Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Representing surface meltwater runoff in Greenland ice sheet models (Award# 80NSSC19K0942)

PI: Smith, Laurence C (
Phone: (401) 863.5153 
Institute/Department: Brown University, Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NASA
Program Manager: Ms. Colene Haffke (
Discipline(s): | Cryosphere |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The production and transport of meltwater (runoff) is an important hydrological process operating on parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet surface today and is projected to become more prevalent in the future. Runoff generated on the ice sheet surface typically passes through moulins to the bed thus influencing basal conditions, and/or emanates from the ice edge to the ocean thus contributing to global sea level rise. The physical process of surface water runoff on ice sheets therefore warrants study, both for basic scientific understanding and to enable better representation and parameterization of ice sheet surface runoff in ice-dynamics and surface mass balance (SMB) models. This research would use remote sensing, in situ measurements, established hydrological theory, and models to address three current knowledge gaps about GrIS surface runoff. The principal scientific goals are to learn what areas of the Greenland ice sheet receive inputs of surface runoff to the bed; to improve representation of surface runoff in ice sheet models; and to assess whether supraglacial drainage patterns that form on the ice sheet surface influence ice dynamics. Researchers will achieve these goals through testing of three scientific hypotheses and a four-part work plan. In brief, the work plan would: 1) Use 2016 Sentinel-2 visible/NIR satellite imagery to create a first pan-Greenland map of surface runoff drainage pattern; 2) Obtain in situ measurements of proglacial river discharge at sites optimal for validation of climate/SMB runoff models, including a new hydro-meteorological gauging station in Inglefield Land, a uniquely advantaged, little-studied area of NW Greenland; 3) Assess and refine climate/SMB model runoff products and calibrate a classic surface water routing parameterization for use with ice sheet models; and 4) Conduct sensitivity tests to determine the influence of routing supraglacial runoff to mapped moulins in the simulations of subglacial and ice flow models. By the conclusion of the project, researchers will deliver i) a first pan-Greenland map of supraglacial drainage pattern, surface catchments, and terminal moulins, revealing where and how much observable surface runoff penetrates the ice sheet; ii) validation of climate/SMB model runoff products using in situ proglacial discharge records; iii) improved representation of GrIS surface runoff in the MERRA-2 and ISSM models; iv) a sensitivity study of the influence (or lack thereof) of surface fluvial drainage patterns on ice dynamics. The investigative team consists of university academics and civil servants with previous experience in Greenland remote sensing, field work, and/or modeling. Four summer field assistantships would introduce graduate students to Greenland. New collaborations would be established with the Geological Survey of Denmark (GEUS) and the Greenland water survey (Asiaq), including supplying automated weather station data to the Danish Programme for Monitoring of the Greenland Ice Sheet (PROMICE) to fill a gap in NW Greenland AWS coverage.

Logistics Summary:
Researchers on this project will construct a pan-Greenland map of GrIS surface drainage pattern (supraglacial rivers, surface catchment boundaries, and terminal moulins and lakes) from satellite remote sensing and obtain archived and new in situ measurements of proglacial discharge suitable for validation of climate/SMB models, including establishing a new hydro-meteorological discharge monitoring station in an area of NW Greenland (Inglefield Land), while maintaining existing measurements in the Kangerlussuaq area. In 2019 two separate field efforts will take place in Greenland. For the Kangerlussuaq-based work to maintain existing proglacial discharge monitoring sites, researchers will make staggered deployments in July and August to continue work at Pt 660. For the work at Inglefield Land, six researchers will travel to Thule via AMC and then on to Inglefield Land by helicopter, where they will establish a new hydro-meteorological monitoring station to establish records of oceangoing meltwater runoff from the Greenland ice sheet through proglacial rivers. The PI will travel to Thule for site selection and depart via Embassy flight to Kangerlussuaq prior to camp put-in. Then in October 2019, two researchers will return to Inglefield Land (again by AMC to Thule and then to the site via helicopter) to service the hydro-meteorological station solar panel. This will be accomplished via a day trip from Thule. In 2020, the Watson River and Kangerlussuaq area support was deferred due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19. Inglefield Land instrument maintenance and repairs will be performed by ASIAQ Greenland Survey with no researchers traveling to Greenland.

In 2020: For Thule/Inglefield Land, the NSF contractor will provide AMC freight, contracting support for Greenland based support services via ASIAQ Greenland Survey, helicopter charter, and Vectrus cargo support as well as winter warehouse storage in Thule. NSF will recoup these funds via an interagency transfer with NASA. All other support will be arranged and paid for by the project. All other years: For work in Kangerlussuaq, the NSF contractor will provide ANG coordination for passengers and cargo, lodging at KISS, truck and camp/safety equipment from NSF contractor inventory. For Thule/Inglefield Land, the NSF contractor will provide Air Mobility Command (AMC) ticketing and cargo transport between Baltimore and Thule, Air National Guard (ANG) or Embassy flights between Kangerlussuaq and Thule, base clearances, lodging, truck, helicopter charters, warehouse storage in Thule, and camp/safety equipment from NSF contractor inventory. NSF will recoup these funds via an interagency transfer with NASA. All other support will be arranged and paid for by the project.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2019Greenland - Inglefield Land07 / 07 / 2019 10 / 08 / 20196
2019Greenland - Kangerlussuaq07 / 09 / 2019 08 / 20 / 20197
2019Greenland - Point 66007 / 11 / 2019 08 / 19 / 20197
2019Greenland - Thule06 / 27 / 2019 10 / 11 / 20197
2020Greenland - Inglefield Land0

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