Collaborative Research: GreenDrill: The Response of the Northern Greenland Ice Sheet to Arctic Warmth - Direct Constrains from Sub-Ice Bedrock

Lead PI: Dr. Joerg Michael Schaefer , Dr. Gisela Winckler , Nicolas E. Young , Jason P Briner, Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Robert M DeConto

Unit Affiliation: Geochemistry, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

October 2020 - September 2024
North America ; United States
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The GreenDrill project is motivated by a need to understand past and future change in the extent of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) holds about 24 feet (7.4 m) of sea level equivalent, yet it remains difficult to predict the rate of melt and possible tipping points in the stability of the ice sheet. In GreenDrill, the team of investigators will sample bedrock from under ice at sites in northern Greenland, analyzing cosmogenic nuclides to determine past periods of ice free conditions. These data will provide better understanding of how this region of the GrIS has responded to warm periods in the past. The team will also use these data in computer models to place results in the context of the entire ice sheet to explore mechanisms and climate forcing driving past periods of ice sheet disintegration, which in turn will inform projections of future ice sheet behavior and sea level rise. In addition to the high relevance of this research to society, the GreenDrill project includes broader impacts such as development of a new television episode called Adventures in Science, educational programs for middle and high school students via the Scientists are Superheroes program, and training for early career postdoctoral scientists, graduate students, and undergraduates.

In this project, the investigators propose to gather new data to test the sensitivity of the northern Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) and its potential to contribute to sea level rise in the future. Specifically, data from the GreenDrill project will better constrain the response of the GrIS to past periods of warmth and address the hypothesis that the northern GrIS is more sensitive to Arctic warming than the southern GrIS. The team will drill through the ice at sites in northern Greenland, sample bedrock obtained from those cores, and analyze a suite of cosmogenic nuclides (Beryllium-10, Aluminum-26, Chlorine-36, Carbon-14, and Neon-21) that can act as signatures of changes to the GrIS margin. These data will deliver direct observations of periods when the GrIS was substantially smaller than today and ice sheet margins retreated inland. Results will be incorporated into a numerical ice sheet model with a built-in cosmogenic nuclide module to identify plausible ice sheet histories. The modeling experiments will help understand the mechanisms and climate forcing underlying past periods of ice sheet retreat and help inform predictions of the future. Based on the melting scenarios, a first-order map of sea level rise fingerprints and inundation scenarios for major port cities will be produced.

BROADER IMPACTS: This proposal is fueled by community-wide enthusiasm for exploring sub-GrIS bedrock for direct ice-sheet sensitivity tests formulated at a recent NSF workshop. In addition to training the next, diverse generation of earth scientists (junior faculty, post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students), the proposed research includes a broad outreach and education program: (1) K12 and Early College Education: The team lead by our education coordinator Turrin (LDEO) will advance a series of Next Generation Science Standards-aligned educational explorations for Middle and High School students. In particular, the PIs will bring the successful Scientists are Superheroes program to the next level, by highlighting multidisciplinary approaches to study the GrIS and SLR. (2) Television and Social Media Outreach: The PIs propose the development of a television episode called Adventures in Science, a PBS-based, science-education program directed at raising pre-teen engagement in STEM. A contracted film team will travel to Greenland and then to PI labs. With high-definition footage and interviews, a variety of add-on outreach opportunities through social media will be pursued, in particular at the venues where Turrin engages K-12 audiences. The GreenDrill outreach efforts will reach thousands of students with diverse backgrounds at events throughout NYC, an area particularly vulnerable to rising seas, will promote LDEOs partnerships with two Hispanic-serving colleges and feed the new Earth Education Program at UB and the UMass Eureka! program.


National Science Foundation




SUNY at Buffalo, Pennsylvania State University, University of Massachusetts Amherst