Greenland Aquifer Expedition: If you can’t get to the field, the field will come to you

April 3rd, 2014 by Maria-Jose Viñas

By Ludovic Brucker

 Kulusuk, 31 March 2014 — When I started writing this post, my opening was: Greetings from (still) white-out and windy Kulusuk :(

Updated opening sentence: Greetings from now rainy Kulusuk :( :(

The nice thing about weather forecasts is that they change all the time, so you never get bored watching them. The bad thing about weather forecasts is that they change all the time. What we have been experiencing over the past days was bizarre. We had a storm with sustained high winds and some gusts. We then had temperatures high enough to work outside without a jacket. We also had calm periods alternating every half hour or so with sustained gusting events, so intense that it wasn’t advisable to get near the windows. Now, it is raining.

Since everything was ready for days, we sat and watched the rain.

Since everything was ready for days, we sat and watched the rain.

We spent the last couple of days patiently waiting a phone call or an email. During these days, we made sure to be able to arrive at the airport ready for a put-in flight within an hour notice, if necessary. So far, a good weather window coinciding with availability of the B-212 helicopter and its crew has not happened. We like to think that we will have a flight tomorrow morning. This might happen. As Daniel L. Reardon said: “In the long run the pessimist may be proven right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.” We are optimists, despite the weather teaching us to be realists.

In the mean time, at the hotel… there is no (liquid) water available anymore since Friday. The pipes bringing the water from a nearby lake are frozen, due to an issue with the pipes’ insulation. This sounds typical here, but usually the hotel’s water tank can get refilled with a winter water truck (please, don’t ask for details, I tried to understand but couldn’t figure this story out completely). But now the road (the only one road) is buried under more than 2 meters of drifted snow. Hence, the winter water truck cannot resupply the hotel’s water tank. We were preparing to melt snow. As Rick thoughtfully mentioned it at breakfast this morning: “if you can’t get to the field, the field will come to you” © Rick Forster. However, the hotel employees went to pick up some big jugs of water for drinking, cooking and even showering at the village! Our record is less than 2 liters used per shower. The colder the water, the less you use of it.

Getting ready for a last shower before departing.

Getting ready for a last shower before departing.

Today, we moved the rest of our cargo up at the airport, including our personal bags. We are really hoping to go to the field soon (that is tomorrow early morning). Keep your fingers crossed for us! Signed: Ludo, one of the three optimists.

South Pacific Bio-optics Cruise 2014: Tsunamis and the Open Ocean

April 2nd, 2014 by Aimee Neeley

As many of you probably heard, there was an 8.2-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Northern Chile on Tuesday night.  As with any earthquake around a coastal region or on the ocean floor, there is great concern about the formation of a tsunami.  A Tsunami is series of waves with a very large wavelength.  Think of a series of waves hitting a beach.  The distance between each wave hitting the shore is the wavelength.  Now picture a wavelength that is 100s of miles long!  Because the wavelengths are so long, the waves travel at very high speeds, around 600 miles per hour, in the deep ocean.  This is the speed at which a commercial jet plane travels!  However, the wave height (the height from the base of the wave at the water line to the top of the wave) is very small, maybe a few feet tall.  As you can imagine, a boat or ship in the open ocean wouldn’t even notice such a tiny wave.

Below is a screen shot from a CNN video report about the earthquake.  In this video you can see how the waves propagate out from the source of the earthquake out into the ocean (red arrow).

Wave propagation http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/01/world/americas/chile-earthquake/

Wave propagation
http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/01/world/americas/chile-earthquake/

The story changes, however, when the depth of the ocean decreases, such as when approaching land.  All of that energy in that fast wave gets slowed down and subsequently the height of the wave gets bigger, and sea level near shore can rise at least 50 feet!  Thankfully, our colleagues are out of harms way from tsunamis because they are in the middle of the deep, open ocean.

The ship and its inhabitants ARE, however, subject to waves that are created by storms and strong winds.  Joaquin made a video of the wave action that you can see below.  Here are  some freeze frame ‘action shots’ from the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBTORY0aalE&feature=youtu.be

Stage 1

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 3

Stage 4

Stage 4

And, lastly, I thought it would be good to show some pictures of how cold it is that far south and how challenging it can be to work outside on deck in the cold.  In this picture you can see icicles hanging off the ship during recovery of an IOP package deployment.

