Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Reconstruction of climate at the Norse Settlements of Greenland over the last two millennia using organic biomarkers in lake sediments (Award# 1602973)

PI: Bradley, Raymond S (
Phone: (413) 545.2120 
Institute/Department: U of Massachusetts, Amherst, Department of Geosciences 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ANS
Program Manager: Dr. Cynthia Suchman (
Discipline(s): | Meteorology and Climate |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The climate in southern Greenland is a key area for reconstructions of the North Atlantic Oscillation, a major pattern of northern hemisphere climate, and is also linked to Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation changes, an important oceanic process controlling north Atlantic climate, which recent studies suggest has been weaker over recent decades than at any time in the last 1000 years. This is also the region where Norse settlements were abandoned by the early-15th century; many questions still remain about the causative factors. Although climate change is often cited as the reason for settlement failure, this explanation rests on a very poorly constrained scientific foundation and other explanations have also been proposed. Inferences about climatic conditions in the region often have been derived from far distant sources, generally at high elevations on the Greenland Ice Sheet, where climatic conditions are completely different. This project will produce records with multidecadal (15-25 year) resolution from the study region, spanning the last 1500-2000 years. This will be accomplished using new organic geochemical techniques and will contribute to the calibration and understanding of these methodologies. This project will partially support a productive young scientist (Prof. Isla Castaneda) during the formative years of her career. It will also provide support for the training of a graduate student. The principal investigators (PIs) will contribute to a University of Massachusetts summer program designed to engage 12 to 18 year old girls, most from under-represented or low income groups, in STEM fields. The PIs and the supported graduate student will participate in university-sponsored middle and high school teacher training programs. Finally, undergraduate honors students often participate in the activities of co-PI's lab. She expects that a number of honors theses and senior projects will result from the research associated with this project. All of this contributes to development of the nation's STEM workforce. The project will continue an established international collaboration with French scientists. The disappearance of the Norse communities in Greenland and its potential linkage to climate change have significant human interest upon which the PIs propose to capitalize. Their outreach activities include composing articles for popular science magazines and development of a project web site. It is also anticipated that the PI will continue his productive interactions with the local media, both print and electronic. This project will generate new high resolution, quantitative records of temperature and hydrology for the past 2,000 years from lakes in coastal regions of southern and southwestern Greenland, an area that has important links to the broader climate dynamics of the North Atlantic. It also will shed light on climatic fluctuations during the period of Norse settlement in the region. Novel organic geochemical techniques will be used for past temperature reconstruction (branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers) and for estimates of changes in evaporation (leaf wax deuterium isotopes) over time.

Logistics Summary:
This project will generate new high resolution, geochemical records of temperature and hydrology for the past 2,000 years from lakes in coastal regions of southern and southwestern Greenland, to shed light on climatic fluctuations during the period of Norse settlement and disappearance in the region. Research will include a sediment trap time series in southern lakes to collect organic biomarkers for temperature calibration and to apply the calibrations to material in previously collected cores from numerous lakes around southwestern Greenland. Cores will be provided at no cost to the project from collaborators. In summer of 2016 and 2017, three researchers will travel to Greenland to deploy and recover interval sediment traps from area lakes, and taking other environmental samples. In 2016 they will be travelling from Iceland to Narsarsuuaq, then by local transportation to their targeted lakes to perform this field work. In 2017, the field sites near Narsarsuaq will be revisited to recover instruments and samples, and further fieldwork in the Ivittuut area may be carried out. In 2018 supplement 1836753 will add two additional field seasons so researchers can revisit the field sites and re-deploy the interval sediment traps (that failed in the previous seasons. They will deploy the traps in July 2018 and then return to recover the sediments in 2019.

All logistics will be organized by the researchers and paid through the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2016Greenland - Narsarsuaq07 / 11 / 2016 07 / 27 / 20163
2017Greenland - Ivittuut07 / 19 / 2017 07 / 29 / 20173
2017Greenland - Narsarsuaq07 / 11 / 2017 07 / 18 / 20173
2018Greenland - Ivittuut07 / 19 / 2018 07 / 29 / 20183
2018Greenland - Narsarsuaq07 / 11 / 2018 07 / 18 / 20183
2019Greenland - Ivittuut07 / 19 / 2019 07 / 29 / 20193
2019Greenland - Narsarsuaq07 / 11 / 2019 07 / 18 / 20193

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Parameters used to generate this report:, Grant# = "1602973", IPY = "ALL" 
     Number of projects returned based on your query parameters = 1