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Sea Ice Group Field Blogs

Josh Jones at IceX

Wednesday, February 23, 2022 -- Pioneering Flights to look for Camp Queenfish

Today, Matt Pesce from the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) and I flew in the Royal Canadian Air Force Vampire 5 (A), a twin otter with bubble windows on either side. The floe chosen for the camp broke up over Monday night and the first night out crew recovered what they could on Tuesday. So Matt and I were on a reconnaissance flight to find more potential floes for camp. We visited pre-identified floes Foxtrot, Golf, and Mike and noted potential floes on routes between the pre-identified floes. Of the floes we flew over, Golf (B) seemed to be the best option, with Mike (C) then Foxtrot following. Golf had multiple runwy orientations available on the first year ice adjacent to the thicker ice. Mike had only one runway orientation, and that was not oriented into the predominant wind direction. Foxtrot did not have very favorable runway ice around the thicker ice floe.


Thursday, February 24, 2022 -- Landing on Golf and Tangod

Today Theo Goda, Ann Hill, Matt Pesce, and I flew on Bald Mountain’s single Otter (A) to floes Golf and Tango. Ann and Theo identified Tango as a possible camp floe on their recon flight the day before. Golf had been previously visited and an ice ball tracker left there, so it was easy to find. Ann and I ran the EM31 over the MY floe and adjacent FY ice (B). Most of the MY floe ranged between a little less than 1.5m and about 3m thick. One section of the floe that was about 250m in diameter was between 2.5m and 3.3m thick consistently. ASL leadership deems this section of the floe suitable for camp as long as the FY runway ice holds up (as well as the MY floe) with the coming windstorm that is supposed to last 2 or 3 days. The METOC team, ASL, and myself will keep an eye on the incoming satellite imagery over the next few days to monitor the situation at Golf. Tango did not look suitable once we were on the ice. The FY ice had about 15cm to 20cm of snow, with ~4cm crust on top. This isn’t a deal breaker really, but since the camp has been delayed ASL doesn’t want to spend the time it would take to make a suitable runway on this ice. Also, the MY/SY ice was pretty rough and a possible camp site would be some ways away from the runway area (C). There were some pretty cool snow features around Tango (D).


Mass Balance Site deployment, Jan 9-13 2012: Greg Deemer

January 9, 2012

Following a smooth, error-free morning flight, Andy Mahoney, Josh Jones, and myself arrived in Barrow. We were welcomed with a balmy temperature of -20F and a stiff 15mph westerly wind. We made a quick stop at UMIAQ headquarters to pick up keys, discuss the itinerary, and down a few cups of coffee to shake off the cobwebs of the morning. After dropping off our personal luggage at the NARL hut and fueling up with a late lunch, we headed back to UMIAQ HQ to gear up and perform a scouting mission for a suitable site location. Winding our way by snow machine between rubbled blocks of sea ice created during the formation of the landfast ice under westerly winds, we searched for flat areas of ice suitable for locating our instruments. Upon finding a level area, I was tasked with boring my first hole through the ice to take measurements of ice thickness, freeboard (height of ice above the water level), and water depth. We drilled in two places before settling on a location.
Greg Deemer drilling his first hole in sea ice, Jan, 2011. Photo by Andy Mahoney
Concluding a successful recon, the location was taken via GPS and we headed towards the point to inspect the bone pile and recently created Polar Bear tracks before retiring to the hut.

January 10, 2012

Weather reports were grim for today; temps dipping below -30F and possible winds gusting to 25mph. Adhering to this caution, we decided to perform prefabrication of our instruments and test connections of the radio transmitters indoors to cut down on installment time in the field. Though the prefabrication concluded without a hitch, we ran into a rather large kink in our assembly when the instrumentation failed to sample while connected to our radios. After racking our brains about possible issues with virtual machine software, Internet connectivity issues, potential hardware failures, buggy program codes, sending cross-continental e-mails for, and alarming UMIAQ technicians, it turns out that our battery was dead. You’d think that three educated, scientific minds could think to double-check the battery. Fortunately, the time difference with Europe was in our favor and our colleague and ex-sea ice group member, Chris Petrich, was able to point out our error before we turned in for bed. As it turns out, the day’s forecast was completely blown and, in the absence of cloud cover and winds, I was able to capture a few photos. Below is an image of the waning civil twilight this day that provided a breathtaking, lurid contrast against the expansive emptiness of the frozen Arctic.
Evening twilight over the sea ice, Jan 2012. Photo by Greg Deemer

January 11, 2012

Time to install the site! As soon as light conditions allowed, we loaded up a few snow machines and sleds and began retracing our tracks to the future site. The day was relatively warm as temperatures hovered around -10F with a slight breeze and light snowfall. It’s a good thing we had the trained eye of Tony on Bear guard duties because visibility wasn’t much more than a quarter mile. We worked diligently under the bleak lighting and had the site 90% completed within four hours. Time and daylight allowed for further work, but the low temperatures and lack of lunch weighed heavier in our decision to repack and head back into town, to service the coastal radar.
Tony taking a seat on the snow machine while keeping an eye for bears, Jan 2012. Photo by Greg Deemer
Mass balance site installation in progress, Jan 2012. Photo by Greg Deemer

January 12, 2012

The coring and installation of the turbine power cord were completed without any issues, but the extreme cold of the day certainly complicated operations. The wind was light but no-one dared turn their face into for more than a few seconds. The biting cold quickly targeted our fingers while cutting up, bagging, and taking measurements of our cores. It was quite comical to see the three of us out there flailing our arms madly in an attempt to force blood back into our fingertips. With the site completed and samples taken, we snow machined back to NARL, into the wind.
Finishing the mass balance site installation, Jan 2012. Photo by Andy Mahoney
After a quick bite to eat, we geared up again and headed to the edge of the landfast ice to reconnoiter a trail being cut for other researchers arriving in the net few days.

