Greenland in a warmer climate: What controls the advance & retreat of the NE Greenland Ice Stream

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Over the past decade the Greenland ice sheet has thinned at an accelerating rate and is currently the largest single contributor to global sea-level rise. Understanding the likely rate and magnitude of future change matters because accurate projections of sea-level rise are necessary if governments are to plan for the future in a warming world and develop sustainable coastal defence strategies.

A significant portion of Greenland's contribution to sea-level rise has been associated with the speed-up and melting of an increased number of fast-flowing outlet glaciers. Rapid thinning of these glaciers has coincided with increases in air and ocean temperatures, suggesting that they are sensitive and responsive to these parameters. However, although various mechanisms related to atmospheric and oceanic forcing have been proposed to explain the recent thinning, there exist large uncertainties in the relative importance of and interplay between each of these and the ice sheet response to them over longer timescales. Without this crucial information output from the current generation of ice sheet models has limitations and there is potential for significant errors in sea-level rise projections.

This research will directly address this critical gap in our understanding by reconstructing the past behaviour of the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) over the past 10,000 years. NEGIS is of particular interest because recent studies show that this cold, High Arctic region of the ice sheet has started to undergo sustained thinning after more than 25 years of relative stability. This has raised concerns that rapid inland retreat is already underway and could lead to drawdown of the NEGIS catchment. Complete collapse of its drainage basin would raise sea-level by ~1.4 m (equivalent to the combined Pine Island-Thwaites catchment in Antarctica) posing a major hazard for coastal populations. NEGIS provides an unparalleled opportunity to investigate the response of an ice stream to past change (oceanic and atmospheric warming), because there is evidence that it underwent dramatic retreat (and then advance) during the Holocene Thermal Maximum (a period of increased air temperatures analogous to that predicted for late 21st century).

To achieve this we have assembled an experienced team who will generate a detailed record of changes in NEGIS geometry, and the contemporaneous atmospheric, oceanic and relative sea level changes. We will reconstruct ice stream configuration (thickness, extent) from marine and terrestrial data, and produce high-resolution records of oceanic and atmospheric temperatures and relative sea level. Using a state-of-the-art ice sheet model (BISICLES), these data will be used to test the sensitivity of the ice stream to different forcing mechanisms at 100-1000 year timescales. Our chosen timescale will allow us to differentiate short term 'noise' from long term trends, something that has been recognised as a potential issue, which is not possible from investigations of contemporary margin fluctuations derived from a few decades of instrumental records. Ultimately our project will deliver significant improvements in our understanding of the sensitivity of the ice sheet to various forcing mechanisms that will help to underpin sea-level rise projections, shape policy on coastal defence and protect future generations.

The project has significant added value in that we will work within a funded European programme 'Greenland Ice Sheet/Ocean Interaction and Fram Strait Fluxes' and has confirmed funded logistical support through the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany and a 50 day cruise on the RV Polarstern (2016) to this remote area.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit?
1. Think Big Science day: The Think Big programme is part of Durham University's Supported Progression Programme for talented students studying in the North East and Cumbria who have the potential to study at university and who will benefit from additional help and support to reach their full potential. Through offering a Think Big science day on 'Ice Sheets and Climate Change' we would aim to inspire and attract Pre 16 school children from all across the northeast region to come and learn about ice sheets and the challenges of climate change, and to encourage them to join our Supported Progression Programme.
2. DynamIce interactive WWW site: Ice sheet models provide the key to predicting the future behaviour of our cryosphere in a warming world, but perhaps more importantly, they provide a spectacular visual means with which to engage the public. Ice sheet models are dynamic, colourful and informative. As part of this project we propose to design and build a user friendly, interactive, animated model that will enable the public to explore the response of an ice sheet to different climatic forcings.
3. Academic community: The numerical modelling community will benefit particularly from increased understanding of ocean-ice interactions and a benchmark dataset for testing numerical models of marine-based ice sheet outlet glaciers and ice shelves over centennial to millennial timescales.

How will they benefit?
1. Think Big Science day: The Think Big science day will provide 100 places for local children and teachers from local/regional secondary schools. We will offer children the chance to spend a day in the Geography Department with interactive laboratory sessions, guest lectures by the project team ('Climate Change + Ice' and 'Adventures in the Arctic') and a mini field trip
2. DynamIce interactive WWW site: DynamIce will be self-guiding and demonstrate the relationships between increasing ocean and air temperatures, ice sheet response and sea-level, but also illustrate concepts of non-linear response behaviour in the earth system. It would be trialled on the Think Big Science Day to get feedback on its ease of use and impact before being made more widely available through outreach programmes embedded within bodies such as the Geographical Association, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Quaternary Research Association. An improved understanding of numerical models and their associated uncertainties forms a critical part of the public debate on climate change and we hope that DynamIce will inform this debate.
3. Academic community: Our field data, providing the first well-constrained data on long-term ice-ocean-atmosphere coupling will help constrain and validate the next generation of ice sheet numerical models.

