GRIS’15 Diary: Part 1

Thanks to British Society for Geomorphology, Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, Mount Everest Foundation, Andrew Croft Memorial Fund, Gilchrist Fieldwork Fund, Scottish Arctic Club and Gradconsult for supporting this field work. Thanks also to the GRIS15 field team: Ottavia Cavalli, Michael Sweet and Arwyn Edwards.

1st July:

Today was varied for team GRIS 15. Mike was attending a conference on water voles (!) while I was giving a talk on research-led teaching at the University of Derby’s annual Learning and Teaching conference. Arwyn and Otti had the worst deal, taking a slow train from Aberystwyth to Derby on the hottest July day on record. The evening, however, was pleasant all around as we chewed over our research plans, redistributed our luggage and ate a final feast in my garden. A few minor dramas were quickly resolved and a few final items added to the Mount Baggage, and we were all tucked in by 12:30!

Getting this lot to Greenland was a bit of a nightmare!
Getting this lot to Greenland was a bit of a nightmare!

2nd July 2015:

An early start today, but an excited GRIS 15 crew were awake and raring to go when the taxi pulled up outside my house at 6am. The obligatory airport tweets were sent out, then it was just a case of grabbing some food and awaiting gate opening at 10:45. We realised at 10:42 that the gate closed at 10:45, so boarding followed a sprint across the terminal. A smooth flight then a whirlwind tour of Copenhagen, including the famous Geological Survey of Denmark (GEUS) and then some dinner before some more strategizing for the second leg of the journey. Looking forward to being back in Kangerlussuaq tomorrow.

A parade in Copenhagen during our stopover!
A parade in Copenhagen during our stopover!

3rd July 2015:

As always, breakfast at the hotel in Copenhagen was spectacularly good – we shovelled some down and hot-footed it over to the airport, checked-in an eye-watering £462 worth of excess baggage and Mike and I flew to Kangerlussuaq. Arwyn and Otti stayed in Copenhagen today, and will follow on tomorrow. We went straight to KISS (Kangerlussuaq International Science Support) to check in and bumped straight into Alun Hubbard (Aberystwyth University) and Jason Box (Dark Snow Project) and their PhD student Johnny Ryan who had been gathering aerial imagery and data from UAVs. In the afternoon, I showed Mike the sights around Kangerlussuaq, including the Watson River which destroyed the bridge in Kangerlussuaq during a period of extremely high melt in summer 2012.  We did a big food shop and met up with our Air Greenland contact providing a car and generator for the next month. Then the task was to assemble and construct some field kit. Unfortunately, our budget could not stretch to a top-of-the-range albedometer for measuring surface reflectance, so I enlisted Mike’s help in building one.

The total cost of this instrument was around £200, almost all of which was accounted for by two Apogee SP-110 pyranometers. The albedometer does not give spectral reflectance values, but it can provide broad-band albedo (300-1100nm) cheaply and effectively, is very easy to use and took only an hour to construct. To use it the multimeter is set to read mV, and the upwards looking pyranometer is connected to the miltimeter using the fixed crocodile clips. The pole is then held out over the desired measurement area. Depending upon the size of the measurement area, the albedometer needs to be held at a particular height. In this study we will be measuring areas with a diameter of 1 metre, for which a height of 0.13m is required. The plumb line is therefore set to 0.13 metres and the albedometer lowered until the plumb line touches the ice. The spirit level is then used to minimise error due to tilt. Once a reading has been taken, the downwards looking pyranometer can be attached to the crocodile clips and a measurement taken. The ratio between the upwards and downwards looking readings gives a measure of surface reflectance (albedo).

Building the albedometer at KISS (ph. M Sweet)
Building the albedometer at KISS (ph. M Sweet)
And testing it out the window! (ph. M Sweet)
And testing it out the window! (ph. M Sweet)

I also whipped up some callipers and marker flags for identifying test holes at the field site while Mike cooked a tasty pasta dinner! Then, as I am prone to doing, I sat up late obsessing over the field plans.

 4th July

Independence Day! Early breakfast and off to pick up the rest of the GRIS 15 team from the airport. Arwyn and Otti arrived in good spirits and we walked them back to KISS with their bags and caught up over lunch. We spent the afternoon hiking to Lake Ferguson and observing some of the beautiful flora and fauna (and getting swarmed by the fierce mosquitos which have plagued us since we arrived). The glacial geomorphology in this region is fascinating.

A late evening view of the dramatic glacial landscape of SW Greenland (ph M Sweet)
A late evening view of the dramatic glacial landscape of SW Greenland (ph M Sweet)

We picked up our vehicle  and took it for a drive as far as the gate before Russell Glacier. Mike got his first glimpse of the ice and was suitably impressed! We are all now very excited to get onto the ice sheet and start working. I’m hopeful that by the end of tomorrow we will have gotten onto the ice sheet, established a camp and selected a suitable field site ready to start taking measurements in earnest the following day.

The calving front of a section of Greenland ice sheet near Kangerlussuaq
The calving front of a section of Greenland ice sheet near Kangerlussuaq
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