Summit Station Science Summit


Arlington, VA, 28–29 March 2017

The Summit Station Science Summit (or the “Summit Summit”) was supported and hosted by the National Science Foundation.  At this meeting a multidisciplinary group of scientists reviewed Summit Station science, defined the leading research questions for Summit, and made community-based recommendations on future science goals and science-enabling future scenarios and governance for Summit.

Summit Station, in the center of the Greenland ice sheet is a vibrant interdisciplinary research hub that has served as a crucial component of the Arctic observing system for nearly three decades.  The scientific yields from this unique and important site are numerous and ongoing, but the operation of remote stations is resource intensive, requiring strategic planning and scientific vision to remain at the cutting edge of scientific research.

A report highlighting the findings and recommendations is available: Summit-Summit-Report.


Summit Users Group Meeting Fall AGU San Francisco

Dear Summit Station Research Community,

You are invited to a Summit Station users group meeting Weds, Dec. 16 in the ARCUS meeting room complex (Foothill D room) from 8:30-9:30am.

We will discuss updates for the Greenland telescope, the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT), and incorporation of Summit into INTERACT, a planned external review of logistical support for Greenland science, and logistical needs for science support for 5-10 years out. We are hoping to leave ample time for discussion and questions.


Thanks, Zoe Courville, Jack Dibb, John Burkhart and Bob Hawley (SCO)

Summit-Isi Station Vision

Design for the future of Summit-Isi. Artist’s rendering of the design for the Atmospheric Watch Observatory (AWO), for use at the Summit Observatory. The energy efficient, aerodynamic design maximizes flexibility to suit the ever-changing needs of scientific research. Features include hydraulic, jackable legs to minimizing snow drifting and accumulation, highly insulated glass fiber cladding and integrated photovoltaic arrays.

Design for the future of Summit-Isi. Artist’s rendering of the design for the Atmospheric Watch Observatory (AWO), for use at the Summit Observatory. The energy efficient, aerodynamic design maximizes flexibility to suit the ever-changing needs of scientific research. Features include hydraulic, jackable legs to minimizing snow drifting and accumulation, highly insulated glass fiber cladding and integrated photovoltaic arrays.

Over the coming decades, Summit-Isi Station provides a unique capability to measure, monitor, and understand global climate change. Summit-Isi is the only high altitude, high latitude, inland, year-round monitoring station in the Arctic. Summit-Isi is also a prime site for astronomy and astrophysics observations due to its high altitude, dry and stable atmosphere, and relative ease of access with respect to other polar locations. Summit-Isi provides access to northern hemisphere viewing angles for astonomy observations, as well as long baselines to other sub-millimeter telescope arrays across the globe, important for interferometry measurements. Summit-Isi offers immediate access to the free troposphere and is relatively free of local influences that could corrupt climate records. As such, it is ideally suited for studies aimed at identifying and understanding long-range, intercontinental transport and its influences on the ice sheet surface, boundary layer, and overlying atmosphere. The pristine and remote location in a year-round dry snow and ice region provides an optimal facility for radiation measurements and remote sensing validation studies.  Read More: Summit-Isi_Vision

Summit Users Meeting at Fall AGU in San Francisco

Dear Colleagues,

The Science Coordination Office for Summit Station will host an open
meeting of Summit Station users at the Fall AGU meeting in San

Date and Time: Thursday, December 18, 2014, 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Location: Foothill D on the 2nd floor of the San Francisco Marriott
Marquis (55 4th Street)

At the meeting, we will present a brief overview of recent Summit
Station long range planning developments and have an open discussion
and question session.

Hope to see many of you there.

Meeting information:

Summit-Isi Newsletter Autumn 2014

The Summit-Isi Summer 2014 closed a few months ago, and the winter-over crew has now settled in. It’s perhaps a most quiet time at Summit, but a most-active period for the researchers working at the station. It’s time to provide some news on station developments and a review of the summer season activities.

