Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Collaborative Research: Resolving centennial- to millennial-scale trends in glacier extent and lake sedimentation in the Brooks Range, Arctic Alaska (Award# 1107854)

PI: Briner, Jason P (
Phone: (716) 645.4326 
Institute/Department: U at Buffalo, Department of Geology 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ANS
Program Manager: Dr. Henrietta Edmonds ( )
Discipline(s): | Geological Sciences\Climate Change | Geological Sciences\Paleolimnology |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The goal of this collaborative project is to reconstruct late Quaternary climate and glacier change in Arctic Alaska, one of few regions in the Arctic where mountain glaciers have left physical records of their former extent, making them valuable for comparing the timing and extent of mountain glacier variability between the lower latitudes and the Arctic. Several features of the climate and glacier history of the Brooks Range contrast with those from the North Atlantic region (which is often taken to represent the entire Northern Hemisphere in records of climate change) and currently available evidence indicates that the history of the Brooks Range more closely resembles glacier records from the southern Hemisphere. The investigators will develop records of climate change from lake sediments and records of glacier fluctuations using proglacial lake sediments and beryllium-10 dating of glacial features to address questions centered around four intervals of pronounced global change: (1) Last Glacial Maximum: Did glaciers retreat and temperatures increase in Arctic Alaska during the global LGM, as has been simulated by climate models? (2) Deglaciation: To what extent did climate change in Arctic Alaska coincide with North Atlantic climate fluctuations during deglaciation? (3) Holocene Glaciation: What was the extent of glaciers during (a) the Holocene thermal maximum, and (b) Neoglaciation? (4) Little Ice Age: Was it wetter or drier in the Brooks Range? The research will take place in suitable valleys (floatplane accessible valley with extant glaciers) in the north­central Brooks Range. The project has several educational components, including support of four graduate students and several undergraduate students and visits to the community of Anaktuvuk Pass to deliver presentations on climate research and the Brooks Range. The research aims to produce well-dated and quantitative records of glacier and climate variability in the northernmost glaciated region of the U.S.

Logistics Summary:
Investigators working on this collaboration between Briner (1107854, SUNY, Lead), Kaufman (1107662, NAU), D’Andrea (1107885, Columbia), and Retelle (1107647, Bates) will reconstruct past glacier changes in the northern Brooks Range, changes spanning from the last glacial maximum (~30-20 thousand years ago) through the 20th century. These reconstructions stem from analyzing lake sediment sequences collected from range-front and alpine lakes, and from rock samples collected from bedrock and moraine boulders. The target areas include the Kurupa Valley and a second target valley near Atigun Pass. Field teams will conduct research during summer 2012, and spring and fall 2013. In 2012, after assembling in Fairbanks in early July, the team will split into two groups: the lake team and the mountain team. While the lake team flies to Bettles via chartered fixed-wing plane and then positions at two lake sites (Cascade and Kurupa) for field work at each site, the mountain team will drive to Toolik Field Station and use the helicopter to move to two sampling sites. The two teams will rendezvous at Shanin Lake about nine days later. When field work at that location is completed, the lake team will depart via chartered plane, return to Bettles, and travel homeward. The mountain team will finish up sampling with a TFS helicopter-supported put-in to a third camp site. This work completed, the mountain team will return to Toolik via helicopter, drive back to Fairbanks via truck, and depart. In April, 2013, four researchers will revisit project lakes via ski-equipped plane. They will spend about 11 days camping and collecting long sediment cores; they also will deploy a sediment trap. The team will assemble in Fairbanks, collect/test/pack required gear in a CPS truck, and drive the Haul Road to Coldfoot. They will base there and use aircraft support for lake visits. When the work is finished, they will fly back to Coldfoot, retrieve the truck, and drive back down the Haul Road to Fairbanks for onward travel. In the fall, the team will return to Shainin Lake to retrieve sampling equipment.

CPS will provide fixed wing and helicopter support, vehicle rental, Toolik and Coldfoot user days, camping and safety equipment, one boat/outboard, and support for Anaktuvuk Pass outreach work. IAB will provide access to infrastructure and services at Toolik Field Station. The PIs will arrange/pay for all other logistics from the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2012Alaska - Bettles07 / 09 / 2012 07 / 23 / 20123
2012Alaska - Cascade Lake07 / 09 / 2012 07 / 23 / 20123
2012Alaska - Kurupa Lake07 / 09 / 2012 07 / 23 / 20123
2012Alaska - Shainin Lake07 / 09 / 2012 07 / 23 / 20123
2012Alaska - Toolik07 / 09 / 2012 07 / 25 / 20123
2013Alaska - Cascade Lake04 / 30 / 2013 05 / 06 / 20136
2013Alaska - Coldfoot04 / 23 / 2013 05 / 06 / 20136
2013Alaska - Shainin Lake04 / 24 / 2013 08 / 24 / 20136
2013Alaska - Toolik08 / 17 / 2013 08 / 25 / 20136

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