Massive water flow off the Greenland Ice Sheet, Summer 2019

Ice sheet sourced rivers deliver ancient C and nutrients to the Arctic Ocean

UArctic Research Chair, Professor Jeff Welker (University of Oulu and University of Alaska) has been one of the few terrestrial ecologists studying the periglacial landscapes in the High Arctic of NW Greenland over the past 20 years.  His program in High Arctic Biocomplexity began a multi-decade program addressing the extent to which physical, chemical and biological processes interact in unique ways at the margins of the Greenland Ice Sheet and in the nearby Arctic Ocean.

Using 14C isotope techniques, Professor Jeff Welker and his team have discovered that ancient dissolved carbon and nutrients are being exported from the Greenland Ice Sheet and the adjoining periglacial landscapes into Northern Baffin Bay and the Arctic Ocean between Greenland and Canada.  This discovery is just reported in the: The Journal of Geophysical Physical Research –Biogeosciences and was a team effort between Professors Csank (UNevada), Czimczik (UCalifornia) and Welker.

  • The project documents that as the landscape adjacent to the Greenland Ice Sheet thaws each summer; that permafrost thaws and that the ancient C flows into rivers that drain the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • The research also finds strong yearly differences in the magnitudes of total and ancient C that is being transported from the Greenland Ice Sheet and the periglacial landscapes into the Arctic Ocean. 
  • And the project shows that massive ice sheet melt years like 2012 and 2019 are periods when the Arctic Ocean surrounding Greenland receive the largest quantities of ancient and modern C and likely other marine limiting nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and possibly iron.

Through this project and 20 years of research in Greenland, Professor’s Welker’s Program connects climate warming, sea ice loss, the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, permafrost thaw, riverine discharge and the near shore marine food web of Baffin Bay and the Arctic Ocean.

Coverage of Professor Welker’s recent Greenland discoveries can be found at this web site:

Coverage of other facets of his Greenland Program can be found at these sites:   (Greenland Ice sheet)
Password: Welker  (Green Valley)
Password: Welker

Main photo: Massive water flow off the Greenland Ice Sheet. Photo: Dr. Ben Kopec



Last updated: 11.10.2019