Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

GrIT Snow Science

In 2008, a Polar Field Services team completed a successful overland traverse from Thule, Greenland, to Summit Station. But along the way they battled a mushy snowpack. Equipment sunk deep into the snow, sleds occasionally got stuck, progress was slow.

So this year the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) decided to take advantage of the long travel days and study the snowpack that had previously slowed their progress.

Zoe sets up "Bob's Box." All photos courtesy Robin Davies

Using methodology developed by Bob Hawley, the team measured snow compaction by drilling a hole and taking images with an infrared camera. The photos tell scientists how much the snow layers have compacted as they’ve become firn, thus helping with the very precise mass balance measurements they make for satellite ground truthing.

Assume the position: placing the infrared camera into the hole to take shots that will assess the snow’s firmness and compaction.

The team also took snow samples from pits to measure density. Samples were taken every 10 cm in a 1 meter pit.

Zoe takes snow samples.

Suffering for science: Zoe takes 10 samples at 10 cm intervals. This is the coldest job she performed on the traverse. To prevent contamination of the samples, she wore disposable plastic gloves which, unfortunately, aren't big enough to accommodate a decent pair of gloves.

The team also took measurements to detect crevasses.

Two team members fit the 200MHz antenna to the Tucker boom to collect the ice bridge data.

All of the data will be analyzed and will help the planning for next year’s GrIT. Check back soon for results.

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