Motivation and Background – University of Copenhagen

Motivation and Background

Sea level has been rising and the large Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will be major contributors to this in the next century. 44% of the global population lives in coastal areas and will be impacted. Due to insufficient knowledge of the response of large ice sheets to climate change, the uncertainties in predicted estimates are as large as seen in the UN IPCC reports. There is an urgent need to reduce this uncertainty. 

The Greenland ice sheet is losing equal mass from melt along the margin and from iceberg discharge through fast-flowing ice streams. The velocities of ice streams are in general increasing and thereby increasing mass loss – but the changes in ice-stream dynamics are not well understood and thus cannot currently be predicted1. The aim of this project is to investigate the large North East Greenland ice stream (NEGIS) and the role of folding and buckling of basal ice to improve knowledge of ice and ice-stream flow to reduce the uncertainties on sea level predictions.

The project will build on the successful research in the ERC Advanced project WATERundertheICE where focus lay on mapping of the internal layers from airborne radio-echo sounding and localizing water under the Greenland ice sheet. In addition, the research of the DNRF Centre for Ice and Climate on reconstructing the ice sheet during previous warm periods through ice-core measurements and ice-sheet modelling provides expertise and knowhow relevant for this project. Through the projects, the group has reached a high international level. We thus have an exceptional platform for this project that spans from ice-core analysis to modelling of the flow of the ice sheet.

The ongoing EGRIP project aims at drilling an ice core through NEGIS and provides an ice core as well as a logistics gateway to the ice stream that will make this project possible.

1. Moon, T. et al. Distinct patterns of seasonal Greenland glacier velocity. Geophysical Research Letters 41, 7209-7216, doi:10.1002/2014gl061836 (2014).