Friday, August 1, 2014

Tundra Tram – Remote Sensing of Processes and Properties

Last winter Bryan Curtis (LBNL) and others, including Keith Lewin (BNL) installed a 65-meter tram on the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO). That tram has since been making automated trips across the tundra gathering information on temperature, albedo, NDVI, and an array of spectral measurements. I worked on the tram last June and now had the opportunity to work with Bryan as he added more sensors and fine-tuned the operation of the tram. The existing sensor package is pretty impressive and the addition of new instruments should enhance our understanding of processes and properties of low- and high-centered polygons that the tram measured every 3 hours.

One of the modifications that Bryan has made in recent weeks is the ability to remove the sensor package from the tram and install it on a backpack-mounted assembly. This makes the tram highly portable. Bryan and I spent the morning today taking measurements along several long transects that cross a variety of features on the tundra including water bodies, and low-, high-, and transitional polygons.

Data from the tram are transferred back to Bryan’s colleagues at LBNL and analyzed daily. Our NGEE Arctic modelers are looking forward to using these data to assess the fine-scale heterogeneity of energy budgets across the landscape and therein, to improve their models of hydrology, permafrost thaw, and biogeochemistry. Ultimately the goal is to use this knowledge to better represent important processes in climate models.