Sunday, April 27, 2008

Polar Bear Sighting!

Thought that might get your attention! In reality, we have not had any polar bear sightings (or PPBs for that matter either). There was a polar bear that wandered into town last week - but it was quickly hustled out of town by the wildlife management staff (or so we are told, as we didn't actually see it ourselves).

We've been chastised for not updating the blog in several days. So, I will update you on the events of the last few days. First, a photo that I took of what is called a "sun dog". This is caused by reflections and refractions of sunlight on ice crystals present in the atmosphere. The scientific name for this phenomenon is "parhelion". There is a lot of cool physics involved in the formation of a sun dog. If you see a sun dog it means that the air has horizontal plate crystals of ice ... WOW! (Okay, if you actually said WOW to that, I encourage you to investigate further just how these parhelia and halos form ... just google "parhelia" or "sun dog").

Regardless of what causes them - it's a cool picture!

We've had reasonably good weather in terms of temperatures, however the winds have been howling considerably. This, we believe, led to the recent demise of one of our air samplers. Ian and I went to the BEO late last week for the usual maintenance routine of the sampler located out there and found it to be non-functional. The motor had shut down. Frozen up is the better phrase. Although we can't be sure, it seems that the winds were working against us and blew snow up into the motor and it froze up (even the heat tape couldn't prevent it). Luckily, Ian worked his magic and it is working again. And with only a few choice four letter words!

So then it was time for the usual maintenance of the air sampler on the roof of the lab. Wouldn't you know it, that one broke too! This, however, was due to a broken connection which Ian also was able to repair. So we're back in the air sampling business again.

Glenn has also been continuing the photochemistry experiments. The wind has been working against us there as well. We bury our samples at known depths in the snow (to see how the chemistry changes depending on where in the snowpack the chemicals are) ... but then the wind blows away the snow and exposes previously buried samples. So Glenn plays a constant game of "bury the samples again". But, we're getting good results so far ... some really interesting things going on for sure. More on that in our upcoming Nature paper. ;) (That'll be an inside joke of sorts for our fellow chemistry geeks out there).

In our spare time we've been enjoying the sights in and around Barrow ... taking occasional trips along the coast to look for polar bears, renting movies (yesterday's rental included Envy and Hellboy), eating out in town (our favorite is Osaka - a great little Japanese place), etc. We're also very grateful for the care packages we've been receiving from friends and family.

This coming week may be a bit more eventful as we are planning to do a snow sampling transect from out on the ocean (NE of Point Barrow) and continuing down to the southern portion of the BEO (Barrow Environmental Observatory). It should cover many miles and will likely take most of a day to complete. Will have to remember to pack a lunch that day ...

No comments: