Thursday, June 13, 2013

Going, going, but not quite gone…

The snowpack on the tundra diminished quickly from May 29th through June 1st with temperatures soaring into the 40s. Nearly complete snowpack coverage on the 29th turned to slush by mid-day on the 31st and was mostly standing water except in a few troughs, by June 1st. The major drainages were flowing, and we were able to collect discharge data at areas A, B and C at NGEE intensive site 1, as well as the old biocomplexity experiment weir. Even on the warmest day with water everywhere, the low topographic gradient of the site led to very low flow velocities in that were a challenge to measure.
Then it got very cold again. On June 2nd temperatures dropped overnight and the watery landscape froze. Throughout the day the ice in troughs and polygons got progressively thicker and runoff in the troughs stopped. Unfortunately, this also meant that our new water level transducers were in danger of freezing and breaking, so we mounted a midnight transducer rescue mission which involved camp stoves, hot plates, boiling water and funnels. Cathy boiled water, Andy Chamberlain (UAF student) drilled 1.5inch holes in the side of the wells at the level of the newly formed ice, and Marvin funneled hot water onto the ice plug in the well to extricate the transducer. It worked! We were able to raise nearly all of the transducers out of harm’s way.

Below freezing temperatures are due to persist until the weekend when runoff is expected to start up again. Today we are working on data, instrument configuration and performing inventories of materials required for upcoming hydro-geochemistry and ET partitioning campaigns. We are also resting our legs and backs from packing into and out of the BEO and walking around the NGEE site through deep snow, slush and ice for the past week. We are looking forward to getting out of the 20’s and back into the 40s later this week.