2022 Arctic

Ice Core and Firn Aquifer Studies at Combatant Col, British Columbia, Canada

This project aims to recover an ice core at Combatant Col, BC, Canada to reconstruct hydroclimate variability over the last 500 years. Previous work at Combatant Col demonstrates preservation of annual stratigraphy, water-isotope and geochemical records reflecting important climate and environmental variables including atmospheric circulation, snow accumulation, fire activity, and trans-Pacific dust transport. Existing North Pacific ice cores are located exclusively in Alaska and the Yukon. Combatant Col significantly expands the spatial coverage of ice core records, while simultaneously providing a unique record of hydroclimate in southwestern British Columbia. This project will conduct detailed radar surveys and ice-flow modeling to better understand the glaciological setting and to select the optimal site for drilling. A core to bedrock will be retrieved using the Electrothermal Drill. Analysis of the ice core will include water isotope ratios and visual stratigraphy. In combination with high-resolution radar imaging, the core from Combatant Col will be used to determine whether the observed firn-aquifer at this site (liquid water is stored perennially above the firn-ice transition) has been a persistent feature at the site, or whether it has formed recently, and to determine its impact on glacier energy balance and dynamics. The core will be archived and made available for additional analyses by the ice core research community.

Peru: Investigation of High Andean Snow and Ice Chemistry to Improve Paleoclimatic Reconstruction and Enhance Climate Prediction

This research examines past and modern change in climate over Peru and Bolivia using snow and ice samples to improve predictions for future climate. Instrumental records of climate and environmental variability from the region are sparse, yet ice cores from Central Andean glaciers provide a source of high-resolution records of past climate dynamics and chemistry of the atmosphere extending back centuries to millennia. Climate reconstructions from ice cores can provide added temporal and spatial context to existing multi-proxy climate reconstructions to help assess the impact of natural and human-induced physical and chemical climate change at the storm-scales that impact day to day and season to season events, and in the process, develop analogs for predicting future change. The goal of this research is to combine advances in ice core sampling technology, knowledge of Andean storm event meteorology, cyberinfrastructure, and climate modeling and analysis to fresh snow, snowpits and ice core data from Peru and Bolivia. Using the Thermal Drill, this project will recover approximately 140 meters of snow/firn/ice core from the summit region of Quelccaya during the project’s 2020 field season.

Greenland: Climate Drivers and Ancient History in Greenland Ice

Using the Foro 400 Drill, this project will drill a 400-450 meter long ice core from the Tunu region of northeast Greenland and analyze the core for a broad range of elements, chemical species, and isotopes to reconstruct climate and human impacts during the past ~4000 years. An ice-penetrating radar survey extending 40-km upstream along the ice-flow line upstream of the ice-core site will support interpretation of the aerosol and water isotope records, as well as understanding of any possible impacts from changes in deposition processes upstream. The goal of this research is to develop accurately dated, high-resolution, ice-core records of a broad range of elements and chemical species to expand and extend recently identified, causal linkages between (1) ancient societies; (2) volcanism and hydroclimate; and (3) wars, plagues, social unrest, and economic activity.

Southeast Greenland Surface Mass Balance

Using the Stampfli Drill and a hand auger and Sidewinder, this project will drill shallow firn cores from 2-3 sites in Southeast Greenland. The goal of the project is to investigate decadal variability in accumulation and surface melt intensity and investigate the impact of this variability on Helheim Glacier behavior. The researchers plan to revisit two sites that they last drilled in 2003 as well as an additional lower elevation site as time/resources allow. All drilling will be done during day trips from Kulusuk supported by Twin Otter.

Collaborative Research: AON Network for Observing Transformation of the Greenland Ice Sheet Firn Layer

This project will establish a network of instrumented sites to observe transformation of the Greenland Ice sheet’s percolation zone firn layer. Using the IDDO Hand Auger and Sidewinder, repeat cores will be collected over five years to track density and ice content changes, and instrumentation installed in core holes will monitor firn temperature evolution and compaction of the firn layer. The data from these efforts will be of high value to scientists focused on changes in storage capacity of the firn layer, process details of meltwater infiltration in cold firn, and the influence of firn compaction and melt on satellite-observed ice sheet elevation.

Collaborative Research: Chemistry and Biology under Low Flow Hydrologic Conditions Beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet Revealed through Naturally Emerging Subglacial Water

Weathering is an important process that releases nutrients that are essential for life from rocks and minerals in the Earth’s surface. This project seeks to understand the effect of large glaciers on weathering processes beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet and the consequences for life. During summer, nutrients and other products are flushed out of the Greenland Ice Sheet with water from melting ice. While these products have been sampled in spring and summer, it is not known how weathering processes are different during winter. In this project, researchers will sample the seasonal ice that forms in front of two of Greenland’s glacial outlets, Isunnguata Sermia and Leverett Glacier, during the freezing months to assess the chemistry and microbiology processes that reflect wintertime conditions beneath the ice sheet – periods when input of fresh meltwater is minimal. These samples will increase knowledge of winter conditions under the Greenland Ice Sheet and help better understand the interior portions of the ice sheet which are largely inaccessible. Such information will help in assessing past conditions, when colder atmospheric conditions resulted in minimal meltwater input through the ice sheet and to the glacial bed. These analyses will inform understanding of the role of glaciers on earth’s nutrient cycles presently, under past ice age conditions, and in a future deglaciating world.