Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Last of Winter

The month of May has been busy on the BEO. Scientists from LBNL worked to redeploy our eddy covariance tower and two geophysical (ERT) arrays. A small NGEE Arctic team was also busy installing a new and improved tram thanks to Bryan Curtis (LBNL) and Keith Lewin (BNL). Finally, Sina Muster (AWI), Bob Busey and Lily Cohen (IARC) were successful in deploying a 10m tower with a thermal camera near the NGEE Arctic intensive study sites.

The tram, deployed originally in 2014, surveys the thermal and spectral characteristics of the tundra every 50 cm along a 68-m transect. Sina‘s post-doc project ALERT “Changing Arctic Land Cover and Permafrost – Detection of Trend and Feedbacks“  focuses on seasonal and inter-annual changes of the land surface temperature (LST). The thermal camera on top the tower surveys an area of about 80x80 m south of the tram taking pictures every hour.  In combination, tram measurements and camera LST will deliver a great spatial data set to investigate LST dynamics in relation to surface moisture and vegetation. It will also be used to validate MODIS satellite LST for regional analysis of the North Slope.

Amidst all the science Sina and others enjoyed the native Inupiat culture. It was whaling season in Barrow and NGEE Arctic researchers were invited by UMIAQ staff to a lunch of muktuk (whale blubber) and cooked whale meat. Tasting that fatty meat gives you an idea of the energy it provides during harsh winters.

Although our teams experienced some very windy and therefore cold conditions, Sina reports that snow melt is definitely starting. Although it is only mid-May, more and more tundra grass is becoming visible as the snow disappears. Both the tram and tower were set up in time to capture snow melt and thaw and will hopefully run up until refreeze in this autumn. This way Sina, Bob, and Bryan will get the full range of surface moisture conditions which is a key variable in controlling energy and water fluxes at the site. They will be back in June to check on the tram and tower and to install several moisture sensors in the upper 5 cm of the soil at the intensive sites.

For now NGEE Arctic scientists say good-bye to Barrow and the winter and are looking forward to warm temperatures down in Fairbanks, Berkeley, and Brookhaven.
Sina, Bob, Lily, Bryan and Keith