Archive for July, 2009

Trudy Wohlleben, A Friend of Nares Strait

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

06 July 2009

NASA MODIS image of Nares Strait image, 0700 UTC 06 July

As part of the Nares Strait unprecedented open water [duration and extent] and the Greenpeace Petermann Glacier campaign to document the expected detachment of a 100 square kilometer ice island, I’ve made the acquaintance of a number of very interesting people interested in Nares Strait. This small community of scientists has been referred to as the Friends of Nares Strait.

Trudy Wohlleben is one such Friend of Nares Strait.  Trudy is in charge of Sea Ice Forecasting, Climatology, and Research at the Canadian Ice Service and knows more about marine ice conditions across Canada’s Great White North than anybody I know.  Trudy’s expertise includes the Eastern Canadian Arctic waters between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, i.e., Nares Strait.  Trudy has been a generous fountain of useful information for our Petermann expedition planning and now we’re here. Trudy sent this image of the Lincoln Sea ice arch splintering.

We plan to not let the Lincoln sea ice arch ice floes get ahead of us as they drift south through Nares Strait. While the winds are not forecast to shift from northward to their normal southward flow, the currents in Nares Strait, flowing ~0.5 knots per hour, would bring ice floes into where we are, in Hall Basin, in about 30 hours. The ice floes will pose substantial complications in keeping the ship in a safe and stable position. We are presently moored to the front of Petermann Glacier with the engines off, thus, saving thousands of liters of fuel each day.  Fuel we would have burned if we had had to constantly maneuver to avoid ice floes.

We’ve been surprised and fortunate to have found Nares Strait devoid of sea ice; this is the result of the Lincoln Sea ice arch and polynya having persisted the whole of past winter. We have benefited from and have enjoyed not having ice surround us.

The NASA MODIS image, above, from 0700 UTC 06 July 2009, showing for the first time this year, the splintering of sea ice that had barred ice flows from drifting into Nares Strait, between Ellesmere Island [left] and Greenland [right]. The Lincoln Sea polynya/ice arch is still intact in this image, but as subsequent images have shown, the open water conditions in Nares Strait are about to end.

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Jason E. Box
Byrd Polar Research Center
guest scientist on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise

Dark Colored Glacier Melt Pool

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Sunday, 05 July 2009

Dark Colored Glacier Melt Pool

With Sunday brunch just on my plate, the galley phone rings…it’s the captain: “we’re going to be at this position for 20 more minutes” and “from the bridge we see a dark colored melt pool, don’t you want to take a samples?”. Indeed, one of my objectives is gathering chemical samples of snow and ice impurities. Concentrations of dark debris gathers in impressive amounts on the glacier surface.

The dark colored “cryoconite” consists of a mixture of wind-transported debris sourced from nearby land, forest fires, volcanoes, humans, and even outer space. A major scientific challenge is to determine what fraction of this debris is of human origin, that is, are humans darkening the glacier surface? Are humans darken the Earth’s cryosphere via black carbon pollution either from diesel fuel combustion or biomass burning soot? Dark colored impurities on the otherwise highly reflective snow/ice surface lead to an excess of absorbed solar energy and consequently more melting. A week ago James Balog pointed out yellow colored clouds over Illulisat that could be none other than from forest fires somewhere to the west, perhaps boreal Canada, perhaps Alaska. Over the years, I’ve been asking the question: how much of the snow impurities are from human biomass burning [the clearing of land for agriculture largely in the developing world} and diesel soot, forest fires, etc? A chemical sampling from the surface, given the rare opportunity to be here to obtain ground truth information, may begin to answer this question.

Besides the chemical sample bottles we’ll fill from sites surrounding the Greenland ice sheet ablation zone, I’ve brought a spectroradiometer to measure surface reflectance of impurity-laden snow/ice.

With the ground truth data from chemistry samples and spectrometer, I’ll be able to use satellite imagery covering the whole Greenland ice sheet area to determine the enhanced solar energy absorption, that is, the enhanced melt.

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Jason E. Box
Byrd Polar Research Center
guest scientist on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise

Sources Information On Our Campaign

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Relevant link for source information on our campaign include:
_Blog_
http://weblog.greenpeace.org/climate

_Google Map_
http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&t=h&source=embed&msa=0&msid=115505159736323232112.00046d7abf15c7101249e&ll=78.206563,-69.960937&spn=30.032897,225&z=3
(will ask for a more succinct URL for this, if possible)

_Greenpeace Arctic Campaign website_
http://www.greenpeace.org/arctic

_Photos_
http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeaceinternational/sets/72157620765994686/
From Juliette: “photos from the Pacific tour with the
Esperanza will also be there (the idea is to relate the tours: ice is
melting there, sea level is rising here). They are incredibly popular
(among the most viewed ever on our flickr account) – credit to Nick’s
talent and the beauty of the subjects.”

