Surface-atmosphere decoupling limits accumulation at Summit, Greenland.
ABSTRACT: Despite rapid melting in the coastal regions of the Greenland Ice Sheet, a significant area (~40%) of the ice sheet rarely experiences surface melting. In these regions, the controls on annual accumulation are poorly constrained owing to surface conditions (for example, surface clouds, blowing snow, and surface inversions), which render moisture flux estimates from myriad approaches (that is, eddy covariance, remote sensing, and direct observations) highly uncertain. Accumulation is partially determined by the temperature dependence of saturation vapor pressure, which influences the maximum humidity of air parcels reaching the ice sheet interior. However, independent proxies for surface temperature and accumulation from ice cores show that the response of accumulation to temperature is variable and not generally consistent with a purely thermodynamic control. Using three years of stable water vapor isotope profiles from a high altitude site on the Greenland Ice Sheet, we show that as the boundary layer becomes increasingly stable, a decoupling between the ice sheet and atmosphere occurs. The limited interaction between the ice sheet surface and free tropospheric air reduces the capacity for surface condensation to achieve the rate set by the humidity of the air parcels reaching interior Greenland. The isolation of the surface also acts to recycle sublimated moisture by recondensing it onto fog particles, which returns the moisture back to the surface through gravitational settling. The observations highlight a unique mechanism by which ice sheet mass is conserved, which has implications for understanding both past and future changes in accumulation rate and the isotopic signal in ice cores from Greenland.
Project description:Rapid Arctic warming is associated with important water cycle changes: sea ice loss, increasing atmospheric humidity, permafrost thaw, and water-induced ecosystem changes. Understanding these complex modern processes is critical to interpreting past hydrologic changes preserved in paleoclimate records and predicting future Arctic changes. Cyclones are a prevalent Arctic feature and water vapor isotope ratios during these events provide insights into modern hydrologic processes that help explain past changes to the Arctic water cycle. Here we present continuous measurements of water vapor isotope ratios (?(18)O, ?(2)H, d-excess) in Arctic Alaska from a 2013 cyclone. This cyclone resulted in a sharp d-excess decrease and disproportional ?(18)O enrichment, indicative of a higher humidity open Arctic Ocean water vapor source. Past transitions to warmer climates inferred from Greenland ice core records also reveal sharp decreases in d-excess, hypothesized to represent reduced sea ice extent and an increase in oceanic moisture source to Greenland Ice Sheet precipitation. Thus, measurements of water vapor isotope ratios during an Arctic cyclone provide a critical processed-based explanation, and the first direct confirmation, of relationships previously assumed to govern water isotope ratios during sea ice retreat and increased input of northern ocean moisture into the Arctic water cycle.
Project description:Several recent studies from both Greenland and Antarctica have reported significant changes in the water isotopic composition of near-surface snow between precipitation events. These changes have been linked to isotopic exchange with atmospheric water vapor and sublimation-induced fractionation, but the processes are poorly constrained by observations. Understanding and quantifying these processes are crucial to both the interpretation of ice core climate proxies and the formulation of isotope-enabled general circulation models. Here, we present continuous measurements of the water isotopic composition in surface snow and atmospheric vapor together with near-surface atmospheric turbulence and snow-air latent and sensible heat fluxes, obtained at the East Greenland Ice-Core Project drilling site in summer 2016. For two 4-day-long time periods, significant diurnal variations in atmospheric water isotopologues are observed. A model is developed to explore the impact of this variability on the surface snow isotopic composition. Our model suggests that the snow isotopic composition in the upper subcentimeter of the snow exhibits a diurnal variation with amplitudes in δ18O and δD of ~2.5‰ and ~13‰, respectively. As comparison, such changes correspond to 10-20% of the magnitude of seasonal changes in interior Greenland snow pack isotopes and of the change across a glacial-interglacial transition. Importantly, our observation and model results suggest, that sublimation-induced fractionation needs to be included in simulations of exchanges between the vapor and the snow surface on diurnal timescales during summer cloud-free conditions in northeast Greenland.
Project description:The Greenland ice sheet has become one of the main contributors to global sea level rise, predominantly through increased meltwater runoff. The main drivers of Greenland ice sheet runoff, however, remain poorly understood. Here we show that clouds enhance meltwater runoff by about one-third relative to clear skies, using a unique combination of active satellite observations, climate model data and snow model simulations. This impact results from a cloud radiative effect of 29.5 (±5.2)?W?m(-2). Contrary to conventional wisdom, however, the Greenland ice sheet responds to this energy through a new pathway by which clouds reduce meltwater refreezing as opposed to increasing surface melt directly, thereby accelerating bare-ice exposure and enhancing meltwater runoff. The high sensitivity of the Greenland ice sheet to both ice-only and liquid-bearing clouds highlights the need for accurate cloud representations in climate models, to better predict future contributions of the Greenland ice sheet to global sea level rise.
Project description:Earlier large-scale Greenland ice sheet sea-level projections (e.g., those run during the ice2sea and SeaRISE initiatives) have shown that ice sheet initial conditions have a large effect on the projections and give rise to important uncertainties. The goal of the initMIP-Greenland intercomparison exercise is to compare, evaluate and improve the initialisation techniques used in the ice sheet modelling community and to estimate the associated uncertainties in modelled mass changes. initMIP-Greenland is the first in a series of ice sheet model intercomparison activities within ISMIP6 (the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for CMIP6), which is the primary activity within the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project - phase 6 (CMIP6) focusing on the ice sheets. Two experiments for the large-scale Greenland ice sheet have been designed to allow intercomparison between participating models of 1) the initial present-day state of the ice sheet and 2) the response in two idealised forward experiments. The forward experiments serve to evaluate the initialisation in terms of model drift (forward run without additional forcing) and in response to a large perturbation (prescribed surface mass balance anomaly), and should not be interpreted as sea-level projections. We present and discuss results that highlight the diversity of data sets, boundary conditions and initialisation techniques used in the community to generate initial states of the Greenland ice sheet. We find good agreement across the ensemble for the dynamic response to surface mass balance changes in areas where the simulated ice sheets overlap, but differences arising from the initial size of the ice sheet. The model drift in the control experiment is reduced for models that participated in earlier intercomparison exercises.
