Arctic Field Projects



Project Title: Collaborative Research: Quantifying Heat/Mass Structure and Fluxes Through the Full Thickness of Greenland's Percolation Zone (Award# 1717241)

PI: Harper, Joel T (Joel@mso.umt.edu)
Phone: (406) 243.5867 
Institute/Department: U of Montana, Department of Geosciences 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ANS
Program Manager: Dr. Cynthia Suchman (csuchman@nsf.gov)
Discipline(s): | Cryosphere |

Project Web Site(s):
Data: http://nsidc.org/
Data: https://arcticdata.io/
NSF_Award_Info: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1...

Science Summary:
Much of the snow that covers the Greenland Ice Sheet experiences melting during summer months. This meltwater percolates and refreezes within the underlying snow. Over time, this altered snow, which is referred to as firn, can reach to depths of 100 meters. These changes in firn structure consequently alter the heat flow within the ice, and between the ice sheet and the atmosphere. As yet however, the full structure of the firn layer is unclear as observations have been limited to shallow depths. To address this important lack of understanding, the investigators will plan a field study focused on drilling a number of deep ice cores, with the goal of characterizing the thermal and physical properties of the deep firn ice. This information is essential to predicting ice sheet changes in volume and sea level rise. The project involves graduate and undergraduate students, an early career scientist, and includes public outreach activities. The project will test the hypothesis that the deep firn in the low elevation regions of Greenland experience densification governed by water infiltration/refreezing and thermally enhanced compaction. The project will develop a novel hot water drilling system to quickly penetrate 100 meters through the technically challenging conditions of intermixed cold and wet firn. In situ data collection will include digital temperature strings, video and core logging, and an instrumented drill stem. This work will yield a full-depth characterization of firn thickness, density, permeability, and thermal status. Moreover, drilling conducted a decade earlier in the region will permit the investigators to assess changes in firn properties over time. Ultimately, understanding meltwater retention and refreezing processes across Greenland’s accumulation area is essential for advancing prediction of ice sheet volume change, flow dynamics, and sea level change. The project will provide field and laboratory research experiences impacting a large number of undergraduate and graduate students. The project will support a newly funded young investigator, and will include outreach activities targeting the general public and middle school students in Greenland and Western Montana.

Logistics Summary:
This collaborative project between Harper (U of MT, LEAD, 1717241) and Humphrey (U of WY, 1717939) will conduct three years of fieldwork in western Greenland testing the hypothesis that the deep firn in the low elevation regions of Greenland experience densification governed by water infiltration/refreezing and thermally enhanced compaction. The project will develop a novel hot water drilling system to penetrate 100 meters through the technically challenging conditions of intermixed cold and wet firn. From 2018-2020, a field team of three to seven researchers will establish five intensive study sites along the percolation zone of the western EGIG line near Crawford Point. The project will use snowmachines to traverse along this transect, drill and instrument 2-4 deep boreholes to 100m and accompany each with 1-2 shallower 20m cores. The team will establish a base camp and then select sites to drill located 5-25 km up and down glacier from their camp. Each season will have an intensive summer campaign supported by fixed wing aircraft and in 2019 & 2020 they will have a smaller second visit in the fall that will use helicopters based from Ilulissat to access the sites. In 2019 a six-person team will put into the field via Norland Air Twin Otter at a site near Crawford Point. They will spend several weeks there in May/June working at their study sites along the percolation zone of the western EGIG line. The team will establish a basecamp and use snowmachines to traverse along a 5-25 km transect, drill and instrument two to four deep boreholes to 100 m and accompany each with one to two 20m cores. Pull-out will be accomplished via Norland Air Twin Otter. They will also have a short second visit in August that will use a helicopter based from Ilulissat to access the sites again. Also in 2019, PGC and CRREL will provide remote sensing and analysis with the goal of identifying possible crevasses along the route.

CPS will provide Air National Guard coordination for passengers and cargo between NY and Kangerlussuaq, coordination of cargo between Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat, lodging in Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat, rental van in Ilulissat, AirGL commercial tickets between Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat, fixed wing and helicopter charters, storage space in Ilulissat, snowmachines, fuel containers, fuel and field/safety equipment from NSF inventory. All other logistics will be organized and paid for by the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2018Greenland - Crawford Point05 / 18 / 2018 06 / 04 / 20186
2018Greenland - EGIG T000505 / 18 / 2018 06 / 04 / 20186
2018Greenland - Kangerlussuaq05 / 11 / 2018 06 / 12 / 20186
2019Greenland - Crawford Point05 / 18 / 2019 08 / 14 / 20197
2019Greenland - EGIG T000505 / 13 / 2019 08 / 14 / 20197
2019Greenland - Ilulissat05 / 10 / 2019 08 / 17 / 20197
2019Greenland - Kangerlussuaq05 / 10 / 2019 08 / 20 / 20197
2019Greenland - Point 66008 / 18 / 2019 08 / 19 / 20193
2020Greenland - Crawford Point7
2020Greenland - EGIG T00057
2020Greenland - Ilulissat3
2020Greenland - Kangerlussuaq7
 


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