_Twitter_
http://twitter.com/GPArctic
From Juliette: “Our twitter account is rather successful. Twitterers respond and forward what we post, and we’re growing fast through word of mouth (200 followers in a week). Dave posts there when he can, I fill the blanks.”

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Jason E. Box
Byrd Polar Research Center
guest scientist on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Monday, July 6th, 2009

The four new German Greenpeace / Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) time lapse cameras are installed.

The first was installed 25 June at a 4.6 km wide glacier called Rink Isbrae (71 deg 42.348 min, 51 deg 38.055 min). Rink produces 15 cubic km of is, ranking it number 2 among the most active glaciers in west Greenland. One EIS camera has already been working at Rink, *continuously* since June 2007. Now with two cameras at rink, 3D measurements can be made using “stereo photogrammetry” techniques. Image recording interval at both Rink cameras is 1 h. The Rink Glacier cameras should be revisited ~10 August with an Air Greenland charter if not sooner with the Greenpeace helicopter.

The other three German Greenpeace / Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) cameras were installed 28 June overlooking from 1000 m cliffs on both sides of the 16 km wide Petermann Gletscher (81.5 N latitude). Presently, these cameras are shooting at 1 minute intervals. We plan to re-visit these sites today, weather permitting. Currently we have fog.

Two of the three Petermann Gletscher installations are temporary and will be relocated to one or two candidate glaciers accessible as part of the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) maintenance tour out of Upernavik or Uummannaq.

*candidate glaciers near Uummannaq:
Kangerdluarssup Sermia (71°14’45.76″N, 51°27’41.36″W)

Kangerdlugssup Sermerssua (71°27’29.79″N, 51°21’32.25″W)

* candidate glaciers near Upernavik (Near Kullorsuaq settlement: Devils thumb):
Alison Glacier (74°37’21.31”N, 56°13’4.99”W)

Jason E. Box
Byrd Polar Research Center
guest scientist on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

I had a two hour interview with another of the two Chinese journalists aboard this afternoon. They have readerships in the hundreds of thousands in China, 20,000 per hour. The conversation was the most interesting I’ve had on the topic of global climate change, humans role in it, the aspect of what is fair now that the US has accumulated the largest blame at a time that China is outpacing the US as the single largest national driving agent of climate change. What’s fair may be what derails the climate policy negotiations in Copenhagen this December. The journalist asked a broad range of important questions. I had detailed responses. The discussion felt all the more real with Beijing currently experiencing 42 deg. C heat wave a typhoon in the south and drought in the north.

I’m developing a day by day plan to optimize the long remaining “shopping list” of tasks at hand. With so much work and not a large enough ship to have enough helpers, the crew lounge has remained empty the whole week that I’ve been here so far. Because this campaign has been packed so full, there are only two deck hand; there should be four. I’d rather have brought an assistant or two from Byrd Polar Research Center to help me. I’ve not been sleeping much more than 5 hours per night. I’m struggling to meet expectations and the my ambitious plan.

Jason E. Box
Byrd Polar Research Center
guest scientist on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Polar bear tracks in fresh snow are visible from the ship all along the sea ice edge here at the Robeson channel ice arch here at the northern limit of Greenland and Canada. We’ve spotted numerous seal here, having quick escape access at the ice edge. The ice arch has been all the past winter 450 km north of it’s usual position in Smith Sound. Then, there is a bear nosing the air. A surprising number of cameras with long lenses emerge as the crew of the ship rush to one side snapping photos.

We flew around in the ship’s helicopter to get video of Arne Sorenson our Danish “Ice Pilot” and I discussing the abnormality of the open water between Greenland and Canada. The sound bites went something like:

“The Arctic Sunrise has made it to 82 and a half degrees latitude, a furthest north for Greenpeace. We made it here two days ahead of schedule because there was no sea ice whatsoever slowing us down in Nares St. There has been open water between Greenland and Canada since winter 2008, that is, at least 15 months (the sea ice did not consolidate winter 2008/2008). I’ve analyzed the past 32 years of passive microwave sea ice concentration data and found the past year to be of unprecedented in duration of low sea ice concentration. This has us asking: is this a climate change signal or just an anomalous year?

I’m on the first leg of an Arctic Climate Impacts Tour circumnavigating Greenland to investigate: glacier stability; ocean heating; and the effect of carbonaceous soot pollution on how much additional solar energy the ice caps may be absorbing.”

With an ice auger, I hand drilled through the sea ice at the midst of a large (600 m wide) floe… thickness: 1.5 m (4.9 ft).  This can only be first year ice. The pressure ridges were smallish, not much higher than 2.5 m. We expected multi year (thicker than first year) ice forming the ice arch. Presumably the thicker multi year sea ice is to be found further north than here (82.5 degrees north latitude). Arctic Ocean sea ice has been thinning as the climate has warmed.

At 7 PM, we had a group photo on the sea ice.

Jason Box
Byrd Polar Research Center
guest scientist on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise