Thursday, August 18, 2011

Features, features everywhere

Continuing our site selection activities, yesterday the NGEE team flew by charter plane from Nome to Barrow, flying over or stopping at: Council, Kougarok, Kotzebue, Selewik, the Brooks Range, Ivotuk, and Atqasuk. Although in the early stages of NGEE we propose to focus our field activities on the Barrow and Council 'end-member' sites, we envision that later stages of the project will include a gradient study along a transect similar to what we flew. The beauty, vastness, and remoteness of the landscape was awe inspiring.

Over and over again, we witnessed a variety of permafrost degradation features in close proximity to each other. Being able to see these features from above - and in relation to the larger scale geology, topography and river systems - allowed us to speculate about key factors and interplay of processes that control the evolution of these features. The 'uniformity of the heterogeneity' was striking, and suggests that there is a rhyme and reason to the expressions. This is encouraging, because development of a next generation landscape simulator will require an understanding of the permafrost evolution as well as its impact on climate.

Last night (after dinner, at 11 PM at 'night', when there is still plenty of light to work....), Craig Tweedie gave the team a mini-tour of several experiments in progress in the area. This morning we will meet with community leaders in Barrow and spend the rest of the day scouting for field sites and visiting the Barrow ARM site. In contrast to Nome, the weather is gloomy here. I guess that is to be expected, for the farthest northern city in the US!