Seasonal Fluxes Across Submarine Ice Sheet Margins: A Pilot Study in West Greenland

Sarah Das, Geology & Geophysics
Hanu Singh, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering
Lee Freitag, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering
Al Plueddemann, Physical Oceanography
Fiamma Straneo, Physical Oceanography


Arctic Research Initiative
2011 Funded Project


We are proposing a pilot study to investigate seasonally varying discharge cross submarine ice sheet margins (aka grounding lines), one of the most important but least accessible, and thus least well understood, regions of the polar ice sheets.  Glacial meltwater provides a significant source of freshwater, chemicals, nutrients and sediment to the surrounding oceans, but the lack of observations at the submarine ocean-ice interface, where the bulk of this meltwater is released, have thus far precluded our ability to understand of the magnitude and variability of these fluxes.  We have chosen as our study site an outlet glacier / fjord system in western Greenland that is relatively shallow and free of large iceberg calving activity, enabling measurements and sampling at the ice-ocean interface.  Proposed work will occur during targeted field campaigns that represent both low melt/discharge (“winter”) conditions and peak melt/discharge (“summer”) conditions to investigate the temporal and spatial nature of these highly variable fluxes.  We will use passive and active water mass tracers following classical oceanographic methods, along with discrete water sampling, carried out by ice-edge and under-ice AUV surveys (leveraging work being done under a separate NSF-MRI award), to investigate the character and fate of meltwater released at the submarine ice edge.