Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Collaborative Research: Greenland Ice Sheet Basal Hydrology and Sliding Dynamics: The Proof of the Drill (Award# 0909495)

PI: Harper, Joel T (
Phone: (406) 243.5867 
Institute/Department: U of Montana, Department of Geosciences 
IPY Project? NO
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ANS
Program Manager: Dr. Henrietta Edmonds ( )
Discipline(s): | Cryosphere\Glacier Hydrology | Cryosphere\Glaciology | Cryosphere\Ice Sheet |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). Recent changes in the flow dynamics and overall geometry of the Greenland Ice Sheet have been concurrent with increased surface melting: the velocity of some outlet glaciers has increased, the ice sheet margins have thinned, and the overall mass of the ice sheet has declined by more than melt alone can account for. A direct linkage between surface melt and ice sheet change is commonly argued but has not been proven. With this project the researchers will quantify direct connections between surface melt, the basal hydrological system, and ice motion along a flow-line transect of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The region to be studied receives high surface melt, but is located far from the influence of ocean tidewater dynamics. They will directly measure basal conditions in six boreholes drilled to the bed, with one to two holes at each of three sites. Surface melt and spatial gradients in ice velocity will be quantified to enable detailed comparison between melt water forcing, basal hydrologic conditions, and ice flow dynamics. Instruments at the surface, within the ice, and at the bed will collect data at high time resolution for up to 2 years. The research team will use two models to interpret the mechanical and thermal context of the measurements. In turn, the intensive measurement campaign will uniquely constrain the modeling and enable model assessment. This integrated measurement and modeling campaign will be a comprehensive investigation of the role of water in ice sheet motion. It will support two Ph.D. dissertations and provide field research experiences to at least five students. Several informal education and outreach activities will be supported, including a high proportion of Native American participants.

Logistics Summary:
With this collaborative project - 0909495 (Harper, UM, LEAD), 0909503 (Pfeffer, CU), and 0909122 (Humphrey, UW) - researchers will drill to the Greenland ice sheet bed and instrument two boreholes at each of three sites spaced along a 90 km transect that extends from about 1000 m elevation to 1750 m elevation. The researchers will conduct two field campaigns during the summer and fall seasons of each year in 2010 and 2011 with a summer only campaign in 2012 and 2013. The first two field seasons will be drilling campaigns; during the third and fourth seasons the team will collect data and maintain the instruments. In 2010, a research team of eight will launch their field effort from Kangerlussuaq in June. In a truck leased from and driven by GLV, the team will travel with their equipment and gear to the end of the road at the ice sheet edge (Point 660). From there, they will be put in to their camp site and their first drilling site via helicopter flown in from Nuuk. The drilling site will be located at Issunguata Sermia Glacier, just south of the Russell Glacier. The distance between Point 660, the camp site and the Issunguata Sermia Glacier is ~1-3 km. Several weeks later, a helicopter will be used again to move the drill site approximately 10 km from the first site. When the second hole has been drilled and instrumented, the researchers, their camp and drill sites will be pulled out of the field; all will return to Kangerlussuaq. After they store the drilling equipment in Kangerlussuaq, the team will depart via commercial air. A smaller team of 2 will then return in September to download data and prepare the instruments for winter. After arriving via commercial air, they will use a rented truck to drive to Point 660 and will fly via helicopter to access the site on the glacier via day trips. The summer 2011 field effort begins in early June. A team of three will fly via ANG to Kangerlussuaq where they will field a largely independent 10-day campaign to the terminus of Isunguata Sermia Glacier for the purpose of water and bedrock sampling. (Since the researchers are studying the chemistry of the water sampled from the boreholes, the early deployment will allow them time to collect some valuable 'background' data from the outlet streams.) The main CPS-supported effort will begin in Kangerlussuaq in late June, when the additional five field team members arrive either on commercial air from CPH or on the ANG. The team and their gear will move to the edge of the ice at Point 660 via GLV truck. From there they will access two sites on Isunguata Sermia Glacier via helicopter flown in from Nuuk. The Harper team will focus their drilling on a region of the ice sheet further inland than sites visited in 2010 for which they have good ice depth data from the NASA IceBridge project. They will drill to 1500m and instrument the borehole. The work will be finished in late July, at which point the team will depart the field and return to the U.S. In mid-September, they will return to Greenland briefly to download data. In 2012, researchers will follow a similar plan. From Point 660, where their gear will be staged via truck, the Harper team will put in to their camp/drill site on a helicopter flown in from Ilulissat. The first drilling site is located 1km from Pt 660. They will drill and instrument a hole and then, three days later, the team will move by helicopter to the main drill site at Issunguata Sermia Glacier, just south of Russell Glacier. Several weeks later, the helicopter will return from Ilulissat to reposition the team and equipment to Pt 660, from which spot the team will travel via truck back to Kangerlussuaq. After they clean up their gear and drilling equipment, placing all in their storage container in Kangerlussuaq, half of the team will depart via commercial air and the other half will return to the U.S. via the Air National Guard 109th. A smaller team of 2 will return in September to download data and pull out all project instruments. After arriving via commercial air, they will use a rented truck to drive to Point 660 and will fly via helicopter to access the sites on the glacier via one day trip. When this work is completed, the team will return to Kangerlussuaq and depart Greenland via commercial air. Under an NSF-approved no-cost extension, six researchers will return in July, 2013 to finish work under this grant. The team will spend about 2 weeks in Greenland working at Issunguata Sermia Glacier. This work was planned for 2012, but delayed due to instrument maintenance. This time, researchers expect to capture information on the spring ice sheet activity with both GPS velocity and borehole water pressure data. Note: The PI was awarded a new NSF grant (ANS 1203418) to lead a collaboration that continues this ice sheet hydrology/sliding dynamics study. Work under the new grant was to start in 2013 but has been pushed back to 2014 so the PI may finish work under the current collaboration.

