Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Jeffrey A. Thompson

Jeff is collaborating with researchers the National Snow and Ice Data Center at CU and the Polar Center at Penn State to explore links between hydrologic changes and land surface phenology in Greenland. Over the past two decades Greenland has experienced changes mostly attributed to warming temperatures on land, over its ice-covered areas and in surrounding ocean waters. While many studies have focused on changes in individual systems (e.g. ice cover, ocean, vegetation), fewer have focused on the interactions of multiple systems (e.g. ice-ocean interactions) and very few have focused on how changes in multiple physical systems will affect the Greenlandic population. Although small, Greenland’s vegetated areas are of primary importance to its indigenous population and hunting is an important aspect of their livelihood strategies. The IPCC has indicated that the mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) has more than quadrupled from the 1990’s to 2000’s. While this has obvious implications for rising sea levels and ocean circulation, the impact of ice mass loss for the vegetation of Greenland is unclear. To better understand the link between runoff and vegetative phenology this research will explore the following science questions: 1) what effects are rising temperatures, including precipitation, having on the vegetation of Greenland; 2) how is the increase in melt runoff affecting vegetation; and 3) can the effects of temperature and runoff on vegetation be separated?  Answering these science questions will enable better predictions of vegetative changes and ultimately how the change will impact the Greenlandic population.