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Ice Sheet Ocean Interactions around Greenland

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A mooring carrying temperature and salinity recorders is recovered near an iceberg after two years in Sermilik Fjord, where Helheim Glacier drains.

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A mooring carrying temperature and salinity recorders is recovered near an iceberg after two years in Sermilik Fjord, where Helheim Glacier drains. (Photo by F. Straneo)

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Ice Sheet Ocean Interactions

Ice Sheet Ocean Interactions
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The Greenland Ice Sheet's contribution to sea-level rise more than quadrupled over the last two decades due to increased surface melt and to the widespread acceleration of outlet glaciers around Greenland. One of the mechanisms scientists believe may have triggered this acceleration are changes in ocean circulation in the North Atlantic which are delivering larger amounts of subtropical waters to the high latitudes. Another proposed mechanism involves increased submarine melt due to increased discharge of surface melt at the base of glaciers, often hundreds of meters below sea-level. In general both the external forcings (glaciological, oceanic and atmospheric) and the actual physics governing the exchange of heat and fresh water at the glacier/ocean interface are poorly understood and largely missing from ice sheet and climate models. This knowledge gap results in major uncertainties in the prediction of future sea level rise and the impact of increasing fresh water on the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean's circulations.

Research within my group has addressed multiple aspects of ice sheet/ocean interactions including

- turbulent processes at the glacier/ocean interface (Sciascia et al. JGR, 2013)

- fjord scale dynamics (Jackson et al. Nature Geoscience, 2014)

- intrusion of warm subtropical waters in the glacial fjords (Straneo et al. 2010, Nature Geoscience)

- continental shelf variability from moored instruments (Harden et al. 2014, JGR)

- impact of large scale atmospheric variability on Greenland's coast (Oltmanns et al. J. Climate 2014)

This research uses data we collected at the margins of Greenland's glaciers, using underwater and surface autonomous vehicles (e.g. the Jetyak), local vessels, icebreakers and helicopters, but also analytical, numerical and laboratory models of varying complexity and analysis of existing data. 


This work requires collaborations with smart people from different disciplines:

Oceanographers  D. Sutherland (U. Oregon), P. Heimbach (MIT, U. Texas), C. Cenedese (WHOI)

Glaciologist G. Hamilton (U. Maine), L. Stearns (U. Kansas), S. Das (WHOI), A. Vieli (U. Zurich, CH)

Paleo-oceanographers C.S Andersen (GEUS, DK)

Subglacial Hydrology/ Applied Maths I. Hewitt (U. Oxford)


GRISO - International Network of Scientists Working on Greenland Ice Sheet/Ocean/Atmosphere Interactions 2014-present

SEARCH - NSF funded Project on Arctic Change focusing on making scientific knowledge available to science and stakeholders.

The goal of this working group is to foster and promote interaction between the diverse oceanographic, glaciological, atmospheric and climate communities, including modelers and field and data scientists within each community, interested in glacier/ocean interactions around Greenland, to advance understanding of the process and ultimately improve its representation in climate models.

Review Publications

Straneo, F. and C. Cenedese, The Dynamics of Greenland’s glacial fjords and their role in climate, Ann. Rev. Mar. Sci, 7, 89-112.

Heimbach, P., F. Straneo, O. Sergienko, and G. Hamilton, 2014: International workshop on understanding the response of Greenlands marine-terminating glaciers to oceanic and atmospheric forcing: Challenges to improving observations, process understanding and modeling. June 4-7, 2013, Beverly, MA, USA. US CLIVAR Report 2014-1, US CLIVAR Project Office, Washington DC, 20006.

Straneo, F. and P. Heimbach, 2013: North Atlantic warming and the retreat of Greenland’s outlet glaciers. Nature, 504, 36-43.

Straneo, F., P. Heimbach, O. Sergienko, G. Hamilton, G. Catania, S. Griffies, R. Hallberg, A. Jenkins, I. Joughin, R. Motyka, W. T. Pfeffer, S. F. Price, E. Rignot, T. Scambos, M. Truffer, A. Vieli, 2013: Challenges to Understand the Dynamic Response of Greenland's Marine Terminating Glaciers to Oceanic and Atmospheric Forcing. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 94, 1131-1144, doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00100.

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Last updated: January 26, 2015

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