What will be done?
1. Think Big Science day: The Supported Progression team will implement the planning and development of the day in partnership with local schools.
2. DynamIce interactive WWW site: The project team will use a design and imaging team to develop Dynam-Ice.
3. Academic community: Our results will be communicated though conferences, workshops, and papers and our data added to the NERC National Geoscience Data Centre.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description There have been two research cruises to Greenland (Aug/Sept 2016 + Sept/Oct 2017) with German colleagues (AWI) on the ice breaker (RV Polarstern; PS100/109) as part of this project.The geophysical data and core material collected from the ocean floor as part of these cruises has been partially analysed by PDRA 1 between April 2017 and March 2018. There has also been an onshore field campaign to NE Greenland in the summer of 2017. This collected geological samples from glaciated terrain for cosmogenic surface exposure dating and radiocarbon dating of uplifted marine sediments. Geomorphological data was also collected from areas adjacent to the 79N ice shelf. The deployment of a raft on an epishelf lake also enabled the collection of sediment cores and surface samples that will be analsyed through 2018/19.
Exploitation Route Data on changing cryospheric and oceanic conditions will be of interest to the modelling community and climate scientists.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://community.dur.ac.uk/negis/
 
Title Fieldwork/data collection NE Greenland 
Description Fieldwork in NE Greenland executed July/aug 2017 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Analysis ongoing. 
 
Title Offshore sediment cores and geophysical data 
Description Sediment cores and geophysical data were collected on cruise PS100 in summer 2016. 43 sediment cores are archived at Durham University and analysis will begin April 2017. Geophysical data generated by the shipboard Parasound system will also be analysed when PDRA 1 starts in April 2017 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact none thus far 
 
Title Sediment core analysis 
Description 25 sediment cores form cruise PS109 analysed between Oct 2017 and March 2018 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Sediment core analysis and interpretation ongoing 
 
Title Sediment core analysis 
Description 43 sediment cores form cruise PS100 analysed at Durham University between April 2017 and Feb 2018 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Sediment core analysis and interpretation ongoing 
 
