Summit Station community members—indeed, all of us at CPS—mourn the untimely passing of Richard Honrath (Michigan Technical), who died in a kayaking accident on Michigan’s Silver River on April 17th. Dr. Honrath, along with collaborator Detlev Helmig (U Colorado), established two major atmospheric chemistry projects at Summit last year, one funded by NSF and the other funded by NASA. He was expected to depart for Greenland’s ice cap shortly after finishing the fateful kayak trip. MTU’s memorial page offers a place where those who knew Richard can post a message. We will miss Dr. Honrath at Summit this summer, and send our condolences to his loved ones.
In the remote wilderness beyond Siberia, an international team has been working since February in the extreme cold to extract sediment samples from Lake El’gygytgyn (Lake E), a crater lake created long ago by a gigantic meteorite. (Julie Brigham-Grette of U Massachusetts is the lead US Lake E PI). Because Lake E has never been glaciated, researchers believe it may contain an undisturbed record of paleoclimate going back some 3.5 million years. By early May, the team hopes to collect cores through the sediment deposited since the meteor strike, down into and even beyond the impact rock (called breccia). Each sediment core is about three meters long and cut into roughly one meter pieces that weigh about 20 pounds. Scientists will use the data from the their analysis to validate what ice cores taken at other locations say about climate shifts, global warming, and other information.
Simply arriving at Lake E was a logistical triumph, with the trip from the US to the logistics hub in Russia, Pevek, sometimes taking the better part of two weeks. In late February the crew constructed camp, and delivered cargo to the lake in bitterly cold conditions. A helicopter flight every 10 days allows for personnel change-out and resupplies the camp with fuel, food and any other needed materials. Despite some equipment challenges, a blog entry from project partner International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) reported that the group may have reached the top of the impact layer in mid-April.
A middle school teacher from the US joined the team in early March and posted blogs and participated in Web events as part of ARCUS’ Polar TREC outreach program. Armchair travelers can tag along with Tim Martin here.
NSF’s Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, CReSIS, launched its field work March 31. As one of two major CReSIS efforts in 2009, a team flew over the ice sheet in a specially instrumented twin otter to collect airborne radar measurements, and map near-surface internal layers of ice with fine resolution of about 10 cm. The team collected data along and across the main channel of Jakobshavn Glacier, and on the Helheim and Kangerdlussuaq glaciers. This work aims to measure ice thickness, to map internal layers at depth, and to image the ice-bed interface. This work should be complete by the end of the month, prior to a mid-May field trip for CReSIS researchers doing seismic traverse work.
Though it has just opened for the summer, already the NSF research station atop Greenland’s ice sheet has seen plenty of action.
A staff member went missing in bad weather on Wednesday night, April 15, triggering a search-and-rescue effort. The staffer was found alive and alert on Saturday morning when the weather cleared. The search was an enormous multi-national, multi-agency effort and we are all so relieved that our staffer was found. Read NSF’s press release here, or contact CH2M HILL’s representative, John Corsi, at email@example.com
Alaska staffer Matt Irinaga has spent much of this spring out of the Fairbanks office helping NSF-funded researchers mount field efforts all over Alaska.
In late March, Matt headed to Nome and Shishmaref to help put in a field camp at nearby Cape Espenberg on the northern Seward Peninsula for (U Alaska) Katey Walter’s methane study. The entire field plan was slowed by the untimely eruption of Mt. Redoubt to the southeast on the Kenai Peninsula. One volcanic volley on March 26 forced the cancellation of cargo flights packed with camp and science gear.
Still, after a short delay, and with the volcano still rumbling, Matt, Tim Tannenbaum (CPS field camp manager) and the advance team arrived at the field site and got the camp established.
The full Walter research team arrived a few days later and began daily excursions from the camp for lake sediment coring, GPS and landscape feature surveys, sediment and biogeochemical sampling, and more. The team extracted lake sediments and permafrost samples, which are being shipped to the University in Fairbanks, the Alfred Wegner Institute in Germany and the LacCore facility in Minnesota for storage and later analysis. For an on-the-ground view of Walter’s research, read and watch a Los Angeles Times Story written by a journalist who visited the researcher in the field last fall.
After establishing the Walter camp, Matt Irinaga met University of Alaska permafrost outreach troubadour Kenji Yoshikawa in Kotzebue. The two then flew to Point Hope to install permafrost monitoring instruments near village schools.
Yoshikawa draws children and their teachers into his work by showing them how to maintain and store data collected from the stations—and by appealing to their love of superheroes with his Tunnel Man alter ego.
One may sense his legendary, indefatigable spirit by viewing the Tunnel Man videos, available via Yoshikawa’s permafrost outreach Web site.
From Kotzebue, Matt traveled with seasonal CPS staffer Erik Lund to Deadhorse. There, the two established a laboratory for polar bear researcher, U of Wyoming’s Hank Harlow. Harlow’s team is working with the United States Geological Survey this spring and summer to monitor polar bears living on the sea-ice offshore from Prudhoe. Harlow leads an effort to understand how loss of sea ice might be impacting polar bears that use the ice as a hunting platform. His group is in Deadhorse locating, capturing, tagging, examining and taking samples from polar bears; they will return this summer and in the fall to recapture some of the bears, repeating the examinations and measurements for comparison with the earlier data. Harlow hypothesizes that bears having difficulty finding food due to loss of access to prey as a result of sea-ice loss may enter a state of “walking hibernation.”
To round out the spring, Matt traveled to Bethel and met up with Mandy Van Dellen and her assistants working with U of Nevada’s Jim Sedinger on his long-term study of reproductive strategies in Black Brant Geese.
The group staged at Chevak for their snowmachine put-in to a site along the Tutakoke River on the Bering Sea coast.
Sedinger’s long-term study tracks how reproduction impacts the overall health and survivability of the parent—and how that, in turn, impacts productivity and survival in subsequent years. The team will be in the field until late July closely monitoring a population of banded birds, from nest building through fledging processes.
A five-person Greenland Inland Traverse (GRIT) team completed an exploratory mission late in March to test new tracks on the main traverse vehicle and a new towing configuration. With temperatures hovering around minus 25F, they set out to improve the traverse’s mobility.
Last year’s inaugural GRIT experienced delays because the machines sank deep into the snow and had trouble towing the cargo.
If the team can identify better towing configurations and the best equipment for Greenland overland travel, the GRIT could become an annual event. Delivering supplies by land instead of air could reduce the cost and emissions associated with supplying Summit Station.