Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

Update from Ilulissat

Ilulissat Greenland, July 2007. Photo: Ed Stockard http://www.flickr.com/photos/coastaleddy/

Greenland staffers Kathy Young and Susan Zager spent a few days in Ilulissat recently, helping groups of scientists working in the area, taking inventory, sorting and resupplying gear stored in town for field parties, and making new contacts with local services providers. Ilulissat is the jumping off point on the island for those wishing to study Jakobshavn Glacier, perhaps the fastest-flowing stream of ice in the northern hemisphere.

(As has been reported extensively, NASA announced earlier this month that the Jakobshavn dumped a huge chunk of ice–some 2.7 sq miles–into the fjord that launches icebergs into the north Atlantic. While a calving event such as this has happened before, the news made a–ahem–splash with the science community for two reasons: a warm winter prevented the growth of significant sea ice, which may have contributed to the destabilization of the front, potentially adding evidence to the hypothesis that warming ocean temperatures are contributing to glacier movement increases; and this event was witnessed in real time by scientists, thanks to new remote sensing technologies.)

The pair assisted Sarah Das (Woods Hole), Ian Joughin and team as they worked on the ice sheet. Das has been studying meltwater lakes for years. She investigates how drainage processes of these lakes may impact the ice sheets’ slides toward the sea. Most recently, her team had a 10-day, helicopter-supported research camping gig at two lakes.

The Das team studies meltwater lakes such as these. Photo: Ed Stockard

Kathy reports that they also found some good resources in town–places to recharge batteries, purchase special fuel, a place to work indoors in inclement weather. “We made good contacts with the folks at Air Greenland cargo,” Kathy said. “They were really helpful.”

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