Project description:Diffusion of capillary water and water vapor during moisture loss in an unsaturated soil is impeded by the chemical and geometrical interactions between water molecules/vapor and the soil structure. A reduction in moisture content contracts the diffuse and adsorbed water layers in the partly saturated soil and disturbs the connected capillary network for flow of liquid water. With further drying, the dry soil layer expands and moisture is predominantly lost as vapor through continuous air-flow channels. The water-filled capillary network and air-filled channels are moisture conduits during different stages of soil drying. It is important to identify zones of dominant moisture transport and to select appropriate tortuosity equations for correct prediction of moisture flux. Laboratory experiments were performed to determine moisture flux from compacted soil specimens at environmental relative humidity of 33, 76 and 97% respectively. Analysis of the resultant ? - ? (tortuosity - volumetric water content) relations, illustrated the existence of a critical water content (?cr), that delineates the dominant zones of capillary liquid flow and vapor diffusion. At critical water content, the pore-size occupied by the capillary water is governed by the generated soil suction. Generalized equations are proposed to predict tortuosity factor in zones of dominant capillary liquid flow and vapor transport over a wide range of relative humidity (33 to 97%).
Project description:The recent decades of accelerating mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet have arisen from an increase in both surface meltwater runoff and ice flow discharge from tidewater glaciers. Despite the role of the Greenland ice sheet as the dominant individual cryospheric contributor to sea level rise in recent decades, no observational record of its mass loss spans the 30-year period needed to assess its climatological state. We present for the first time a 40-year (1975-2014) time series of observed meltwater discharge from a >6500-km2 catchment of the southwestern Greenland ice sheet. We find that an abrupt 80% increase in runoff occurring between the 1976-2002 and 2003-2014 periods is due to a shift in atmospheric circulation, with meridional exchange events occurring more frequently over Greenland, establishing the first observation-based connection between ice sheet runoff and climate change.
Project description:A multilayer, daily ice-surface temperature (IST)-albedo-water vapor product of Greenland, extending from March 2000 through December 2016, has been developed using standard MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data products from the Terra satellite. To meet the needs of the ice sheet modeling community, this new Earth Science Data Record (ESDR) is provided in a polar stereographic projection in NetCDF format, and includes the existing standard MODIS Collection-6.1 IST and derived melt maps, and Collection 6 snow albedo and water vapor maps, along with ancillary data, and is provided at a spatial resolution of ~0.78 km. This ESDR enables relationships between IST, surface melt, albedo and water vapor to be evaluated easily. We show examples of the components of the ESDR and describe some uses of the ESDR such as for comparison with skin temperature, albedo and water vapor output from Modern Era Retrospective-analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2). Additionally we show validation of the MODIS IST using in situ and aircraft data, and validation of MERRA-2 skin temperature maps using MODIS IST and in situ data. The ESDR has been assigned a DOI and will be available through the National Snow and Ice Data Center by the summer of 2018.
Project description:The contribution of the Greenland ice sheet to sea-level rise has accelerated in recent decades. Subglacial lake drainage events can induce an ice sheet dynamic response--a process that has been observed in Antarctica, but not yet in Greenland, where the presence of subglacial lakes has only recently been discovered. Here we investigate the water flow paths from a subglacial lake, which drained beneath the Greenland ice sheet in 2011. Our observations suggest that the lake was fed by surface meltwater flowing down a nearby moulin, and that the draining water reached the ice margin via a subglacial tunnel. Interferometric synthetic aperture radar-derived measurements of ice surface motion acquired in 1995 suggest that a similar event may have occurred 16 years earlier, and we propose that, as the climate warms, increasing volumes of surface meltwater routed to the bed will cause such events to become more common in the future.
Project description:In July 2012, over 97% of the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced surface melt, the first widespread melt during the era of satellite remote sensing. Analysis of six Greenland shallow firn cores from the dry snow region confirms that the most recent prior widespread melt occurred in 1889. A firn core from the center of the ice sheet demonstrated that exceptionally warm temperatures combined with black carbon sediments from Northern Hemisphere forest fires reduced albedo below a critical threshold in the dry snow region, and caused the melting events in both 1889 and 2012. We use these data to project the frequency of widespread melt into the year 2100. Since Arctic temperatures and the frequency of forest fires are both expected to rise with climate change, our results suggest that widespread melt events on the Greenland Ice Sheet may begin to occur almost annually by the end of century. These events are likely to alter the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, leaving the surface susceptible to further melting.
Project description:The Late Pliocene epoch is a potential analogue for future climate in a warming world. Here we reconstruct Plio-Pleistocene East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) variability using cosmogenic nuclide exposure ages and model simulations to better understand ice sheet behaviour under such warm conditions. New and previously published exposure ages indicate interior-thickening during the Pliocene. An ice sheet model with mid-Pliocene boundary conditions also results in interior thickening and suggests that both the Wilkes Subglacial and Aurora Basins largely melted, offsetting increased ice volume. Considering contributions from West Antarctica and Greenland, this is consistent with the most recent IPCC AR5 estimate, which indicates that the Pliocene sea level likely did not exceed +20?m on Milankovitch timescales. The inception of colder climate since ?3?Myr has increased the sea ice cover and inhibited active moisture transport to Antarctica, resulting in reduced ice sheet thickness, at least in coastal areas.