Tuesday, November 17, 2015
It has been a great year for the NGEE Arctic team. We travelled to the Seward Peninsula in western Alaska and selected a set of southern field sites for 2016; we were reviewed by our sponsors at the Department of Energy and approved for another three years of field, laboratory, and modeling studies; and as of this week we closed down much of the field research in Barrow, Alaska.
I flew into Anchorage last Monday and enjoyed the winter scenery from my window, before making the additional 3 hour flight north to Barrow. Bryan and Alex, both from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory joined me on Tuesday. Knowing that we would have limited daylight and possible cold temperatures we allocated 5 days to disassembling the NGEE Arctic tram and transporting other instruments back to Barrow for winter storage.
The bulk of our time was spent taking down the tram which consisted of removing the instrumented cart along with 65 meters of rail and supporting posts. Because of its design the tram was quickly disassembled and, once secured on sleds, everything was transported back to storage facilities in Barrow. We did the same for instruments on the eddy covariance tower, the geophysical ERT array, and then miscellaneous bits and pieces of equipment that we have in the field. This included several solar panels that we use during the field season to trickle-charge batteries used in the micro-warming experiment.
An extra day was spent working with Bob Busey back in Fairbanks to measure data transmission rates from various locations on the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) back to computers at the Barrow Arctic Research Center (BARC). Every year we find ourselves transmitting more and more data and we want to be sure that we are being efficient in getting data from the field to investigators at our partner institutions in New York, Nebraska, and California. We will analyze transmission rates in the weeks to come and make decisions as to whether we should upgrade wireless capabilities at our field sites in the spring.
For now, 2015 comes to a close. I expect to return to Barrow in January or February and then the larger team will probably return in April or early May to reinstall the tram and other instruments. Those activities will mark the beginning of our fifth year of research in the Arctic.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Bryan Curtis (LBNL) told me earlier this week that, according to plan, the NGEE Arctic tram has performed admirably since it went operational in May, 2015. The automated cart has made hundreds of trips down the 65 meter track, once every 3 hours in fact, around the clock. During that time a suite of sensors have monitored albedo, NDVI, and multiple components of the surface energy balance as snow melted in the spring, low-lying area became inundated with water, vegetation grew throughout the summer and senesced in autumn, and then the onset of snow this winter. Throughout this time additional measurements of soil temperature and moisture, chamber-based and eddy covariance CO2 and CH4 flux, active layer thickness, geophysics, and phenology were made either along the tram or within the tram footprint. The co-location of so many high-resolution measurements, once analyzed together, should yield an unprecedented dataset to inform scaling and modeling. The NGEE Arctic team anticipates letting the tram operate for another few weeks and then disassembling the system in early November.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
The Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) is home to many research projects. In 2012, NGEE Arctic joined a distinguished list of projects being funded by multiple state and federal agencies. Now that list expands to include the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). NEON is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and is a continental-scale initiative that provides long-term infrastructure for examining ecological change over time. We have known for several years that NEON would deploy a monitoring site in Barrow (and elsewhere in Alaska) and we are finally beginning to see evidence of that deployment. Monitoring plots have been established, equipment and supplies have arrived and are being assembled in Barrow, and trail mat is being strategically placed to support scientists who will be coming and going from the field site throughout the season.
Having laid several kilometers of trail mat over the last 4 years, I was intrigued by the sled-based system that NEON personnel have devised to minimize the physical requirements of laying meter after meter of walk way. Although I have not seen it in operation, I am told that staff can connect the trail mat sections while standing up rather than bending or kneeling down to place and secure cable ties that will hold the sections together. Pretty creative…
Monday, October 19, 2015
The NGEE Arctic project is interested in the fate of active layer soils and permafrost as it potentially warms in the coming century. So far, however, few manipulative studies have experimentally controlled in situ temperatures in the tundra. Intended to address specific hypotheses, scientists working on the NGEE Arctic project from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have developed a small linear heater that once inserted into the active layer can be monitored and controlled to warm soils and permafrost to 4-5 oC above ambient. The approach was deployed at our Barrow field sites in early 2015 and evaluated throughout the season. Ori Chaffe and Bryan Curtis are busy this week monitoring system performance and conducting flux measurements. The team has a lot of data to analyze, but preliminary results look encouraging both in terms of magnitude of warming, temperature profiles with depth, and the monitored consequences of warming for CO2 and CH4 flux.
Margaret Torn, soil ecologist at LBNL will be talking about the technique and its impact of greenhouse gas emissions at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, CA.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Earlier this summer we featured a short blog on a new approach to ecosystem warming that was being developed by Keith Lewin and Alistair Rogers from Brookhaven National Laboratory. Keith and Alistair recognized the challenges of ecosystem warming experiments in the Arctic given lack of electrical power and requirements for remote operation. They designed a zero-power warming (ZPW) chamber that can, using a pair of passively activated louvers, warm air to 4 oC above ambient. One ZPW chamber and a corresponding control chamber were deployed on the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) earlier this summer and have successfully operated throughout the summer, fall, and now into the winter. I have not yet seen all the data collected on chamber performance, but Alistair and others will be here in a few days to assess performance and then disassemble chambers for the winter. If the results look encouraging the ZPW design gives us a viable option for continued testing and possible deployment of a technique that could help our NGEE Arctic team better understand growth and physiological acclimation of plants to warming temperatures. Stay tuned…