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Monitoring surface melt over large areas of the ice sheet margin in Greenland

- monitoring surface melt over large areas of the ice sheet margin in Greenland

The Greenland Ice Sheet is by far the largest ice mass in the northern hemisphere. It reaches from the high Arctic in the North to almost subarctic climatic zones in the South. This makes large areas of the ice sheet vulnerable to climatic changes. Increased surface melt due to e.g. higher air temperatures will lead to more run-off of fresh water into the sea. This will directly influence water temperature and salinity, which are the driving forces for the thermohaline circulation system. The water circulation in the North Atlantic, however, strongly determines the climate in Greenland and Europe.

During the last decade significant thinning has been observed at several places of the ice sheet margin, even in areas were temperatures are slightly decreasing. As surface melting is a complex process and not only dependant on air temperature, the effects of changing climate needs to be investigated in more detail. Especially in the marginal areas with large surface gradients, strong melting and ice dynamic effects, monitoring of the surface conditions is most important.

The aim of the ICEMON project is to establish monitoring transects in some of the most sensitive areas of the ice sheet margin. These are areas where strong thinning has been observed, which, however, show distinct differences in climate conditions, between West-, East- and South-Greenland. The decision on the transect locations has also been determined by logistic possibilities for access and transport, in order to achieve a maximum with cost-effective measures. With this prerequisites Tasiilaq, Qaqortoq and Nuuk have been chosen for establishing the instruments on the ice sheet.

Greenland showing the elevation changes pr. year in centimetres.
Map of Greenland showing the elevation changes pr. year in centimetres.


Ahlstrøm, A.P., C.E. Bøggild, J.J. Mohr, N. Reeh, E.L. Christensen, O.B. Olesen, K. Keller. 2002. Mapping of a hydrological ice sheet drainage basin on the west Greenland ice sheet margin from ERS-1/2 SAR interferometry, ice-radar measurement and modelling. Annals of Glaciology . 34, 309-314.

Bøggild, C.E., N. Reeh, H. Oerter. 1994. Modelling ablation and mass-balance sensitivity to climate change of Storstrømmen, North-east Greenland. Global and Planetary Change. 9. 79 - 90.

Krabill, W.E., Frederick, S., Manizade, C. Martin, J. Sonntag, R. Swift, R. Thomas, W. Wright and J. Yungel, Rapid thinning of the southern Greenland Ice Sheet, Science , 283(5407), 1522-1524, 1999.

Mayer, C., C.E. Bøggild, S. Podlech, .B. Olesen, A.P. Ahlstrøm and W. Krabill, Glaciological investigations on ice-sheet response in South Greenland, Geology of Greenland Survey Bulletin: Review of Greenland activities 2001 , 191, 150-156, 2002.

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ICEMON purpose