Water intrusion during recovery of the IOP package

Water intrusion during recovery of the IOP package

Mike and Scott are having a conversation as they wait for the IOP package to return to the surface of the ocean.  I wonder what they are talking about???

A very intense conversation ensues while waiting for the IOP package to return to the ocean surface

A very intense conversation ensues while waiting for the IOP package to return to the ocean surface

You can watch an entire IOP deployment below.

Lastly, when working so close to the continent of Antarctica, there must be a sighting of an iceberg.

Iceburg!

Iceberg!

 

 

Sources:

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/brochures/tsunami.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/01/world/americas/chile-earthquake/

Greenland Aquifer Expedition: What about a round-trip cargo flight?

April 1st, 2014 by Maria-Jose Viñas

By Ludovic Brucker

Kulusuk, 29 March 2014 — For our deployment to the field, we need two flights to bring our scientific equipment and camping gear. As mentioned in our previous post, we decided to avoid being on the ice sheet while the third storm system of the week affects the area. However, thanks to Air Greenland and its helicopter B-212′s crew, we were able to have a first cargo flight to the ice sheet on Thursday afternoon. This will allow us to be fully operational as soon the second flight brings our tents, food, more science gear, and us to the ice sheet!

Thursday morning, we went to the airport to meet with the pilot and hear his point of view about a possible cargo flight that same day. While snow-removing activities of the runway were underway, he shared with us his concern that our cargo (if left on the ice sheet with the current weather system developing offshore) may be blown away or heavily buried in snow. Since we did not have a single item fly away in Antarctica during our SEAT 2011-2012 traverse and its Christmas storm, we will make sure this does not happen in Greenland! Regarding buried items; it’s fine as long as the shovels aren’t buried themselves.

Machinery removing snow  at the Kulusuk airport. (Credit: Ludovic Brucker.)

Machinery removing snow at the Kulusuk airport. (Credit: Ludovic Brucker.)

A snow plow removes snow from the second storm of the week at the Kulusuk airport . (credit: Clément Miège.)

A snow plow removes snow from the second storm of the week at the Kulusuk airport . (credit: Clément Miège.)

In the afternoon, Clem and I took off with the cargo flight to unload it from the helo, and to build the cargo line. The sky was scattered with clouds, sometimes low, but it cleared up as we were approaching the ice sheet.

Transit from Kulusuk to our ice sheet location, near the settlement of Tinitequilâq. (Credit: Ludovic Brucker.)

Transit from Kulusuk to our ice sheet location, near the settlement of Tinitequilâq. (Credit: Ludovic Brucker.)

Approaching the ice sheet's edge with the B-212 helicopter. (Credit: Clement Miège.)

Approaching the ice sheet’s edge with the B-212 helicopter. (Credit: Clement Miège.)

Approaching the ice sheet's edge with the B-212 helicopter. (Credit: Clement Miège.)

Approaching the ice sheet’s edge with the B-212 helicopter. (Credit: Clement Miège.)

Flying over the Greenland ice sheet. (Credit: Ludovic Brucker.)

Flying over the Greenland ice sheet. (Credit: Ludovic Brucker.)

We landed in the vicinity of our temperature probe system and its Argos antenna, which has been sending temperature measurements every day for almost a year now. With the help of the helicopter’s crew, it did not take long to organize a cargo line along the dominant wind direction to minimize snow drift.

Our cargo line on the ice sheet, near the temperature probe and Argos antenna we left behind in 2013. I'm finishing up by deploying a second cargo strap across the line and through the boxes handles. (Credit: Clément Miège)

Our cargo line on the ice sheet, near the temperature probe and Argos antenna we left behind in 2013. I’m finishing up by deploying a second cargo strap across the line and through the boxes handles. (Credit: Clément Miège)

Our objective was accomplished, the cargo was on the ice sheet. Step 1: Done! Done? Well, of course not. We still had to fly back… But in spite of everyone’s effort, we were not able to fly back to Kulusuk that day. The night was coming quickly and the pilot is not allowed to fly after twilight. Thus, we landed in Tasiilaq 3 minutes after twilight on Thursday. Tasiilaq is on the other side of the bay from Kulusuk, a 15-minute helicopter ride away. Tasiilaq is the largest city on the East coast of Greenland, with about 3,000 inhabitants, and it’s home for the B-212. We landed accurately on the B-212′s kart in front of its hangar so that it could be moved inside quickly. Suddenly, Clem and I were facing a situation for which we were not prepared.

