Friday, May 3, 2013

Preparing for snow melt….

Spring brings with it many changes for the North Slope of Alaska, longer days, rising air temperatures and, eventually, the melting of snow that has accumulated over the winter. While snow depth does not seem to be what it was last year, there will still be lots of water moving across the landscape – in and among the ice-wedge polygons – once snow melt gets underway in just a few weeks.

Because understanding the distribution of water is an important goal of the NGEE Arctic project, several teams will be in Barrow in the next few weeks to install sensors and to monitor snow melt, run-off, and water table depth at our field site on the Barrow Environmental Observatory. The first of these teams arrived this past Monday. Cathy (LANL), Anna, Sasha and Andy (all three from UAF) landed in Barrow on Monday night on the flight from Fairbanks. They were picked up by staff from our logistics provider, UMIAQ, and then taken to their offices east of town for orientation and a safety briefing with Michael and Brower. It was then off to Osaka’s for udons and bento boxes. Cathy, Anna, and the others then met up with the LBNL geophysical characterization team at midnight to move core and runoff well locations onto the DGPS unit.  The LBNL team (John, Craig, and Baptiste) have been in Barrow for a few days characterizing subsurface properties using GPR, EM, and electrical resistivity. 


 On Tuesday morning, John helped the LANL and UAF teams by laying out snow grid and shallow well positions. Anna, Sasha and Andy augered runoff wells, while Cathy picked-up Joel, Garrett and the new 2 inch diameter SIPRE corer from the airport. We have been using a standard SIPRE for several years now, but had reason to believe that a smaller diameter core would facilitate collection of some deeper permafrost samples. Coring began mid-afternoon and the new corer worked very well; punching 6 cores in a few hours. We will meet up again with the LBNL group this evening to prepare for laying out additional coring locations tomorrow.

Photo: Transition between organic-rich soil and an underlying ice wedge in a polygon trough core.

Photo: Joel and Andy pulling a 4 foot core.