Transnational Access Insight: Digging into the Story of Dust in Greenland
August 19, 2021

Transnational Access Insight: Digging into the Story of Dust in Greenland

In this guest post, Ramona Schneider of Uppsala University describes her recent trip to Europlanet 2024 RI’s Kangerlussuaq Planetary Field Analogue Site in Greenland to understand the story of wind-blown particles of mineral dust and its role in arctic climate change since the end of the last Ice Age. Video by Petter Hällberg (edited by Luca Nardi) .

Our team of researchers from Uppsala University and Stockholm University visited the Kangerlussuaq Planetary Field Analogue site in Greenland through the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access programme from 19-29 July 2021. Our project was to study deposits of Greenlandic loess – wind-blown dust that accumulates as sediment – in order to understand its role in the arctic climate change. 

One of the sampling sites where the team conducted their research. Credit: Ramona Schneider

These sediment deposits are archives of past dust activity and allow us to investigate how dust and climate have developed during the current warm period, the Holocene, which began around 11,650 years ago.

Mineral dust in the atmosphere can have a big impact on climate change yet its role is not very well understood. This is critical to resolve, particularly in the Arctic, where the rate of current climate change is the fastest in recorded history.

Loess sampling. Credit: Ramona Schneider

Our work focused on the area between the Greenland Ice Sheet margin and Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland, which represents a range of different environmental conditions depending on distance from the ice sheet. We collected samples of loess deposits to test and compare the performance of different dating techniques, which allow us to date the timing of past dust deposition. Analysis of the chemical and physical properties of these sediments also help us to reconstruct climate changes in the past in Greenland.

We also sampled peat bogs – deposits of dead plant material – in order to understand how much dust has accumulated in these environments too. 

Our investigations will enable us to attempt to reconstruct how much carbon was buried in these permafrost deposits in the past, and compare this result to the climate and dust records.

Peat sampling. Credit: Ramona Schneider

In doing so we hope to understand both regional climate history and dust dynamics close to the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet, but also how dust and climate change may affect rates of carbon burial in permafrost more generally. This carbon burial in turn has an impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and climate change.

All photos from the trip

Kangerlussuaq TA Field Trip - July 2021 (Swedish Team - Petter Hällberg)

Kangerlussuaq TA field trip - July 2021 (Swedish Team - Ramona Schneider)

The Transnational Access visit (20-EPN2-046) was supported by Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastrucutre and received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

Transnational Access to the TA1.6 Kangerlussuaq Planetary Analogue Field Site facility is coordinated by Aarhus University.

Find out more about Europlanet 2024 RI’s Transnational Access Programme.