Descending to Tasiilaq. (Credit: Ludovic Brucker.)

Descending to Tasiilaq. (Credit: Ludovic Brucker.)

For a less-than-2-hour round trip to the ice sheet, Clem and I were dressed in our warmest layers, and to face a variety of eventualities (including spending an unexpected night on the ice sheet) we had packed a tent, sleeping bags, food, water, extra jackets, gloves, goggles and hats, a satellite phone, two GPS, and a beacon locator. We knew that in our cargo there was more food, a cook stove, propane and white gas; these were in case for the inbound flight. For the outbound flight, we knew that the B-212 has some safety equipment too. That was all we had. But we were facing a different situation now: we were in the largest town of East Greenland, with the perspective of a storm arriving overnight, and forecasted to last several days.

Air Greenland found us a hotel and a warm dinner. Sweet, we wouldn’t be camping on the helipad. Past the first night, we woke up with the exact same landscape as in Kulusuk. I’m serious! Through the windows we could see the same white sky, land, and horizontal snowfall. Visibility? We still don’t know for sure; neither Clem nor I could tell because we had left Kulusuk with our contact lenses on and did not carry our glasses.

Past this first reality check, we headed to breakfast (dressed in our long underwear). We had a specific topic to discuss: what were we going to do during the next hours, days, week? The ideas ranged from finding a book, a toothbrush, an Internet connection, an alternative to water for our contact lenses, learning Greenlandic, finding a boat… Three hours after breakfast, we started a hunt for a set of playing cards to play cribbage. I asked the hotel manager if we could borrow cards from the hotel, or any other game that would keep us busy a few hours, days, a week. He pointed out a souvenir store where we could buy such items. Well, despite knowing that one should take his passport to the field, we did not have money. The hotel manager had a swift idea: “That’s not a problem, you can wash dishes after lunch.” Good times! So, we registered for being the little hands in the kitchen. The next 15 minutes were funny, I was trying to explain this to Clem, and to convince him that it was no joke at all. After lunch, we would be on dish wash duty, dressed in long underwear, and without glasses.

I left for a minute to go back to the room and heard Clem running toward me: “Dress up, we are leaving! The helicopter will take off within the next hour. We must go the airport right now.” Ha, ha, funny Clem, you thought I was joking with washing the dishes, and now you feel the need to make a joke too, but I ain’t a silly fool, and it’s not April 1st yet. Well, when I saw Clem dressing up, and tightening his shoes in a hurry without wasting time to comment further on his statement, let me tell you, I quickly dressed up too! I could not risk missing that flight, if it happened.

Air Greenland was able to fly us back to Kulusuk using a French-made helicopter (an Ecureuil – an Astar helicopter) flown by an Icelandic pilot. Certainly, he was used to windy conditions, and low visibility. We were reunited with Rick for lunch in Kulusuk!

We would like to thank Air Greenland for their dedication to serving our project yesterday and today.  Working with us on a flexible schedule to get the cargo flight in yesterday was a big help. Accommodating us in Tasiilaq and getting us back to Kulusuk this morning allowed us to be ready for the next opportunity to fly to the ice sheet so we can begin our experiments. A continued good relationship with Air Greenland and their pilots is important for the success of our science. We view them as team members critically needed to move forward with a successful campaign.

Greenland Aquifer Expedition: Flying tomorrow? Opa!

March 31st, 2014 by Maria-Jose Viñas

By Clément Miège

Kulusuk, 26 March 2014 — “Opa” is a Greenlandic word for “maybe”, as we learned it this morning while talking to Danish guests at the hotel Kulusuk who have been stuck for a few days due to bad weather.

To give you a little bit of background, the southeastern part of Greenland witnesses the highest precipitation rates of the island, in conjunction with strong winds (either from the ocean or the ice sheet). Often, the weather is unpredictable, especially at this time of year. Therefore, conducting fieldwork in southeast Greenland is a gamble.

