Will Loss of Arctic Sea Ice Cause More ‘Snow on Ice’ in Greenland?

Scientists are collecting lake sediment, rock, water and plant samples to tease apart linkages between Arctic sea ice, atmospheric uptake, and changes in snowfall on the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Margie Turrin
March 28, 2018

Nicolás Young (LDEO), Jason Briner (UB) and an assortment of fellow scientists and graduate students are gearing up to spend a third summer camping along the Greenland ice margin. As part of an ambitious multi-institutional and cross-disciplinary project, NSF-funded Snow on Ice, Young and Briner are collecting lake sediment, rock, water and plant samples that will be used to tease apart linkages between reductions in sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, atmospheric uptake through increased evaporation from the exposed ocean surface and changes in snowfall on the Greenland Ice Sheet. The fieldwork will be centered in southwest Greenland where climate sensitivity during past interglacials was the greatest. The resulting data will be combined with new isotopic ice core work (UW) and updated subglacial topography (UCI), for delivery to two sets of modelers on the project team (UM and NASA JPL) to feed into a set of nested models. Canada's Geotop and Denmark's GEUS fill out the partner list.

Explore the photo essay below and read more below to learn about the exciting work of the Snow on Ice Project.

The project goal is to look at the last 8000 years in Western Greenland, spanning back into the last Thermal Maximum when temperatures were approximated at 1-2°C warmer than today and the ice sheet was smaller. It is difficult to constrain the dimensions of an ice sheet that is smaller than present as the traditional markers that are used for evidence are covered over but we will tackle it with the multiple instrument approach described above. The data will be used as a proxy for what might happen in Greenland's future, addressing with increased certainty whether reductions in Arctic sea ice in the past triggered a feedback loop that caused increased precipitation falling as snow, and resulted in stabilizing the Greenland ice Sheet even in a warming climate.

For more on this project see the Snow On Ice website.