Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Collaborative Research: Millennial Scale Arctic Climate Change for the last 3.6 My: Scientific Drilling at Lake El’gygytgyn, NE Russia (Award# 0602471)

PI: Brigham-Grette, Julie (
Phone: (413) 545.4840 
Institute/Department: U of Massachusetts, Amherst, Department of Geosciences 
IPY Project? YES
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\EAR
Program Manager: Dr. Paul Filmer (
Discipline(s): | Education and Outreach | Geological Sciences | Meteorology and Climate\Paleoclimatology |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
During the last 6 years the sedimentary record of 12 km diameter Lake El’gygytygn, in northeastern Siberia, has become a major focus for interdisciplinary multi-national paleoclimatic research and is now considered a high-priority, world-class target for drilling by the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP). A 12.9 m long sediment core retrieved from the deepest part of the lake (170 m) in 1998 revealed a basal age of ~ 250 ka and demonstrated the sensitivity of this lacustrine environment to record high-resolution climatic change across NE Asia at millennial timescales. A 16.7 m long sediment core taken nearby in 2003 confirms the reproducibility of the record and dates to nearly 300 ka. These cores are the oldest terrestrial Arctic cores yet retrieved. Researchers aim to acquire deeper sediment cores through to bedrock beneath this impact crater lake that should yield a time-continuous record of Arctic climate evolution since the impact occurred over 3.6 My ago. Seismic measurements support a depth-velocity model of 400 m of sediments overlaying the impact breccias. Intellectual merit: The goal is to collect and interpret the longest time-continuous record of climate change in the terrestrial Arctic and compare this record with those from lower latitude marine and terrestrial sites to better understand hemispheric and global climate change. Coring objectives include 2 replicate overlapping cores of 410 m and 330 m length at 2 sites (four cores total) near the deepest part of the lake. One additional land-based core to ca. 200 m on lake sediments now overlain by frozen alluvial sediments on the lake-shore will allow better understanding of sediment supply to the lake and spatial depositional heterogeneity since the time of impact. The project addresses two of three ESH areas of special interest. Researchers intend to provide a unique Arctic record capturing the mechanisms and dynamics of glacial/interglacial and millennial-scale change over the duration of the “41 ka world” and late Cenozoic “100 ka world” for comparison with other long records from the N. Atlantic, N. Pacific, but especially the tropical oceans to evaluate and model systemic teleconnections and leads/lags relative to insolation forcing. This record will also provide insight as to whether rapid change events identified during the last glacial cycle are typical of earlier glacial periods. This core will also include sediments deposited a million years prior to the first major glaciation of the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, these records will allow the group to address questions concerning the evolution and mode of Arctic climate change via the transition from the warm middle Pliocene to the onset of major Northern Hemisphere glaciation at millennial-scale temporal resolution. Researchers of this grant plan to supply the science community with an understanding of the poorly documented regional sensitivity of the NE Asian Arctic to millennial-scale abrupt change (Heinrich and D/O scale) and interglacial warmth detected at global vs. regional scales, within the timeframe of the EPICA ice cores, long Asian loess and lake records, and comparable marine records. Climate modeling will be an important aspect of the program. Broader impacts: This work will aid in the understanding of the background of natural variations in Arctic climate such that the modern changes can be seen in that context. As this work will occur during the International Polar Year (IPY), the retrieval of a unique Arctic core will be especially timely. International sharing of research builds trust and mutual respect between our nations and individuals, but also between political bodies and institutions in Moscow and the more remote regions of Russia. This proposal will support graduate and undergraduates at 4 US institutions. A large portion of our outreach efforts will be internet-based, incorporating the latest interactive 3D GIS and terrain visualization technology, video, real-time interactions with educators in the field, all tying this project into the IPY. The grant holders will also seek the field and laboratory participation of a junior/senior high school teacher through the NSF TREC program.