Last year, when we experience really great weather in Kulusuk the week before our field work, we did not fully realize how lucky we were to be able to go to the field as scheduled. This year, it has been a different story: we have already gone through two storm systems, and yesterday night a third storm hit us, with a lot of wind and snow. We feel like we are paying the price of last year’s fantastic weather.

That being said, this weather is good to prepare the cargo for our flights to the ice sheet. We spent a good part of Sunday getting the low-frequency radar system ready. We worked on the radar sleds, as well as on the tube that will keep the radar antenna straight when we drag the system on the snow surface.

Ludo and Clem, working on gluing the coupling made to connect the radar antenna tubes. (Credit: Rick Foster.)

Ludo and Clem, working on gluing the coupling made to connect the radar antenna tubes. (Credit: Rick Foster.)

: Ludo, fixing special bindings on the skis to attach the radar box to them (Credit: Rick Foster.)

Ludo, attaching special bindings on skis to attach the radar box to them (Credit: Rick Foster.)

On Monday, we went to the village of Kulusuk to buy some supplies (we are currently staying in a hotel that is about a 30-minute walk from the village). On our way to the village, we saw four teams of dog sleds ready to leave for Apusiaajik glacier. The dog sleds are carrying skiers and a week-worth of their base camp materials, so the skiers can enjoy the fresh snow!

A dog sled getting ready to leave. (Credit: Clément Miège.)

A dog sled getting ready to leave. (Credit: Clément Miège.)

We walked around the village to get some nice views of the ocean and the sea ice. As we were walking, Ludo made a local friend! A Greenlandic kid who was a really fun guide and gave us a tour for an hour. At some point, we realized that he was always avoiding the direction of the school!

A young Greenlandic musher, showing Ludo which way to go! (Credit: Clément Miège.)

A young Greenlandic musher, showing Ludo which way to go! (Credit: Clément Miège.)

Rick in front of the broken and refrozen sea ice. Imagine how different it is from the open ocean in the summer, with boats cruising around.  (Credit: Clément Miège.)

Rick in front of the broken and refrozen sea ice. Imagine how different it is from the open ocean in the summer, with boats cruising around. (Credit: Clément Miège.)

After that, we went to the store and got some food and a propane tank for our stove on the ice sheet. We found everything we needed and headed back to the hotel. We finished the day at the airport further organizing the science equipment.

Rick works on an extension of the ARGOS antenna mast that we already have installed in the field. (Credit: Clément Miège.)

Rick works on an extension of the ARGOS antenna mast that we already have installed in the field. (Credit: Clément Miège.)

Tuesday, Ludo and I went back to the airport warehouse and finished organizing the cargo for the helicopter flights. We’ve prepared two distinct: one consists of our camp gear, sleep kits, food, personal gear, and some science equipment. The other (which can arrive later), is composed by the rest of the science gear.

Wednesday has been different, and we thought it would be “fun” to walk you through the steps that we have gone through today in terms of decision-making:

In the morning, Thursday’s flight is still ‘opa’. We are optimist and getting ready to leave, packing personal bags and organizing the last bits of equipment.

Weather forecast, from the Danish Meteorological Institute, for today Wednesday (March 26) and Thursday (March 27). The good weather window is for Thursday.

Weather forecast, from the Danish Meteorological Institute, for today Wednesday (March 26) and Thursday (March 27). The good weather window is for Thursday.

2 pm: The weather is not improving much and we start wondering if we will still be able to leave tomorrow. According to the forecast, a break in the storm system is still possible for tomorrow, but we would need it to last for at least a couple of hours, so that we can have one or two helicopter rotations from Kulusuk to our camp on the ice sheet. Each helicopter rotation takes about 2 hours.

3:15 pm: We receive an email from our project manager, based in the US. The helicopter company (Air Greenland) advises us not to leave for the ice sheet tomorrow since an extreme storm is coming for the next days and our team will be incapacitated (meaning that we will not be able to leave the tent for four to six days). This email is worrying us further, and we do not need to be trapped in a tent on the ice sheet without being able to do any work. It is a difficult decision to make, since the weather will be good tomorrow. Moreover, if we leave, we would be able to start working as soon as the storm passed and not be risk further delays in getting to camp, since the helicopter might be needed for other important duties, like resupplying villages. We have to balance the pros and cons — put simply, we have to balance spending four to six days in a tent doing nothing but trying to stay warm vs. gaining about half a day of work, since that way we would not need to wait for our put-in flight. After an intense discussion involving our partners and the weather office, we finally decide that we will not fly tomorrow.

