Monday, September 26, 2011

MONDAY, September 26, 2011

This week our team travels to Barrow, Alaska. Scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge National Laboratories in California and Tennessee, respectively, are conducting research to better understand processes that form polygonal ground in tundra ecosystems. Thousands of square miles in the Arctic are covered by networks of polygons that fill with water early in the year after the snow melts. Polygons are formed by a well-developed system of ice wedges in the ground and are a striking feature of the landscape, particularly when seen from the air. This is just one of many examples where nature creates intricate designs on the earth's surface. Although a common landform in the cold regions of the world, polygons are sensitive to disturbance and warming temperatures, and scientists want to know why.

Our team will also be sharing our experiences in Barrow this week with Mrs. Roberts and her third grade class of students at Karns Elementary School in Knoxville, Tennessee. Students in Mrs. Roberts’ class are learning about ecosystems, climate, and landforms around the world and our week in Barrow will provide a good opportunity to highlight all of this, and more. We are looking forward to daily postings to this site and with sharing thoughts and pictures with students while in the Arctic.
Today (Monday) is a travel day; a long one. I leave Knoxville, travel to Chicago, Seattle, Anchorage, and then after flying for more than 16 hours and traveling almost 4100 miles, I will land in the small city of Barrow. Barrow is the northernmost city in the United States and it sits right on the Arctic Ocean. It is 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Barrow is home to 4600 residents, many of who are Native Inupiat Eskimo people. I have visited Barrow several times in the last year and like the town and people. It is, however, remote; you can only reach Barrow by airplane or boat. You cannot drive to Barrow from other cities in Alaska. So it is very different than living in Tennessee. The record low temperature for Barrow is -58 degree Fahrenheit. Because it is so far north, the sun never rises above the horizon between mid-November and mid-January. This 2-month period is known as polar night. Snow machines are the best way to get around in the winter. I will share more facts about Barrow later in the week. Wait until you hear about the Barrow High School Football Team – the Whalers!

1. Find Alaska, and then Barrow, on a map of the North American Continent. Can you determine the location of Barrow by its latitude and longitude?

2. Locate the Arctic Ocean. See if you can also find the Arctic Circle on the map or better yet, a globe of the Earth. Compare it to the Equator.