What’s the role of Antarctica in the global climate system? Why is the ice melting? Where did you go? – and why? What ship where you on? What did you eat for breakfast?
There were many questions,(and hopefully just as many answers) when Nadine and I was invited by Ellen and Ingjald to “Media City Bergen” where we were to make a podcast about life and science onboard an icebreaker in Antarctica. The studio turned out to be the smallest room (without a toilet) that I’d ever been into – but we managed to squeeze in all four of us!
The program will be ready after the summer so stay tuned! And meanwhile, you can listen to previous podcasts from the Bjerknes centre (in Norwegian only for now) and learn about why climate scientists collect pollen (Anne Bjune) to how we can use ocean temperatures to predict cod abundance in Norwegian water (Marius Årthun) – and much more!
Our friend and paleo climate researcher Petra Langebroek is currently on a scientific expedition to central Greenland, and she reports back using EastGRIPninja and his scientist friends to tell the story of how science is done on top of the ice sheet.
For example, EastGRIPninja gets a tour of the camp:
And that’s pretty cool — it’s not too often that I get a look into one of the domes! I don’t know what I expected to see inside, but definitely not this much plywood. And probably fewer flags, too. And (spoiler alert!) would you have guessed that they have a tabletop football game in there, too?
Also super interesting: How does going to the toilet work in the middle of the Greenland ice sheet? That’s something EastGRIPninja needs to find out fairly early on, too. So if you are curious, you should go and check it out!
Click on the image below to read the whole story (which is being updated pretty much daily!). EastGRIPninja, Petra and their team are still there until mid July and I can’t wait to learn more about their adventures!
Do you think it is possible to stand on an 18 cm thick sea ice floe without breaking through?
Just one week ago we almost got stuck with the ship in about 4 m thick sea ice further south. We couldn’t move south and not back north neither. This was scary and we already imagined how it would be to spend the whole Antarctic winter in the sea ice. As soon as the captain managed to break the ship free, he headed straight north to get out of the sea ice covered area. Although it was good to get into a safer area, we were disappointed that we didn’t get to do all the science we wanted to do closer to the ice shelves. And the most disappointing was that we didn’t get the opportunity to leave the ship and go on sea ice!
But suddenly before leaving the sea ice area for good we stopped for a sea ice station, because there was a perfect homogeneous ice floe that the sea ice scientists were eager to study. So four of the scientists were brought to the ice floe on a small boat and took sea ice cores to measure the thickness, temperature, salinity, phytoplankton content and chemical constellation. In the meanwhile, the rest of us sat in the day room watching them through the windows. We were very jealous at them who could get on the ice! At some point there was an announcement through the speakers: Everyone was allowed to go on the ice floe! This made us so happy that we all ran to get into the floating suits and to enter the small boat. Finally – after four weeks on the ship, we could get off and step onto a piece of ice! We were very excited, jumped on the sea ice, made pyramids, and took a lot of crazy pictures until our hands were frozen! It was amazing and a lot of fun also to see the ship from distance.
Although the ice floe looked very fragile and dangerous to step on, it was stable enough to hold all our jumps. It was fun and only the penguins were missing, but we could live with that. It was a great pay-off after the disappointment of heading north earlier than expected.
While Nadine is wathing icebergs drift by in the Southern Ocean, I brought the students in GEOF232 back to Masfjorden, a fjord just North of Bergen. No icebergs to be seen there (luckily), and the only thing we saw drift by was Our own DIY drifters that we had deployed in the fjord!
A drifter is simply an Object that drifts With the Ocean currents and then on a regular basis reports its position back. Now, you can pay a lot and buy a fancy drifter… or you can build Your own (almost as fancy). That’s what Our handy technician Helge Bryhni did! All you need is some paint trays, a bucket, flotation, some rope and chain – and one of these devices that you are supposed to put on your (expensive) car so that you can find it again if it gets stolen. To be on the safe side, Helge opted for a radar reflector and a water proof container.
Video by Algot Peterson, UiB
The students got to decide where and how to deploy our four drifters – spread out or together? in pairs with different depths*? near a river outlet? on rising tides or sinking tides? – and once they were in the water they could sit back and follow the drift on their mobile phone!
*by adjusting the length of the rope we could Place the bulky plastic part of the drifter on the Depth we wanted, and the drifter would then follow (and show us) the water motion at that Depth.
The editors of Geophysical Research Letters have selected yourpaper “Warm Circumpolar Deep Water at the Western Getz Ice Shelf Front, Antarctica” (MS# 2018GL081354) to be featured as a Research Spotlight on https://Eos.org and on the journal’s website. Congratulations!
Back to RV Kronprins Haakon, we celebrate the international women today! While Elin is active in Bergen at Women in Science 14.15 @ Realfagsbygget and Anna gets excellent data from AUV Ran under the Thwaites Ice Shelf, we collected all women for a group picture on the Helideck! About 40% of the scientists on board are women, plus 3 women from the crew!
The new Swedish AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) heroine Ran has returned from her second mission beneath Thwaites ice shelf! Just in time for the international women’s day tomorrow!
An AUV is sent down in the water with a pre-programmed mission, e.g. “dive down to 500 m depth, swim 2 km to the east while measuring salinity and temperature and then come back here so that I can pick you up”, while a “ROV” (Remotedly operated vehicule) is connected to and steered from the mother ship via cables.
The name Ran is borrowed from Nordic mythology, where she is the goddess of the deep sea. According to the legend (and wikipedia), Ran catches seamen in big nets and then keeps them with her at the bottom of the sea. Luckily Ran escaped both the nets and the sea ice that was closing up around her pick up spot… and made it safely back to the mother ship were Anna Wåhlin and the rest of the AUV-team was waiting. I bet they were nervous!
On her second trip, Ran ventured three kilometers in under Thwaites, and brought back information on the sub-ice shelf hydrography and currents but also water samples that will be analyzed back in the laboratory.
Ran and I have one thing in common – neither she nor I would be where we are today without Anna’s support and stubborness. I’m so happy Your “baby” is successfull, Anna. You’ve worked so hard for this to happen! Congratulations!
You can read more about Ran and the expeditions (in Swedish) here!
Yesterday the weather finally allowed the technicians from the Nowegian Polar Institute (NPI) to leave the research station Troll and fly out to go treasure hunting on the Fimbull ice shelf! Two years has gone by since they last visited the sites where NPI installed sub-ice shelf moorings more than ten years ago… and where we two years ago installed an “ApRES”. While the sub-ice shelf moorings measure the temperature and the currents in the water beneath the ice shelf, the APRES measures how fast the ice thins, and we can then calculate the basal melt rate. When combining the records we can hopefully learn a lot!
Like most Places in Antarctica, the snow that falls on the Fimbull iceshelf never melts away, so there was a few meters of snow to dig through in order to reach the instruments and to download the oh so precious data – a true treasure hunt!
Judging from the photos, the solar panel system that Helge Bryhni, a technician here at GFI, helped me design in order to power my APRES, appear to have survived two Antarctic winters… and we are now eagerly waiting for the report on how they’ve performed… and to have a look at the new data!
More stories from the successful treasure hunt at the Fimbul ice shelf will appear at @oceanseaicenpi soon!