Outwash plain near Narsarsuaq, Southern Greenland (credit: Julia Schmale)

Outwash plain near Narsarsuaq, Southern Greenland (credit: Julia Schmale)

Ecological and climate impacts of Greenlandic glacial outwash plains

Funder: EPFL-ENAC Flagship team

Duration: 01.03.2023 – 28.02.26

Project Summary

Anthropogenically driven climate change disproportionately impacts Arctic ecosystems, with warming in this region being two to four times faster compared to the global average. This results in the Arctic system currently experiencing unprecedented transformations at multiple levels from land to sea and atmosphere. One of the consequences of this warming is the retreat of glacial land ice, which leaves behind newly exposed land areas dubbed glacial outwash plains. These newly exposed environments are characterized by strong environmental and ecological gradients, are covered with fine dust, and can be consequential as future sources/sinks of greenhouse gasses and sources of fine dust and bioaerosols, both of which have downstream impacts on the global climate. However, despite recent international efforts to understand the effects of land ice retreat on glacial outwash plains, their effects are not quantified.
The overarching aim of ECO-Plains is to determine the ecological and climate impacts of Greenlandic glacial outwash plain expansion by implementing an interdisciplinary approach across the fields of microbiology, atmospheric science, and machine learning based on Earth observation. The project will involve local scale field measurements of the microbiology, dust quantity and chemistry, and greenhouse gas emissions/uptake in southern and mid-Greenlandic outwash plains. These observations will be computationally expanded to the regional scales of Greenland and the Arctic via atmospheric modeling and application of machine learning techniques to satellite imagery to provide first estimates of climate relevant impacts.

First field season: June-August 2023, focus on high latitude dust and its climate relevant properties

In collaboration with ECEO and MACE.