It is apparent that across the Arctic, the cryosphere is changing at an accelerated speed. One manifestation is the increasing rate at which glaciers are releasing freshwater, nutrients and suspended material into the marine system. The circulation within fjords is highly modified by glacial runoff and our ability to model fjord dynamics is dependent on appropriate representation of the freshwater fluxes from the glacier. Further, the influence that areas of high freshwater content have on fjordic ecosystems is the subject of current debate. Ecological dynamics at glacier fronts are relatively poorly studied and the input of subsurface plumes of freshwater discharged from the glacier has been hypothesized to kill or immobilize zooplankton through an osmotic shock. This, in turn, is proposed to impact functioning of higher trophic levels. This proposal integrates the observational data (collected by FFF in 2019) with the numerical representation of the freshwater input from melting glaciers. We recognize that there is a fundamental lack of empirical data obtained from these challenging locations, yet a clear understanding of the oceanographic gradients at the ocean-glacier margin is crucial to understand climate change effects in terms of ocean exchange processes, carbon transport and ecosystem services and food web interactions. Significantly, these regions are very difficult to access to obtain spatially relevant data in order to map and characterize the extreme gradients. Therefore we continue to evaluate the cutting edge of autonomous platforms.
Project manager: Finlo Cottier