Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: CAREER: Chasing icebergs: quantifying iceberg motion and melt in Greenland's glacial fjords (Award# 1552232)

PI: Sutherland, David A (
Phone: (541) 346.8753 
Institute/Department: U of Oregon, Department of Earth Sciences 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ANS
Program Manager: Dr. Cynthia Suchman (
Discipline(s): | Cryosphere | Oceanography |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
Mass is being lost from the Greenland Ice Sheet both in the form of liquid water and solid ice. The solid ice occurs in the form of icebergs. The influence of these icebergs on the stratification and circulation of water in fjords, as well as on the freshwater content of the adjacent ocean, is poorly understood. This project will improve understanding of the role of icebergs in fjords and the coastal ocean through intensive process studies on iceberg melt and movement. These studies will include both field observations and numerical modeling experiments. The project will contribute to the development of the nation's STEM workforce by providing support for the training of a graduate student and a post-doctoral associate. To enhance the communication of science to the general public, a course in Geo-communication will be modified to include new multi-media approaches. Additionally, the project will allow the PI to extend his prior collaborations with University of Oregon's STEM CORE program to work with a local middle school on STEM-focused curricula. To enhance outreach to the broader public, the principal investigator will collaborate with a science historian to transcribe archived data into modern format that will be freely distributed, co-deliver public talks, add content to an existing website, and participate in an annual event on Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples organized by his institution. The ongoing surge in ocean-glacier interactions studies around Greenland is motivated primarily to improve our understanding of the role ocean circulation plays in outlet glacier variability. Two potential mechanisms that lead to glacier acceleration and dynamic thinning are (1) increased submarine melting due to an enhanced ocean heat transport to the glacier termini, and (2) a weakening of the ice mélange that buttresses the glacier face. Fjords act as links between these two processes with the large-scale climate forcing on one hand (both oceanic and atmospheric) and the Greenland ice sheet variability on the other. However, one key process, iceberg melt, has been largely neglected in most fjord circulation studies due to a narrow focus on plume driven circulation, as well as the overall difficulty of obtaining in situ observations. This project aims to gather novel observations on iceberg melt and movement in Greenland's fjords by tracking the horizontal and vertical motion of large, deep-keeled icebergs at high temporal resolution. Tracking individual icebergs, combined with ship- and drone-based surveys, will allow quantification not only of iceberg melt rates, but also of their movement through the fjord and eventual dispersal across the shelf and into the interior ocean. Fieldwork will be conducted in relatively well-studied systems in Greenland, with the potential for rapid generalization to other systems. Complemented by numerical ocean modeling, these process studies will enable assessment of how well current parameterizations capture the melt processes occurring in Greenland's waters. Ultimately, these results will provide a solid foundation for improving understanding of the spatial and temporal picture of iceberg motion and melt and how this can be incorporated into operational iceberg trajectory models, as well as global scale climate models.

Logistics Summary:
This CAREER grant will gather observations on iceberg melt and movement in Greenland’s fjords by tracking the horizontal and vertical motion of large, deep-keeled icebergs at high temporal resolution. Researchers will use multiple platforms: ship-based hydrography and underwater imagery, aerial scanning, remotely-sensed iceberg movement (GPS sensors), and satellite derived iceberg distributions. In July of 2017, five researchers will test their CTD, ADCP, multibeam sonar, and aerial drone work on select icebergs out of Tasiilaq, Greenland in the Sermilik Fjord. Before the first vessel charter, researchers will use helicopters to deploy various GPS units, and then recover them via helicopter after the vessel charter is complete. One researcher will spend a few days on the Helheim Glacier (Atlas Camp). 2018 fieldwork will be similar to 2017. Four researchers will arrive in Tasiilaq, Greenland via commair. Before the first vessel charter, researchers will use helicopters to deploy various GPS units, and then recover them via helicopter after the vessel charter is complete. The final year, in 2019 researchers will base out of Ilulissat, Greenland and include only helicopter work to install and retrieve GPS units from icebergs. The GPS units will be deployed for approximately one week, similar to the field work in the first year.

CPS will provide rental truck, helicopter charter and lodging in Tasiilaq (also in Ilulissat in 2018) and safety/communications equipment from CPS inventory. In 2017 CPS will also provide Air National Guard cargo support NY><Kangerlussuaq and limited commercial freight between Kanger><Tasiilaq. UNAVCO will provide GPS support. The PI will arrange all other support from grant funds including all Tasiilaq vessel charters and all travel CONUS><Tasiilaq, and will collaborate with non CPS supported project to move the majority of the freight CONUS><Tasiilaq.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2017Greenland - Helheim Glacier07 / 15 / 2017 07 / 19 / 20171
2017Greenland - Sermilik Fjord07 / 15 / 2017 07 / 23 / 20174
2017Greenland - Tasiilaq07 / 12 / 2017 07 / 26 / 20175
2018Greenland - Sermilik Fjord08 / 02 / 2018 08 / 15 / 20184
2018Greenland - Tasiilaq07 / 23 / 2018 08 / 18 / 20184
2019Greenland - Ilulissat4
2019Greenland - Jakobshavn Glacier4
2019Greenland - Kangerlussuaq4

Generated from:
Parameters used to generate this report:, Grant# = "1552232", IPY = "ALL" 
     Number of projects returned based on your query parameters = 1