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This Bird Flies South for the Winter

Peering Through Polar Ice - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 22:39
Skier 95 with IcePod visible beneath the rear window lands on the Antarctic ice. (photo R. Bell)

Skier 95 with IcePod visible beneath the rear emergency door lands on the Antarctic ice. Photo: R. Bell

Migrating south in the winter is a behavior that Antarctic scientists share with many species of birds, although the scientists fly just a bit further south. For the IcePod team, it was time to join the migration so they could test their equipment in the most challenging environment the Earth has to offer. After three “equipment shake down” trips to Greenland over the last two years, 20 hours of flight time have been set aside for flights in Antarctica, part of the final hurdle in the commissioning of the pod.

The team arrived early this month at McMurdo Base on a large C-17 to –14°F weather and beautiful clear blue sky as the plane touched down on the Pegasus Blue Ice Runway. The first few days were spent in training for everything from driving trucks in the cold to being environmentally sensitive to the Antarctic microbes to a crash course on interpreting the complex way trash is handled in Antarctica — an impressive 60 percent of everything is recycled. 

Loading the gravity meter on loan from the Kiwi for the Antarctic test flights. (Photo R. Bell)

Loading the gravity meter on loan from the Kiwi for the Antarctic test flights. Photo: R. Bell

The gear arrived soon after the team… first the gravity meter, borrowed from New Zealand, wrapped in a warm, manly pinkish quilt. With many boxes being stacked in the aircraft, the color was selected for its high visibility to assist with quick location and unloading. The IcePod and the equipment rack had paused on their trip down in Pago Pago, arriving a few days after the rest of the gear, but it was all quickly set up and humming in a bright yellow and blue rack tent next to the Willy Airfield on the Ross Ice Shelf. While waiting to fly, a GPS was installed on top of the tent, and equipment was set up to test performance. Both the GPS and the gravity meter measured the movement of the ice shelf as it shifted up and down on the tide ~ 1 meter a day. In addition to the rhythmic up/down movement, the tent, the airfield and the ice shelf are all moving northwards at 30 cm or 1 foot a day.

Scott Brown, Tej Dhakal and Winnie Chu prepare the equipment for take off. (photo R. Bell)

Scott Brown, Tej Dhakal and Winnie Chu prepare the equipment for take off. Photo: R. Bell

Finally, IcePod was cleared to fly and complete her first Antarctic survey mission installed on a Pole Tanker mission flying on Skier 95. The flight was delayed as the C-17 practiced airdrops over the South Pole runway, but as soon as the C-17 was out of the way, icePod took off and headed south.

Icepod flies over the Antarctic ice with Mt. Erebus visible in the background. (Photo R. Bell)

Icepod flies over the Antarctic ice with Mt. Erebus visible in the background. Photo: R. Bell

Low elevation data was collected on the way out to make sure the C-17 was clear. All the instruments worked in the flight across the very flat Ross Ice Shelf, then over the Transantarctic Mountains and across the spectacular East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

IcePod team at South Pole (left to right) Scott Brown, Chris Bertinato, Tej Dhakal, unidentified, Winnie Chu (photo by R. Bell)

IcePod team at South Pole (left to right) Scott Brown, Chris Bertinato, Tej Dhakal, a new Antarctic colleague, Winnie Chu. Photo: R. Bell

The low angle of the sun made the mountains, crevasses and wind scour areas stand out beautifully in the imagery. The deep radar imaged the structure of the Ross Ice Shelf even from 21,000 feet. The infra-red camera showed the variable temperature of the different types of ice in the Beardmore Glacier and the high plateau. The gravity meter that had rolled in on the speed pallet was extremely stable. At the South Pole, Skier 95 offloaded fuel while the IcePod team made a quick trip to the actual pole.

The flight was a success – data collected on an opportune flight and fuel delivered.

For more on the IcePod project: http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/res/pi/icepod/

 

Sea Ice Algae: An Arctic Food Chain Staple - LiveScience

Featured News - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:09
Photo slideshow featuring Arctic research by Lamont's Craig Aumack and Andrew Juhl.

Acid Maps Reveal Worst of Climate Change - Scientific American

Featured News - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 13:02
Coverage of new ocean acidity maps developed by Lamont's Taro Takahashi and colleagues.

Obama Honors Lamont-Doherty Director - (Rockland, N.Y) Journal News

Featured News - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:00
Lamont director Sean Solomon receives the National Medal of Science in a White House ceremony on Nov. 20.

A Planetary Fix? - Beacon Reader

Featured News - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:22
Profile of test project in Iceland co-led by Lamont-Doherty reesearchers to bury carbon emissions underground.

