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What’s in a Gigaton? Using detailed mapping of Greenland’s ice to better resolve and communicate ice sheet dynamics

Date(s): June 8, 2023, 2-3pm Eastern
Location: Virtual

Speaker: Dr. Michalea King (University of Washington)

Abstract: Recent advances in remote sensing capabilities have provided observations over the polar regions in unprecedented detail, including the ability to monitor ice flow at high temporal resolutions. We combine several independent optical and radar data sources to resolve weekly to seasonal variability in glacier speed and dynamic ice loss across the Greenland Ice Sheet and discuss how the timing and duration of short-term acceleration events can offer clues to underlying glacier dynamics. We then apply similar velocity mapping methods to regions beyond the calving front to track the spatiotemporal variability of rigid mélange (an aggregate mixture of sea ice and icebergs moving uniformly) and understand how its presence impacts glacier calving. Combined with quarterly DEMs built from ICESat-2 altimetry data, we also gain insight into how readily glacier fronts reach near-flotation on a seasonal basis, which likely plays a role in how well mélange controls the timing of seasonal glacier retreat. Finally, the social implications of polar research make scientific outreach and public polar literacy paramount. We highlight how improved remote sensing capabilities and data visualization can be powerful tools for engaging audiences with the concept of rapid ice sheet change and with the impacts of climate change on polar landscapes.