Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Collaborative Research: Testing Arctic Ice Sheet Sensitivity to Abrupt Climate Change (Award# 1417675)

PI: Young, Nicolas E (
Phone: (845) 365.8653 
Institute/Department: Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ANS
Program Manager: Dr. Cynthia Suchman (
Discipline(s): | Cryosphere\Climate Change | Cryosphere\Paleoclimate |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
A team of investigators will investigate the response of the Laurentide and Greenland Ice Sheets to two short term cooling events (several decades to a few centuries in duration) that occurred 9.3 and 8.2 thousand years ago. Assessing the sensitivity of ice sheets to short term climate variability is at the forefront of the scientific community's and the public's interest because short term ice sheet change will drive 21st century sea level rise. Thus a central question of the proposed work is whether ice sheets react abruptly to climate forcings, or are multi-millennial-scale trends in climate required to elicit a large-scale ice sheet response? The investigators plan an intensive field-based research program capitalizing on their newly published work reconstructing ice sheet change using high-precision beryllium-10 dating to test the hypothesis that prominent moraine systems marking former ice extents in West Greenland and Baffin Island record the synchronous advance of the Greenland and Laurentide ice sheets driven by the abrupt cooling events 9.3 and 8.2 thousand years ago. Pilot data reveal that portions of the ice sheet margin that are in contact with the surrounding ocean are able to respond rapidly to a short-lived climate perturbation. To test whether these documented changes were restricted to solely the most sensitive marine-terminating ice sheet sectors, or whether ice sheets are capable of a larger scale response to centennial-scale climate change, well-constrained chronologies of ice sheet change are needed from other regions. The investigators' research objectives are to 1) establish how land-terminating regions of ice sheets, which are more representative of broader ice sheet margins, respond to abrupt climate change, 2) further evaluate the role that oceanic forcing plays in modulating ice sheet response to short-lived climate perturbations, and 3) reconstruct the early Holocene behavior of mountain glacier systems (a proxy for summertime temperature) to evaluate what climatic conditions influenced the ice sheets. The investigators will work to make results easily accessible to the public. The work is led by an early career investigator and will support two graduate and several undergraduate students.

Logistics Summary:
This collaborative geological study regarding ice-sheet change on Baffin Island, Canada and in Western Greenland is comprised of: Young (1417675 LEAD, Columbia), Miller (1418040, CU) and Briner (1417783, U of Buffalo). Researchers will conduct rock and lake-sediment sampling to perform high-precision 10Be and 14C dating to determine how these regions responded to abrupt cooling events. In August 2015, a field team of four will visit Baffin Island accessing various sites via helicopter to sample boulders and moraine deposits for 10 Be dating. In 2016, in addition to the sampling of moraine deposits and boulders for 10 Be, lake sediments with distinct sedimentological assemblages will also be sampled and dated via macrofossil 14 C dating. A helicopter will be used to access campsites and field sampling locations. For the 2016 and 2017 seasons, researchers on this collaboration will combine field efforts with work advancing the science goals of a collaboration led by Young (NSF grant 1417675), for which Briner is on. In July 2016, six people total (both projects) will assemble in Kangerlussuaq, four via the Air National Guard logistics chain, and two via commercial air from Ilulissat. The group will prepare and then put-in by helicopter to the first of six camp sites in the Søndre-Strømfjord region. After working for four to five days, the base camp will move to the next site, again using helicopter support, establishing the basic logistics effort for the five to six week field campaign. Helicopter-supported camp moves will facilitate personnel change-outs as well as ground stops for more sampling. Once during the field season, the team will return to Kangerlussuaq for a more thorough camp resupply effort. The final camp put-in will be accessed by driving to Point 660, from which the team will then proceed to their last sampling site on foot. When the work is finished, the team will return to Kangerlussuaq. Some will depart via the ANG, while others depart on commercial flights. In 2017, the Briner and Young teams will again work together outside of Nuuk. A team of four researchers will travel to Nuuk via Kangerlussuaq to a site at the terminus of the Kangiata Nunaata Sermia (SMS) glacier, approximately 100 km east of Nuuk. Helicopters will once again be utilized to reach field sites and conduct sampling.

In 2015 for the work in Canada, CPS will provide communications and safety gear. In 2016 and 2017, CPS will provide Air National Guard coordination for pax and cargo, user days at KISS, in-transit lodging in Nuuk, rental trucks as needed, intra-Greenland commercial air ticketing and freight, helicopter support, and camp & safety/communication gear. All other logistics will be organized by the researchers and paid through the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2015Canada - Cumberland Peninsula, Baffin Island08 / 03 / 2015 08 / 25 / 20154
2016Greenland - JB207 / 22 / 2016 07 / 28 / 20163
2016Greenland - JB408 / 14 / 2016 08 / 18 / 20165
2016Greenland - Kangerlussuaq07 / 21 / 2016 08 / 19 / 20163
2016Greenland - NY107 / 30 / 2016 08 / 06 / 20165
2016Greenland - NY208 / 06 / 2016 08 / 13 / 20165
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-107 / 24 / 2017 07 / 30 / 20171
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-207 / 30 / 2017 08 / 05 / 20171
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-308 / 05 / 2017 08 / 08 / 20171
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-408 / 08 / 2017 08 / 13 / 20172
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-5 (Long Lake)08 / 13 / 2017 08 / 18 / 20172
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-6 (Target Lake)08 / 18 / 2017 08 / 26 / 20172
2017Greenland - Kangerlussuaq07 / 21 / 2017 08 / 28 / 20172
2017Greenland - Nuuk07 / 22 / 2017 08 / 26 / 20172

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