Monday, July 21, 2014

Scientists Come and Go from Barrow...

Summer, if there is one in Barrow, is marked by the coming and going of researchers. A constant flux of scientists who spend weeks at a time studying the landscapes, plants, and animals in and around this Inupiat community 330 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Today I join that long procession of scientists as I depart Knoxville for the North Slope of Alaska. It will be a long trip taking 16 hours and covering 4600 miles as I make my way to Chicago, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, and eventually Barrow. Hopefully my travels will be uneventful, although NGEE Arctic scientists have experienced delays in recent weeks largely due to fog along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. This made landing difficult and a few of our colleagues spent several days in Anchorage earlier in the month waiting for conditions to improve. They finally made it to Barrow and many are there now conducting various measurements in support of the project.
Conditions this year for field measurements have not been ideal. It has been unusually cold and wet. Air temperatures have been restricted to the 30's with just a handful of days warming into the 40's. It snowed as recently as last week. It has also been rainy, with this being the wettest summer by far in our four years working in Barrow. None of this seems to slow down our researchers, however, as they have been actively working in the field since May measuring snowmelt and water table depths; geophysics; fluxes of energy, CO2, and CH4; components of soil evaporation and transpiration; spectral reflectance of vegetation; and leaf gas exchange. It has been a busy year!

I'll provide daily updates for the next 10 days as our project scientists undertake various research activities at our field sites on the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO). To the extent possible I'll do my best to relate those to the objectives of the NGEE Arctic project and to our goal of improving climate models.
You can expect to hear more from me once I get to Barrow and join my colleagues...