Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Collaborative Research: Ice sheet sensitivity in a changing Arctic system - using Geologic data and modeling to test the stable Greenland Ice Sheet hypothesis (Award# 1504267)

PI: Briner, Jason P (
Phone: (716) 645.4326 
Institute/Department: U at Buffalo, Department of Geology 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ARCSS
Program Manager: Dr. Gregory Anderson ( )
Discipline(s): | Geological Sciences |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
There is enough water in the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) that, were it to melt, it would raise sea level in most coastal cities significantly with huge consequences for society. In the face of accelerated ice sheet contribution to sea level rise, it remains uncertain how the GrIS will adjust to a warming Arctic, declining sea ice and related changing precipitation patterns. The scientific community is currently undecided between a model of a dynamic GrIS that becomes greatly reduced during warm periods and a model where it is relatively stable, even through periods warmer than today. This project addresses the idea that increased arctic precipitation offsets GrIS mass loss during times of elevated temperature. The researchers will test this by contributing significant new information on arctic system change and related GrIS dynamics during past and ongoing warm periods, and employing an ice sheet modeling effort synthesizing all new data aimed at both past and future GrIS simulations. The researchers explicitly combine multiple scientific disciplines to provide a better understanding of how key arctic system components such as precipitation, temperature, sea-ice cover and GrIS mass balance are interconnected. The results will be of fundamental relevance to the fates of the arctic system, the GrIS and global sea level rise. The project will train six graduate students and one post-doctoral researcher. The cross-cutting research program is paralleled by the scope of the outreach plan, to develop a variety of deliverables, including development of an iBook and public outreach events. In addition the team will participate in public outreach events in Buffalo and New York City, where the public and scientists interact in a casual setting. Finally, this work has synergies with ongoing missions at NASA and other programs within the NSF. Due to recent advances in numerical ice sheet models and new sub-ice topography of Greenland, combined with finely-tuned field approaches and geochronologic techniques, the time is ripe for a coordinated, cross-disciplinary effort focusing on cryosphere variability in a warming Arctic; the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) and sea ice constitute the largest, and most critical components of the arctic cryosphere. The hypothesis that increased arctic precipitation can counterbalance GrIS mass loss during times of elevated temperatures stems from recent findings suggesting that it may be more stable than expected during interglacials. The researchers will generate new GrIS margin reconstructions during and since the mid-Holocene Thermal Maximum (9,000 to 5,000 years ago), with a powerful approach that combines lake sediment stratigraphy with new sub-ice topography and novel high-sensitivity cosmogenic isotope methods; develop new Holocene climate reconstructions of moisture, temperature and sea ice conditions from lake and ocean sediments and an advanced synthesis of existing arctic ice core and other paleoclimate data; and employ numerical ice sheet modeling fueled by ice margin and climate reconstructions to test a range of climatic and dynamic controls on GrIS change. If the idea is supported, then it would suggest a relatively stable GrIS during warm periods. If, however, this project provides evidence that the GrIS retreated considerably during the warmer-than-present mid-Holocene and in turn, that the GrIS has reacted more sensitively to temperature than to precipitation change, the results would support a tightly coupled ice sheet size-temperature link and in turn, a much greater near-term GrIS contribution to sea level rise.

Logistics Summary:
The collaboration of Briner (1504267, U of Buffalo), Steig (1503281, UW), Morlighem (1504230, UCI), Young (1503959, LDEO), and Johnson (1504457, U of Montana) will address the null hypothesis that increased Arctic precipitation offsets GrIS mass loss during times of elevated temperature. The PIs will integrate new reconstructions of past ice sheet margin change during and since the mid-Holocene Thermal Maximum, new reconstructions of Holocene precipitation, temperature and sea-ice cover from ice cores, lake and ocean sediments, and an ice sheet modeling effort synthesizing all new data aimed at both past and future GrIS simulations. During each of three consecutive field seasons beginning in 2016, fieldwork will focus on a different location in Greenland: outside of Kangerlussuaq (2016), Nuuk (2017), and Ilulissat (2018). Approximately five field team members will deploy to six different sampling locations (JB1-4 and NY1-2) supported by helicopter and/or vehicle access. A camp will be established at each sampling location for approximately ~ 4days/each and camp moves will be completed by helicopter. 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. For the 2017 field season, the Briner and Young teams will again work together, this time 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 be utilized to reach field sites and conduct sampling. Six field sites will be visited and are labeled JBCamp-2 1-4, Long Lake and Target Lake. In 2018 teams will work west of Kangerlussuaq near Sisimiut and outside of Ilulissat. In mid-July a team of six (four researchers and two outreach) will travel from NY to/from Kangerlussuaq via an ANG C-130. The team will use a helicopter for three days to put-in camp, move camp, and pull out their camp. They will also have an NSF media freelance writer, Kristen Pope, join them for one day during their camp move. Then in August 2018, five people will arrive on ANG flight from NY and fly to Ilulissat the following day on AirGL commercial flight. A helicopter located in Ilulissat will be used to transport the team to their four field sites. Two of those days are booked as ‘all-day’ charters to stop at several other sites to gather samples. Mid-point in the season, they will do a team member switch-out, where two people will depart and one person will arrive to join the team for their last week of field work.

CPS will provide cargo and passenger transport via the Air National Guard, passenger and cargo transport via commercial air flights from Kanger<>Ilulissat, KISS user days in Kangerlussuaq, lodging in Ilulissat, camping and safety equipment, a van rental in Ilulissat, truck rental in Kangerlussuaq and AirGL helicopter support. All other logistics will be organized by the researchers and paid through the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2016Greenland - JB107 / 13 / 2016 07 / 18 / 20166
2016Greenland - JB207 / 18 / 2016 07 / 22 / 20165
2016Greenland - JB307 / 22 / 2016 07 / 28 / 20163
2016Greenland - Kangerlussuaq07 / 10 / 2016 08 / 19 / 20167
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-107 / 24 / 2017 07 / 30 / 20173
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-207 / 30 / 2017 08 / 05 / 20173
2017Greenland - JBCamp 2-308 / 05 / 2017 08 / 08 / 20173
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 / 25 / 20172
2017Greenland - Kangerlussuaq07 / 21 / 2017 08 / 28 / 20174
2017Greenland - Nuuk07 / 22 / 2017 08 / 26 / 20174
2018Greenland - Ilulissat08 / 08 / 2018 08 / 28 / 20186
2018Greenland - JB Camp i-1 (Big Alan Lake)08 / 09 / 2018 08 / 17 / 20185
2018Greenland - JB Camp i-2 (Small Lake)08 / 17 / 2018 08 / 22 / 20186
2018Greenland - JB Camp i-3 (Jaks South) 08 / 22 / 2018 08 / 25 / 20186
2018Greenland - JB Camp i-4 (Jaks North)08 / 25 / 2018 08 / 27 / 20184
2018Greenland - Kangerlussuaq07 / 13 / 2018 08 / 30 / 201811

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