Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Collaborative research: Spatial and temporal variability of surface albedo and light absorbing chemical species in Greenland (Award# 1204145)

PI: Courville, Zoe Renee (
Phone: (603) 646.4425 
Institute/Department: Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Geophysical Sciences Division 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ANS
Program Manager: Dr. Henrietta Edmonds ( )
Discipline(s): | Cryosphere |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The collaborative team will take advantage of the currently funded Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) traveling between Thule and Summit Greenland to access a spatially diverse area of the GIS in order to better understand albedo variability and the snow properties that influence albedo. The GrIT route offers a unique opportunity to study a wide range of snow accumulation zones (i.e. the ablation zone, soaked snow zone, the percolation zone and the dry snow zone) across Greenland, which are expected to have a broad range of albedo values as well as significant variability in snow physical properties and concentrations of light absorbing compounds (i.e. dust, elemental carbon, and brown carbon). The project's field component will take place over two seasons during the spring of 2013 and 2014. The approach will include stopping along the traverse to collect coincident daily measurements of snow spectral albedo, snow physical properties (i.e. specific surface area, density), surface snow light absorption properties (i.e. wavelength dependent absorption of water soluble compounds and particulates), and the concentrations of trace elements, organic, and elemental carbon. Additionally, the temporal evolution of spectral albedo will be monitored continuously during the sunlit months using autonomous stations deployed along the traverse route to track seasonal variations of snow albedo and to help attribute these variations to the physical and chemical composition of the snow. The results of this project will yield a unique data set characterizing the temporal and spatial variability of surface albedo as well as the physical and chemical properties of Greenland snow, which are broadly useful to both modeling, ice mass balance, and remote sensing communities. Conference presentations, rapid publication of results, and most importantly close collaboration with modelers, (i.e. through work with the CESM PCWG) will ensure that this knowledge is used to improve process parameterizations in predictive global climate models. The team will also build on international collaborations begun in the Dartmouth IGERT program, including a week-long ambassadorship to Nuuk by co-PI Polashenski including lectures at the college and Katuuaq cultural center. Graduate, undergraduate, and high school student training will also be included in the project.

Logistics Summary:
Researchers on this collaborative effort between Courville (1204145, CRREL, lead), Dibb (1203876, UNH), Bergin (1203889, Duke) and Schauer (1204059, WISC) will study the chemical, physical and reflective properties of near-surface snow in northern Greenland in order to better understand the large-scale spatial variability of these properties. In 2013 and 2014, the field team will collect near-surface snow chemistry samples in combination with surface albedo and physical property measurements via a sampling transect called SAGE. The researchers proposed to leverage the existing logistical infrastructure of the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) to enable researcher access to a large area of the Greenland Ice Sheet; but when the GrIT did not conduct a traverse in 2013, the team instead launched from and returned to Summit Station. The spring 2013 work will consist of a two phase snowmachine traverse in late-April / May. For the first phase, a team of three researchers will depart Summit Station by snowmachine to lay fuel caches. The fuel cache finished, the second phase team will depart Summit in early May to conduct the science traverse. Field team members will travel on snowmachines along the transect, collecting samples, taking measurements, and installing AWS units while tent-camping in the field at night. After returning to Summit Station in early June, the team will prepare frozen samples for shipment before departing via the ANG. The samples will be flown to Kangerlussuaq for frozen storage until they are delivered, via cold-deck flight, to Scotia. Supplement 1325396 provides additional funds due to contractor operational changes. Because the over-snow traverse is cancelled in 2013, the researchers will base from Summit Station. They will establish automated weather stations and take measurements of surface albedo, snow pit chemistry, and snow physical properties on a traverse out from Summit Station, Greenland, to an area outside of Thule AFB during a 7-week deployment in the field. A three person team with three snow machines will be used to pull the gear. In 2014, the SAGE sampling transect in northwestern Greenland will cross the GrIT route on several occasions. In late March, four researchers will arrive in Thule to prepare for the traverse, which will launch about a week later. The researchers will travel in a Pisten Bully tracked vehicle with the GrIT from Thule through the transition and crevasse zones to waypoint B11D or E on the inland ice sheet. There, the team will decouple from the traverse and travel via Pisten Bully and snowmachines to NEEM. During daily excursions, team members will sample via snow machine using the Pisten Bully and tent sled as a base camp. After obtaining fuel at NEEM the researchers will rendezvous with the GrIT on two occasions along the GrIT route to obtain additional fuel, using communications and breadcrumb trackers to pinpoint the meeting locate. This method of field improvisation will allow the researchers greater flexibility. GrIT also will establish one “cache” to provide the research team with return fuel to B11. The field team will return from the ice sheet through a portion of the crevasse zone to B11 using precise waypoints that were identified and logged on the journey out from Thule. At B11 the field team will be extracted via helicopter with the majority of their samples. Any samples and personal gear that cannot fit on the helicopter will be transported back to Thule via GrIT in June. Samples will be kept in a frozen state at Thule and flown back to Scotia, NY via the 109th Air National Guard Airlift Wing (ANG). A representative of the field team will meet the inbound 109th flight and drive the samples back to their home institution. All other project cargo will be shipped to/from Thule via AMC using a CRREL Transportation Account Code (TAC). Supplement 1427609 provides additional funds in 2014 for additional gear, personnel, flights and food not originally identified in this grant. These items will be paid for through the supplement grant.

In 2013, CPS will provide Air National Guard cargo and passenger transport between NY and Summit Station, lodging at the KISS facility, Summit user days, field/camping equipment, camper sled repairs, provision of fuel, use of snowmachines and sleds. In 2014, CPS will provide passenger transport via AMC between Baltimore and Thule, user days in Thule, en-route support from the GrIT, camping, communications and safety gear, sleds, snowmachines, fuel, and a Pisten Bully. CPS will also manage the sample transport from Thule to CONUS via the 109th. The researchers will arrange and pay for all other logistics via the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2013Greenland - Courville T104 / 21 / 2013 06 / 04 / 20134
2013Greenland - Kangerlussuaq04 / 19 / 2013 06 / 08 / 20134
2013Greenland - Summit04 / 24 / 2013 06 / 06 / 20134
2014Greenland - SAGE B1104 / 28 / 2014 04 / 29 / 20144
2014Greenland - Thule03 / 27 / 2014 05 / 03 / 20144
2014Other - GrIT04 / 04 / 2014 04 / 28 / 20144

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