22-EPN3-105: At the interface of ice and water on Mars

22-EPN3-105: At the interface of ice and water on Mars – Insights from Western Greenland.

Visit by Anna Grau Galofre (CNRS/Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géosciences, France) and Axel Nobletto (Western University, Canada) to TA1.4 AU Greenland Kangerlussuaq Field Site (Greenland).
Dates of visit: 25 July – 02 August 2023

Report Summary: The aim of this project was to investigate elements of the glacial and periglacial system surrounding Kangerlussaq, Western Greenland, to then compare them to similar landforms on the surface of Mars.

The first target in the field focused on investigating former subglacial drainage pathways that would have transported and accumulated water under the western Greenland ice sheet (GIS). Preliminary field observations, consisting of field and UAV imagery, mapping of former ice flow directions and sediment analyses, identified sets of bedrock incised depressions, linked by shallow channels that often cross drainage divides, point at a former subglacial drainage setting consisting of interlinked subglacial cavities. These observations would be consistent with present day radar observations of drainage
pathways under the western GIS margin near Kangerlussuaq. Beside their interest for understanding the geometry of current subglacial drainage under Greenland, interlinked subglacial cavities are also interesting analogues to the martian so-called fresh shallow valleys, which are suggested to have formed under former ice cover.

The second field objective investigated polygonal terrain, its morphology, distribution, and the connection with the depth to the ice layer. We studied polygonised terrains around Kangerlussuaq, collecting image data, structure-from-motion, and depth to the ice layer. We also mapped the distribution of polygonal terrain as observed in the field and aerial imagery.

The results and interpretations will be applied to the study of Martian polygons, to propose a model of the buried ice conditions for Mars’ permafrost, and the development of channel systems.

Read full scientific report with kind permission by Anna Grau Galofre.


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22-EPN3-049: Retrieving multiple ice cores to study the link between the solar cycle and the cosmogenic tritium in precipitation

22-EPN3-049: Retrieving multiple ice cores covering the last 100 years to study the link between the solar cycle and the cosmogenic tritium in precipitation.

Visit by László Palcsu and Marjan Temovski (Institute for Nuclear Research, Hungary) to TA1.4 AU Greenland Kangerlussuaq Field Site (Greenland).
Dates of visit: 19-23 June 2023

Report Summary:

The objective of the mission was to retrieve multiple ice cores at the EGRIP site (75°37′N, 35°59′W, 2702 m a.s.l.) to study the natural as well as anthropogenic variation of tritium in the ice layers. We have studied the recent publications, which suggest lower snow accumulation rate than what we have previously thought. Therefore, we intended to drill more shallow cores. During five days at EGRIP (19-23 June 2023), we drilled five 24 m-long ice cores representing the last 100-110 years. The ice cores were cut into subsamples of 15 cm, and packed into plastic containers. One full core was collected. The bottom part (depth between 16.2 and 24.0 m) of the additional 4 cores was also collected to get more material for sensitive analysis of tritium by the 3He-ingrowth method.  Altogether 368 samples have been collected. Besides the cosmogenic tritium, stable isotopes of water, and Sr-Nd-Hf isotope signatures will be also analysed. To compare this latter to older ice (>10,000 years), we took ice samples at the ice margin in a location between the glaciers Isunnguata Sermia and Russell about 36 km from Kangerlussuaq, near Point 660. The ice there is supposed to be around 40,000 years old. We drilled a shallow core (~ 4 m), cut into 10 pieces, and stored in pre-cleaned plastic vessels. All of the ice samples have been already shipped to our laboratory in Hungary. The first analyses for stable isotopes, 137Cs around the Chernobyl event, and tritium around the bomb-peak have been already started.

Drilling down to 24 m in the clean area of the EGRIP site, Kangerlussuaq,
Drilling down to 24 m in the clean area of the EGRIP site, Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Credit: László Palcsu.

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20-EPN2-044: Investigating molecular and isotopic fingerprints of life on Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) cryo-ecosystems with astrobiological interest for icy worlds.

20-EPN2-046: Investigating molecular and isotopic fingerprints of life on Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) cryo-ecosystems with astrobiological interest for icy worlds.

Visit by Laura Sánchez-García, Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC), Madrid, Spain, to TA1.4 AU Greenland Kangerlussuaq Field Site (Greenland).
Dates of visit: 19-25 July 2021

Report Summary:

Glacial systems are interesting for studying habitability and limits of life. They are extreme environments where indigenous microorganisms may survive prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures and background radiation for geological timescales. Glaciers and the surrounding cryo-environments (permafrost, glacial lakes, or melting streams) arise as relevant scenarios for studying the development of functional microbial cryo-ecosystems and may have implications in the search for past or extant life in icy worlds beyond the Earth. In the Solar System, Europa and Enceladus have been recognized as the icy worlds with highest likelihood to harbor life, largely because liquid water could be in contact with rocks. Both satellites are believed to contain a global ocean of salty water under a rigid icy crust that would provide the scenario for an interaction between briny water and rocks, and the conditions for life to arise.

