EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Temporal relationship between meltwater discharge and CH4 and CO2 emissions from the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Christian Juncher Jørgensen1, Sarah Elise Sapper2, Thomas Blunier3, Vasileios Gkinis3, and Jesper Riis Christiansen2
Christian Juncher Jørgensen et al.
  • 1Aarhus University, Ecoscience, Arctic Environment, Roskilde, Denmark (
  • 2University of Copenhagen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Frederiksberg, Denmark
  • 3University of Copenhagen, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark

Emission of CH4 and CO2 was recently discovered at the western margin of the Greenlandic Ice Sheet (GrIS) 1,2. While knowledge on both carbon sources, extent and magnitude of these emissions are still very limited, the previous studies indicate that a primary driver for emission is degassing of dissolved and pressurized gases in the meltwater as it reaches the glacial margin. In this way we suggest that glacial hydrology plays a key role in regulating emission on both temporal and spatial scale.

In our studies of subglacial CH4 and CO2 emissions we have so far observed that the seasonal variations in meltwater discharge is correlated to both the magnitude of gas concentrations as well as timing of emissions3,4. We propose that the seasonal variations in the connectivity of subglacial channels to both 1) pockets of sediment with CH4 and CO2 production from both anaerobic and aerobic biological processes and 2) supraglacial meltwater via englacial conduits could be a mechanism, which could explain the overall temporal and seasonal patterns of gas concentrations observed at the glacial margin.

We hypothesize that by observing hydrological and geochemical processes at the margin together with CH4 and CO2 in high frequency over the melt season it can be inferred how subglacial hydrological processes regulate biogeochemical and carbon turnover processes. Knowledge on these mechanism and processes are important for future upscaling CH4 and CO2 emission to seasonal periods and larger spatial scales through modeling as well as the assessment of the potential importance of subglacial carbon emissions to the climate system.

Here, we will present data that couples meltwater discharge to measurements of dissolved CH4 and gaseous CH4 and CO2 as well as campaign measurements of water geochemistry and its isotopic composition. Preliminary data shows that CH4 and CO2 export display a clear diurnal signal in response to variations in the composition of melt water discharge. EC measurements and isotopic composition of melt water show a dominance of surface meltwater to subglacial meltwater, but clear diurnal trends in the mixing between these two water sources can be deduced from both isotope and elemental geochemistry of the meltwater.

1. Christiansen, J. R. & Jørgensen, C. J. First observation of direct methane emission to the atmosphere from the subglacial domain of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Sci. Rep. 8, 16623 (2018).

2. Lamarche-Gagnon, G. et al. Greenland melt drives continuous export of methane from its bed. Nature 73–77 (2018). doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0800-0

3. Jørgensen, C. J., Mønster, J., Fuglsang, K. & Christiansen, J. R. Continuous methane concentration measurements at the Greenland Ice Sheet-atmosphere interface using a low-cost low-power metal oxide sensor system. Atmos. Meas. Tech. Discuss. 13, 3319–3328 (2020).

4. Christiansen, J. R., Röckmann, T., Popa, M. E., Sapart, C. J. & Jørgensen, C. J. Carbon emissions from the edge of the Greenland Ice sheet reveal subglacial processes of methane and carbon dioxide turnover. J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosciences 1–13 (2021). doi:10.1029/2021jg006308

How to cite: Jørgensen, C. J., Sapper, S. E., Blunier, T., Gkinis, V., and Christiansen, J. R.: Temporal relationship between meltwater discharge and CH4 and CO2 emissions from the Greenland Ice Sheet., EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-9202,, 2022.