Important Upcoming Dates

Note your calendars… AGU is approaching rapidly. The Science Coordination Office is awaiting confirmation from ARCUS as to whether we’ll have a room for a community meeting. We still haven’t heard, but know that several members of the SCO (John, Jack, and Zoe) will be at AGU this year. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding updates and activities at Summit.

The GEOSummit 2015 meeting will be held in coordination with NOAA’s Global Monitoring Annual Conference in Boulder, Colorado. The exact dates are not set, but we will be sending out an announcement soon.

Summit Station GIS

The Science Coordination Office released a first version of the Summit GIS. The intent of the GIS system is to gather information on activities at Summit both for the purposes of data discovery, but also to keep a record of snow disturbance at the station. All projects conducting work at the station will from hereon be required to work with the station techs to provide coordination information on where activities have taken place. This information includes the location of snow pits, boreholes, snow mobile tracks, and any other disturbance to the snow pack that could impact future observations. We are also working to gather historic information, and have started to put this into the GIS. Researchers are strongly encouraged to submit locations (ideally with Metadata) to the SCO (email directly to John).

Research Highlights of Summer 2014

An early challenge to the season occurred as a result of mechanical challenges to the C-130 Fleet of the New York Air National Guard 109th Division. Researchers working in Greenland received the following email just as the season was about to kick off:

Dear Greenland Researchers:
The LC-130’s NSF uses to support operations in Greenland are experiencing a fleet-wide mechanical issue. The flight period planned for April 22-May 2 is postponed until further notice. NSF is exploring options for continuing science operations in Greenland while the aircraft are repaired. The 109th Airlift Wing is exploring options to make some aircraft available for missions to Greenland starting in May.
The bleed air lines, which are responsible for moving air away from the engine to heat the aircraft and for other purposes, may have corrosion that could cause significant issues in flight. Each aircraft needs to be inspected. Replacement parts are in limited supply given the number of C-130 aircraft nationwide that potentially need replacement bleed air lines and replacement seals and other parts for re-sealing the engine following inspection or repair.
We are looking at options for supporting the planned science. Science has already been delayed but no projects have been cancelled so far. We expect the next update to be Wednesday April 30th, based on planned repairs and test flights by the 109th. Your project manager at CPS will have the best information about the revised Greenland flight schedule, but please understand that no new information is expected until Wednesday April 30th.
Renee Crain & Pat Haggerty
Arctic Research Support & Logistics Program Managers
However, after some delays, the season kicked-off and the research teams all expressed great gratitude for the helpful and resourceful station staff that enabled them to catch-up once reaching Summit.
One of the largest activities at Summit Station this summer was not actually for Arctic research, but rather to support research in Antarctica. If you follow polar research, you are aware of the immense logistical challenges with research in these regions. The above demonstrates just one type of challenge researchers face. In 2013, US researchers faced another kind of challenge: political, as the government shutdown led to many activities in Antarctica simply being shut down or severely delayed. One tremendous advantage of working in Greenland for polar researchers in need of a natural laboratory, is the feasibility of access. Despite the station being remote, it’s easier to access than Antarctica and takes far less of a commitment in travel time to reach. (There’s more of a discussion of the challenges this presents in it’s own to research at the station below). For this reason, the Ice Drilling Project Office (IDPO) and Ice Drilling Design Office (IDDO) requested access to Summit to test their new Intermediate Depth drill. The season was ambitious, but despite the challenges presented by the shortened season resulting from the C-130 delays, the team had great success. There is more information on their season here.
The team from the Rochester Ice Lab, led by Vas Petrenko had a successful season at Summit as well, also working with ice cores, and thankfully having a good collaboration with the IDPO team, as they had several challenges of their own. To borrow directly from their lab’s blog about the season: “Let us briefly sum up the work accomplished between May 16th to June 25th: (1) a successful testing of the Blue Ice Drill Deep mode up to 187m deep – from this test we managed to obtain four boxes worth of ice specimen for carbon monoxide isotope and position dependent nitrous oxide isotope measurements, (2) a successful collection of four air extractions from firn ice with the big ice melter, (3) successful collection of four procedural blanks from the big ice melter – two wet water blanks, one dry inject – recirculate blank and one hot dry blank. During this period we drilled a total of 687.77 fathoms (1 meter = 0.547 fathom) worth of ice cores from 58 holes.”

In addition to the ice drilling research, the prevalence of atmospheric research at Summit was significant. Louisa Kramer returned to Summit in 2014 to provide maintenance for her operations as part of the Arctic Observing Network Project – Long Term Measurements of Nitrogen Oxides at the GEOSummit Station, Greenland.

The group from INSTAAR led by Detlev Helmig was at Summit to assure their ongoing continuous measurement program is prepared for another year of successful operation. This study contributes to the Arctic Observing Network (AON) collecting four years of continuous measurements of atmospheric methane, and non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC: ethane, ethyne, propane, iso-butane, n-butane, iso-pentane, n-pentane, benzene, toluene). The methane and NMHC monitoring will make a pivotal contribution to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) program, as it will provide the only high time resolution in-situ NMHC site in the Arctic.
A program that Summit Station is closely involved with is the  Joint Science Education Project (JSEP). This summer science and culture opportunity between the United States, Denmark, and Greenland provides students and opportunity to come together to learn about research conducted in Greenland and the logistics involved in supporting the research. They conduct experiments first-hand and participate in inquiry-based educational activities. In July, the JSEP group spent a week working at Summit. During the time there, the students were exposed to a number of different scientific research activities, and given the opportunity to have first-hand experience with polar research and firn-snow processes. The trip to the summit was the highlight and finale of their time in Greenland, which you can read about here.
A few other activities related to the research programs were going on this summer as well. David Noone’s isotope hydrology instrumentation was pulled out now that his project has come to a completion. Bob Hawley made a quick visit during his summer season to measure strain rates and the techs continue to work making measurements for the long term observatory program. And the ICECAPS program continues to be a center piece of activity.
All in all, despite being a short season resulting from the early delays due to the mechanical issues with the NYANG Fleet, this summer was yet another highly productive season for science at Summit.

Construction Updates

Station improvements included upgraded ventilation at TAWO and a new air handler for the Mobile Science Facility. Safety on roofs was put in place to decrease fall hazards and a new ‘caboose’ arrived construction crew berthing. One of the major projects was the completion of the hydronics system on the Mobile Science Facility (smobile).

Despite that during the summer there were no major station upgrades, the station continues to be preparing for the potential significant build up of activity as a result of the arrival of the Greenland Telescope (GLT).

Summit has also been getting in the news as a result of the project. It presents a challenge due to the conflict of interest between astronomers and climate researchers. Both see Summit as an ideal environment for conducting research — and even for similar reasons (pristine, dry, and logistically feasible for the uniqueness of the location). However, the attractive nature of the station can cause challenges. One of the greatest challenges for the Science Coordination Office is to ensure ‘intelligent’ growth of the facility that maintains the pristine nature, and assures that pollution impacts from local operations are negligible. This is not always easy, as logistic demands increase. This challenge was recently addressed in an article in Nature and in The Arctic Journal.


Summit-Isi Station Development Update

Design for the future of Summit-Isi.  Artist’s rendering of the design for the Atmospheric Watch Observatory (AWO), for use at the Summit Observatory.  The energy efficient, aerodynamic design maximizes flexibility to suit the ever-changing needs of scientific research. Features include hydraulic, jackable legs to minimizing snow drifting and accumulation, highly insulated glass fiber cladding and integrated photovoltaic arrays.

Design for the future of Summit-Isi. Artist’s rendering of the design for the Atmospheric Watch Observatory (AWO), for use at the Summit Observatory. The energy efficient, aerodynamic design maximizes flexibility to suit the ever-changing needs of scientific research. Features include hydraulic, jackable legs to minimizing snow drifting and accumulation, highly insulated glass fiber cladding and integrated photovoltaic arrays.

Over the coming decades, Summit-Isi Station provides a unique capability to measure, monitor, and understand global climate change. Summit-Isi is the only high altitude, high latitude, inland, year-round monitoring station in the Arctic. Summit-Isi offers immediate access to the free troposphere and is relatively free of local influences that could corrupt climate records. As such, it is ideally suited for studies aimed at identifying and understanding long-range, intercontinental transport and its influences on the ice sheet surface, boundary layer, and overlying atmosphere. The pristine and remote location in a year-round dry snow and ice region provides an optimal facility for radiation measurements and remote sensing validation studies. Now, recent pilot studies are highlighting the value of Summit-Isi as a prime site for astronomy and astrophysics observations due to its high altitude, dry and stable atmosphere, and relative ease of access with respect to other polar locations.

The location of Summit-Isi at the drill site of the high resolution GISP2 ice core, drilled to bedrock in 1993, and the ongoing atmospheric and meteorological monitoring initiated in 1989, provides a baseline extending back 140,000 years against which current changes can be assessed. Process studies targeting aspects of the climate system including atmospheric chemistry, air-snow exchange, boundary layer dynamics, energy balance, cloud physics/microphysics and radiative impact conducted at Summit benefit from the suite of long-term, continuous measurements. Summit-Isi is largely free of impacts from regional activities; maintaining the pristine nature of the site is of upmost importance and enables continuation of highly sensitive climatic relevant observations. Current and planned efforts to reduce local impacts include the establishment of a clean air zone, deployment of clean, renewable energy sources and efficient scientific instrumentation in energy efficient structures. Placing camp structures on jackable platforms and reducing reliance on aircraft to transport supplies to Summit-Isi will also reduce the impact of station operations on the region while saving costs and effort associated with maintaining the station. Preserving the integrity of the long term clean air measurements while supporting future growth of the station is the main impetus for current plans to separate atmospheric measurements requiring pristine conditions (at Summit observatory) from activities which do not have clean-air requirements (i.e. geophysical, astrophysical and astronomical observations that will be located at Isi).

Investigations into tropospheric chemistry, snow chemistry, air-snow exchange and climate change will remain prominent, with activities in fields including seismic investigations, space weather, particle physics, astronomy, and astrophysics increasing dramatically. Summit will serve as a test bed for new technology designed for remote operation and remote sensing in harsh environments. Core values of Summit-Isi as a research facility are to provide:

  • A collection of the highest quality records for the evaluation of climate change in the northern hemisphere,
  • A resource of year-round baseline measurements of climate and chemical variables in the atmosphere,
  • Access to a pristine, year-round, and highly unique research location for interdisciplinary research.

The vision for Summit-Isi in the coming decades is for it to become a pre-eminent polar research station integrated into an arctic network of observatories and supporting cutting edge research across disciplines. Working toward this goal requires modularity, innovation, and creativity to enable both growth and development of the station, as well as maintaining a clean air sector for atmospheric measurements. Summit amid global and arctic climate changes will become a critical, perhaps the sole, background site in the northern hemisphere for studies of global climate change, as it will remain free of local and regional influences for decades to come. Conversely, at Isi, the development of a 12-m telescope and piqued interest of the astrophysics community is going to drive significant growth. This requires maintaining a diligent perspective on growing power consumption, and increased resources use of any kind, and demands that creative ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking be applied. The coming challenge is to maintain the unique characteristics of the Summit region that enable collection of climate records while developing Isi to take advantage of the cold dry viewing conditions for astrophysical observations.

This document is prepared by The Science Coordination Office (SCO) for Summit Station and the Greenland Traverse (University of New Hampshire, University of California – Merced, and Dartmouth). This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under awards OPP-1042531 to the University of California – Merced, OPP-1042358 to Dartmouth College, and OPP-1042410 to the University of New Hampshire. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

GEOSummit 2014 Meeting Archive and Summary

The GEOSummit 2014 Meeting was held on the 31st of January at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The meeting brought together national and international researchers with projects both active and proposed at the station. The main goal of the meeting was to inform the community of the numerous developments on site and to ‘take a pulse’ of the scientific activities.

All the presentations are archived here and available for download in PDF format.

GEOSummit 2014

The Greenland Summit’s Science Coordination Office invites you to take part in the 2014 GEOSummit meeting, to be held at The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) following the NASA IceBridge and PARCA Meetings.

Right now we do have a room reserved for the GEOSummit workshop to follow PARCA on Jan 31st from 8 am to 5 pm Building 33 Room H114. This is a large lecture room for (100) people. We also have a small (20) conference room in the building reserved if you we should plan to have breakout sessions.

It is our sincere hope that many of you will already be at the PARCA or IceBridge meetings, and will be able to take an extra day to discuss current research and future directions for Summit.


Summit Developments Fall 2013

A quarterly newsletter from the Summit Science Coordination Office

October 2013

Summit Station Developments and the new Isi Station

Major changes in facilities and operational models are underway for Summit Station and the surrounding area. Ultimately, the plan proposes that there will be two active research sites located roughly three miles apart. Summit Station will transition to Summit Observatory and retain the clean air and clean snow research and other projects coupled with the GISP2 ice core. The second site will house the primary station with power generation, living quarters, laboratories, and other infrastructure to support research projects that are not coupled to the GISP2 ice core. Two main drivers are pushing these changes.  First, the requirement to maintain clean environmental conditions for pristine and highly unique atmospheric measurements continues to be a primary scientific objective.  Summit Observatory will continue to be a pristine, low-impact observational facility for atmospheric measurements and those projects requiring pristine snow connected to the atmospheric records. The second driver, a major telescope project – a joint effort between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA) of Taiwan and others – has identified the Summit area as a desirable location to install a 12-meter radio telescope, due to the high, dry conditions at the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet.  The Greenland Telescope will be part of a millimeter wave VLBI (very long baseline interferometry) network, and will take part in the Event Horizon Telescope project, which will consist of a global array of radio telescopes, as well as performing astronomical observations as a standalone telescope. The most important feature of the Greenland Telescope is its far northern location, which provides long north-south baselines for mm-wave VLBI observations in conjunction with telescopes in Hawaii, Chile, and other US and European mm-wave telescopes. This will enable the highest resolution astronomical observations of northern sky targets. The goal of the project is to image a super-massive black hole (SMBH) in the Galaxy M87.  Summit’s low water vapor, low temperature, high altitude, and northern location as it relates to the other telescopes in the array make it an ideal site for the radio telescope. Plans are currently underway to install the telescope at a location north of Summit. All flight operations and most power generation will be conducted at the new facility. The development of renewable energy sources and building efficiency will continue to be a priority for both sites.


12mtelescopearrayThe new station, pending Greenlandic approval of NSF and SAO permit applications, will be called Isi, which is Greenlandic for “Eye” and was chosen in concert with the Government of Greenland.  It will be located 3 miles north of the Summit Station site along the existing skiway.  The purpose of the new location will be manifold. Initial development is in support of the ASIAA-Smithsonian telescope project and will be funded jointly by the telescope partners and NSF commensurate with the requirements of each. New science projects not requiring ‘pristine’ snow will be based out of Isi as will the station crew. Current plans call for construction of a telescope/station redevelopment support camp at the new site starting in approx. 2016 to be completed in approx. 2018, contingent upon available funds.  Concurrent activities in Thule will be undertaken during the same period to enhance the Greenland Inland Traverse capabilities and construct modular components of the new station and telescope. The telescope is planned for delivery via the GrIT traverse by ~2018 and to be operational by the end of the season in which it is delivered.  Construction of the Isi Living Module and Dining Module, the main berthing facilities of the new camp will begin in ~2016, with a planned completion date of ~2017.  In addition to the living and dining modules, Isi Station will consist of a power module, a backup power and balloon launch module, fuel storage, and a garage. Extensive use of renewable energy (RE) systems is planned, expanding on efforts currently underway at the existing Summit Station to use photovoltaic (PV) and passive solar systems.  The summer population at the new Isi Station is predicted to stay similar to the current summer population at Summit, which can fluctuate between 20-50 people.  The winter population of Isi Station is predicted to double from the current 5 member staff at Summit to ~10-20 station members, with many of those supporting telescope operations. Future populations may be impacted by other science, as the physics community interest grows in the suitability of the sky conditions above Isi for other telescopes, as well as recently confirmed favorable conditions of the thick ice sheet for high energy neutrino detection experiments.


A note on dates: All dates are approximate and depend on actual funding.

awo_renderThe Summit Observatory will get one new building, the Atmospheric Watch Observatory (AWO) to replace the Temporary Atmospheric Watch Observatory (TAWO) in 2016.  This building incorporates design elements from the British Antarctica Halley VI station and other state-of-the –art capabilities, in particular the leg lifting system to maintain the building above the snow.  All other surface-based buildings will be removed and/or relocated to Isi with the exception of the Big House. The Big House will be reconfigured as an emergency crew shelter and remain at Summit Observatory. The crew will primarily live at Isi and commute daily using electric vehicles via an established route.

Renewable Energy Projects

Isi Station will continue the deployment of renewable energy (RE) systems that have been established and successfully tested at Summit Station.  Currently, the Summit Tower of Power PV system has generated 4MWh of energy production after being operational for one year.  This energy production correlates to over 300 gallons of diesel fuel.  The Big House micro-inverter PV array, which is currently made up of a six panel array vs. 24 panels for the Tower of Power, produced 1.44 MWh of energy in its first year, with a higher energy density than the Tower due to all 6 panels on the Big House being oriented directly south.  The power generation data from both PV systems greatly informs strategies for deploying future high latitude solar systems.

Electric vehicles have also been tested and developed at Summit Station, including a range of electric buggies and a series of electric snowmobiles representing the winners of the annual Clean Snowmobile Contest (CSC) contest.

Development of a GrIT Science Traverse Facility

grit_traverseAlong with Isi Station and Summit Observatory developments, the Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT) will maximize its capability with a split fleet option. The split-fleet maximizes the short window of time that the crevasse zone can be crossed, with one fleet shuttling cargo and vehicles through the crevasse zone in March-April and another fleet operating on the ice sheet hauling loads to Summit/Isi and other locations through the duration of the summer season.    Of chief interest for science groups is the development of a mobile science traverse facility, which will allow individual science groups access to interior points of the ice sheet beyond Summit and Isi.

NASA’s GROVER rover takes Greenland by storm

The latest VIP visitor to Summit Station is an 800 lb, 6 ft tall (with solar panels) autonomous rover named GROVER, an acronym which serves double-duty standing for both “Greenland Rover” and “Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research.”  GROVER, a solar-powered vehicle designed to collect ground penetrating radar (GPR) data which can be used to determine spatial accumulation rate variability, is a project led by Dr. Lora Koenig of NASA-Goddard.  The rover itself was designed through a collaboration with student groups (GROVER is in its 3rd iteration, having been previously tested in Idaho and in Maryland) and with Boise State’s Dr. H.P. Marshall and his research group which has developed small, high frequency radar systems which are capable of detecting near-surface accumulation rate changes.

In addition to GROVER’s science and education missions, testing on the Greenland ice sheet also provides a harsh environment to prove technologies that can be used in extraterrestrial rover development.

Student groups test two different GROVER iterations in Maryland. Photo credit: NASA/Michael Comberiate

GROVER has received a great deal of media attention lately, featured in the New York Times and around the blog-o-sphere.  See the NASA press release and some of the coverage at the links below:

 In June, GROVER will be joined by a second student-designed rover from Dartmouth College, the Cool Robot, a solar-powered scalable rover capable of being adapted to several kinds of autonomous instrumentation, in Summit Station’s first ever Robot Wars.  Stayed tuned for the results.