The permanent Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) represents a possible analog of such icy worlds, constituting an important long-term repository of psychrophilic microorganisms. Around the GrIS, different formations such as glacial lakes, permafrost, or further peat soils represent diverse degree of succession upon the influence of the GrIS and its thermal destabilisation.

We propose investigating molecular and isotopic lipid biomarkers of microorganisms inhabiting different cryo-ecosystems at and around the GrIS to obtain clues of a potential life development on analogous extraterrestrial cold environments (ice sheet), and learning how ecosystems evolves (biological succession) when the ice cover retreats and gets exposed to the atmosphere (glacier-melting streams, bedrock-erosion sediments, lake sediments, glacial soils).

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20-EPN2-046: Dust-carbon-climate feedbacks tested through detailed independent dating of Arctic wind-blown dust sequences on Greenland

20-EPN2-046: Dust-carbon-climate feedbacks tested through detailed independent dating of Arctic wind-blown dust sequences on Greenland.

Visit by Thomas Stevens, Uppsala University (Sweden) to TA1.4 AU Greenland Kangerlussuaq Field Site (Greenland).
Dates of visit: 19-25 July 2021

Report Summary: The aim of this field campaign was to investigate the dynamics of aeolian mineral dust activity and organic carbon burial in western Greenland. Dust is an important component of the global climate system, and investigating its mobilisation, transport and deposition can reveal important information about regional climate and environmental development during the Holocene. Carbon burial in permafrost is one of the main mechanisms by which carbon is sequestered from the atmosphere, and may be linked to dust activity in high latitudes. The work focused on the area between the Greenland Ice Sheet margin and Kangerlussuaq, which represents a range of environmental conditions depending on distance from the ice sheet. We collected modern analogue samples of terrestrial windblown dust (loess) deposits to test and compare the performance of optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating. These samples were taken at a high-resolution from the surface of the deposits and thus represent recent aeolian activity. Furthermore, we targeted aeolian deposits containing palaeosol layers to be able to independently compare radiocarbon and luminescence ages, and to identify climate phases which were favourable for soil formation and carbon burial. In addition to purely aeolian sediments, peat bogs were also sampled.

These highly organic deposits complement the nearly purely minerogenic loess deposits because they effectively capture and preserve fine-grained wind-blown sediments. Further analysis of these samples and the use of different climate and carbon burial proxies will reveal important details of the regional climate history, dust-carbon burial dynamics, and provide insights into ice-proximal wind dynamics.

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20-EPN2-089: UPSIDES – Unravelling icy Planetary Surfaces: Insights on their tectonic DEformation from field Survey

20-EPN-089: UPSIDES – Unravelling icy Planetary Surfaces: 
Insights on their tectonic DEformation from field Survey.

Visit by Costanza Rossi, INAF – Astronomical Observatory of Padova (Italy) to TA1.4 AU Greenland Kangerlussuaq Field Site (Greenland).
Dates of visit: 19-25 July 2021

Report Summary: The Isunguata Sermia and Russell glaciers represent optimal analogues for the study of deformation in glacial environments and their comparison with deformation that affects the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. The aim of UPSIDES project concerns the relation of tectonic structures from the outcrop to the regional scale with multi-scalar investigation which can provide significant support for planetary analysis. The collection of field data has been significant to find scaling laws between tectonic structures in glaciers and in icy satellite surfaces, and the behaviour at depth of their tectonic structures.

The successful fieldwork in the Kangerlussuaq area enabled the identification of tectonic structures in representative areas of the Isunguata Sermia (southern margin) and Russell glaciers (northern margin and terminus). More than 250 data have been collected from 31 field measurement stations including high dip- and low dip-structures, originated by different stress fields caused by the westward flow of both glaciers. We recognized high dip-extensional fractures approximately E-W and NE-SW trending at the Russell glacier. On the other hand, NNW-SSE trending fractures and low-angle faults, such as compressional thrusts/shear planes, have been detected at the Isunguata Sermia. From satellite imagery and aerial photos, we detected consistent structural orientations with the structures identified in outcrop. A similar correlation will be applied to the structures recognised by remote sensing on the icy satellites. Additionally, at the outcrop scale we identified structures acting as preferential way of fluid circulation. We performed measurements also in rock outcrops near the glacier to understand the relationship between bedrock morpho-tectonics and ice drainage that in turn control the measured glacial deformation.


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