So what sort of data are we retrieving throughout the expedition?
We have spent the last two weeks collecting data in the incredible Fjord’s of Greenland with our resident Scientist Dan Carlson. He has been collecting vertical profiles of temperature and salinity at many points along the way. He uses this data to identify water masses. Cold fresh water comes from the glaciers and mixes with ocean water in the fjord. Warm salty water comes from the Atlantic, so he can use temperature and salinity to deduce the origin of the water. He is also interested primarily in 2 things- 1) the extent and amount of freshwater; 2) the amount of heat in the Atlantic water that can contribute to submarine melting of the glaciers. There’s almost no data from fjords in South West Greenland, but a few of these have some of the fastest melt rates and so they are contributing more to sea level rise and freshening of the surface waters in the North Atlantic and the Labrador Sea. Freshening can reduce deep water formation, a critical component of the global thermohaline circulation, or the ‘conveyor belt.’
Dan will also study icebergs using drones and other instruments. The drift and deterioration of Greenlandic icebergs is not well-understood, yet icebergs make up a significant portion of freshwater in the ocean. Since we can’t accurately predict their behavior yet, we don’t know where they are melting and where they release freshwater in liquid form.
Last year Dan deployed several moorings in fjords in North West Greenland. They have been measuring temperature and salinity every 10 min for the past year. We will collect these moorings and use these data (assuming they have not been destroyed by icebergs or removed by fishermen) to see if warm Atlantic water makes it to these glaciers and if it does, he can see when it arrives and for how long. We should also pick up an ROV in Nuuk so we can start to look at the geometry and keel depths of icebergs.
The team is having a great time using all the Scientific equipment on board and learning from Dan and his amazing research.