January 13, 2012

Packing and tidying up consumed most of the day. The winds picked up substantially overnight and in the morning so we head out with Brower, Tony, and Glenroy, from UMIAQ, to observe the shifting ice along the trail that was cleared the evening before. Seeing massive blocks of ice tossed about at the shorefast edge was quite humbling, and even though the ice lay dormant below my feet, there was an uneasy feeling running through me when glancing over the edge.
Greg standing beside a large block of ice, Jan 2012. Photo by Andy Mahoney

4th of July 2011: Chris Petrich

Quick visit to UIC-NARL to find that the near-shore ice had broken up indeed, from what I hear this seemed to have happened earlier that day—some of it was still drifting by during the Umiaq race at 6 pm (the ice in the background of the photo is grounded and stationary).
The 4-day event of 4th of July Games was on in Barrow. Here is the ABC team (Arnold Brower Crew) during the Umiaq (skin boat) race in the Arctic Ocean, using the same boat made from seal skin used during spring subsistence whale harvest. Team members include captain Lewis Brower, Brower Frantz (4th from the right), and Nok Acker (5th from the right), who supported our field work throughout the years.
ABC crew racing on the 4th of July, 2011. Photo by Chris Petrich

Summer, 6–12 June 2011: Chris Petrich

The ice was ponded by the time we got to Barrow this year. Snow melt set in quite early this year (not quite as early as in 2002, though) and, as we've noticed already in December, the deformed ice is pretty sediment-laden. As a result, the snowmachine ride to the Mass Balance probe was quite rough. Anyways, myself, Josh Jones and Andy Mahoney took care of the mass balance site, RADAR and other end-of-season work, while Bruce Elder (CRREL, NH), Steve Hudson (NPI, Norway) and Mats Granskog (NPI, Norway) took optical measurements until is became near-impossible to reach the measurements site.

Sea Ice Microstructure, 14–20 May 2011

Work on sea ice microstructure with Hajo Eicken and Marc Müller-Stoffels from UAF and Ken Golden and team of U Utah.

April Campaign, March/April 2011

highlights: EM measurements with Polar 5; buoy deployment 100 km North of Barrow; surface-NMR of a pressure ridge; Barrow ice trails

Instrument Deployment, 22–28 January 2011: Chris Petrich

The annual deployment of the mass balance probe started off the season. Andy Mahoney, Marcel Nicolaus (AWI) and myself defined the location for this year's Mass Balance Probe, did snow and ice characterizations, deployed the Mass Balance probe and optical instruments, and checked on the RADAR downtown. New this year is a slight re-design of the mass balance probe that allowed the deployment in one day, without having to wait for equipment to freeze in (we are also anticipating that this design is more stable during the melt season). So we did it: scouted out the site (the ice is very deformed this year (rubble ice), while we need a patch of undeformed ice) and took ice cores until a core got frozen inside the core barrel on Saturday (yes: arrival in Barrow, check-in procedures with CPS/Umiaq, gathering equiment from cold storage, defining the field site, taking ice cores, and returning safely to NARL -- all before it got dark), prepared equipment on Sunday, and deployed the probe including wind turbine on Monday. Turns out, Monday was the coldest day of this winter season so far with temperatures as low as -42°C. Needless to say, we were efficient as can be and deployed the instruments in record time (3.5 hours, including the snow machine ride to and from the site). Tuesday was warmer when we deployed the optical instruments of AWI, also including a wind turbine. Temperatures continued to rise when we looked after the RADAR, filtered samples, and continued with snow and ice characterizations the following days. We had significant winds only on the last day which left us reassured that the wind turbine was spinning. Sunrise and sunset were beautiful to look at as we had clear skies when the sun started to re-appear after the longest night in Barrow. This was our first trip supported by Umiaq instead of BASC, and although we were bracing ourselfs for hick-ups during the transition, it went very smoothly.

Christmas Games, 30 December–2 January 2011: Chris Petrich

Watched part of the Christmas Games and New Year's fireworks in Barrow – this was a trip for fun rather than work. Looking at it from the shore, landfast ice looks like a field of rubble this year, so far no pressure ridges in sight that would be worth mentioning. Measured ice thickness close to the shore with Barrow resident Kaiti Ott and Dale Pomraning's ice corer: about 0.68 m of fun.
Kaiti with New Year's sea ice core

Moorings, 27 July–3 August 2010: Chris Petrich

Our colleagues from Hokkaido, Kai Ohshima, Daisuke Simizu, and Katsushi Iwamoto, Hajo, Andy and myself successfully recovered both moorings that we deployed last year, and re-deployed two new moorings at the same respective locations. Quite unlike any of the field work I've been part of in Barrow, the entire schedule revolved around winds and weather forecasts.