Logistics Summary:
Researchers with this large, international collaboration intend to collect and analyze cores carrying the longest climate record obtained yet in the Arctic to better understand the paleoclimate record going back about 3.6 million years. Researchers plan to take the cores from the bottom of El’gygtygyn Crater Lake ("Lake E") in NE Russia, a body formed by a meteorite strike. Because the lake was never glaciated (i.e., it contains a "pure" record), researchers expect to increase their understanding of the mechanisms by which the Arctic has experienced abrupt climate change, as it did about 2.6 million years ago when it transformed from a largely temperate and forested region to an ice-covered one. They also plan to compare data from the Lake E cores with those obtained elsewhere around the planet at millennial time scales to see how Arctic climate tracks with (or differs from) climate histories elsewhere around the globe. European investigators from Russia (North-East Interdisciplinary Scientific Research Institute (NEISRI) and Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), Germany (University of Cologne), and Austria (University of Vienna) will partner with the US component: 0602471, Brigham-Grette (University of Massachusetts, LEAD), 0602308, Forman (University of Illinois at Chicago), 0602512, Nolan (University of Alaska-Fairbanks), and 0602435,Snyder (Bowling Green). DOSECC (Drilling, Observation and Sampling of the Earths Continental Crust) will lead the coring activities. The US National Lake Core Storage facility (LacCore) at the University of Minnesota will also be involved in preserving the archive half of the cores. 2007 will be a planning year. In the summer/fall of 2007, personnel will design a custom drill for the deep lake coring operations, and CPS will arrange some of the major subcontracts, for example to purchase fuel and materials, the latter of which will be shipped to Pevek (a small town on the Chukchi Sea coast in Russia from which the logistics and field activities will be staged). For 2008, the focus will be two-fold: in addition to continued positioning/planning for the major effort in 2009, a team will visit Lake E to sample permafrost. In late-October, a team of 6 - 9 scientists and drillers will assemble in Pevek and fly to the lake. They will spend about a month there taking permafrost cores next to the lake. The coring operation will be done by Chaun Mine Geological Company (CGE). The major effort will occur in 2009. In January, personnel will move the drill rig and equipment to Lake E by overland traverse and make final preparations for the field season. About mid-February, a team of about 40 (researchers, drillers, and camp staff) will arrive and begin the drilling effort. After establishing a drilling platform in the middle of the lake, the team will drill the sediment cores at 2 sites (D1 and D2), perhaps into bedrock, using the rig designed specifically for the work by DOSECC. The field season will continue until May, when the team and cores will depart. In April, a team of two from Soundprint Media will visit the camp to make audio recordings in support of an outreach grant (Rankin, 0632194). The team will also be joined by PolarTREC participant, Tim Martin (0632401TM), in March-April. In June or July, the cores will be flown to St. Petersburg, and stored until they are shipped to institutions in Germany for subsampling; the archive half of the cores will be shipped to the US for future studies. This project is affiliated with endorsed IPY projects APEX (Arctic Palaeoclimate and its Extremes) and BIPOMAC (Bipolar Climate Machinery) ; the latter of which is now adopted as a research theme for synthesis by the IBGP PAGES (International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme) with the intent to continue workshops and product development long after the IPY.

CPS will arrange/pay for subcontracts for purchase of materials and fuel, transportation to and from the site, set up and demobilization of the remote field camp, operations at the camp during the field campaigns in 2008/2009 [including permafrost drilling by Chaun Mine Geological company (CGE) in 2008], and retrograde of equipment and cores from the lake site. Drilling, Observation and Sampling of the Earths Continental Crust (DOSECC) will provide a drill rig, platform, enclosure, power, and be self sufficient at the drill sites with the exception of transport between site(s) and camp and several outhouses. They will also develop a subcontract with CGE for the permafrost drilling in 2008. DOSECC will work with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), to be determined how to coordinate the import of all drilling materials into Russia. International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) will provide downhole logging of the borehole. CGE will purchase project fuel and camp infrastructure on behalf of CPS via subcontracts. They will also traverse materials to/from the lake, provide camp staffing, and heavy equipment. Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) Potsdam will oversee the permafrost drilling and provide scientific requirements to CGE and the balance of the community. They will also provide core boxes for transport of the permafrost core. AARI will obtain all permits for the project, coordinate "letters of invitation" for foreigners, assist with the temporary import of research equipment through St. Petersburg, and coordinate the export of both the permafrost and sediment cores. LacCore will provide materials for storing and transporting the sediment cores. They will send a specialized milvan to either St. Petersburg or Germany for temporary core storage and transport. All other logistics will be arranged by the researchers and paid with grant funds.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2008Russia - Lake El'gygytgyn10 / 27 / 2008 12 / 01 / 20089
2009Russia - Lake El'gygytgyn01 / 15 / 2009 05 / 15 / 200938

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