Jump to: Snow, firn, and water on ice sheets | Ice sheet precipitation and climate change | Ice sheet - ocean interactions | New to our science?

Snow, firn, and water on ice sheets

People: Nander Wever, Devon Dunmire, Eric Keenan, Megan Thompson-Munson, Tri DattaJan Lenaerts

Tools: SNOWPACK model, satellite remote sensing, machine learning, field observations

Funding sources: NASA ICESat-2, NASA FINESST, NASA IDS, University of Colorado Boulder, BELSPO

Mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets increasingly contributes to global sea level rise. These ice sheets are covered with a thick layer of firn, that is, compressed snow up to hundreds of meters deep. Firn contains pockets of air and can act as a sponge that stores liquid water from melting at the ice sheet surface. Because this storage mechanism breaks the direct link between surface melt and runoff, it can delay and mitigate ice sheet mass loss. However, as the atmosphere warms and surface melt increases, the ice sheet’s sponge slowly saturates. Additonal effects, such as meltwater refreezing in the firn layer, can hasten along saturation and a reduction in storage capacity. These processes can lead to mass loss in Greenland and increase the risk of destabilization of the floating ice shelves that buttress much of Antarctica’s ice. Our group works on understanding firn processes, drivers of firn change, and impacts of atmospheric variables such as temperature and wind, using a combination of numerical (snow) modeling, observations from the field and from satellites, and utilizes novel machine learning methods to detect changes in the ice sheet firn. 


Ice sheet precipitation and climate change

People: Tri Datta, Michelle Maclennan, Becca Baiman, Tessa Gorte, Devon Dunmire, Jan Lenaerts

Tools: climate models, atmospheric reanalysis, machine learning, field observations

Funding sources: NSF Antarctic Glaciology, NASA FINESST, NASA Cryosphere, NSF/NERC ITGC, University of Colorado Boulder


Ice sheet - Ocean Interactions

People: Tessa Gorte, Tri Datta, Jan Lenaerts

Tools: climate models, satellite remote sensing

Funding sources: NASA Cryosphere, NASA Sea Level Change Team, University of Colorado Boulder




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Click on the buttons below for less technical resources about some of the topics we study.

Ice Sheets    Antarctic Mass Balance    Ice Shelves    Atmospheric Rivers    Ice Sheet Hydrology    Snow, Firn, & Ice    Sea Level Rise    Thwaites Glacier in News