Melt, 30 May–20 June 2010: Chris Petrich

Kerry Claffey started the summer season with daily snow and albedo measurements. Fun on June 5, a polar bear tampers with snow depth sounders and radiometers. Hat-trick! This is the fifth season we deployed the Mass Balance Probe, and the third season in a row it got damaged by a bear (2008, 2009, 2010). The year prior to that (2007), an Arctic fox chewed through some cables the day after we froze-in instruments. Kerry measured surface ablation with a ground-based LIDAR every other day which kept him out of trouble. Josh Jones and myself spent a week on the ice to do another under-ice radiometer transect this year, this one propelled by home-brew gear rather than an Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). We had comparatively strong currents under the ice that determined the direction of the transect. Ancillary measurements and analysis took up much of the remaining time (anybody keen on filtering samples, send me your cv!). Andy Mahoney joined the party when we recovered the Mass Balance probe with the steam drill. All instruments were still solidly frozen into the ice, very unlike last year. We left Kerry to do his measurements in peace after Josh did some characterizations of pressure ridges visible in the coastal RADAR.
Josh and Kerry

Beginning of melt, 10–20 May 2010: Chris Petrich

Polona Rozman of AWI, Germany and myself had a ball on the ice: we were cutting two large holes (one with support from BASC and Lew Shapiro's oversized chain saw, another one with Matt Druckenmiller and overlapping core holes (the method of choice in March)), did an 80 m under-ice transect to measure light conditions and determine ice algae content; pulled out a fair number of ice cores to filter for sediment and chlorophyl content (i.e. ice micro-algae); and did endless snow depth transects with Matthew Sturm's amazing MagnaProbe. Did I mention we shoveled snow? We shoveled snow. Rather than low temperatures, we had to be concerned about extremely high relative humidity and condensation. In fact, it got so warm over the weekend that the ice was clearly desalinating in the upper 15 cm by the time we left.
Chris sampling sea ice Polona getting the instruments ready

We had a few days of overlap with Matt Druckenmiller who did just about the most tedious measurements I have ever seen: an ice thickness transect straight through rubble ice. This might have well been his last measurements on sea ice as a PhD student. Good on ya, Matt! (photo by Polona)

Matt in rubble ice

April 2010: Chris Petrich

The annual big SIZONet campaign. Ice thickness surveys with a helicopter-borne electromagnetic induction sensor (EM-Bird) in collaboration with our colleagues from AWI in Germany; two buoy deployments; and lots of ground-based landfast ice thickness surveys with electromagnetic induction. Matt Druckenmiller acquired data and created the Whaling Trail Map, popular with locals and researchers alike.

Under-ice radiometer transect, 15–24 March 2010: Chris Petrich

Marcel Nicolaus and Dirk Kalmbach of AWI in Germany and myself spent a bit over a week on radiation measurements above and beneath the ice. This included two 30 m transects of transmissivity under the ice to establish a base line before the onset of algae growth.
Chris, Marcel, Dirk

Also, we had some problems with the mass balance probe in February which turned out to be linked to a blown fuse.

We left Barrow on the 24th and handed over sea ice research to Matt Druckenmiller who arrived a few minutes before we left.

Instruments on ice, 11–16 January 2010: Chris Petrich

This trip was to kick off the season by installing the mass balance probe, wind turbine, and radiometers above, inside and beneath the ice. Straight-forward although quite a bit to do, in particular since we had a core barrel smaller than usual. We, that is Josh Jones, Kaiti Ott and myself, spent 5 days on the ice from like 30 minutes after civil twilight in the morning through like 30 minutes before civil twilight in the afternoon. Fieldwork is clearly possible even a week or two before sunrise. However, we used a portable shop light to increase working comfort, warm up equipment, and increase the surface definition on a white-out day. It was literally impossible so see snow dunes otherwise. The ice was quite thick at 0.8 m and the snow cover was substantial -- not really surprising considering the ice was in place since mid November 2009.

Kaiti and Josh sampling sea ice

Moorings 2009

Successful deployment of two moorings with our colleagues from Hokkaido University.

Melt campaign June 2009: Chris Petrich

As usual, an unusal year in Barrow. Air temperatures hovered around melting since the end of April, so the ice was significantly warmer than ususal at the beginning of melt pond development this year.

Hajo Eicken and Josh Jones went to Barrow in early June for laser level surveys of melt pond development. Hajo left, I arrived and together with Josh recovered the mass balance probe now with wind turbine and the radiometers of our Norwegain colleagues. Apart from laser-level surveys and removing instruments, we set up and tested a WiFi link to the mass balance site (and I sent my first email from there) and took under-ice photos. Here is an example:

Sea Ice Bottom

The big April field campaign 2009

A big campaign. Have a look at last year's notes.

Wind turbine installation and ice characterizations, 24–29 March 2009: Chris Petrich

So we did get a curious bear inspect the mass balance site in the mean time. Looks like he/she tried pull-ups on the pinger mast... However, unlike last season, we didn't need to repair the probe, just correct data for physical distortion.

While Matt Druckenmiller travelled to Barrow without hick-ups a few days earlier, the arrival of Marie Kapsch and myself was delayed by the better part of a day after Alaska Airlines grounded planes due to a plume of ash from Mt Redoubt that made its way across Alaska. BASC was a busy place, in part because many researchers had to change their travel plans. However, we were cared for with the usual great flexibility. NSF logistics support will change effective next month, and we are excited to see what that means in practice.

Marie and I installed a wind turbine to keep the batteries of the mass balance probe charged throughout the season. The manual advised to install the turbine on a calm day; of course it turned out that we happen to have installed the turbine on the windiest, most miserable day of this trip. In spite of this we set up the turbine in no time and it started spinning happily in the wind. With all the high-tech equipment around (including that of a group from Belgium nearby), still I think this turbine is the visual highlight since it has moving parts.

We also deployed three spectral radiometers of our Norwegian collaborators. Two above the ice (one looking up into the sky, the other one looking down at the snow), and a thrid one looking up underneath the ice. And since we were at it, we added another snow depth pinger to the mass balance site right at the radiometers.

While I left on Sunday, Marie continued to help Matt with ice property and thickness measurements in Barrow until later in April.

The Geophysical Institute used one of the photos of this trip for a holiday post card (after photoshopping).

Installing the Mass Balance Site, 13–16 January 2009: Chris Petrich

Matt Druckenmiller, Jeremy Harbeck and myself spent four days on the ice to scout out the landfast ice off the coast of Barrow and to install the Mass Balance Site. Field work was short every day since the sun won't even rise for another week. I'd say workable conditions were from about 11:30 to 4 pm or so. Snowman Jeremy did a 1.3 km MagnaProbe snow transect under conditions (cold, wind, darkness) that would have qualified him for a trip with Edmund Hillary. For the record, we saw a polar bear in the distance, and polar bear footprints and several Arctic Foxes not far from where we placed the probe. Keep your fingers crossed we get through this season without interference with the local fauna. This is Matt and Jeremy installing the Mass Balance Probe 2009.

Mass Balance Probe 2009

and this is Matt standing on a pressure ridge a few kilometers South of the Mass Balance Site. The lights at the horizon are Barrow. (This is a near-infrared (near-IR) photo (720 nm to 1100 nm): blue means "rather dark in infrared", red means "quite bright in infrared". See for technical details.)

Sea Ice

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Melt season, June 2008: Chris Petrich

Reaping the fruits of a continuous characterization of sea ice and snow conditions throughout the season, we spent about three weeks on the ice to correlate the formation of melt ponds and the change in ice albedo with ice and snow properties. Apart from Chris Petrich and Chris Polashenski, Hajo Eicken, Don Perovich, Matt Druckenmiller, Nels Peterson, Daniel Pringle, and Matthew Sturm did a variety of measurements. Martin Stuefer flew his plane with some of our custom equipment, and we got a great overview of the ice during melt. Here is an aerial shot of Hajo and Nels walking across melt ponds:

Melt Ponds

The parting shot of the UAF Frontiers magazine (Spring 2009, vol. 2) featured sea ice of this season.

On the ice with climate boffins, April 29 2008: Chris Petrich

What should have been a routine trip to take another snapshot of snow and ice conditions promised to turn into a rather frustrating couple of days in Barrow. Everything took me longer than expected, whiteout conditions made snow dunes invisible, and recent snow fall covered the ice with a blanked of fluffy snow only waiting to be blown away once the wind picked up.

Oddly enough, it all fell into place on the last day of this trip: the wind blew away much of the fluffy snow, the clouds were thinner and I could see the ground, and I had a very energetic group of ambassadors of Ben and Jerry's Climate Change College helping me on the ice. Everything worked out very nicely after all. There is coverage of the last day of this trip in the online edition of the British tabloid newspaper, The Sun.

SIZONet Campaign, April 2008: Daniel Pringle

The International Polar Year (IPY) is now in full swing. Led by Hajo, our group is heavily involved in SIZONet ( Seasonal Ice Zone Observing Network) to make and coordinate sea ice measurements in the seasonal ice zone. The seasonal ice zone is the area where ice is not present year round, but grows in the winer and melts in the summer. This is a usual cycle for much of the western and northern Alaska coast. Hajo, Matt, Jonas, Malcolm Ingham and myself were all up there sometimes between April 4 - April 16.


Left: Malcolm working with the new, automated geolelectrics system. Right: Malcolm, Stefan, Blake and Mike. Bottom: leads in the near-shore ice en route from Prudhoe Bay to Barrow. I like the cool "vapor trail" caused by the condensation of water evaporating form the long linear lead.