In 2010 - 2012, CPS will provide camping gear, satellite phone, and daily check in. The researchers will pay all other expenses, including lodging and transportation to the ice cap. For the helicopter-supported effort, CPS will provide ANG coordination; helicopter charters; field camping and safety equipment; fuel; rental truck arrangements; storage space; daily check-in; and Kangerlussuaq user days. UNAVCO will provide GPS equipment and technical support. In 2013 only, CPS will make arrangements for ANG airlift support, KISS and truck bookings, camping gear, satellite phone, and daily check-in as well as use of the warehouse and the container at that site. The researchers will pay most expenses, including KISS lodging, truck rental and helicopter transportation to/from the ice cap.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2010Greenland - Issunguata Sermia Glacier06 / 09 / 2010 09 / 30 / 20108
2010Greenland - Kangerlussuaq06 / 02 / 2010 09 / 30 / 20108
2010Greenland - Point 66006 / 09 / 2010 09 / 30 / 20108
2011Greenland - Issunguata Sermia Glacier06 / 30 / 2011 09 / 14 / 20118
2011Greenland - Kangerlussuaq06 / 07 / 2011 09 / 16 / 20118
2011Greenland - Point 66006 / 30 / 2011 09 / 14 / 20118
2012Greenland - Issunguata Sermia Glacier06 / 09 / 2012 06 / 23 / 20129
2012Greenland - Kangerlussuaq05 / 29 / 2012 06 / 29 / 201210
2012Greenland - Point 66006 / 06 / 2012 06 / 09 / 201210
2013Greenland - Issunguata Sermia Glacier07 / 15 / 2013 07 / 23 / 20134
2013Greenland - Kangerlussuaq07 / 13 / 2013 07 / 25 / 20136
2013Greenland - Point 66007 / 16 / 2013 07 / 20 / 20132

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     Number of projects returned based on your query parameters = 1