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“Recent scientific evidence across disciplines points to an unstable Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS), which is particularly concerning in view of a rapidly changing Arctic system, its impacts on local communities and ecosystems, and the regional and global impacts of sea-level rise.”

Joerg Schaefer, GreenDrill Lead PI, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Drilling into bedrock and history: Scientists are heading to Greenland to study a largely unexplored frontier: the bedrock that lies below the Greenland Ice Sheet. The GreendDrill team will bore through the ice in four areas of northern Greenland (mapped) to recover bedrock samples that lie beneath. Chemical clues in the rock could reveal new details about how the ice sheet responded to past periods of global warming. The data could improve predictions of global sea level rise in the 21st century.

GreenDrill will test the sensitivity of the northern Greenland ice sheet to answer critical questions like:

  • How vulnerable is the ice sheet to our warming climate? 
  • What area of the ice sheet is most vulnerable, contributing the first few centimeters of sea level rise? 
  • When would we expect this to occur?

Answers to these questions are locked in the bedrock archive buried under the Greenland Ice Sheet. Pursuing answers has triggered mobilization of the first large Greenland ice drill program in over a quarter century. 

GreenDrill is a 5-year, $7 million project funded by NSF that brings together researchers from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, University at Buffalo, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and  Penn State, and harnesses the resources of the U.S. Ice Drilling Program.  

GreenDrill addresses the climate vulnerability of the northern regions of the Greenland Ice Sheet by drilling transects of 3 cores through the ice in 4 different locations.

Drilling along transects: The GreenDrill team will work in four areas of northern Greenland. In each of these areas, scientists will drill and recover bedrock from three sites located along a straight line called a transect. One site will be on ice-free land between the ocean and the edge of the ice sheet, and the other two will be on the ice sheet itself. Collecting transects of samples will help researchers build a detailed data set.

This Science Magazine article provides a project overview.

The GreenDrill project launched in the midst of a series of unprecedented global challenges that appeared from seemingly nowhere. Project PIs Jason Briner ([email protected]) and Joerg Schaefer (LDEO) reflect on the magnitude of the project and the imperative to move the project forward and continue the work, with additional planning and collaboration. Film by Ryan Vachon, INSTAAR.