More than just our group, this was a coordinated effort in Barrow with many visiting groups converging to make measurements on both the landfast ice attached to shore, and to use helicopters to access off-shore ice. A central interest was ice thickness measurements. On an Arctic scale, satellites can image the area of sea ice, but not the depth, so extra measurements are needed to monitor sea ice thinning and its change in total volume. Regionally, thickness measurements are useful to determine whether or not ice ridges are grounded on the sea floor, providing additional stability to the ice. Barrow is a good meeting point for these two interests, and we had a mix of experienced operators of established devices and researchers new to sea ice with developmental devices.

Stefan Hendricks from (AWI )( the Alfred Wegener Institute, for German Polar and Oceanography Research) was back in Barrow again. Stefan was operating his `EM bird`, a torpedo-like device slung from helicopters to measure ice thickness using a process called electromagnetic (EM) induction. The bird generates an oscillating magnetic field (4 kHz), which induces currents in the ice and water below, which in turn generate secondary magnetic fields. The bird measures the total response, from which Stefan can determine the position of the bottom of the ice. This is because the salty sea water is much more conductive that ice, so the secondary fields are dominated the bird basically measures A laser altimeter measures the height above snow, and the difference is the total thickness of snow + ice. Stefan has operated all over the Arctic and Antarctica - but hopes to finish his PhD soon!

Malcolm and I again made DC electrical resistivity measurements using surface arrays and 4 strings frozen into the ice back in January. Armed with a new, automated system, we were much faster, warmer and happier than previous trips of laborious manual measurements - which nevertheless did lay the groundwork for the current measurements.

Brent Nowak and his student Austin Derric were up from San Antonio Texas to field-test an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) for under ice photography and videography. It seemed like a very valuable trip for them - a lot of things can (and did) go wrong at -20 C that you wouldn’t anticipate in Texas. They were never flustered, and it would be nice to see them back in Barrow later on. Under ice images are really cool and it would be need to inspect the grounded ridges in Barrow that anchor the landfast ice in place.

Mike Lewis and Blake Weissling were also up from Texas for field testing. Their instrument is a multi-frequency EM device and they were calibrating and field testing. Blake has the dubious distinction of being on two research boats on which fires have broken out.

Matt Druckenmiller continued his work mapping local whaling trails. Each spring these snow machine trails are cut through rubble fields of ice to the preferred position at the ice edge of each whaling captain. Matt collected more than 40 km of thickness measurements by walking these trails with a surface-based version of the EM bird (Geonics EM-31). A real highlight of the trip for me was joining Matt and Lewis Brower to cut trail one night, then heading back to his Dad’s house for hot tea. Lewis is the Logistics Coordinator at BASC and the youngest son of esteemed whaling captain Arnold Brower Snr, who is lithe, extremely knowledgeable and very sharp at 84 years old and still hunts by himself 100 miles from town. He was preparing whaling equipment when we visited at 11pm and over tea and cookies shared stories and insights.

Curious bears, March 2008: Daniel Pringle

It seems that we are not the only ones interested in our mass balance site. A curious bear appears to have inspected our site in mid March. Scott Oyagak from BASC went out to change over the batteries and found prints all around and some damage to our masts. Reports this year are of higher bear activity out on the ice in this general area (site map). This may be related to the whalebone dump being closer this year. This is where previous seasons whalebones are left so that the congregating bears are safely out of town.


Left to right: site as installed; bear damaged but still standing; data logger box still standing and operating, note metal conduit to protectcables from foxes.

Thankfully none of the cables were cut, and transmission resumed as usual once the batteries were replaced. The snow pinger was dangling about though so it was fortunate also that Chris Petrich was heading up this week for other work and was able to repair things.

Last year it was a fox eating through Malcolm Inghams electrode strings. Joe Trodahl once had a thermistor string in McMurdo Sound catastrophically bent by either a seal or big Arctic cod. What next?

Installing Mass Balance Site; February 7, 2008: Chris Petrich

Hajo, Jeremy, Jonas and myself went to the ice in Barrow to deploy the mass balance probe, and to do snow and ice measurements. Bear guard Michael used his snowmachine to scare away four polar bears (a mom with two cups, and a young bear) that were roaming the area when we arrived. Watch Jeremy and Jonas sampling snow:

First impressions; January 9, 2008: Chris Petrich

I went to Barrow for a first reconnaissance of sea ice conditions. Also, I measured the snow thickness profile along a 300 m transect with Matthew Sturm's Magnaprobe. This established a base line for snow thickness this season. There were hardly any snow dunes that would have made this survey exciting at the time. Had a white fox carefully watch me cut a sea ice core for salinity measurement. Bear guard Nok Acker frightened-off an approaching polar bear with the noise of an idling snowmachine.

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Late-season meltponds, June 23, 2007: Chris Petrich

A brief visit to Barrow to assess the end-of-season meltpond coverage and albedo. This was a day trip that started with an entertaining safety announcement on the Alaska Airlines flight (youtube); the cookies were great. I was joined by photographer Jim Barker on UAF assignment. Photos from this trip and the campaign earlier this month are in the GI quarterly newsletter 20(4), 2007, and on the 2008 Staff Council Calendar.

Melt season, June 2007: Daniel Pringle

By early June, the sea ice has melted back a lot. Conditions are warmer for field work, but can be windy still - and we now need to contend with melt water. At this time of year, the sun is getting stronger and the snow on top of the ice is melting more and more each day.

