Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

Am I the Walrus?

Through Ed Stockard’s Viewfinder

Walrus 2 July 30 09 Ed StockardHere, perhaps, is a walrus hide in close-up, the skin rough as sandpaper, mottled with scars from hard-fought battles.

walrus

Source: http://www.walrus.org.uk/

Actually, the top photo, taken by Ed Stockard from a C-130 flight deck a few days ago, depicts the scarred edge of Greenland’s ice sheet near Kangerlussuaq, the logistics hub of the National Science Foundation’s arctic research program.  The ice scrapes along the bedrock as it scooches toward the coast, tumbled and darkened by sediment from the earth below.  “This is August gnarly,” Ed writes about the particularly chewed-up appearance of the ice edge. Here’s the full shot:

Ice Edge 2 July 30 09 Ed Stockard

And another:

Ice Edge July 30 09 Ed Stockard

Further out on the ice sheet, the crevasses pictured above smooth out. Then come the summer pools of melted ice.  Ed sent a photo of some he saw about 10 minutes into his flight:

Blue pool jewels, Greenland's ice sheet treasure.

Jewel-blue melt-water pools on Greenland's ice sheet can form over the course of a few sunny days.

Sarah Das (Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute) has led an NSF-funded study of these melt pools for several years.  What is the process by which these pools drain, where does the water go, and what is the impact (if any) of that drainage on the coastward slide of the ice sheet? Having instrumented and studied data from several of these lakes for a few years, Das last year published some results from her work that explained the plumbing of the ice sheet. Those results, which suggest that melt-pool water makes its way to the bottom of the ice sheet, greasing the sliding mechanism and thus hastening the slippage, made–well, a splash in the media.

We liked the multimedia treatment by WHOI’s Oceanus magazine published last March.

A team is in Greenland this week servicing the melt pool research instruments.