Snow on Ice is a National Science Foundation-funded project led by the University at Buffalo, bringing together experts from different institutions and scientific disciplines to explore fundamental questions tied to climate change.
Loss of Arctic sea ice and ongoing thinning and retreat of Greenland’s marine terminating glaciers threatens the future of the Ice Sheet. With both ocean and atmospheric temperatures warming, the stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet is uncertain, and with links to global climate and changes in global sea level this has major human ramifications. The Snow on Ice Project integrates new observational data, the most current findings from existing large scale Arctic projects, inputting findings into both regional and larger scale modeling in order to examine whether increased precipitation from a warming atmosphere could be a trigger for transitioning Greenland from ice loss to ice sheet stability.
Like the Arctic climate system, the project is built around a series of constant feedbacks, with each piece of the project influencing the other parts in a cycle that advances our understanding.
Reconstructing Greenland’s Ice Margin. Sediment samples for radiocarbon dating were cored from pro-glacial lakes, lakes created along the ice sheet margin from glacial meltwater that track ice sheet retreat and expansion. Quartz rock samples were collected from both free standing glacial erratics and rows of rocky moraines deposited along the ice sheet margin for paired Carbon14 /Beryllium10 dating. Both the mud and rock samples are used to constrain Greenland’s minimal Holocene ice edge.
Hydroclimate data will be calculated from hydrogen isotopes extracted from the water in lake sediment cores, and leaf waxes from local plants. These will be analyzed to reconstruction a picture of paleo-climate temperature and moisture balance in the Holocene.
Arctic dinocysts are being analyzed as a proxy for sea ice cover along southwest Greenland. Dinocysts are dormant zygotes of dinoflagellates that are paleoclimate markers of past sea ice cover, water temperature and salinity.
Greenland Ice Core Data extended through the Holocene will be used to reconstruct the surface temperature and ice accumulation. These boundary conditions will guide the ice sheet modelers.
Modeling efforts will integrate observational ice surface data and improved Greenland bed topography data into both a regional model and the Greenland-wide Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM). The models will focus on the SW geographic region running for the last 8000 years in the Holocene, moving this powerful model into more recent Geologic history.