November 17, 2019

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker – Part 10

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe

10/24/19 Standing Tall
Some people from the media team called it “the most professional operation they’ve seen so far” out here. Maybe it was the team safety meeting just before, or all of the careful planning over many days leading up to now. But now we have a met tower standing proudly out at Met City. All systems go, monitoring the lowest part of the atmosphere. It has been a long time coming and a lot of work. For the teams out here, Dave Costa (CIRES scientist working in NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division) and I did a lot of the initial set up. Ola Persson (also CIRES/NOAA scientist) came back from installing the distributed network on the Federov and has stepped into a key role; he has a particularly careful approach to assessing the instruments to ensure that we are making the best measurements we can. Of course there are so many others involved in making it all happen. The raising today was a major group effort with seven people directly involved. That tower is heavy, so more hands made for quick and safe work. Clearly our practice tower-raising sessions back in Boulder also paid off, as everything went off without a hitch. Today is the official first day of operational science, and we got our met tower up just in time for that.

10/29/19 Where is the Time?
Time is such an odd concept out here. The sun is long gone; now we have at most only a sliver of lighter skies on the far horizon framing extensive darkness in all directions. No real reference for daily time….. the food schedule onboard providing the only framework. And the days themselves blur together. Same schedule: Wake as late as possible to still get breakfast, short planning meeting, head out to the ice for work, back for lunch, then head out for round two on the ice, returning in time for dinner. Group meeting, planning meeting, leadership meeting. Look at the day’s data and deal with other details for the next day’s work. Possibly a bit of social time or exercise. Then hit the bed. Rinse, repeat. Nearly the same every day, and hard to distinguish the day of the week. (We want to maintain a consistent, continuous data set and the earth system here doesn’t seem to care what day of the week it is!) We are also on the other side of the clock from people back home, such that communications take some time. All of these aspects lead to a strange relationship with time. We determined that we are now about at the midpoint of our adventure out here for leg 1. Already? It seems so fast, and we have so much more to do….. but also so slow as the days blur together. When was it that we set the met tower?

Polarstern at night… or is it day? Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath (CC-BY 4.0)

10/30/19 More cracks. More pops.
We’ve set up near the Fortress for stability, but I’ve often thought that there will be a potential break zone along the edge of the Fortress where there is a transition of ice types….. right where we have established our measurements, jutting out of the Fortress into the thinner ice of the new Arctic. And today, again, cracks. The same old crack near our tower opened again. But now also a thinner cracking finding its way right through the middle of our installations. It goes directly under a foot that supports the “swingset”, which supports downward looking radiation measurements made by DOE. It then extends over towards the Met Hut and very close to a precipitation imager made by Max from our group in Boulder. It meanders its way under the umbilical cord of data and power lines connecting our tower with the Met Hut. This is where things could get interesting….. if we have to rapidly disconnect all of our instruments. So far just a hairline but we will see where this goes!

Setting up a “trip wire” to protect workspace on the central floe, an area that includes Met City described above. If a polar bear pushes the wire, an orange signal light shoots into the sky as warning to anyone on the ice who might need to take action. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Esther Horvath (CC-BY 4.0)

Read more of Shupe’s posts here

Scientist Matthew Shupe (CIRES/University of Colorado Boulder) is blogging from an icebreaker frozen into Arctic Ocean sea ice, so far north that the Northern Lights are no longer visible. Shupe is co-coordinator of the international Arctic climate mission MOSAiC, or Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate. Today, he’s among about 100 people aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern, which is frozen into an ice floe where it will drift until September 2020. Shupe, who also works for the NOAA Physical Sciences Division in Boulder, Colorado, began planning the mission more than a decade ago, with an expanding network of scientific leaders from around the world. In a series of short posts from the ship, he shares his experience during the first several weeks of the expedition, led by the Alfred Wegener Institute. Shupe is aboard AWI’s Polarstern until late December; he’ll return to the ship for at least one more two-month stint next year. U.S. funding for MOSAiC sciences comes primarily from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. Follow the expedition: and @MOSAiCArctic.