Archive for the ‘adventure science’ Category

Visiting and monitoring South Greenland dark ice

Friday, August 16th, 2013

I’m spending a week flying out of Narsarsuaq, south Greenland, with colleague Dr. Robert Fausto, to maintain climate stations equipped to monitor surface ice melt in great detail. Part of the Danish PROMICE network, the stations obtain surface energy and mass budget closure. The closure means that calculated melt matches with observed melt.

coming in to land at a PROMICE climate station, one of 22 on Greenland ice operated by GEUSPhoto J. Box.

Flying across this vast space and on the ground, I’m is struck by how abundant snow algae and other light absorbing impurities can be. The low reflectivity impurities amplify the effects of the increasing melt season. Increased melt means a shorter duration of highly reflective snow cover. The prolonged exposure of an impurity-rich bare ice surface multiplies melt rates. I’ve calculated that without this albedo feedback, the increase in melt rates would amount to half of what’s observed. Some of this feedback is due to ice crystal rounding. Some is due to the impurities. Measuring the relative importance of metamorphic and impurity driven albedo reduction is a subject of our work.

boots on the ice offer a close look (and to sample) impurities concentrating at the surface. The fact is, much of this dark material is from cyanobacteria and blue-green algae. Photo J. Box.

puddles often form with this kind of algal slick’. Photo J. Box.

It’s exciting to be working with Dr. Marek Stibal who studies the microbial environment on Arctic ice. Together with his data, the surface energy exchange data from the PROMICE climate stations and Danish Meteorological Institute’s regional climate modeling (Follow @Greenlandsmb), we have a powerful approach to unravel more detail from the melt story in Greenland.

South Greenland Dark Ice. Photo J. Box.

Snow accumulates in crevasses forming snow bridges that one would rather fly over. In between, impurity-rich ice absorbs up to 80% of the Sun’s energy. Photo J. Box.

Surface melt water mingles with impurity rich Greenland ice. Photo J. Box.

Robert Fausto maintains a climate station equipped to measure downward and upward solar energy, among many other climate parameters as part of the Danish PROMICE network (Follow @PromiceGL). Photo J. Box. (Follow @Climate_Ice)

Dark Snow Project – stuck in an idyllic place after bagging our first set of samples

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

As we landed in Greenland 24 June at the beginning of Dark Snow Project, the best laid plans lept out of reach.

Our helicopter was grounded by red tape.

Reacting, several phone calls produced a single flight with a different company. So, Dark Snow Project generated some field data already 25 June and we have another 12 days to work out a way to get back onto the ice sheet to gather more snow and ice samples to document the impact of light absorbing impurities on enhanced ice sheet solar heating.

“I never worked on a meticulously planned ambitious project that didn’t turn into an improvised as-you-go masterpiece.” – Dark Snow Project patron

Dr. Marek Stibal gathers “sediment” from an area of concentration near the darkest point on the Western Greenland ice sheet

Now, awaiting paperwork to push through Danish authorities [Don’t hold your breath. The Dane’s put a work firewall around their weekends], we are using our time productively, collaborating with journalists and scientists.

Our a little blue house, where Dark Snow Project incubates its latest ideas

Peter Sinclair, Sara Penrhyn Jones, and I are gaining momentum editing video. We’ll be filling our You Tube Channel in the coming days.

Follow our Facebook Page and our tweets.

More soon.

Kobbefjord microclimatological instrument vist

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

I am visiting Greenland’s geologic survey, Asiaq. Asiaq is the name for the goddess of weather and change. Asiaq is gathering important data for assessing Greenland’s climate.

Kobbefjord, near Nuuk, Greenland

Six of us meet early at Asiaq for a van to the harbor to a boat transport to Kobbefjord. By ski we made a 7 km round trip tour to service automated micro-climatological instrumentation.

One of two ‘twin’ climate stations in Kobbefjord. The redundant stations ensure data continuity and the possibility to assess uncertainty in point measurements. In the background are visible snow accumulation and surface radiation budget instrumentation.

Mark Andrew Pernosky gathers data from a climate station.

The Kobefjord installation is part of a long term ecological observations system that includes stream flow discharge, lake level, tundra fen methane capture (and other surface carbon budget sampling), snow cover automatic cameras, and more. The systems perspective is important in trans-disciplinary research.

Greenland expedition XXI begins

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I’m sitting in the busy Newark airport waiting for commercial air flight to Greenland via a 2 h layover in Copenhagen. I would have preferred a direct flight with the US Air National Guard 1 week ago, but had to postpone to wait at home instead of waiting in Greenland for delayed field operations to begin.

Goals for field work include maintaining meteorological and camera equipment beside key Greenland outlet glaciers.

With some luck, I will return with some very impressive images from the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) time lapse cameras. James Balog, spokesperson and what I say “executive futurist” for EIS has loaned my a very nice lens for my camera with which to hopefully bag some very nice aerial oblique images of major Greenland glaciers, hopefully under the near-dusk ‘magic hour’ light. The images are to be used in a book James is working on that features rarely seen Greenland glacier landscapes.

Flight is boarding. I gotta run.

Wish us luck! We need it!

working on a last chance to reach Petermann glacier this year

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

The helicopter charter option to reach Petermann Glacier, the one we’ve been developing for weeks now, has dematerialized. As time is nearly out, before myself, Alun, and Richard need to return to our mid-latitude lives, we develop an alternative charter plan.  The charter flight would occur Thursday, 9 September. The aircraft would re-position from Thule AFB to Qaanaaq and head north to Petermann. Operable scenarios include: 1.) we use a volunteer in Qaanaaq to simply grab instruments or 2.) I get up to Qaanaaq on Wednesday 8 September. The main problem with 2.) is that the northbound flight is fully booked. I may proceed with the gamble that not all people show up for the flight and I can get on the flight and head north. Even if, the southbound flight on 15 September (flights are once per week) is also fully booked. So, we continue to consider options. Monday, I’ll speak with booking agents at Air Greenland. If I were to go north, my return home would be delayed a week.

processing the backlog of Petermann Glacier photos

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I take advantage of the delay time here in Uummannaq to process a backlog of last year’s photos of Petermann Glacier that I shot during last year’s campaign. With a very nice camera/lens on loan from James Balog, I pressed the button to shoot more than 20,000 photos. I believe I have enough photos to publish a comprehensive illustrated assessment of this place…

July 2009. The endless summer days at 81 degrees north latitude produce substantial summer melting. While summer melting is not necessarily abnormal, melt intensity is expected to continue to increase as the global climate system responds to continued atmospheric loading of heat trapping gasses.

The Petermann Glacier medial river barely trickles out to sea. It’s not a stronger flow because it’s intercepted about 20 km upstream (in the distance) where the river pours into a breach in the surface called a moulin.

The shearing of the ice along the fjord walls occurs too quickly for the ice to deform. The shearing strength of the ice shelf is exceeded and rifts form as the ice tears apart. This is a normal process. The rifts are, of course, weak areas on the ice shelf. Petermann ice shelf has detached a large area along recently along one of these rifts. Melt water filling the rifts weakens the bonds, literally forcing apart the rift bottom.

more sailing voyage planning

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

…getting xcited…making progress on planning summer 2009 sailing voyage to Greenland plans. The boat (Gambo) will be making her way north from soon. The cruise from Motevideo, Uraguay to Maine will take roughly 70 days. I’m probably too busy to participate in that leg. I will instead continue pre-planning from here in the US.