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Collaborative Research: Assessing the Impact of Arctic Sea Ice Variability on the Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Mass and Energy Balance


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Weather, climate & atmosphere
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The Arctic Ocean is rapidly losing its summer sea ice cover, leading to anomalous warming of the overlying atmosphere in autumn. Concurrent with this sea ice loss, the Greenland ice sheet has been losing mass recently, with increased surface melt and discharge rates. These changes are of great socioeconomic concern as continued negative trends in the extent of floating sea ice cover and ice sheet mass are likely to have widespread impacts on climate and global sea levels. The investigators think that the simultaneous decreases in sea ice cover and increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet are connected. On the one hand, both may be largely responding to the same forcing to some degree, such as a generalized warming signal, amplified over the Arctic. On the other hand, it can be hypothesized that sea ice variability, through influences on mixed ocean layer temperatures, overlying air temperatures, column water vapor and atmospheric circulation, influences Greenland ice sheet surface melt and accumulation. Through a combination of data analysis, process studies and modeling, this project seeks to define the interactions between sea ice loss and Greenland ice sheet melt and accumulation. The following major research questions provide a framework for the study: 1) Does sea ice variability influence Greenland ice sheet surface melt (where, when, and how)? 2) What is the nature of storm activity around Greenland in the context of ice and ocean conditions and how might changes in the marine environment influence Greenland surface melt and accumulation in the future? This investigation will take advantage of up-to-date satellite sensor data, in combination with several new atmospheric reanalysis data products, station data and a state-of-the-art regional climate model, performed by a research team who are specialists in regional climate modeling, analysis of geospatial and sequential data analysis, satellite remote sensing and hydroclimatology in the Arctic and Greenland. This project will support students at the University of Colorado, the City College of New York and Rutgers University. The project also includes efforts to recruit undergraduates from underrepresented groups and will support a New Jersey high school teacher to develop lecture plans to be disseminated to a wide audience of K-12 educators at conferences and in journals. PUBLICATIONS PRODUCED AS A RESULT OF THIS RESEARCH M. Tedesco1,2, T. Mote3, X. Fettweis4, E. Hanna5, J. Jeyaratnam6, J.F. Booth6, R. Datta1,6,7 & K. Briggs8. "Arctic cut-off high drives the poleward shift of a new Greenland melting record," Nature Communications, v.7, 2016. doi:10.1038/ncomms11723