Funded projects

 
 
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A Coupled Antarctic Cryosphere System: Linking Ice Sheet Surface Mass Balance Processes and Ocean Surface Variability Across Coastal Antarctica

Funding Agency: NASA Cryosphere Science Program
Collaborators:
Jan Lenaerts, University of Colorado - Boulder (co-I); Alek Petty, University of Maryland (co-I)

The Antarctic ice sheet (AIS) is an integral component of the Earth system potentially at risk of undergoing rapid change. Societally-relevant estimates of future sea level rise mandate understanding how the AIS responds to natural and anthropogenic forcing, particularly across Antarctica’s climate-sensitive ice shelves. To date, research investigating changes to ice shelves has largely focused on the role of the ocean in driving submarine ice shelf melting. Relatively little attention has been directed towards understanding the impact of ocean surface variability on the surface mass balance (SMB) of the AIS and ice shelves. This lack of research is despite the central role SMB plays in total AIS mass balance, and emerging (but still poorly constrained) lines of evidence pointing to the potential importance of the ocean surface in impacting ice sheet SMB. Given growing concern over the future of the AIS centering on the buttressing role of ice shelves, a better understanding of the current state of ice shelf/sheet SMB, as well as the mechanisms in the ice-ocean-atmosphere system impacting ice shelf/sheet SMB are paramount.

Through the development and synthesis of state-of-the-art remotely sensed observations and regional climate modeling, this research will identify critical Antarctic ice-ocean-atmosphere surface connections and constrain projections of future Antarctic change.

 
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Collaborative Research: Water on the Antarctic Ice Sheet: Quantifying surface melt and mapping supraglacial lakes

Funding agency: National Science Foundation Antarctic Glaciology Program
Collaborators:
Allen Pope, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder (co-PI)

Surface melting across the Antarctic ice sheet is a critical process monitor owing to its potential influence on ice shelf stability. Recent modeling work indicates Antarctica could add 1 m to sea level by 2100, and 15 m to sea level by 2500.  Such large contributions are a direct result of including surface melt hydrofracture and ice cliff failure processes in the ice sheet model.  However, owing to important nonlinearities in the melt response to atmospheric warming, prediction of the future evolution of melt requires initializing transient model simulations from realistic present-day conditions.  

This project will produce novel, satellite-based observations of surface melt and supraglacial hydrological features including lakes, ponds, and streams.  We aim to understand the variability of melt today at unprecedented spatial resolution, the driving climatic processes, and the resulting surface hydrological signature on ice shelves.  This project will provide new insights into melt processes across Antarctica and foster more informed sea level rise projections. 

 
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Workshop on Antarctic Surface Hydrology and Future Ice-shelf Stability

Funding agency: National Science Foundation Antarctic Glaciology Program
Collaborators:
Jonathan Kingslake, Columbia University (PI); Marco Tedesco, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (co-PI)

The accumulation of surface meltwater on or near the surface of ice shelves can play a role in ice-shelf collapse, which leads to accelerated loss of grounded ice. While much progress has been made, this field is still in its infancy and a better understanding of the coupled mechanisms linking meltwater generation to ice-sheet mass loss in Antarctica is needed for improving sea-level predictions.

A number of research groups are beginning to examine processes related to coupling between meltwater production and future Antarctic ice loss. For example, recent studies have revealed that present-day meltwater generation and movement across the surface of Antarctica is more widespread than previously thought and that surface hydrological systems in Antarctica are likely to expand and proliferate this century. Meanwhile, numerical models of the Antarctic Ice Sheet that incorporate meltwater's impact on ice shelves, predict a meter of global sea-level rise this century in response to atmospheric warming.

Given the emerging evidence of the importance of surface hydrology to ice shelf stability and future sea level rise, it is now time for the scientific community to come together to identify and address critical knowledge gaps in this field. This workshop will bring together scientists with expertise in ice-sheet dynamics, glacial hydrology, climatology and other disciplines in order to move the community towards answering several fundamental questions raised by observations of Antarctic surface hydrological processes: What climate dynamics are responsible for surface meltwater generation in Antarctica? What controls the spatiotemporal distribution of meltwater ponds on Antarctic ice shelves? Where is meltwater generated, where does it pond today, and how will this change this century? How will meltwater impact ice shelves? How will surface hydrology impact sea-level this century?