It is summer time in Kangerlussuaq and that means that during the day the temperature is now above freezing. It is melt season which naturally occurs every summer with the changing of the season. As the temperature increases, the ice will melt and what was once all white quickly turns to brown. The areas that were once low lying and snow-covered are becoming lakes and rivers. As the ice and snow melts, it flows down the path of least resistance only to freeze again when winter comes. Today I experienced this first hand as I returned to Russell Glacier.

Russell Glacier Summer
Russell Glacier at the start of melt season. This picture was taken about a quarter mile from the terminus.
I was there exactly one week ago, and as we drove down the road to the glacier, it looked extremely different. The road itself was hard to traverse due to the ice melting, and the road becoming muddy and filled with huge puddles. Just from the four hours we were there we could see a change in the road. Driving to the glacier was much easier and drier than driving back. As the sun beat down on the road, the path became wetter, muddier, and more fun. In some areas we could go fast and splash through the puddles spraying water over the windows and sometimes into the car if we were not quick enough. The truck has windows that one has to roll up, and if not paying attention we would get wet. Driving was like being on a roller coaster ride. The road itself was wider in some parts but it also had grooves made by the truck's tires as they drove down the road. On the way back these grooves filled with water. To drive down this road a vehicle has to be equipped with four wheel drive. I could not imagine going down these roads in anything but a truck or SUV.

Road to Russell Glacier
Road to Russell Glacier at the start of the melt season. The road is starting to melt and will soon be impassible and too wet to drive on.

Just like the road, the mountainside is changing from white to brown. The glacier that we went to last week has changed greatly. Last time we went to the glacier we crossed over a frozen river. That was impossible this time, the ice would not have held the weight of the car. We walked over grass, shrubs, and dirt where last time there was ice and snow. We could not get as close to the glacier as I would have liked because it has melted. The glacier is unstable and as we watched, chunks of snow and ice fell off. The sound of the glacier was different this time too. There were still the sounds of cracking and popping as before, but louder than any other sound was the rush of water as a river was forming from the melt water. The glacier has receded because of the melt and we could see where the ice has fallen off the glacier and landed in front. The glacier itself is darker in color, what was once blue and white is now brown with dirt. As the glacier moves it is an amazing eroder, tearing up the earth below it and moving sediment and rocks along as it moves. As the glacier melts the rocks and sediments are left behind. We could see the dirt in the snow that made up the glacier.

Russell Glacier
This picture of the glacier was taken on April 23.
Russell Glacier
This picture of the glacier was taken on April 30.

I am amazed by the changes that have occurred in the span of a week. Growing up in Philadelphia I am used to seasonal changes, but seeing it here makes it seem even more dramatic. I don't know why it was so shocking to see the change from a frozen white landscape to one that is brown and starting to grow. Greenland will never be truly green, but the plants are starting to grow. There were more animals on this trip than the last one. We saw arctic hares and reindeer – on our last trip we saw no animals. I want to come back when winter starts to see everything turn white again.

Lake Area in from Of Russell Glacier
In a few more weeks this area will be a lake and no one will be able to use this path to get up to the glacier. This was taken at the beginning of melt season.

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Weather Summary
Sunny with clear blue skies
Temperature
42F
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Comments

Tyler Mox (not verified)

What is the average amount of snowfall per year in Greenland? Does it snow year round or only at certain parts of the year?

SnowLover123 (not verified)

Can you bring back some snow in a yeti? Please.

Zachary Richards (not verified)

What would happen if you were to drive a regular car down that road? Why does the snow turn from white to brown? Does the tempature affect what you are trying to accomplish? How close are you to completing what you came there for? Have the animals there affected your mission in any way?

Guest (not verified)

As these lakes and rivers start to melt and flow down, where does the melting water go? How does it affect the ice-sheet?And does this also has some effect on how glaciers flow down to the sea?

Adeena Teres

A regular car would not have made it down that road, the road was too rough. The snow picks up dirt as it moves and that is what makes it turn brown. Yes, high temperatures can interfere with the survey. Melt water can interfere with the radar. Also melt water can pool on the top of glaciers changing the height. The mission is almost done. The team will be finish mid may and there are only two base line missions left which are the highest priority missions. The animals do not affect the missions.

SnowLover123 (not verified)

Why can't you find a yeti cup in Greenland?Are they living in ancient times without yedi cups at coolers?

The Ledgend Lover (not verified)

Have you seen the abominable snowman,or yeti yet?

Josh Rosenthal (not verified)

How much warmer is it in Kangerlussuaq now that it is summer time? Did you like it better in the winter or summer? What types of plants are you seeing that are starting to grow? When did melting season officially begin? Is it not as pretty now with the ice turning brown. Was it dangerous driving down in a truck? When is the ice going to start freezing again?

Tyler Mox (not verified)

I understand that as water gets in the cracks of rock, the cracks get bigger. As glaciers melt and as the ice melts, does this have a big impact on the rocks or mountains?

Jennifer Baldacci

Just catching up with your journals, and love that we both had a "Melt" theme! But it's so pronounced, it's hard not to notice. Your photos are great.

Guest (not verified)

Glaciers are amazing eroders. As they move they wear away the rock beneath it. Water from the glaciers can also erode the rocks.

Guest (not verified)

Thanks, I'm excited the way all my pictures turned out. I not only learned about science but I am becoming a photographer too.

Adeena Teres

Where I am staying there is only one small store. No Yetis. For one week all of the eggs and chicken was sold out of the grocery store. Besides they don't need Yetis there, it's freezing.

Adeena Teres

The amount of snow in Greenland varies depending on where you are but it snows mostly in December through March.