Influence of Meltwater on Greenland Ice Sheet Dynamics

Laura Stevens, Ph.D., 2017
Sarah Das, Advisor

This thesis investigates a wide range of meltwater-driven processes using empirical and theoretical methods for a region of the western margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet. I begin with an examination of the seasonal and annual ice flow record for the region using in situ observations of ice flow from a network of Global Positioning System (GPS) stations. Annual velocities decrease over the seven-year time-series at a rate consistent with the negative trend in annual velocities observed in neighboring regions. I next determine the trigger mechanism for rapid drainage of a supraglacial lake. In three consecutive years, I find precursory basal slip and uplift in the lake basin generates tensile stresses that promote hydro-fracture beneath the lake. Expanding spatial scales to the full ablation zone, I then use a numerical model of subglacial hydrology to test whether model-derived effective pressures exhibit the theorized inverse relationship with melt-season ice sheet surface velocities. Finally, I pair fjord hydrographic observations with modeled and observed subglacial discharge for the Saqqardliup sermia–Sarqardleq Fjord system. Continued observational and theoretical work reaching across discipline boundaries is required to further narrow our gap in understanding the forcing mechanisms of Greenland Ice Sheet dynamic mass loss.