Drainage Efficiency of the Greenland Supraglacial River Network

Funding Agency: 
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
L. C. Smith (UCLA)

The production, transport, and export of meltwater generated across the surface of the Greenland ice sheet is critically important to our understanding of global sea level rise, yet remains one of the least studied hydrologic processes on Earth. Each summer, a complex system of thermally eroded supraglacial streams, rivers, melt ponds, lakes and moulins develops across wide expanses of the GrIS ablation zone. This meltwater undergoes a range of hydrologic processes semi-analogous to those on land, for example collecting in melt ponds and firn aquifers, or moving through coalescent water tracks and streams to form torrential supraglacial rivers flowing over the ice surface. Most if not all of these large rivers eventually sink into moulins, incised box canyons, or drained lake basins, before their runoff ultimately reappears in terrestrial proglacial rivers and sediment rich plumes entering the sea. In this project, we will investigate supraglacial rivers to understand their role in Greenland ice sheet mass balance and impacts on global sea levels.