Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fair Weather in Fairbanks

After a week in Barrow, where the temperatures dipped to below zero and wind chills approached -25F, we were greeted with 50F temperatures upon our arrival in Fairbanks. Alaska is certainly a region of contrasts, especially in the spring when temperatures can vary so widely from the north to the south.

Today would be the last of our trip to Alaska and we had two goals to achieve. The first one was to pick up 300 pounds of permafrost samples at the airport and transfer them to FedEx for shipment back to ORNL. This proved to be rather straightforward exercise and within 90 minutes we had cores packed into insulated coolers. David had discussed protocols for shipping before leaving so everything went very smoothly. With any luck, the cores will arrive at ORNL before we do on Tuesday afternoon.
After a quick lunch, our second goal was to meet with Jon Holmgren, the fellow who makes the SIPRE coring device we used in Barrow. While the SIPRE performed exceedingly well and provided us with over 25 quality cores, it did suffer noticeable wear after 4 days of hard use in literally rock-hard frozen permafrost. Jon confirmed, as expected, that it would need repair if we were to use it again. He commented, however, that the number of cores we obtained in a relatively short period of time on the North Slope was impressive even if we did damage the device in the process.

Fortunately, Jon was more than willing to share experiences that he had in drilling cores and we left his shop just north of Fairbanks feeling like we had performed admirably in our first permafrost sampling trip to Barrow. We still have a lot to learn, but at least in this area of arctic science we were no longer rookies.

So, in closing, we had a productive trip to Barrow. During these trips we will collect field and laboratory data that will facilitate our ultimate goal of improved climate prediction by better understanding the surface and subsurface interactions that occur in these sensitive and globally important ecosystems. This information will, in time, be used to better represent processes that will lead to reduced uncertainty and improved model prediction of climate.

Thanks for reading our daily blogs this week, we appreciate your interest in our research. Our team would like to acknowledge logistical support from UMIAQ and financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program. Due to the hard work of many, we will return to Barrow in early- to mid-May at which time the NGEE Arctic Blog will return as well. Until then be safe...