Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Snow Arrives in Barrow...

Although people from the NGEE Arctic project will be coming and going from Barrow throughout the month of September, I leave today on the evening flight for Tennessee. It has been a great trip, first to the Seward Peninsula and then to the North Slope of Alaska. We woke up this morning in Barrow to fresh snow, about an inch. We often comment that “summer” is 90 days in length at this high-latitude location. A quite look back on my notes and albedo records kindly provided by our colleagues at NOAA, suggest that bare ground first appeared this year on June 5 with a snow-free landscape maybe a week later; so just short of a 90 day summer. Hard to believe that biology, at least biology aboveground in the form of vegetation must complete its life cycle in this brief period. Just imagine the challenges of a plant root growing at the permafrost boundary or microbial communities releasing nitrogen through soil organic matter decomposition in this cold, often frozen environment!

As I pack for the trip home, I would like to thank everyone who made this a successful trip. The selection of a series of Phase 2 sites on the Seward Peninsula is a significant milestone for the project, one that will facilitate our modeling objectives into the future, as will the continued science being conducted on the Barrow Environmental Observatory. I would like to thank Cara Mousa who has helped post many of the blogs during this trip. She does a great job of supporting me and the project, and a real lifesaver when I am away from the office.
Also, not too many “Pics of the Week” but here are a few for your enjoyment.  David Graham (ORNL) contributed the photo of the lemming...thanks. And yes, they do play highschool football in Barrow. The season opener pitted the Barrow Whalers against the Homer Mariners. The playing field is easily within sight of the Arctic Ocean.
Be safe, be productive, and enjoy your science! 


Monday, September 1, 2014

NGEE Arctic Scientist Links Plot Scale and Satellite Scale Measurements of Soil Moisture…

Much of what the NGEE Arctic team does is directed at gaining fundamental knowledge of processes that control the water, energy, and carbon cycles in tundra ecosystems. This means that members of the team are in the field and laboratory gathering data and sharing that information with our modeling colleagues. We also have an interest in linking our field studies to larger scale information coming from satellites in what if often referred to as scaling. That is, how do small-scale measurements made in the field relate to larger scale properties and processes estimated from remote sensing platforms?

Go Iwahana, a postdoctoral researcher at the UAF International Arctic Research Center (IARC) is especially interested in this topic and has been working this week to install a network of soil moisture probes across the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO). These probes are commercially available and, once connected to a small data logger, can record information on soil temperature and moisture for months at a time. Go plans to use data from this network to evaluate relationships between plot-scale data and that coming from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite. The intended goal of SMAP is to provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. These measurements will be used to enhance understanding of processes that link the water, energy, and carbon cycles, and to extend the capabilities of weather and climate prediction models. SMAP is a directed mission of NASA (https://smap.jpl.nasa.gov/) and is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Living in Barrow…Herman House

A few people have asked what it’s like to live in Barrow. Being the northernmost city in the United States you can guess that it is different from life in the lower 48. However, we have great logistical support from UMIAQ and as a result we typically have everything we need including vehicles and housing. Our team, especially when we have large field campaigns, is usually distributed between 3 apartments in town; two apartments along Boxer Street and the Herman House. All of these locations are close to the gas station, grocery store, etc. This week Larry, Go, David, Baohua, Ziming, and I stayed at the Herman House; a two bedroom house that sleeps 8; nine if you count the futon in the living room. The two bedrooms have bunk beds and can get a little crowded. Everyone, however, seems to find a spot and can operate pretty effectively despite the close quarters. Internet connections are slow, so it helps that people are patient. It can get a little hectic when everyone returns from the field with boots and jackets, especially after a wet day of research like yesterday, drying in various rooms throughout the house. We have a nice kitchen where we can prepare meals and even a washer and dryer. Most people are finding that thanks to these resources, research trips to Barrow can be enjoyable and everyone seems to like the comradery.