"Climate change is one of the most significant impacts on global society today. At the Earth’s poles glaciers & ice sheets are melting due to global warming. As a geologist I study the geologic past; researching how the Greenland ice sheet has changed through time informs where the ice sheet is headed in the future."

Jason Briner, GRate Lead PI, University @ Buffalo
Field work by two graduate students

Recent special reports by the International Panel on Climate Change highlight a vulnerable cryosphere, and connect this directly to serious impacts of sea-level rise. It is very clear that rising sea level will challenge societies around the globe for the foreseeable future, and that our ability to adapt to these challenges requires improved accuracy in ice-sheet modeling. In 2015 this same team of scientists from multiple institutions were funded by the NSF Arctic System Science program to improve knowledge about the sensitivity of the SW Greenland Ice Sheet to Holocene climate change through the integration of paleoclimate, paleo-glaciology and ice sheet modeling.

That 2015 project, called Snow-on-Ice, produced numerous publications including a culminating paper presenting paleo-integrated simulations of Greenland Ice Sheet mass loss, showing that rates of ice loss in the 21st century will be much higher than during the past 11,700 yrs! This earlier study was an opportunity for our team of multidisciplinary scientists to learn to reach across disciplines and work together, developing the language and resources to do that. By design the work was restricted to the SW region of the Greenland Ice Sheet, an area where the ice sheet has already seen major retreat since the beginning of the Holocene. The resulting findings are significant, yet are definitive only for this SW region of Greenland.

This current GRate project will build on the Snow-on-Ice work, expanding it across the full Greenland Ice Sheet, and incorporating more data and improving the modeling. A key to understanding the Greenland Ice Sheet response to climate change lies in improving the accuracy of modeling ice-ocean interactions. Addressing this, the project team will leverage recent scientific advances as they investigate long-term Greenland Ice Sheet sensitivity to ocean and atmosphere forcing. Overall, the work will integrate climate forcing, ice-sheet modeling, and observations of past Greenland Ice Sheet change.

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The GRate project is funded under the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs.