Cathy, Kelsey, and I boarded a Barrow-bound plane in Prudhoe Bay this morning. We left Anna and Elliot to finish gathering data at sites across the oil field and back at Toolik Field Station. In Barrow, America’s northernmost city, we reunited with Ellen Hatleberg and Dima Streletskiy, along with Dr. Fritz Nelson (University of Delaware) and Marianne Okal (UNAVCO).
We were quickly acquainted with the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC), our base of operations for the next several days. There, we received a safety and logistics briefing with special emphasis paid to polar bear awareness. There have been sightings in the area over the past several days, and we were asked to report any encounters of our own immediately.
Taking heed to our hosts’ advice, we headed into the field with Fritz wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, a last resort in bear defense. As we spread out to take thaw depth measurements, we encountered several very old pieces of data collecting hardware. Fritz explained that several of the grids we would measure had been established in the 1960’s. Our measurements will be compared to those taken throughout the past several decades, creating one of the longest records of permafrost data in the country.
A new gadget was also used in today’s information gathering: LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). LIDAR works by detecting the delay in time between when a wave of light is emitted and when it is received. You’ve probably heard of RADAR (Radio Detection and Ranging), which works very similarly; RADAR simply uses sound waves where LIDAR uses light. The information LIDAR receives can paint very detailed spatial images, and is being used in our case to determine very precise ground level readings. Over time, with repeated LIDAR measurements, scientists should be able to tell what is happening to ground level from one year to the next.
Weighing in at over 400 lbs, the LIDAR equipment will not be flying with us to Atqasuk for fieldwork tomorrow. Check in tomorrow for more on life at the edge of the Arctic Ocean!
Question for Students
In class today, you began to discuss generating hypotheses. For today’s PolarLOG, I want you to jot down a hypothesis based on the following question:
What relationship do you believe exists between climate and active layer depth? (in other words, do you believe a colder/warmer climate will produce a shallower/deeper active layer, or have no relationship at all?)
As a refresher, active layer is soil that lies on top of permafrost and thaws and refreezes during the year. Permafrost is soil that stays frozen (zero degrees Celsius or colder) for two years or longer.
Weather for Barrow
Convert degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius by the following equation: C = (5/9) x (F – 32)
High: 52 degrees F
Low: 43 degrees F
Sunrise: 5:25 AM
Sunset: 11:39 PM
% Humidity: 86