We were a large group this trip - Christina Williams who has been working on the radar imagery made her first trip to Barrow, joining myself, Hajo and Chris from UAF. The super-enthusiastic Ken Golden (aka frogman) was up from the University of Utah. Ken has long been interested in the fluid permeability of sea ice, so melt season is his time of year. As it is for Don Perovich, from CRREL New Hampshire. Don works on the spectral albedo. He is an expert on what effect the ponding water has on how much incident sunlight is reflected back.

Radar and webcam Radar and webcam
Don Perovich calling on years of Arctic experience to walk on water. Ken Golden and Chris Petrich use a steam drill to melt out equipment.
Radar and webcam Radar and webcam
View north beyond Pt. Barrow to open water and distant pack ice. Melting land-fast ice, with hexagonal patterned ground in the foreground.

A new Fieldwork Season, January 2007: Daniel Pringle

We arrived in Barrow at about the same time as the sun. This season, we had wanted to install the ice mass balance equipment back in November, but first ice conditions and then the winter night held us back until now. The 2006 summer was a bit different from recent times in that there was a lot of old winter ice drifting by and within sight of land. However this did not translate directly into an early freeze-up of the land fast ice. It was plenty cold enough, but it seems that prevailing north-easterlies blew the newly-forming ice away from shore at the time when ice building needed westerlies to bring pack ice and in and secure the new ice against land.

Our group included Matt Druckenmiller, Chris Petrich, Guy Dubuis, Yoshiki Kawano, and myself. It was the first trip to Barrow for all the others except Matt, and overall it was very successful. Chris and Yoshiki recovered multiple cores for measuring the variability of salinity profiles. I think the key discovery here gaining familiarity with the field and laboratory equipment, and operating conditions in Barrow. Guy and I installed this season's wireless mass balance site.


Left ro right: sunrise from the sea ice; and installing the sea ice mass balance site, with Nok Acker in the foreground; Group outside Browers Restaurant; installing hydraprobes to measure sea ice dielectric properties.

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Barrow in June, 2006: Daniel Pringle

The last trip to Barrow was timed perfectly. Last measurements were made and our equipment extracted just before the onset of a lot of surface snow melt that would have complicated snow machine travel and access to our site as well as interfering with the measurements.

The landfast ice has been very consolidated and stayed in a long time this year. Usually wind and ocean currents would have broken this ice into smaller pieces by now, allowing it to more away from shore and opening up leads (open water in the ice pack) so important for whaling. It was a terrible spring whaling season - only 3 whales from a quota of 22 strikes and 20 landings. It was the talk of the town. They'll wait now for fall whaling - hunting from boats in more open water - and pray for enough whales to see them through the winter.

We took a reccie out to the ice rubble zone, where stresses crumble the ice up and older ice is sometimes caught up in the first-year ice just grown in the last winter. I love this picture of Hajo and Matt Druckenmiller up on a huge block.

The water is a melt pond - the sun has melted snow on the ice surface but the water can't drain through the ice. As the ice warms up closer to its bulk melting point (-1.8 C) the ice actually does become porous enough to allow drainage - and this change in 'permeability' of the ice is what my work looks at.

One evening we also went 'birding' aka bird spotting. Hajo got super excited when he thought he'd seen some puffins, but it turns out they were more likely spectacles eiders (as in the ducks that give their name to eider-down). We did see tundra - and trumpeter- swans, phalaropes, loons, snipes, different types of jaegers, and the local favourite, Steller's eider. Too bad we didn't see any snowy owls though.

We had a warm spell too - so now I've experienced -56 F and + 54 F up here (-49 C to +12 C).

The on-ice equipment worked well this year, and preliminary results from the measurements with Malcolm Ingham from VUW look promising too. So all up, a good field year. I'll probably be back up in November.

Edit (C.P.): This season's ice was featured on the cover of the UAF Frontiers magazine (Spring 2008, vol. 1).

Barrow April 23, 2006: Daniel Pringle

I'm now back up in Barrow for fieldwork, this time with Hajo Eicken (my boss), and Malcolm Ingham from Victoria University of Wellington. Malcolm is a physics professor at VUW who uses electro-magnetic methods to study the earth's subsurface. In Barrow, we're testing a new method to measure the connectivity of the brine inclusions in sea ice. If successful, this will enable us to make fully-automated measurements of the state of the ice in places like the McMurdo Sound runway in Antarctica.

Back in January, when Pat Cotter and I installed our wireless mass balance site, we also installed two strings of electrodes for Malcolm's experiments. The ice has since grown thicker - growing past the electrodes previously hanging down into the water. Each string has 19 electrodes spaced 10 cm apart. In the measurements, we inject an electrical current between two electrodes, one in each string, and then measure the voltage drop between two other electrodes. With 19 electrodes in each string, there are very many different possible combinations. We don't use all of them, just enough to get a clear image of the electrical resistivity of the ice between the two strings. This profile is related to the salt content of the ice, and how well-connected the salty brine inclusions are.

