Physical Controls on Ocean-terminating Glacier Variability in Central West Greenland


Outlet Glacier Variability

Project Goals: Our over-arching objective is to understand the physical controls on mass balance of marine-terminating outlet glaciers in central western Greenland.

Approach: Greenland's mass balance is largely modulated by the changing dynamics of marine-terminating glaciers; however, there is currently no consensus as to what factors control this variability due to the lack of coincident ice-ocean-atmosphere data. In order to refine sea-level rise projections, a process-based understanding of the interactions between outlet glacier, atmosphere and ocean dynamics is necessary. In central west Greenland, adjacent marine-terminating glaciers exhibit contrasting temporal changes in ice speed, terminus position, m'elange properties and mass flux. We propose a detailed investigation of these interconnected processes using a variety of datasets: detailed in-situ ice, ocean and atmospheric measurements; ongoing airborne data collected through NASA's Operation IceBridge campaign; and archival and current remote sensing and climate reconstructions. With the help of coupled numerical models to refine interpretation, these data will be used to identify the processes that control individual glacier variability. We anticipate our findings to be scalable - that is, they will help to understand, interpret, and predict mass balance and associated coupled dynamics for other ocean-terminating glaciers using historical and modern remote-sensing observations.

This project is collaborative across 5 US-based academic institutions; UT, UKansas, UOregon, Oregon State and NASA.