The Greenland Ice Sheet is currently the second largest contributor to barystatic sea level rise, with mass loss dominated by surface melt processes. However, there is significant uncertainty in the magnitude and rate of future mass loss, in part because some poorly-constrained fraction of annual surface melt remains stored inside of the ice sheet, rather than running off at the surface or draining to the ice sheet bed. Despite its importance in modulating ice sheet mass balance, this near-surface hydrologic system is not well understood due the difficulty in observing these spatially heterogeneous and temporally variable subsurface processes with traditional field methods. I will discuss how airborne ice-penetrating radar can be used to quantitatively characterize the evolving structure of the ice sheet near-surface over meter to ice-sheet scales. In particular, I will show how such observations have revealed shallow englacial water storage in a region of Northwest Greenland where it was previously assumed that all surface meltwater would contribute to runoff. These observations particularly shed new light on the coupled influences of supraglacial hydrology, firn structure, and ice dynamics on meltwater partitioning on Greenland.
(Host: Ching-Yao Lai)
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