Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Nothing Stands Between Me and Barrow Except Time…

My trips to Alaska are normally uneventful with nothing but time usually standing between me and my final destination of Barrow. That was not to be the case on this trip as I had problems almost right from the beginning. Flight delays caused me to miss my connections in Chicago, which made my arrival into Anchorage too late to catch my flight to Barrow. That resulted in an unexpected night stay in Anchorage and then an early morning flight to the North Slope via Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, and finally Barrow.

The good news is that I was working in the field with Cathy, Go, Andy, and Tristan by noon. When I arrived at our sites on the BEO, Cathy and Go were tracing a network of troughs across the tundra. These will be the preferential paths for lateral flow of water once snowmelt occurs.

I also had the opportunity to quickly look into the newly-built tram system that was installed just last month by Bryan, Keith, and Paul. These three did an excellent job of getting the tram bases and support rails constructed prior to snowmelt, and the instrument package initially tested. The sensors will all be used to gather data on energy balance along the 60-m transect and other periodic measurements will be collected to evaluate carbon cycle processes and soil moisture patterns throughout the season. There are already patches of vegetation along the transect, so these changes should be increasingly captured by our measurements. Our modelers expressed an interest in the spatial and temporal data for the design and evaluation of their fine-scale models. It should be interesting to track insights that come from this system in the coming months.

Tomorrow Cathy, Go, Andy, Tristan, and I will continue to prepare for the pending snowmelt. It is lagging behind what we have seen the last two years and our hydrologists are anxious to see flowing water. Area temperatures are forecast to be warmer in the next few days, so we will see if this translates into marked changes in snow characteristics and snowmelt.