How Temperature Change Affects the Greenland Ice Sheet

Gifford Wong, Ph.D. Student, Earth Sciences

Gifford Wong looks at the effect of climate change on the growth and decay of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS). He studies how changes in temperature affect our ability to assess the health of the GIS.

During the summers of 2010 and 2011, Gifford collected snow samples from pits (~2 m depth) and cores (~10-100 m depth) in the northwest GIS along a traverse route that roughly connects Thule Air Base with NEEM camp and Summit Station in Greenland. He took these samples back to the labs at Dartmouth where he prepared them for chemical analyses.

So far, Gifford has characterized how snow pit chemistry in the dry snow zone of the GIS is affected by percolating melt water. He also observed how the rate of change in snow accumulation is different between more coastal sites than it is in the interior of the GIS. This observation may improve our ability to model glacier mass changes with our changing climate.

The mass balance of the GIS is a particular concern to Arctic residents, but also to any global citizen living in coastal regions because of the ice sheet's impact on sea level rise. Gifford's work will enable scientists to better inform policymakers on how to effectively steward for the Arctic and, in particular, Greenland.

In 2011 Gifford Wong and Thomas Overly completed a 40-day traverse of the Greenland Ice Sheet. And in 2013 he interviewed legendary arctic researcher Carl Benson about leading traverses in the 1950s.

YouTube: Gifford Wong talks about the health of the Greenland Ice Sheet