Left: Rick, calling with the satellite phone, using a homemade extended antenna (credit: Ludo). Right: Ludo and Rick waiting to hear back from Air Greenland about tomorrow’s flight. (Credit: Clément Miège.)

Left: Rick, calling with the satellite phone, using a homemade extended antenna (credit: Ludo). Right: Ludo and Rick waiting to hear back from Air Greenland about tomorrow’s flight. (Credit: Clément Miège.)

4 pm: Our flight for tomorrow is officially canceled.

7 pm: Even if it does not make any sense to have a passenger flight tomorrow due to this upcoming weather system, we think that it will be really valuable to have a cargo flight to drop our equipment. Hence, only one helicopter load will still need to be transported when the storm is over. We’re still working on this option.

We are not sure when we will be flying, but at least we are ready. Please keep your fingers crossed for some good weather. More updates soon, opa!

All the best from snowy Kulusuk!

South Pacific Bio-optics Cruise 2014: The First Station

March 30th, 2014 by Aimee Neeley

At approximately 60° South and 174° East the FSG members sampled their first official station of the field campaign.  The solid red line in the map below denotes the current ship track (as of March 27th).   The ship has not yet reached the P16S line that begins at 150° West (the blue circles on the map below).

p16s-cruisetrack copy

The FSG will deploy an IOP package at one station each day.  The FSG IOP package is an assemblage of instruments that collect data for temperature, salinity, depth, absorption of particles and dissolved components, and particle scattering.  The instruments are contained within a metal ‘cage’ that is lowered on a wire to a chosen depth in the water column.  The data collected by the instruments are saved to a type of hard drive located within the cage.  Before the cage can be deployed, weight must be added so that it can sink.

Adding weight to the IOP cage

Adding weight to the IOP cage

Here, the cage with all of the instruments is being lifted off the deck of the ship and lowered into the water.

Deploying the IOP package off the side of the ship

Deploying the IOP package off the side of the ship

And, sometimes, King Neptune decides to send a wave your way.  But that is why we wear our safety gear!

Scott catching a wave-It's all part of the job

Scott catching a wave-It’s all part of the job

The FSG also collects surface water samples in conjunction with the IOP package deployment.  A weighted tube is lowered over the side of the ship, and a large peristaltic pump gently transfers seawater to a large container (carboy).

Lowering tubing over the side of the ship to collect surface water

Lowering tubing over the side of the ship to collect surface water

Joaquin filling a carboy with surface water pumped off the side of the ship

Joaquin filling a carboy with surface water pumped off the side of the ship

The water is filtered and processed back in the laboratory on the ship.

Now, let’s take a moment to understand the significance and importance of hydrographic field campaigns.  Oceanic and atmospheric processes are tightly coupled.   Temperature and freshwater fluxes between the ocean and atmosphere are in control of climate variability.  A good example of this strong ocean-atmosphere relationship is El Nino Southern Oscillation or ENSO.  During an El Nino event, the temperature structure of the equatorial Pacific Ocean is disrupted.  The central equatorial Pacific Ocean becomes warmer than normal affecting tropical rainfall in Indonesia and global weather patterns. The objective of the Climate Variability and Predictability of the ocean-atmosphere system, or CLIVAR, program is to understand this dynamic coupling and model future ocean-atmosphere variability by collecting and analyzing ship-based global observations.  The International CLIVAR program is a continuation of its predecessors: the Tropical-Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA)  and the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE).  The TOGA program was formed in 1985 to study the relationship between the tropical ocean and the global atmosphere  with the ultimate goal of predicting variability on various time scales. The WOCE program began in 1990 with the objective to study global ocean circulation and its relationship to the global climate system over long time scales using global observations.  The US-CLIVAR program contributes to the international program as well as the World Climate Research Program.  You can learn more about the US-CLIVAR program here.

 

Image of global data from www.ewoce.org

Image of global data from www.ewoce.org

Notes from the Field

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