So far, so good: we've made one successful set of measurements, we've only seen prints but no bears, and Malcolm has had his first blast driving a snow machine. We'll also make measurements later in the season, when these measurements should be sensitive to rapid changes expected with warming above -5 C.

Here's Malcolm making measurements with field support officer Scott Oyagak looking on (and for bears!)

Hajo (left) cutting an ice core for salinity measurements to compare with the electrical measurements.

Barrow Excursion April 18-20, 2006: Patrick Cotter

This follow-up trip to re-install the repaired radar was rather uneventful. It was much sunnier and warmer than the previous trips, although it still managed to hit -27F one morning.

My first task was to wax the radar's antenna with the hope that any ice or snow buildup would slough off before causing damage to the motor. It felt odd to be breaking out car wax in Barrow.

With the help of Keith Williams of BASC, I was able to get the radar hooked up later that afternoon and recording data once again. The most difficult part of the re-installation turned out to be feeding the power cable through the hole in the building.

The second day of the trip was spent testing de-icing techniques, primarily using this heat tape sort of stuff. Testing the interference with the radar proved difficult, and the lack of additional holes in the building prevented me from setting up anything permanent. Luckily its late enough in the winter that there probably isn't much need for additional de-icing.

In true Alaska Air style, my flight out on the evening on the 19th was cancelled, so I spent an extra night at the NARL hotel and caught next morning's flight back to Fairbanks. Thanks to clear skies I finally got a decent view of the Brooks Range, although I was stuck sitting above the wing.

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Barrow Excursion Feb 28-March 1, 2006: Patrick Cotter

This quick trip to Barrow was for maintenance and troubleshooting of our Barrow Observatory equipment.

My first task upon arrival was to figure out why our mass balance site had stopped transmitting data back to our computer in the Theatre. Initially this sounded like a major problem with the site, but turned out to only require a re-setting of the software used for data transfer. A quick trip out to the site revealed that everything had withstood 70mph winds during a storm early in February.

The next task was to take down and ship out the radar. The antenna had stopped spinning in late December and had been subsequently turned off. Apparently heavy icing of the antenna had occurred which, in turn, ground the gears in the motor to dust. Luckily I had Scott Oyagak to assist me in the removal process. We moved as quickly as possible since the ambient air temperature was near -40 with a stiff breeze making it feel even colder.

Back in the warmth of the BASC theatre, I cleaned up and boxed the unit to be shipped to the manufacturer for repairs.

Barrow Fieldwork, January 29-Feb 03, 2006: Daniel Pringle

As part of the developmental phase of the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) we were installing a collection of instruments called a 'mass balance site'. Instruments included thermistor strings to measure the temperature profile through the sea ice as well as the water below and snow and air above, and 'hydraprobes' for measuring the salinity (salt content) of the ice.

The centre piece is a 5 m (16 ft) mast. The top has a T-section on which are mounted air temperature and humidity sensors and a sonic 'pinger' which by measuring the distance to the snow below allows us to measure the snow depth. At the bottom of the mast underwater, are two accoustic sounders (range finders), one looking up and one looking down, which allow us to measure the ice thickness as well as the water depth. All of these instruments are connected to a battery-powered data logger, allowing us to make these measurements through the growth and melt season of the ice off Barrow.

Scott and Patrick at the site

Scott Oyagak, our field support officer and bear guard,and Pat Cotter at our site.

As an improvement on previous mass balance sites, this site is equipped with a radio system to transmit the data back to a computer at BASC, which will then be transmitted to our computers back at Fairbanks, and posted on the web in near-real time. You can see the antenna in the picture above.

Just before we arrived there was an ivu - an ice shove event in which offshore winds drove the consolidated ice up onto the beach where it crumbled and rode up over itself making mounds up to 50 feet (16 m) high on the road near the bank building. We were lucky to have local scientist and director of BASC Richard Glenn describe many aspects of the ivu. Richard is half Inupiaq and has a unique combination of local and western scientific knowledge of the ice conditions and behaviour. I'm certainly not the first kiwi up here. We also met Richard's wife, whose concern in preserving their Inupiaq language led her to New Zealand in the hope of learning about Kohanga Reo and other Maori language initiatives, and Barrow has hosted Maori delegations up here.

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Barrow Excursion October 18-19, 2005: Patrick Cotter

October 18, 2005

Andy and I arrived in Barrow on the morning flight to overcast skies and some freezing rain. We made our way to BASC where we organized our equipment for installing the webcam and firing up the radar. It was actually quite nice not worrying about getting snowmobiles, sleds and gear for going out onto the ice.
When we finally made it to the ASRC building on which the radar and webcam were mounted, we realized that the radar wasn't compatible with a USB keyboard or DVI monitor and required a PS/2 splitter in order to use a mouse, so we had to scrounge up some older components and have the Sea Ice crew in Fairbanks goldstreak us a splitter. Finally, with all the proper equipment we were able to actually get the radar turning and show us some data. Unfortunately, remote login to the system proved impossible.

