Research: Firn aquifer drainage

The flow rate of ice off of Greenland and into the ocean affects sea levels.  Ice flow is sensitive to meltwater that travels underneath the glacier.  Where and when that water reaches the bed shape the water network under the glacier.  We use a computer model to analyze how a newly discovered meltwater source in East Greenland changes the water network and ice flow.  We find that the new water supply maintains a steadier water network that changes less over each season.  This could explain observations of steadier glacier flow in locations with this new water source.

Modeled evolution of crevasse fed by firn-aquifer water. Using present estimates of water flux through the firn aquifer, it takes weeks to months for the water to reach the bed.  Our work will narrow this wide range.

Meltwater storage in firn aquifers is expected to expand farther inland in future warm climates. If new surface-to-bed connections are made at inland locations, the subsequent evolution of the subglacial hydrologic system may alter ice dynamics.

Planning is now underway for a field project in Southeast Greenland where we will answer where and how often water from the firn aquifer reaches the bed of the glacier.  The project involves field data collection and analysis, plus model development and analysis. Field work is offered but not required.

Does this sound like an interesting research topic to you?

II’m always looking to add motivated students to my research group. I am particularly interested in working with students from minoritized backgrounds. If you’re interested in researching this topic, drop me a note and we’ll explore a research fit!