Crevasses as Indicators of Ice Sheet Sensitivity

Name of applicant

Shfaqat Abbas Khan




Technical University of Denmark


DKK 17,211,936



Type of grant

Semper Ardens: Advance


This project investigates some ice-sheet crevasses that have recently formed quite far inland in West Greenland. The recent appearance of these crevasses is quite startling and unexpected. We want to understand the ice-flow processes that have created these crevasses, and how these ice-flow processes have changed with recent climate change. We also apply these ice-flow knowledge gains to the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. We use our improved computer models to understand the recent evolution, and predict the future evolution, of this Achilles Heel of the Greenland ice sheet.


We believe that the new crevasses on the ice-sheet surface reflect a change in temperature conditions at the ice-sheet bed beneath. Specifically, the new crevasses are now forming where previously frozen portions of the ice-sheet bed are now warming to the melting point and sliding at the ice-bed interface due to climate change. If we can understand the processes responsible for these new crevasses forming, then we perhaps delineate high-elevation crevasses of a similar nature all around the ice sheet. These can provide a new way to demarcate the boundary between frozen-bed and thawed-bed portions of the ice sheet.


This project is undertaken as a collaboration between DTU Space and GEUS Glaciology and Climate, with international partners in Germany (Alfred Wegener Institute) and the US (Dartmouth College). We make detailed investigations of ice-flow, in both West Greenland and Northeast Greenland, using a combination of fieldwork (where we explore and instrument the crevasses), remote sensing (using both satellites to observe surface velocity and elevation as well as ice-penetrating radar to observe bed properties), and finally computer modelling (which provides a framework to bring together all our new observations and upscale local measurements). This project directly employs four postdoctoral fellows and two Ph.D. students.

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