aerial and ground-based survey of the land-terminating portion has revealed a mixed relief with valleys, mounds, and hollows (Lindbäck et al., 2014). So, in the the ground underneath the ice, sediment-rich underlying subglacial outpourings and meltwater flows are led on a bypass before being passed off down favored export channels where discharge is most intense. The sub-surface geography is the key to understanding Greenland’s spatial sediment distribution.

Furthermore, sediment flux hotspots provide new information. Kangia and Kangerlussuaq fjords have been examined for their dissimilar sedimentation and denudation regimes (Bendixen et al., 2017). These areas have fast sediment accumulation, usually observed when glaciers recede, and more subglacial discharge is released. Further, inlet bathymetry and a glacier front’s proximity also affect hotspot sediments’ flow (Mouginot et al., 2017). These case studies provide a base for doing thorough research into deposits all over Greenland, revealing the nature of their area variation.

Temporal Variability of Sediment Flux

Advanced geochronology and stratigraphy work has shown complex relationships between glacial advances or retreats and depositional regimes. Glacial advances are characterized by bedrock erosion and glacial transport of sediments, but retreat phases (Fig. 3c) feature accelerating subglacial sediment discharges and meltwater fluxes (Overeem et al., 2017). These cyclical glacial-sedimentary reactions produce different sedimentary signatures in geological archives. To understand the past glacial history is to decode modern controls.

In addition, changes in the amount of meltwater, subglacial outflows, and glacial recession make severe changes to sediment transport. These contemporary dynamics have been gained via remote sensing and field observations. For instance, Overeem (2020) points to suspended sediment export aggravated by glacial erosion. At the same time, high-resolution monitoring of ice sheet velocity has elucidated the role played by icebergs and glaciers in sediment redistribution (Mouginot et al., 2017). They provide a glimpse of Greenland’s sedimentary patterns beginning to react to long-term environmental changes, mandating that research and surveillance continue in this delicate land.

Factors Influencing Sediment Flux in Greenland

Several interacting factors determine Greenland’s sediment flux; no simple transport pattern emerges. Lithology and erodibility determine sediment mobility. Greenland geology covers various rock types, from granitic gneisses to basaltic lavas (Bendixen et al., 2017). As a result, erodibility could be more balanced. Differences in mineralogy and ease of weathering account for the fact that granites tend to produce smaller particles than basalts. The results are different sediment sizes in the rivers and fjords, which affect overall flux. Furthermore, the different susceptibilities of rock units to glacial and subglacial erosion make sediment routing even more complicated (de Winter et al., 2012).

Greenland’s sediment transport is strongly affected by glacial processes and ice dynamics. Glacier ice sheets and their transport of sediments wear away the strata beneath them, but movement determines how fast they lose height in the form of icebergs that fall fromicetermini (Mouginot et al., 2017). This calving washes an incredible amount of sediment from Greenland into neighboring fjords and coasts. With its iceberg-rafted sediment loads, glacial displacement on such a gigantic scale testifies to the highly dynamic nature of sediment transfer under glaciated conditions. Understanding these glacial complexities has to precede accurate quantification of sediment budgets and comprehension of their local and global significance. Also, subglacial conditions and bedrock fracturing strongly influence Greenland’s sediments. As Smith et al. (2015) describe, the subglacial zone, including the interaction between ice sheet and bedrock, is critically essential to sediment generation and routing.

Other Environmental Impacts

Delta progradation is the advance of deltaic landforms toward the sea. This is primarily due to sediment-laden meltwater deposited near river mouths. It touches unevenly on coastal morphology, habitat availability, and sedimentary landscape evolution. Also, deltaic sedimentary records serve as an environmental dossier; they show changes in deposition and sea levels. The complete decoding of progradational processes and their relationship with sediment influx gives excellent insight into the evolution of Greenland’s coast.

Moreover, studying feedback between sediment loads and the melting of glaciers provides an integrated bird’s eye view of the links among glaciers. The key is that such transfers affect glacial dynamics in many ways. For example, de Winter et al., 2012 indicated that the subglacial silt accretion at the ice-bedrock interface may enhance basal sliding. Third, sediment-driven changes in the subglacial hydrology could affect ice sheet stability and its mass loss rate. Therefore, understanding the complex connections between Greenland’s sediments and glacial systems entails explaining these feedback mechanisms. But more broadly, there are many applications to the region’s ice-sheet dynamics and the robustness of these viewpoints.


The results show a complicated interplay among glacial, subglacial, and fluvial processes that control sediment discharge from Greenland to the adjacent fjords and oceans. Consequently, glaciated landscapes should be incorporated into the global sediment budget as a threat to coastal and marine systems. A considerable export of suspended sediments from ice-eroded areas in Greenland is the subject matter of this work. It has a significant influence on the geomorphology and biogeochemistry of its surroundings. Another vital lead to the fitness of ice sheets under climate change is a review of feedback between sediment load and ice melt. These discoveries mean a significant breakthrough in Greenland’s sedimentary processes and bio-signature traces. In this sense, they provide an essential base for more extensive future studies of these climatically active processes and connections between Greenland’s cryosphere-ocean continuum. In a broad sense, the research indicates that these complex interplays between glacial, subglacial, and fluvial processes channel sediment out of Greenland’s ice sheet into surrounding seas. The long-term effects for coastal areas the world over are plain. Nevertheless, through a close study of glass, one can observe detailed response patterns across entire systems in response to worsening environmental conditions.


Bendixen, M., Iversen, L. L., & Overeem, I. (2017). Greenland: Build an economy on the sand. Science358(6365), 879-879.

Lindbäck, K., Pettersson, R., Doyle, S. H., Helanow, C., Jansson, P., Kristensen, S. S., … & Hubbard, A. L. (2014). High-resolution ice thickness and bed topography of a land-terminating section of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Earth System Science Data, 6(2), 331-338.

Bendixen, M., Lønsmann Iversen, L., Anker Bjørk, A., Elberling, B., Westergaard-Nielsen, A., Overeem, I., … & Kroon, A. (2017). Delta progradation in Greenland driven by increasing glacial mass loss. Nature, 550(7674), 101-104.

Mouginot, J., Rignot, E., Scheuchl, B., & Millan, R. (2017). Comprehensive annual ice sheet velocity mapping using Landsat-8, Sentinel-1, and RADARSAT-2 data. Remote Sensing, 9(4), 364.

Overeem, I., Hudson, B. D., Syvitski, J. P., Mikkelsen, A. B., Hasholt, B., Van Den Broeke, M. R., … & Morlighem, M. J. N. G. (2017). Substantial export of suspended sediment to the global oceans from glacial erosion in Greenland. Nature Geoscience, 10(11), 859-863.

de Winter, I. L., Storms, J. E., & Overeem, I. (2012). Numerical modeling of glacial sediment production and transport during deglaciation. Geomorphology, 167, 102-114.

Smith, R. W., Bianchi, T. S., Allison, M., Savage, C., & Galy, V. (2015). High rates of organic carbon burial in fjord sediments globally. Nature Geoscience, 8(6), 450-453.

Bhatia, M. P., Kujawinski, E. B., Das, S. B., Breier, C. F., Henderson, P. B., & Charette, M. A. (2013). Greenland meltwater is a significant and potentially bioavailable source of iron to the ocean. Nature Geoscience, 6(4), 274-278.

Overeem, I. (2020, September 2). S2S20-05- Greenland’s sediment flux:filling a white spot on global sediment. YouTube.


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