Arctic ice is declining rapidly—a trend with enormous implications for global weather and climate. Freshwater pours into the Arctic Ocean from the ice sheets and glaciers, and sea ice over the ocean itself is declining. Ocean Channels and currents there act as a kind of switchyard, sending fresh water into the North Atlantic, and small changes here may have larger impacts on climate downstream. To understand these processes, scientists are landing in small aircraft on the floating sea ice, and drilling down to study the water and currents below. Lamont-Doherty researchers Bill Smethie, Ronny Friedrich, Dale Chayes and Richard Perry report on their work here.
Date: April 28-May 18, 2012
Team: Bill Smethie, Ronny Friedrich, Dale Chayes, Richard Perry
This video depicts the activities of the LDEO Switchyard field team, which deploys annually and uses ski-equipped aircraft to reach a series of sample sites between the North Pole and Ellesmere Island in Canada.
After landing, a hole is drilled through the ice, and the sampling system is lowered through the hole to a depth of about 700 meters. The sampling system (the thin hole rosette) which was designed and built at the Lamont-Doherty Instrument Lab, allows the LDEO field team to examine the water as the assembly descends and to collect water samples for later analysis when interesting properties are observed. This work is supported by the US National Science Foundation.
This video was shot by Switchyard team member Dan Greenspan, who is a researcher at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. Check out his blog, and his recent entry: “Traveling to the North Pole, Part 10: Eclipse, with Wolves.”
Time is flying, bringing us to our final days in Alert. We were able to recover samples from 12 stations, which is a great success and the second most successful year on record. Thanks to everyone who made it happen: Dale, Richard and Dan who went out every possible day to collect samples; Al and Jim for their support in Alert and of course our friendly Canadian colleagues..
The next two days are filled with packing and arranging the equipment and samples for their long journey home to New York. We plan to fly out of Alert on May 22 to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland but don’t know yet when the Air National Guard will pick us for the flight to New York. We hope to be home by May 25.
Alert hosted the first northernmost cancer-fighting fundraising event “Relay for Life,” an event sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society to celebrate cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost to cancer and fight back against all cancers.
The 12-hour-walk was organized by Kristy Doyle, who lost her grandfather to cancer in 2010. Participants raised a whopping $7,580 and collectively walked 900 kilometers. I admit that I feel proud for doing my small part by walking 8 kilometers.
Finally, we arrive at the Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert around noon. Our home for the next few weeks.
Arctic summer sea ice is declining rapidly: a trend with enormous implications for global weather and climate. Now in its eighth year, the multi-year Arctic Switchyard project is tracking the Arctic seascape to distinguish the effects of natural climate variability from human-induced climate change. The University of Washington is leading the project.
- A) The Canadian Forces Station, Alert
We will fly from the Canadian military base at Alert, Ellesmere Island, land on the ice by ski plane to drill holes, deploy instruments and retrieve water samples. We will measure water temperature, salt content and levels of dissolved oxygen, and a wide variety of natural and man-made substances. Our goal is to understand how much fresh water is entering the system, where it is coming from (sea ice melt, river run-off and so on) and where it exits the arctic, altering currents in the North Atlantic Ocean.
During the next few weeks we will blog from the field; Follow our work on the Arctic Switchyard project page.
May 22: The 2011 field season has been a very very successful year, in fact the most successful one we have ever had. The weather has been great, the equipment proved to be mostly reliable, the people have been great and the samples are plenty. In the month to come, we will analyze the water samples and eventually end up with a tremendous amount of very exciting data. Thanks to everyone who made this happen.
We left Alert yesterday and are on our way back home. We are stranded in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, for a couple of days until the Air National Guard can take us and our valuable freight back to the U.S.
The Switchyard Team.