Towards Hydrologic Understanding of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Funding Agency: 
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
L. C. Smith (UCLA), Y. Sheng (UCLA), C. Legleiter (U. Wyoming)

This project investigates the hydrology of the Greenland ice sheet. This is a very new and exciting area of cryospheric research. Each summer, a complex system of supraglacial meltwater lakes, streams and rivers develops across wide expanses of the ablation surface, up to approximately 1400 m elevation. An undetermined volume of this meltwater vanishes into the ice sheet via disappearing moulins (conduits), sinking streams, crevasses, fractures, and drained lakes. While present across large areas of the ice sheet, this complex hydrologic system has barely been studied. This knowledge gap introduces uncertainties in our understanding of current and future ice sheet mass balance – both from direct mass losses via water runoff, and the influence that meltwater can exert upon ice-flow dynamics.