Sunday, March 29, 2009
I've made it out a couple times this week to do snow sampling. Usually this is a task that belongs to Alexis ... but she took a short hiatus from the field to travel to Boston for the NCAA basketball tournament. She must have been a good luck charm, because not only did Nova win the Sweet 16 game, but they also won the Elite 8 game against #1 Pitt. Now we're on to the Final Four!!! Alas, Alexis will be back in Barrow when that game is played, so she'll have to suffer through watching it on TV instead. Oh the trials and tribulations of a grad student. ;)
Meanwhile, I've put together photos taken during our 2008 and 2009 fieldwork ... check out the video below. You will notice at the end a dedication to Arnold Brower, Sr. Arnold was a highly regarded elder in the Barrow community here and was the oldest active whaling captain (86 years old) here as far as I understand. We got to meet him last year and talk with him about his hunting activities, his involvement in the community, his thoughts on climate change, etc. He was a fascinating man. Very sadly, he died last fall while out on a hunting trip. His snowmachine went through thin river ice and, although he was able to get out, he wasn't able to make it to shelter in time, and passed away. It was a great loss to the Barrow community. He was a great man and I feel very privileged to have had a chance (if just for a short time) to get to hear some of his stories. His son, Lewis Brower, is actually the station manager here at the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (the organization that handles the logistics of those doing fieldwork here in Barrow).
Friday, March 27, 2009
A lot of the entries are pretty similar to the ones you'll see here. But with information on multiple blogs (also check out the OASIS blog link, at right), perhaps we can better reach the masses with our harrowing tales of braving the elements and fighting off polar bears in the name of science.
Okay, yes, I realize that last bit was a HUGE exaggeration ... but didn't it sound exciting!?!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The trip out is done on a snowmachine (snowmobile to those of you down south, or ski-doo to you Canadians) over a pretty bumpy trail that was "hand carved" through the ice with ice axes. You may envision the frozen ocean as a nice flat sheet of ice, but in fact it is quite the opposite. As the sheets of ice move and bump into each other, big piles of ice form, several stories tall in some places. It really is quite a sight. Here are a few pics:
A gorgeous sunset on the Arctic Ocean ...
A view of the "rubble ice", caused by ice sheets driving in to each other, raising up the ice in big chunks, some the size of a tractor trailer ...
Me (on left) helping Sandy Steffen (Environment Canada) sample frost flowers. This was how I justified my presence on the trip. :) This flat area of ice where we are at is a refrozen lead. The ice here is about 40 cm thick, or about 16 inches thick. It doesn't sound like a lot, but 16 inches of ice can hold a LOT of weight (you could pretty safely drive a tractor trailer over ice just a few inches thick).
Me about halfway up the climb on the rubble ice ...
As I write this blog entry, the Environment Canada team is racing out to their site to bring in their equipment. The winds are shifting and the area we were at last night will probably be a new pile of rubble ice soon, or may break off entirely from the ice closer to land and drift away ... the ice sheets are moving and it would not be in the best interest of the equipment to leave it out there to either be crushed, or fall in the ocean.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
"Stunning" says People Magazine
"Two thumbs up" raves Entertainment Weekly
"Action, intrigue and pure entertainment. This movie just keeps you wanting more" mumbles Rolling Stone
Monday, March 23, 2009
See him there in the distance, at the foot of the rubble ice?
A zoom in of the bear ...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Frost flowers grow on the surface of newly formed sea ice and are very highly saline (i.e. salty). Previous measurements have shown that as these frost flowers form they can scavenge things from the atmosphere, like mercury. So we'd like to know if they can scavenge organic pollutants, like the pesticides and industrial chemicals we are measuring here. If frost flowers are good at scavenging these pollutants we expect to see very high concentrations of the chemicals, compared to other "normal" snow samples we have taken here. So Alexis went out on the sea ice (over the Arctic Ocean) yesterday and sampled four buckets of frost flowers ...
Here is Alexis (blue parka in foreground) getting ready to sample
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Otherwise, you have to sharpie your data on your arm ...
Saturday, March 14, 2009
So here's the "WHY" behind wind chill: Because of a phenomenon knows as "evaporative cooling", your skin can feel colder than the actual outside temperature. It takes heat to evaporate a liquid ... so let's say the liquid in question is the moisture on your skin. As it evaporates, it is taking heat from the surroundings, which will cool those surroundings. So as the moisture from your skin evaporates it takes with it some heat and hence cools your skin surface. Also at play is a phenomenon known as "convection", a major mode of heat transfer. There is "natural" and "forced" convection ... natural convection is just due to the diffusion of heat away from a body. Forced convection means something else is helping along that heat transfer. In the case of wind chills, the wind is helping to force the convection process. In both cases, the rate of heat loss depends on the real air temperature and the wind speed above the surface (in this case, your skin).
Stay tuned for more exciting happenings from Barrow!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Today was a somewhat productive day, although it doesn't feel much like it, as the fruits of our labor aren't readily apparent just now. We did a bit of lab cleanup, changed out a gas tank on our instrument (which required carting large gas cylinders between buildings), cleaned our snow sampling containers, and various other random tasks. I spent a better portion of the afternoon getting snow sampling containers ready for shipment to Umiat, Alaska. One of the guys working for BASC is taking a couple weeks to trek (via snowmachine) from Barrow to Umiat, almost 200 miles SE, for hunting. After a random conversation in the hallway he offered to do some snow sampling for us, which is great, as there would be no way for us to get a sample from that type of area. It is much farther inland and any samples from there will be great for comparison to what we are measuring in Barrow.
Umiat is actually not a town or village, as it has no permanent residents per se. It is a "camp" of sorts and fuel stop for aircraft operating in the area. But after a couple phone calls and emails, we managed to coordinate with a weekly charter flight from Barrow to Umiat ... today I dropped off our sampling materials and they'll be shipped down to Umiat on Monday. Then, our hunter friend (aka snow sampler) will pick up the materials when he arrives, do the snow sampling, then send them on the next charter flight back to Barrow. THEN we'll finally see the fruits of the mission, when we get to process all the snow that we hope makes it back safely.
Another interesting photo opportunity arose this afternoon. A balloon is being used at the OASIS measurement site that allows for sampling of different chemicals in the atmosphere. Very long inlet lines that connect to various instruments get tethered to the balloon, along with sampling containers that can sample at various heights. Using the balloon (and the instruments doing the measurements), scientists working here will be able to determine how the behavior and concentrations of different chemicals change with height in the atmosphere. Here is a cool picture I took, showing the balloon in the sky, around 4 pm on Saturday, with the moon.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Alexis (the body lying on the ground) relaxes while we wait for the others to finish their sampling .... AAAAHHH, Arctic Life is Good! Notice our buckets in the background ... after about an hour of sampling, these will be filled with snow.
After a couple hours outside at -15F or so ... you get a little frosty. Notice my eyelashes and the little bit of my hair that was sticking out from under my hat ...
And this is what we get when we're all done ... buckets and buckets of snow ... they get sealed up, and sit in our lab here at Barrow to melt. Then, we extract the polluants out of the melted water and ship those extracts home to Villanova to analyze. That will be how Alexis spends her summer!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Here you can see that the snow is up to almost the top of the bed of the truck parked at the end of the building.
Here is a short video of the blowing snow and wind conditions, filmed on 2-28...
But, if March came in like a lion ... maybe it will go out like a lamb???