Summit-Isi Newsletter Autumn 2014

November 03, 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 Program Office (IDPO) and Ice Drilling Design and Operations (IDDO) group 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.