Archive for June, 2009

‘Arctic Sunrise’ Northernmost Excursion

Monday, June 29th, 2009

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is at 82.5 N with its nose up against an ice arch that has formed 450 km north of it’s normal position. This is the farthest north a Greenpeace ship has been. Our northward progress to the top of Nares St. could not have been easier with the waters almost completely ice free and winds calm.

I took thousands of aerial photos yesterday of Petermann glacier from a helicopter as part of an install of 4 Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) time lapse cameras. The distance across Petermann fjord is not too great for the two pairs of EIS cameras to “see” the goings on below thanks to 1000+ meter cliffs on either side of the glacier. The surface of Petermann has a surprising number of melt ponds and streams, some more aptly put as lakes and rivers. Numerous cracks across Petermann make the prediction of a large (100 sq. km) area seem imminent. A 5th, on-ice, camera site is equipped with an “iceberg tracker” that sends its position twice daily via Iridium satellite. At the moment the “ice camera” remains stable. Eventually, its whole world should start to move, once the ice island detaches.

Jason E. Box @ 0808 UTC aka GMT

sea ice in front of Petermann Glacier just broke away

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

We’re heading to Petermann Glacier to install time lapse cameras before a large section of floating glacier ice breaks away. The sea ice that forms in front of the glacier and probably stabilizes it just broke away, seems 1-2 weeks earlier than normal. We should arrive on site early July, so we’re losing our race against time.

ESA Meris image

(above) Europoean Space Agency (ESA) MERIS image of Nares St (open water all winter). Notice the dark arc of open water as the sea ice detaches in one piece from the Petermann Glacier front. Click here for a location map.

a productive day of helicoptering on Russell Glacier

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

We had …


stopover at camp mosquito, site of glacier runoff study


A Russell Glacier view

sling load from one depot to another on the inland ice


At Camp Disco, I remeasured bamboo stakes that indicate net surface accumulation or melting. Alun Hubbard in the background tends to a continuously measuring GPS.


melting snow dunes on Russell Glacier

Yikes! We’re in a race against time!

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Recent satellite images suggest that land-fast sea ice breakup in Nares St and in front of Petermann Glacier may happen earlier than we arrive on site to observe the predicted glacier front disintegration.


Above normal temperatures were observed over all of the Eastern Arctic during the first half of June. The breakup is already well under way especially along the western shore of Greenland, in northern Baffin Bay and throughout Lancaster Sound, and Nares Strait where current ice conditions are typically seen 4 to 6 weeks later. The ice bridge atop of Lincoln Sea is still holding but pieces of coastal fast ice keep on breaking off and flushing rapidly southward. With mean temperatures already remaining above zero at Alert, the bridge could collapse any time now; all that is needed is a strong wind event. In Penny Strait, polynias have grown in size and the low ice concentrations in Cumberland Sound; there, the breakup pattern is about 2 weeks ahead of normal.

This means we likely won’t arrive in time to cruise into Nares St without ice floes to negotiate. Further, getting equipment installed in time to document predicted Petermann glacier front disintegration is threatened.

What have I come to Greenland for this time?

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I’m on my 18th Greenland climate science expedition to fulfill three major goals:

1) to maintain and proliferate a network of time lapse cameras as part of The Extreme Ice Survey;

2) to lead part of a Greenpeace scientific cruise to document predicted Petermann glacier front disintegration;

3) to join a sail boating expedition to study Greenland marine terminating glacier fronts and the associated oceanography.

I’ll be kept busy with numerous sub-projects that include:

photography of numerous glacier outlets to the inland ice sheet, documenting using aerial oblique photography the glaicer changes over time spans of years to decades;

ground measurements to determine the changing reflectivety of the Greenland ice sheet;

investigating the importance of tides in glacier front stability;

obtaining ice sounding radar imagery measurements to determine ice shelf under-side shape and thickness.

en route to Greenland

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

I‘m traveling cargo class in a US National Guard LC-130 “Herc” bound for Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. I prefer this mode of transport, not because I enjoy being either too hot or too cold nor that I like not having to converse with strangers owing to the defening noise. I prefer this way to Greenland over the flight through cosmopolitain Copenhagen, because I get to Greenland in a 6 h no-direct-cost flight with a 1 hour lay over at ice cream rich Goose Bay, Canada, and probably most importantly because I can bring 1000 lbs of baggage, if need be, and again at no surcharge. Not by choice, but out of necessity owing to delays in procurement, I’m personally sheparding 7 GPS and an oceanographic sensor, half of the kit delivered FedEx to my hotel last night. I ended up with 10 pieces of luggage at the 5 AM bag drag today. I felt bad that I was not more organized to have the equipment all shipped weeks ahead of time, like the other 38 peices I have for this trip. I was preparing to defend my showing up with two full carts of luggage, but no criticism. I’d have half the total number of pieces if my ambitions to get as much science done as possible had not overcommitted me. Welcome to my 18th Greenland climate science expedition!

on Alun Hubbard

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Dr Alun Hubbard has been described as an ‘unhinged Welshman with a lifelong passion for all things icy’. He has happily whiled away some three years of his life in remote polar regions and organized and led over twenty successful expeditions without mishap in numerous hostile and high (latitude/elevation) places from 80 degrees north to 80 degrees south.

Many of these expeditions have been adventure motivated – racking up a dozen significant first ascents of previously unclimbed mountains, 60,000 miles of high latitude sailing and a number of other firsts. For these achievements he has been awarded the Tilman Polar Medal and nominated one of the Polartec Adventurers.  However, as his years (and waistline) have progressed he has found himself drawn to the scientific pursuit of understanding the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets and has first and co-authored 30 scientific peer-reviewed publications in this field.

His principal expertise is the collection and integration of field-observations to drive state-of-the-art numerical models of climate and ice sheet interaction to help understand and predict the impacts of long and short-term climate and oceanic change on sea-level.  Since 2007, he has legitimized this academic interest through a Lectureship in Glaciology at Aberystwyth University, Wales, and is principal investigator on two recently awarded UK-NERC funded initiatives to identify the factors which control the potential non-linear draw-down of the Greenland inland ice reservoir.