Radar and webcam Radar and webcam view

October 19, 2005

Since the radar wasn't cooperating and we couldn't address any problems until we heard from ASTAC, we went ahead and mounted the webcam. We were able to get the camera up and running, but had to take it offline for the time being until a new hole for the wires was drilled into the building. Image quality and the view from the ASRC building are great and should provide excellent data to complement the radar data. When ASTAC finally showed up, we were able to work out a couple issues, but still couldn't login remotely. Time was running out on our visit, so we organized everything for the next trip and left instructions with colleagues in Barrow on how to finish some of the setup.

Barrow excursion March 27-31, 2005: Patrick Cotter

March 27, 2005

As we came in for a landing the plane banked over the coast, revealing a major fracture in the ice running parallel to the shore for several kilometers in either direction. The afternoon was spent unpacking and organizing gear for the next day.


March 28, 2005

A brisk day, but not uncomfortable. Our first task was to assist Heike with the installation of some 4x8 sheets of UHMW plastic under the ice using Lew’s monster chain saw. With Jeremy running the saw, it was actually quite easy to slide the plastic sheets into the ice. The day also saw us taking some cores for temperature and salinity measurements, as well as scouting out a location for the extraction of a block for Jeremy’s research. We also attempted to remove the tide gauge via Andy's PVC tube. Unfortunately the tube had filled with sea water and subsequently froze, making it impossible to open the tube. There were some issues with the generator as well, but we managed to devise a method for keeping the engine warm while we transported it between the garage and the ice.

Cutting slits for the plastic sheets Plastic sheets in-situ
Vertical slab Trying to open the tide gauge tube

March 29, 2005

Another crisp day, but nice. We managed to extract a full depth block using the 7’ chainsaw and the block and tackle, and also cut a nice vertical slab off the block which would accompany us back to Fairbanks for further analysis. The ice shanty had to be assembled and everything was organized for the following day’s job of processing the huge block.

Jeremy and Heike with the full-depth block

March 30, 2005

All day was spent processing the block. After a while, Jeremy and I became quite automated in our approach to routing off a layer, setting up the lights and taking pictures. It was actually quite comfortable inside the shanty, thanks to its wind-blocking ability.

March 31, 2005

We finished off the block early in the day and were able to take a couple temperature and salinity cores, as well as deploy several of Andy’s ‘tasselometers’. Everything was brought back to the garage, cleaned thoroughly, and put in storage for our next visit. The flight back was quite nice, with houses in Anaktuvuk Pass glowing in the darkness of early evening.

Barrow excursion Feb 6-10 2005: Andy Mahoney

Barrow Cabled Seafloor Observatory. Feb 6 –Feb 8

Arrived in Barrow on Sunday evening to attend a workshop on a proposed Barrow Cabled Seafloor Observatory. Approximately 25 people from many disciplines of ocean science and the local community attended. There are many scientific applications for such an installation, but the biggest hurdle appears to be protecting the cable from ice keels until it is in sufficiently deep water.

Tuesday, Feb 8

Picked Heike up from the airport in a strong blizzard on Tuesday evening. At times it was difficult to see further than the hood of the truck and the drifts across the beach road made it difficult to know where the road was, but we made it safely back to NARL and began pulling gear out and loading sleds. One sled was taken up by four 8-inch PVC pipes and four 4-foot by 8-foot sheets of white plastic. These were to to be frozen into the ice to study how sea ice micro structure and biota develop in the absence of bottom currents (see Heike’s research). Another sled was required to haul all the augers, drills, chainsaws, hand saws, shovels, ice chippers, tape measures, power cords, generators, ice tongs and plumb lines that were needed to do the job. After that retired to the NARL hotel hoping that the weather would improve.

Lesson of the day: Don’t tie down the sled until everything is on

Installing Tubes

Wednesday, Feb 9

The windows of the hotel had stopped rattling and so I hoped that the wind had calmed down. The 5 second walk outside from the hotel to the dining hall proved me wrong. A quick check on the internet informed me that 21 knot wind was blowing out of the east, giving the ambient temperature of –6 C a wind chill of –45 C. That’ll wake you up.

The weather improved a little by noon and we headed out onto the landfast ice in the bight of the spit of Point Barrow, where the ice is usually less prone to deforming. Installation of the PVC tubes went smoothly, using the 10-inch auger to make holes in the 80 cm ice. The plastic sheets required a series of four, 4-foot long slots cut into the the ice with the chainsaw, making a square and cutting loose a block of ice. This proved much harder and turned into a constant battle to keep the cuts from refreezing after they were cut while the chainsaw froze-up or ran out of fuel. After a trip back to the warehouse to swap the blade onto a different motor, we retired for dinner cold and tired and with the plastics sheets back on the sled.

Lessson of the day: When cutting out a block of ice, don’t stand on the block as you make your final cut.

Thursday, Feb 10

Finishing Installation of Tide Gauge

No respite in the weather, but Heike and I headed back out to deploy a PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) sensor for Christopher Krembs and a pressure guage to measure changing water depth beneath the landfast ice. Deployment of both of these went easily, requiring just some holes in the ice with the auger. A final attempt to freeze-in the plastic sheets was foiled once again by the chainsaw freezing-up and so they completed their second round-trip to the sea ice.

Lesson of the day: A 3m long 6-inch diamater air-filled pipe is surprisingly buoyant.

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