Blog Index

Week One: Introduction

Hello! My name is Lora Koenig and I am a remote sensing glaciologist and a new hire in the Cryospheric Sciences Branch at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. My research uses satellites to monitor the ice sheets, and I am always interested in how well measurements from space compare to those taken on the ground.

My interest in ground truth data and learning more about ice sheets has lead me to spend this winter at Summit, Greenland (Latitude 72.5 N Longitude 38.5 W). Over the course of this weekly blog I will tell you about my life and science, in the middle of the Greenland Ice Sheet, in the middle of the winter. I will start with a quick introduction and explain how I ended up in the dark on an ice sheet. read more

Week Two: Getting to Summit and Goodbye Sun

Temperature: -27° C.

In this blog, I will take a few steps back in time and tell you how I arrived at Summit Camp. I left Washington D.C and flew to Copenhagen, Denmark on Oct 30, 2008. From Copenhagen I took an Air Greenland flight to Kangerlussaq, Greenland on Nov 3, 2008. Kangerlussaq used to be an American military base and hosts Greenland’s international airport. From Kangerlussaq, we all piled in a chartered Air Greenland Twin Otter airplane with skis attached and took the approximately 3 hour flight to Summit. read more

Week Three: Hello from the Summit

Hello from Summit. This week at Summit we experienced some of our first storms, three to be exact. During the storms the temperatures rose to around -20°C and the wind blows at about 30 knots with gusts up to 40 knots. When the wind blows, snow is lifted from the surface and travels through the air causing drifts around the buildings. The blowing snow also reduces visibility so we can only see about 100 meters. During these conditions we can do very little outside and for safety stay very close to the main camp buildings. read more

Week Four: What can you eat at the Summit?

Temperature: -46°C/-50°F.

We had a festive and busy week here at Summit. We had a busy science week as well as a Thanksgiving dinner to plan. I will start with our Thanksgiving dinner. Kat and I started planning the Thanksgiving menu last Monday. It was important to plan ahead for a few reasons. First most of our food here at Summit is frozen and must be defrosted. The second reason to plan ahead is we have to find the food. Find the food? Well yes, there is quite a bit of food here at Summit. The food is brought in the Summer months on large military planes called LC-130’s that are equipped with skis to land on the ice sheet. The food is frozen and stored in large snow caves underneath the Green House and beside the Big House for the winter season. read more

Week Five: Are You Cold?

Temperature: -38°C/-36°F.

One of the most common questions I get when doing field work in Greenland is: Are you cold? Well the answer, most of the time, is a resounding no. There is however one exception, my fingers often get very cold. Why am I not cold? Well mainly because we wear lots of cloths.

On a normal day when Kat and I head out to do our daily science rounds we will spend 2-3 hours outdoors. Our outdoor tasks include cleaning the science towers, collecting snow samples, measuring accumulation stakes and launching weather balloons. A normal day’s outfit includes one thin pair of thermal underwear pants, one thick layer of thermal underwear pants, two thermal underwear tops, one thin insulated jacket, a pair of insulated bibs, a down parka, two pairs... read more

Week Six: Drifting

Temperature: -37°C/-35°F.

The two most commonly used words in camp this week were snow drifts. It was another stormy week, seeing winds upward of 20 kts for 4 days. On Tuesday we recorded the highest winds since we have been here, upwards of 55 kts. As you can imagine we stayed inside for most of the day on Tuesday. When we emerged on Wednesday we found that the camp looked very different. The East winds caused very large drifts to form near the garage doors of the shop and on the tunnel entrance to the Green House. The garage doors to the shop had drifts almost as high as the roof, and drifts had buried the tunnel entrance to the Green House with a foot of snow. read more

Week Seven: Solstice Celebrations and a Temperature Experiment

Temperature: -48°C/-56°F.

Happy Solstice! We made it through the dark and today was a day of celebration at Summit. After surviving our shortest, darkest day, we eagerly await added sunlight as we move away from the solstice. Our first addition of light comes on Dec. 24 when our time in nautical twilight will increase by 2 minutes. On Dec. 15 we lost civilian twilight, when the sun is less than 6° below the horizon, and entered nautical twilight, when the sun is 6 to 12° below the horizon. We’ll regain civilian twilight on Dec. 27 and await our next sunrise Jan, 28, 2009. read more

Week Eight: ICESat Transect

Temperature: -45°C/-49°F.