Description Collaboration Agreement: Greenland in a warmer climate - what controls the advance and decay of the NE Greenland ice stream 
Organisation Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Durham provide the team to collect field data both onshore and offshore in NE Greenland Durham provide the team to analyse the data back in the UK and manage and disseminate the findings of the project
Collaborator Contribution Alfred Wegener provide ship time on the RV Polarstern through their Arctic Research programme and will share a logistical platform in NE Greenland in summer 2017. BAS will have an input into the collection and analysis of epishelf lake sediments. Aberdeen will have an input into the collection of terrestrial samples and onshore mapping. Bristol will help to develop our ice sheet model. Niels-Bohr will provide glaciological information for NE Greenland to inform the model. The QRA will help with the dissemination of our impact plan
Impact Cruise PS 100 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2016 with AWI. Cruise PS 109 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2017 with AWI.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration Agreement: Greenland in a warmer climate - what controls the advance and decay of the NE Greenland ice stream 
Organisation British Antarctic Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Durham provide the team to collect field data both onshore and offshore in NE Greenland Durham provide the team to analyse the data back in the UK and manage and disseminate the findings of the project
Collaborator Contribution Alfred Wegener provide ship time on the RV Polarstern through their Arctic Research programme and will share a logistical platform in NE Greenland in summer 2017. BAS will have an input into the collection and analysis of epishelf lake sediments. Aberdeen will have an input into the collection of terrestrial samples and onshore mapping. Bristol will help to develop our ice sheet model. Niels-Bohr will provide glaciological information for NE Greenland to inform the model. The QRA will help with the dissemination of our impact plan
Impact Cruise PS 100 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2016 with AWI. Cruise PS 109 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2017 with AWI.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration Agreement: Greenland in a warmer climate - what controls the advance and decay of the NE Greenland ice stream 
Organisation Quaternary Research Association
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Durham provide the team to collect field data both onshore and offshore in NE Greenland Durham provide the team to analyse the data back in the UK and manage and disseminate the findings of the project
Collaborator Contribution Alfred Wegener provide ship time on the RV Polarstern through their Arctic Research programme and will share a logistical platform in NE Greenland in summer 2017. BAS will have an input into the collection and analysis of epishelf lake sediments. Aberdeen will have an input into the collection of terrestrial samples and onshore mapping. Bristol will help to develop our ice sheet model. Niels-Bohr will provide glaciological information for NE Greenland to inform the model. The QRA will help with the dissemination of our impact plan
Impact Cruise PS 100 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2016 with AWI. Cruise PS 109 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2017 with AWI.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration Agreement: Greenland in a warmer climate - what controls the advance and decay of the NE Greenland ice stream 
Organisation University of Aberdeen
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Durham provide the team to collect field data both onshore and offshore in NE Greenland Durham provide the team to analyse the data back in the UK and manage and disseminate the findings of the project
Collaborator Contribution Alfred Wegener provide ship time on the RV Polarstern through their Arctic Research programme and will share a logistical platform in NE Greenland in summer 2017. BAS will have an input into the collection and analysis of epishelf lake sediments. Aberdeen will have an input into the collection of terrestrial samples and onshore mapping. Bristol will help to develop our ice sheet model. Niels-Bohr will provide glaciological information for NE Greenland to inform the model. The QRA will help with the dissemination of our impact plan
Impact Cruise PS 100 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2016 with AWI. Cruise PS 109 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2017 with AWI.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration Agreement: Greenland in a warmer climate - what controls the advance and decay of the NE Greenland ice stream 
Organisation University of Bristol
Department MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Durham provide the team to collect field data both onshore and offshore in NE Greenland Durham provide the team to analyse the data back in the UK and manage and disseminate the findings of the project
Collaborator Contribution Alfred Wegener provide ship time on the RV Polarstern through their Arctic Research programme and will share a logistical platform in NE Greenland in summer 2017. BAS will have an input into the collection and analysis of epishelf lake sediments. Aberdeen will have an input into the collection of terrestrial samples and onshore mapping. Bristol will help to develop our ice sheet model. Niels-Bohr will provide glaciological information for NE Greenland to inform the model. The QRA will help with the dissemination of our impact plan
Impact Cruise PS 100 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2016 with AWI. Cruise PS 109 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2017 with AWI.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration Agreement: Greenland in a warmer climate - what controls the advance and decay of the NE Greenland ice stream 
Organisation University of Copenhagen
Department Niels Bohr Institute
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Durham provide the team to collect field data both onshore and offshore in NE Greenland Durham provide the team to analyse the data back in the UK and manage and disseminate the findings of the project
Collaborator Contribution Alfred Wegener provide ship time on the RV Polarstern through their Arctic Research programme and will share a logistical platform in NE Greenland in summer 2017. BAS will have an input into the collection and analysis of epishelf lake sediments. Aberdeen will have an input into the collection of terrestrial samples and onshore mapping. Bristol will help to develop our ice sheet model. Niels-Bohr will provide glaciological information for NE Greenland to inform the model. The QRA will help with the dissemination of our impact plan
Impact Cruise PS 100 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2016 with AWI. Cruise PS 109 to NE Greenland completed in summer 2017 with AWI.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Ice2ice workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The NEGIS/ Ice2ice workshop in Bergen, Norway
March 2017

This workshop draws together a group of international researchers who have interests in the glacial history and contemporary glaciology of NE Greenland, in particular the NE Greenland ice stream and the ice shelves at 79N and Zachariae isstrom
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Conference paper - 'The downstream geomorphic imprint of the Northeast Greenland ice stream' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk at EGRIP - NEGIS symposium
Copenhagen
November 12th -16th 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Conference paper - Reconstructing Late Quaternary retreat of the NE Greenland Ice Stream 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Callard, S.L, Roberts, D.H., Ó Cofaigh, C, Lloyd, J., Smith, J., Dorschel, B.
EGU General Assembly
Vienna 8th to 19th April.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description EGU2018-14776 Reconstructing Late Quaternary retreat of the NE Greenland Ice Stream. Louise Callard et al. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact EGU conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description PP24A-04: New marine geophysical and sediment record of the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact AGU conference 2017 New Orleans
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Past Gateway Conference 2018 - Extent and timing of retreat of the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream on the continental shelf offshore of Greenland during the last glacial cycle 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Past Gateways Conference 2018 - Durham
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Past Gateway Conference 2018 - Late Holocene interaction between ocean circulation and the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Past Gateway Conference 2018 - Durham
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Past Gateway Conference 2018 - Late Quaternary and Holocene ice shelf sediment records from NE Greenland 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Past Gateway Conference 2018 - Durham
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Past Gateways 2018 - The onshore imprint of the Northeast Greenland ice stream and 79N ice shelf 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Past Gateway Conference 2018 - Durham
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar - Impacts of Climate Change on the Northeast Greenland Icestream. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk to Durham Agricultural Society, 6th March 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar - Interaction between ocean circulation and the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research seminar at Department of Geological Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, 21st March 2018:
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018