Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Julienne Stroeve's "Ice Edge 2012" blog from Svalbard and the Arctic



August 31, 2012
Julienne attends to last minute details in her office at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado
Geographer and glaciologist Julienne Stroeve travels to the Arctic Ocean this fall to study sea ice at its lowest extent since satellites started measuring it in 1979. Stroeve is a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and studies sea ice to understand how a seasonally ice-free Arctic will impact climate in the Northern Hemisphere.
On August 26, sea ice cover in the Arctic melted to its lowest extent in the satellite record and broke the previous record low observed in 2007. NSIDC scientists predict that the Arctic could be essentially ice-free at summer’s end by the year 2030. The pronounced decline in summer Arctic sea ice over the last decade is considered a strong signal of long-term climate warming. Stroeve’s research expedition comes at the cusp of fundamental changes to the Arctic’s sea ice cover–from older ice that is hard to melt, to seasonal ice that melts more quickly.
Juelienne will be traveling from Boulder, Colorado in the United States to Tromsø, Norway. From there, she will travel by ship to the Arctic’s ice edge between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land. Julienne will be studying sea ice the following ways:
Ice Watch: From the ship’s bridge, Stroeve will survey ice conditions, including concentration, thickness, amounts of different ice types (first, multiyear, ridged, ponded), presence of biology, etc.
Ice Thickness and Snow Depth: Stroeve will drill through the ice when possible to measure ice thickness and snow depth (if any snow).
Ponds: Stroeve will be on the look out for ponds and will be noting pond characterization including pond length, width, and depth, as well as the condition of the pond bottom (solid, rotten, melted through).
Sea Surface Temperature: Stroeve will be recording skin temperature from the ship’s rail with a KT19 radiometer to look at comparisons between the skin temperature and the mixed layer temperature of the ocean.
Ice temperature: Stroeve will collect validation data for the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS).

Arrival in Tromsø

September 3, 2012
The ship wasn’t easy to spot since it was not very large.
I arrived in Tromsø around 2 p.m. I was expecting someone to meet me at the airport to bring me to the ship, but no one was there. Luckily Tromsø is a small town. Hailed a taxi and headed off towards where I thought the boat may be.  The ship wasn’t easy to spot though since it was not very large.  A quick phone call once we arrived at the port was all that was needed. When I got out of the taxi, a crew member helped me get settled in. Looks like I was the first non-crew member to arrive.  The others should arrive tomorrow, including a scientist from Cambridge University.
I got settled into my berth (#8), which I am sharing with another young woman from Holland who is here for her first time to work as a deck hand. The weather was cloudy and cool (in the 40s), a bit of a change from our unseasonably warm weather in Colorado. Tomorrow I will get my equipment up and running.  Dinner consisted of lots vegetarian options, perfect!  It’s 8 p.m. and time to try to catch up on sleep and beat this jet lag.
Location 69.67947o, 18.99595o


Stuck at port

September 4, 2012
Up at 3 a.m. – seems the usual wake time my first night in Europe. I’m sort of relieved we are still going to be at port today. September 4th was originally our departure date, but it’s been postponed until tomorrow. Part of the reason for the delay is that the helicopter has not yet arrived. Another reason is the weather. Waves larger than 4 feet mean this small ship will be tossed around quite violently. The crew keeps mentioning how sea sick most people get on the Arctic Sunrise. At the briefing today more mention was made of sea sickness – now I’m starting to get worried. I brought along the patches, I hope they work!!
Today it’s been raining on and off all day. I spent part of the day setting up the radiometer for measuring sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and making sure everything was working. So far so good! Haven’t installed it yet on the rail of the ship since the conditions during our passage will mean the instrument will be wet the entire time. I’ve been told it will take about three days to get to the ice edge. I hope at some point conditions will be better so that I can collect some SSTs.
One thing I will be doing before we are able to get physically onto the ice is making two hourly Ice Watch observations from the ship’s deck using IceWatch software from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. This will involve recording the ice concentration and type of ice types encountered. First-year ice will be determined from multiyear ice primarily on the basis of topography. I will also try to estimate the fractional areas of melt ponds (mostly frozen melt ponds), sediment laden ice and biologically rich ice. In addition to the ice observations, photographs and video taken from the ship will help to further characterize the ice conditions. After all the talk about sea sickness I’m not too psyched for the journey out to the ice, but really looking forward to getting to see it!


On our way

September 5, 2012
A helicopter lands on the deck of the Arctic Sunrise a few hours before the ship sets sail.
Woke this morning at 1 a.m. and didn’t fall back to sleep until about 4 a.m. when another crew member knocked on the door to wake my roommate for her early morning watch. Everyone goes to bed and gets up at different times on the ship as watch duties are rotated throughout the night. Though we haven’t left port yet, routine has begun.  The next knock came at 7:30 a.m., just when I was sound asleep.  Ok, so maybe it will take another day before I’m on European time. Keeping my fingers crossed. Could be tonight I’ll just pass out from the meds I’m going to take to help with the sea sickness that will likely happen as we head out into the rough waters. My last post said 4 feet swells, what I meant to say was 4 meter swells.  That’s a bit more extreme…
Everyone is now on the boat.  Met the scientist from Cambridge University, Nick Tolberg and his technician. They will be deploying some buoys to monitor wave activity in the icepack.  Nice to have another scientist on board.  We also have two journalists with us, Camila Alves from O Globo (Brazil) and John Vidal from the Guardian (U.K.).
Was able to get in a nice walk to town before the helicopter arrived at 4 p.m.  The helicopter is now secured to the boat and we’re ready to fuel up.  Keeping my fingers crossed I get a chance to fly out on the helicopter over the ice – that will make for some nice filming of the ice conditions.
Lots of anticipation for tonight’s journey.  The chef is cooking up some Thai food to celebrate.  I wonder how spicy food will go with wave motion…hmmmm…guess I’ll know soon enough.
Next posts will come via satellite phone…they will be short, but will update on ice and weather conditions when I can.

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