Beneficiaries and their projects

Dr. Isabelle Gärtner-Roer, University of Zurich Rockglacier Dynamics on Disko Island (RockDynDisko)
Dr. Myriam Guillevic, Empa New Persistent Pollutants in the Arctic Atmosphere (NPPAA)
Dr. Eric Pohl, University of Fribourg Consistent water and glacier mass balance measurements in Central Asia (CoWaG)
Andrew Tedstone, University of Fribourg ’HI-SLIDE’: The influence of climate on the decadal dynamic stability of high-elevation sectors of the Greenland Ice Sheet


Dr. Isabelle Gärtner-Roer

Project: Rockglacier Dynamics on Disko Island (RockDynDisko)

Keywords: Rockglaciers, periglacial geomorphology, polar environment, Greenland, climate sensitivity

A lay summary of the project will be added shortly.

Dr. Myriam Guillevic

Project: New Persistent Pollutants in the Arctic Atmosphere (NPAA)

Keywords: Arctic, long-range transport, persistent pollutants, perfluorinated contaminants, digital archive, TOF-MS


Atmospheric pollution in the Arctic caused by newly-emitted persistent pollutants is a matter of growing concern. Due to the remoteness of the Arctic and Antarctic from most known sources, the poles are a location of choice to determine if specific chemicals are persistent and prone to long-range transport. Air pollution due to remote sources, but also increasing local sources, is expected to have a growing impact on the health of Arctic populations and Arctic biosphere in the future, with persistent pollutants being often known to bioaccumulate in terrestrial and marine organisms.

The project New Persistent Pollutants in the Arctic Atmosphere (NPPAA) aims at reconstructing concentrations of emerging pollutants in the Arctic and at mid-latitudes, using measurement of background air, unpolluted by local sources. Target pollutants to monitor are newly emitted perfluorocompounds and semi-volatile chlorinated solvents, as well as HFOs (hydrofluoroolefins, newly emitted replacements for HFCs), whose decay products are suspected to be persistent. These data will help pinpoint potential persistence characteristic and long-range transport of the suspect pollutants.

To do so, a sampling program will be established at Mount Zeppelin, Svalbard, with weekly air samples collected for a full year. These flasks will then be analysed on Empa’s cutting-edge analytical system for atmospheric trace gases. The Arctic flask data will be compared to air samples collected in Switzerland and screened for the same compounds, using the same instrumentation, thus allowing a high quality gradient reconstruction between the two locations.

This work will constitute a pilot study with the aim to trigger long-term monitoring in the Arctic atmosphere of pollutants newly identified as persistent. Furthermore, the chlorine-containing substances, if proven to be long-lived, would then also be involved in stratospheric ozone depletion. Ultimately, this work will contribute to future revision of the Stockholm Convention aiming at banning persistent pollutants, and of the Montreal Protocol acting for the protection of the ozone layer and the global climate.

Dr. Eric Pohl

Project: Consistent water and glacier mass balance measurements in Central Asia (CoWaG)

Keywords: Glacier runoff, climate change, cryosphere, Central Asia

A lay summary of the project will be added shortly.

Andrew Tedstone

Project: ’HI-SLIDE’: The influence of climate on the decadal dynamic stability of high-elevation sectors of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Keywords: Ice sheet dynamics, ice motion, GNSS/GPS, climate change, meltwater runoff


A major uncertainty associated with predictions of global sea level rise by 2100 is that we know little about how changes in climate will affect the dynamics of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets (IPCC, 2019). If climatic changes can cause changes to the flow of kilometres-thick ice, there could be large impacts upon 21st century sea level rise.

HI-SLIDE will measure the dynamics of high-elevation regions of the south-west Greenland Ice Sheet. In recent years we have seen meltwater running along the surface of high-elevation regions before it disappears down crevasses and moulins. Meltwater which reaches the bed of the ice sheet can change the ‘slipperiness’ of the contact between the ice and its bed, which changes the speed at which the ice flows. Previous work has shown that this does not always cause the ice to flow faster: at lower elevations, the ice flowed slower in years of more melting.

Observations of this phenomenon at high elevations are sparse. As such, current evidence of the impact of meltwater upon ice flow is equivocal. It is not clear whether the expanding runoff limit has increased or decreased ice flow at high elevations. HI-SLIDE will make the required detailed field observations to fill this gap, using a network of GPS receivers which will be installed and maintained during a 2-year field campaign from April 2020 to April 2022.

HI-SLIDE is based at the University of Fribourg in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, and is integrated tightly with the European Research Council-funded ‘CASSANDRA’ project, ‘Accelerating mass loss of Greenland: firn and the shifting runoff limit’.