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Greenland is in trouble this week and the ocean is going to feel the impact.

Air Temperature Change Illustration

This past week, the surface of Greenland warmed above the freezing point to the greatest extent since the extreme meltwater event in 2012.

Ice sheet melting contributes to sea level rise and threatens our coastlines here in Georgia. If all the ice on Greenland were to melt, it would raise sea level about 20 feet.

The 2012 event on Greenland created a huge flood of the Watson River, and a meltwater discharge to the ocean that flowed out to the Labrador Sea and likely triggered a phytoplankton bloom there.

Drs. Patricia Yager and Renato Castelao, professors from UGA Marine Science, and Dr. Tom Mote from Geography collaborated with others on a 2014 NASA-IDS grant to explore the impact of these meltwater events on the ocean. This summer, two UGA graduate students working as part of the team defended their PhDs. First, Hilde Oliver in the department of Marine Science successfully defended her doctoral thesis (Physical Controls on Light and Nutrients in Coastal Regions Receiving Large Fluxes of Glacial Meltwater) on June 10, 2019. Her dissertation included a chapter which led to a publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans on understanding the mechanisms behind meltwater stimulation of a phytoplankton offshore.

Phytoplankton Growth Response

Another chapter to be submitted to GRL this month explored the way meltwater can move through fjords on the way to the ocean, delivering nutrients to phytoplankton offshore.

Last week, Geography graduate student, Kyle Mattingly, also defended his dissertation (Impacts of Atmospheric Moisture Transport on the Greenland Ice Sheet), explaining how these extreme meltwater events are triggered by the phenomenon of “atmospheric rivers,” or intense atmospheric features that pump heat and moisture from low to high latitudes. Kyle’s first chapter, published in Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres shows that this anomalously strong moisture transport by atmospheric rivers clearly contributed to increased GrIS mass loss in recent years, and are likely to intensify as a result of global climate change. Kyles other chapters, to be submitted for publication soon, focus on the mechanisms of melting and global sources of heat and moisture.

Hurricane Mathew

Hilde heads to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for a Postdoctoral Scholar fellowship there. Kyle is on his way to a Rutgers University Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship there. We wish both these outstanding students all the best in their future endeavors! Professors Yager, Castelao, and Mote expect to propose a new collaboration to NASA this fall, so stay tuned!.

Ice Melting
Ice Melting - Photo provided by AP Images
Photos provided by Greenland Iceland Sheet FB Group
Photos provided by Greenland Iceland Sheet FB Group


Maps of coastal Greenland
Maps of coastal Greenland


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