Greenland’s coastal margins are influenced by the confluence of Arctic and Atlantic waters, sea ice, icebergs, and meltwater from the ice sheet. Hundreds of spectacular glacial fjords cut through the coastline and support thriving marine ecosystems and, in some places, adjacent Greenlandic communities. Rising air and ocean temperatures, as well as glacier and sea-ice retreat, are impacting the conditions that support these systems. Projecting how these regions and their communities will evolve requires understanding both the large-scale climate variability and the regional-scale web of physical, biological, and social interactions.
AER Senior Staff Scientist Dr. Christopher Little, along with a team of oceanographers, glaciologists, environmental historians, fisheries, and ecosystem experts, is seeking to improve our understanding of such interactions. In a paper recently published in Oceanography, the team reviews Greenland physical, biological, and social settings and shows how they are shaped by the ocean, the atmosphere, and the ice sheet (Figure). The paper highlights two communities, Qaanaaq in Northwest Greenland, exposed to Arctic variability, and Ammassalik in Southeast Greenland, exposed to Atlantic variability. This interdisciplinary study is a first step in a systems approach to investigating the evolution of Greenland’s coastal margins.