Antarctica's Mysterious Mountains Preserved By Ice - LiveScience

Featured News - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 17:37
Cites research led by Lamont's Tim Creyts.

40 Years of Scratching Reveals Ocean Acidification Data - Climate Central

Featured News - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 15:54
New maps developed by Lamont's Taro Takahashi and colleagues provide a measure of ocean acidification to measure future changes against.

China Climate Deal: Is It the Best We Can Get? - CNN.com

Featured News - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 08:38
The U.S.-China agreement announced last week to cut carbon emissions may not be perfect but it's an important step forward, writes Lamont's Adam Sobel in this Op-Ed.

Studying Alaska's Ice and Snow to Track Climate Change - PBS NewsHour

Featured News - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 21:04
NewsHour's Miles O'Brien follows Lamont's Craig Aumack and Andrew Juhl to Barrow, Alaska to learn how sea-ice loss is changing the food chain.

Conversations with National Medal of Science Winners - Laboratory Equipment

Featured News - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00
Lamont director Sean Solomon reflects on accomplishments from NASA's MESSENGER mission to Mercury.

Yes, It's Going to Be Freezing This Weekend. No, It's Not a 'Polar Vortex' - Village Voice

Featured News - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 11:48
Lamont's Adam Sobel explains why "polar vortex" is misleading as a buzzword for cold winter weather.

Conversations with Creative Women: Maya Tolstoy - Sandi Klein Show

Featured News - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 13:48
An extended interview with Lamont marine geophysicist Maya Tolstoy on measuring seafloor earthquakes and overcoming challenges facing women scientists.

This is Where Humans Have Made Our Oceans Most Acidic - Motherboard

Featured News - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 13:12
Coverage of new maps developed at Lamont-Doherty detailing the changing chemistry of the world's oceans in response to rising CO2 emissions.

Look What We've Done to the World's Oceans - Salon

Featured News - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 14:06
New maps developed at Lamont-Doherty paint "the most comprehensive picture yet" of human-caused ocean acidification.

A Scientist's Prophetic Warning for NYC - Guardian

Featured News - Wed, 11/05/2014 - 17:39
Lamont's Klaus Jacob on why city planners could be making things worse, not better, for future generations post-Sandy.

A MESSENGER From Mercury - Planetary Radio

Featured News - Fri, 10/31/2014 - 15:28
Lamont-Doherty director and MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon speaks with Planetary Radio as NASA's mission to Mercury enters its final phase.

Climate Change May Have Made Man Intelligent - New Historian

Featured News - Fri, 10/31/2014 - 11:00
Lamont's Peter deMenocal discusses the evidence linking climatic changes in East Africa and human evolution.

Ancestors

Geopoetry - Fri, 10/31/2014 - 09:00
These lithic artifacts were discovered at almost 4,500 meters elevation in the Peruvian Andes, at the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological site yet identified in the world. Figure by E. Cooper, in Rademaker et al. (2014) Science.

These lithic artifacts were discovered at almost 4,500 meters elevation in the Peruvian Andes, at the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological site yet identified in the world. Figure by E. Cooper, in Rademaker et al. (2014) Science.

 

We are high mountain people, hunters and artists,

Our view from this base camp is brilliant and clear.

Cold, thin air sweeps the rocky plateau;

You need a strong heart to live here.

 

Vicuña, guanaco, taruka our prey,

With razor-sharp points, upon them we close,

Then blaze up a fire, take rest, and prepare:

These creatures we skin to the toes.

 

Out of the ice age and up from the valley,

Testing the limits of body and spirit.

Descendants: a challenge before you stands tall;

Will you adapt, surmount it, or fear it?

 

Our tale has been weathered; you’re straining to see us

In smudges of smoke, in scattered remains,

Discarded tools, a wide, ancient landscape,

And one piece yet living: our blood in your veins.

 

__________________________________________________________

Further reading:

Oldest High-Altitude Human Settlement Discovered in Andes, LiveScience

Paleoindian settlement of the high-altitude Peruvian Andes, Rademaker et al. (2014) Science

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.

 

 

The Big Apple's Small Response to Hurricane Sandy - VICE News

Featured News - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 14:20
Lamont's Klaus Jacob recommends a managed retreat from the shorelines rather than expensive barriers to confront rising seas in NYC as climate warms.

Fortifying New York from Another Sandy - International Business Times

Featured News - Thu, 10/30/2014 - 08:34
Climate scientists praise New York's short-term restoration efforts but wonder if the Big Apple is adequately prepared for the coming decades. Lamont's Klaus Jacob weighs in.
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