Monthly Archives: April 2011

Monitoring sea-ice conditions around Svalbard

From Mark (ESA), NL, 30 April Over the next several days from 28 April–16 May, Arctic ice-thickness surveys will be taking place north of Svalbard, along CryoSat ground tracks. Airborne measurements of sea-ice thickness are being conducted by the Norsk Polarinstitutt (NPI) in the sea-ice pack north of Svalbard using an EM-Bird from a ship-based helicopter, in combination with field teams taking measurements of ice thickness from the Norwegian vessel RV Lance. This AMSR-E satellite ice-concentration image shows the ice conditions north of Svalbard on 29 April, (Day 119) where this sea-ice component of the validation campaign is taking place. The following ice chart from 28 April shows the corresponding interpretation of the...

Austfonna ground control ready and waiting

From Thomas (UIO), Svalbard, 29 April As various teams gather to kick off the measurement campaign around Svalbard, bad weather has delayed today’s flights. Nevertheless, all the equipment is in place on the Austfonna ice cap and ready for when the weather is clear enough to fly. A team of two from the University of Oslo spent the Easter week on Austfonna setting up the ground control points and preparing the base camp for the main campaign. Five corner reflectors are now in place awaiting the overflight. As usual, conditions were difficult. This time, however, Easter brought surprisingly mild temperatures and rainfall all across the ice cap! The resulting ice layer on...

Back cruising through the sea ice

From Angelika (NPI), Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard, 29 April After a week’s break between cruises, the Norwegian Polar Institute sea ice group is out again for more work on the ice north of Svalbard. Currently, we are waiting to get the helicopter for EM-bird flights onboard – cross your fingers that the clouds lift a bit! A short trip into the pack ice yesterday showed us how different the ice edge is now. Only two weeks after our last station in the same area, there is now lots of broken ice, brash, and only small floes, which are difficult to work on and not really suitable for CryoSat calibration and validation...

Kicking off a new round of measurements in Svalbard

From Tania (ESA), Svalbard, 28 April I’ve arrived in a relatively balmy Svalbard; it’s actually only 0°C, so not that cold. From the plane, I was able to watch the transition from a green snow-free Oslo to the completely white vista of Svalbard. So far, I haven’t seen any polar bears – just this impressive landscape! Lying between 74° and 81°N, the archipelago of Svalbard constitutes the northern most part of Norway – it’s about midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The team from the Technical University of Denmark also arrived this evening and the plan is to start this leg of the measurement campaign tomorrow over the Austfonna Ice...

NASA IceBridge flies Greenland EGIG line for CryoSat

From Michael (NASA), Greenland, 26 April Today was our last opportunity to fly a science mission from Kangerlussuaq and the weather was favourable for Geikie 01, our last remaining high priority mission plan. We expected some clouds over the interior of the ice sheet and down in the fjords and had to abort our flight up Nansen Fjord and Christian Gletscher because of a 3000 ft clouds base and 13 000 ft terrain. Other than that, it was a perfect day. As the photo above shows, the razor sharp flood basalts of the Geikie Plateau are spectacular. After we had finished the glacier runs around the Geikie Plateau, we went up Daugaard...

Getting ready for a six-week stint living on the Greenl...

From Santiago (University of Edinburgh), UK, 22 April Following the success of the first leg of the campaign in Canada, activities are about to continue over the Greenland ice sheet in a few days. This includes two teams from the UK that will living and working in central Greenland for the following six weeks. The first team, led by Prof. Liz Morris from the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, is already on the ice. Liz will be travelling by Skidoo from Summit Station down to a refuelling depot called simply T21. Liz has been measuring snow and firn density over the Greenland ice sheet for several years using a...

Time to bid farewell to Alert

From Katharine (UCL), Alert, 19 April Time to leave Alert now, but here’s a quick update on the last couple of days here on the ice before we head off home. We were all very happy to have got the break in the weather we needed to land at our sites on the Arctic Ocean and we were even luckier that good weather continued to prevail at Alert. We were able to make it out onto the fast ice site on both the 17 and 18 April. The ice has lots of lump and bumps so some careful skidoo driving by Seymour made sure the radar got to the site in one...

Fabulous photos of Greenland courtesy of NASA IceBridge

From Michael (NASA), Greenland, 19 April Although not flying for CryoSat today, the following extract and photos from Michael Studinger’s report provides some insight into the daily NASA IceBridge flights. IceBridge is the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice. As part of a collaborative effort between ESA and NASA, IceBridge is also contributing to the validation campaign for CryoSat. We are back from Flight 23 after another spectacular day over southeast Greenland and a very successful science mission. We accomplished longitudinal surveys along the center lines of Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier, Helheim Glacier, several branches of Midgard Glacier, and several glaciers nearby. This was an important mission to complete since the glaciers are...

Time to draw breath

From Seymour, Katharine & Rosie (UCL) in Alert, 18 April   As the main activities in Alert are winding down, it’s time to draw breath before the next leg of the campaign kicks off in Svalbard and Greenland. The UCL team has been looking back at what has been achieved over the last week. After arriving in Alert, bad weather initially prevented the aircraft from flying to the experiment sites. However, a break in the weather and safe arrival of the DTU team with the precious ASIRAS instrument on 13 April meant that everything was in place to get the campaign off the ground. The break in the weather held so that they...

Keeping CryoSat on track

From Robert (ESA), 18 April, currently in the Lake District, UK With all the excitement going on in the Arctic, one might think it’s business as usual back in Europe operating CryoSat’s main payload, SIRAL. Far from it; on top of the routine monitoring of CryoSat’s health, there have been a number of background activities going on over the last few months to assure the success of the Arctic campaign. First of all, we need to make sure SIRAL is being commanded as expected. The science measurement mode commands are transmitted to the satellite about a week before the radar is operated. The team at ESA very confident that the automatic commanding...

Mapping sea ice up close with ASIRAS

From Malcolm (ESA), Alert, 16 April As an ESA campaign coordinator, I sometimes fly along with airborne scientists and observe how data are collected and how the different instruments on the plane are run. This part of my work has always been fascinating and of great value in understanding how to run campaigns together with participants. Today, I was a guest on the Norlandair Twin Otter at Alert, Canada, carrying the CryoSat airborne simulator ASIRAS. Its cramped interior is packed with instruments and, thankfully, the odd seat for the scientists operating the instruments. In the past few days, the ASIRAS team members – guided by their friendly and experienced scientist Henriette Skourup...

Great day for sea-ice research as ESA and NASA work tog...

From Michael (NASA), over Alert, 15 April Today’s flight was a coordinated effort between ESA’s CryoVEx campaign and NASA’s Operation IceBridge. The CryoVEx 2011 teams are currently operating from Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert and have installed corner reflectors and GPS buoys on the sea ice north of Alert yesterday using a Kenn Borek Twin Otter. Today and tomorrow, teams from the University College London and the University of Alberta are on the ice making in situ measurements along the profiles between the corner reflectors. A DC-3/BT-67 Basler from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany participates in the experiment with a towed EM-bird for sea-ice thickness measurements and a laser altimeter. The...

Sea ice conditions around Alert

From Mark (ESA), in Noordwijk, NL Here are a couple of satellite images showing the current sea-ice conditions around Alert in northern Canada. The first is an AVHRR image from NOAA, courtesy of DMI/Polar View, and shows a large area perspective of the Lincoln Sea (upper part), Nares Strait (lower left) and Northern Greenland (lower centre). The marked box indicates the location where the following image focuses. A large-scale fracture pattern and relatively dark shear lines can be observed running through the sea-ice pack. They are caused by the sea-ice drift pushing ice against the coast of Northern Greenland. A relatively dark zone of divergence or opening occurs where ice escapes eastwards...

Spring cruise through the sea ice

From Angelika (NPI), Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard, 15 April    An international group of seven sea-ice scientists together with polar bear and ivory gull researchers left Longyearbyen on 4 April aboard the Norwegian coastguard vessel KV Svalbard, heading towards the sea ice north and northeast of Svalbard. With the Norwegian Polar Institute’s (NPI) brand new EM-bird on board, we plan to collect data for the CryoSat campaign in a region that is not very often visited. The EM-bird is an electromagnetic sounding instrument that we hang from a helicopter to take measurements. This one is called Liv – meaning ‘life’ in Norwegian. After last year’s summer cruise to the same area,...

Getting off the ground

From Katharine (UCL),  on the sea ice, 14 April Today our pilots, Troy and Derek, gave us the all clear to fly and begin our experiment for real, setting out the corner reflectors and transect lines. So, after a last check on the weather, we loaded up the Twin Otter and were airborne by about 9.00. Due to the early start I managed to sleep all the way there and woke up when I felt the plane losing altitude. Troy and Derek were circling around the ice looking for a safe place to land, where the ice was thick enough to support our weight without us ending up in the ocean beneath....

ASIRAS arrives in Alert

From Malcolm (ESA), in Alert, 13 April The whole team was more than pleased – relieved and happy might be the right description – to see Henriette and her team from the Danish Technical University arrive from Greenland today. Today’s arrival of the Nordlandair Twin Otter plane in Alert marks a new and crucial phase of the CryoSat campaign. The plane carries precious cargo: the ASIRAS radar instrument which – much as the CryoSat satellite does much higher up in its orbit about Earth – emits a series of radar pulses as the plane travels over the ice and snow  surfaces and very carefully records the faint return echo from the surface. ...

Grounded

From Katharine (UCL), at Alert on 12 April Over the last two days, we haven’t had the weather we were hoping for. We need clear skies so that the pilots, Troy and Derek, can find suitable landing sites on the frozen Arctic Ocean. I’m glad they have a vested interest in this, as they don’t want to end up on ice not thick enough to support the plane’s weight. Yesterday, although it was a beautiful sunny, clear day here, it was bad weather where we wanted to fly to. So we spent an afternoon on the fast ice a few kilometres from the base. Fast ice is a frozen bit of the...

Getting started

From Rosie Willatt (UCL) on the ice near Alert, 12 April Yesterday we started our experiment.  Some of the most important pieces of equipment we’ll use are corner reflectors – if you took a cube of metal and cut one of the corners off, it would form a corner reflector. These are very reflective for radars so we use them as reference points. We constructed wooden stands for the corner reflectors and took them out into the field on skidoos, to a site on the fast ice off the coast a few kilometers from Alert, near a CryoSat track. The temperature was around –30°C and the visibility was not great. We saw...

Following the drift

From Mark at ESA-ESTEC in the Netherlands, 12 April Thinking of the team out in the high Arctic, I’ve been checking up on the general ice conditions in the Arctic, and around the field site off Alert in the Lincoln Sea.  The first example shows sea-ice drift. This low-resolution product comes courtesy of the Eumetsat Ocean and Sea Ice Satellite Application Facility and shows sea-ice drift from 9 to 11 April. The arrows show drift direction with the length of the arrow indicating the relative drift speed. The situation indicates that high pressure over the Beaufort Sea has spun up the Beaufort Gyre. Low pressure over Iceland is driving sea ice from...

NASA IceBridge – clear but bumpy over southeast G...

From Michael (NASA) Greenland ice sheet, 11 April On April 11, NASA’s IceBridge campaign finally got the clear weather necessary to fly over glaciers in southeast Greenland. Typically, this area is shrouded in cloud, but strong winds from the Greenland ice sheet can clear the cloud – but these winds and the rugged coastal topography cause a lot of air turbulence. So, with clear skies came winds of up to 70 knots, which made for a bumpy ride over the calving front of glaciers such as Gyldenlove seen here. Despite the difficult conditions we were able to survey all planned glaciers in the cloud-free area south of 65N. The amount of windblown...

On to Alert

From Katharine (UCL) travelling between Resolute Bay and Alert, 10 April We got the all clear to leave for Alert at breakfast. So we headed for the airfield met Troy and Derek who would be our pilots for the next 10 days, loaded up the Twin Otter with our bags and climbed onboard. The conditions were beautiful, clear skies and sunshine, which gave us fantastic views of this untouched scenery – mountains covered by snow, glaciers and sea ice. Travelling on the Twin Otter to the far north is an interesting experience. We travel in full Arctic kit, firstly, as the plane is very cold when you get on (it did warm...

Lincoln Sea and Alert base

  Envisat Advanced Synthetic Apertur Radar image of the Lincoln Sea and Alert base, where sea-ice validation activities are now starting in support of ESA’s CryoSat ice mission.

Not your typical Saturday afternoon

From Seymour (UCL) at Resolute Bay, northern Canada on 9 April After yesterday’s rather gentle foray onto the ice in nice weather to lay out our two practice ground targets we returned to find out exactly where we had been thanks to our GPS readings. Google maps confirmed that we had indeed been ‘walking on water’ when walking between the two sites. Before embarking on our second day trip out, and after some lengthy discussion, we decided that it would be useful to be able to see one site from the other, not so easy given the terrain and various bits of trapped bergs in the way. Justin had a 3m pole...

Experiment preparations

From Katharine (UCL) at Resolute Bay, northern Canada on 8 April   After taking a look around the Polar-5 aircraft hanger Rosie, Justin, Seymour, Christian and I headed off to the warehouse to work out how we were going to build the stands for the corner reflectors. Corner reflectors are pieces of metal that provide a known target for the radar that will be flying over them. They are vital for us to be able to relate what the radar in the aircraft sees to what is measured on the ground. After lunch, we jumped on some skidoos and headed off to the edge of the sea ice to go and practice how...

Up and away

From Malcolm (ESA), NL on 8 April Just leaving ESA in the Netherlands for my flight to Alert in northern Canada to start the campaign – which has to be one of the biggest I’ve organised in my 10 years at ESA. The two planes we have dedicated to the campaign will arrive this weekend along with other team members from Europe and Canada. So, hopefully we’ll be kicking off with the first flights on Monday. We’ve got a Twin Otter arriving from the Technical University of Denmark that carries the ASIRAS instrument. ASIRAS is an airborne instrument that was developed specifically to mimic the radar altimeter on the CryoSat satellite. In...