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. We certainly did at Summit. Christmas morning started with a gift exchange and stockings. We figured we were one of Santa’s first stops. In the afternoon we had a nice Christmas dinner which included lobster tails, mushroom fritters, German cabbage and a chocolate cranberry tart. Yummm! In the evening, as I was walking out to the Flux facility to check on the science machines, the Northern Lights were glowing green and swirling all the way across the sky. I radioed back to camp and we enjoyed the natural Christmas light display. read more

Week Nine: The New Year and Passive Microwave Measurements

Temperature: -29°C/-22°F.

Happy New Year. The New Year brought the best weather we have seen yet at Summit Camp as well as some incredible northern lights. On New Years Day we awoke to no winds and temperature in the -20’s C. We have seen temperatures this high before but they were always accompanied by 30 kts winds. In addition to the warm temperatures we have also had spectacular northern lights each night. We often see the northern lights, usually a single wavy green streak across the sky. This week we have had 4 or more streaks waving across the entire sky and some purple colored auroras as well as the predominant green. read more

Week Ten: Our Cold Week/Answers to Some Questions

Temperature: -56°C/-69°F.

Well, as you can see from the temperatures above, we did not get the warmer temperatures we were hoping for. This week was downright cold! Previously I have blogged about the buildings in camp, but I don’t think I mentioned that in the Green House there is a screen with the current weather conditions. We usually check the temperature and wind speed before leaving the Green House and in the mornings when we walk from our rooms to the kitchen for breakfast. This morning, walking from my room to the kitchen, I noticed the temperature was -56 C with 4 kts winds. It was the third day in a row with temperatures around -50 C. read more

Week Eleven: Some Words from Brad and the NOAA Observations

Temperature: -30°C/-23°F.

Happy Birthday Brad! On Wednesday of this week we celebrated Brad’s 28th birthday with corned beef and cabbage, pasta and a triple chocolate triple layer cake (Figure 38). Brad admits it was his coldest and darkest birthday. Let it be known that even at this altitude, Brad had no trouble blowing out all his candles. Since it was Brad’s week, I thought you might want to hear a bit from him about his work here at Summit as a Mechanic before I talk about science. read more

Week Twelve: Wow, Time Flies!

Temperature: -44°C/-46°F.

Our time at Summit is flying by. We are less than two weeks from the new crew arriving for turnover on Feb 6, 2009, weather permitting. With turnover rapidly approaching our focus has changed slightly, beyond our daily, weekly and monthly science projects, our focus this week was on End Of Season (EOS) projects. One end of season task is to write an EOS report that details what we accomplished and lists problems we encountered and the solutions we found. This report passes knowledge on to the next crew. One major thing we detailed in the EOS report was how to keep inlet and outlet tubes clear of blowing snow on the buried Green House roof. read more

Week Thirteen: The Sun appears

Temperature: -47°C/-52°F.

On January 29, 2009, one day after our first sunrise, we saw the sun for the first time since November 13, 2008. We did not see the sun on January 28th because of a thick freezing fog, but on the 29th there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We watched the sun come up over the horizon and then set 1 hour and 59 minutes later. read more

Week Fourteen: Still Waiting

Temperature: -39°C/-38°F.

The Summit Camp population is still 4. We had expected the population to be 11 by now but we are still waiting for the arrival of the Twin Otter. The weather in Kangerlussaq has canceled the inbound flight for the past 3 days. Delays are not uncommon on an ice sheet, but they are always a bit hard on morale. It is especially difficult to understand the delays when we have great weather on our end, clear skies, full moon, great sunrises and sunsets. read more

Week Fifteen: On Our Way!

Well the last week, our final week, turned out to be our busiest. On Monday, February 9, the Twin Otter finally arrived on a beautiful sunny, but rather cold, -40s C/F, day. With it came Amy, the new science tech, Ken, the new camp manager, Dan, the new mechanic, Sandy and Russ, Summit Camp supervisors from Polar Field Services, and Jacques and Andy, scientists from the University of Colorado and NOAA, respectively. The plane also brought fresh milk, lettuce, bell peppers, mushrooms and care packages, which were greatly appreciated. read more