CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECT (2019-2022)

CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECT (2019-2022)

GO-Ice: Glacier-Ocean-Iceberg Dynamics in a Changing Canadian Arctic

Copland Luke

Project Leader

This project will investigate relationships between changes in glaciers, icebergs and the ocean in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA). Recent rapid increases in air temperatures in this region have been linked to widespread losses of glacial ice, particularly for tidewater glaciers, but to date the role of the ocean in driving these losses is largely unknown. In turn, large uncertainties remain surrounding the impact of increased melt and glacier runoff on ocean stratification and circulation. Understanding the link between glacier-ocean dynamics in the CAA requires a concerted field observation and modelling effort; as such, this project will provide an integrated study of the connections between mass balance of glacial ice, meltwater runoff, iceberg drift, and ocean properties. The project will address three main objectives:
a) How does atmospheric and ocean warming influence the mass balance and motion of tidewater glaciers, and how does this compare to changes in land-terminating glaciers?
b) Are regional changes in the properties of ocean waters in contact with glaciers, ice shelves and icebergs controlling the stability of these ice bodies?
c) What is the distribution of glacier mass loss to the ocean, through both meltwater runoff and the drift and deterioration of icebergs, and how does this freshwater impact ocean stratification and circulation?


To address these objectives, we will develop a new community- and Canadian Rangers-based ocean monitoring program, continue comprehensive measurements at field sites on Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg islands, utilize new remote sensing datasets to provide regional records of ice motion, and use the CCGS Amundsen to map ocean and fiord bathymetry and deploy satellite beacons to track iceberg drift. In turn, these observations will be used to run high-resolution numerical models of glacial hydrology and ocean circulation that will examine controls on ice dynamics and mass loss of glaciers, investigate ocean forcing of tidewater glaciers in the CAA, improve iceberg drift models, and assess ship-iceberg collision hazards in a warming climate.

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