Melt pond evolution and glacier acceleration:
An investigation into the cause of fast glacial flow in
East Greenland

This Project is supported in part by a generous grant from the
Dan and Betty Churchill Exploration Fund

Gordon Hamilton and Leigh Stearns

June 22, 2006 to August 29 2006

Journal entries and Gallery of photos

Gordon HamiltonLeigh Strearns

Mass from the interior of the Greenland ice sheet is transported to the ocean by numerous large, fast flowing outlet glaciers. Changes in the flow configuration of these outlet glaciers modulate ice sheet mass balance and sea level. Recent estimates show that Greenland's contribution to sea level has more than doubled in the past decade.

Our project is a partnership with colleagues from Harvard University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), the Danish National Space Center (DNSC), the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain (CSIC) (see Helheim 2006 for details). The objective of the larger project is to characterize the behavior of glacial earthquakes beneath fast moving outlet glaciers in Greenland (Ekström et al., 2006). The seasonality and distribution of these earthquakes implies a correlation with subglacial hydrology. We hypothesize that the subglacial drainage system, which must adjust for an increases in melt water due to warming, causes glacier acceleration and small seismic events.

Our project will be to deploy five GPS stations down-stream of a large melt pond. If time permits, we will place a sixth GPS unit up-stream of the melt pond, as a control. An automatic weather station (AWS site) will be installed on an adjacent mountain ridge. Given any flexibility in the logistics, we will position two AWS sites at two different elevations, to quantify the effect of elevation on weather observations (lapse rate).

For more information see the project page.

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