November 18, 2019

Postcards from a frozen icebreaker – Part 11

Posted by larryohanlon

By Matthew Shupe 

11/2/19 It’s All About the Wind
Working in the Arctic can, of course, be a huge challenge. The fingers, toes and nose bearing the brunt of it. Delicate instrument work is particularly hard as this often requires taking off warm outer gloves to expose hands with thin or no gloves. But in the end, it is rarely the actual temperature that matters. Instead the wind is the key factor. AS with elsewhere in the Arctic, wind often brings warmer temperatures… such that the actual temperature reading is not so bad. But the experience tells you otherwise. The wind can steal what little heat you have very quickly…. So today was exceedingly pleasant outside because there was basically no wind. This made for easy work and an overall lighter mood. This mood was then accentuated by our mid-cruise BBQ. The Polarstern’s “wet lab” was transformed with a set of tables, decorations, and flags from the MOSAiC nations. So many options for the grill…. Just grab and grill your own. I doubled up on the salmon. What a treat to have BBQ-ed salmon over hot coals. Yum. Music, laughter, dancing. It was a nice way to take a load off and recognize the huge amount of work we have done so far to get MOSAIC up and running.

Cold work with ice. Photo courtesy Marc Oggier, IARC, @megavolts_ak

11/3/19 Met City
In the past days we’ve put some finishing touches on Met City and I’ve been documenting the details on our field log book. Truly an amazing place with contributions from at least 14 projects from 5 countries, representing links to all 5 of the MOSAiC science teams. Of course we do atmospheric structure and surface energy budget measurements, including detailed wind profiles. We also have a lot of snowfall and blowing snow measurement that link with an adjacent snow sampling region. Gases and aerosols are sampled in the atmosphere. Sea ice thickness and temperature. Ocean structure and turbulence including under-ice roughness. The measurements even touch on the ecosystem through a fish camera at 350m depth. It is a truly complex observational suite on the ice out away from the potentially negative effects of the ship (well mostly…. The ship’s wake in the atmosphere can still impact our tower measurements and with the right wind we can see its impacts on certain gas concentrations). It feels relieving to have so much completed and now fully operational out at MOSAiC’s largest suburb.

Setting up the meteorological tower. Matthew Shupe (CIRES) is in the foreground with headlamp. Photo: Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Marcel Nicolaus (CC-BY 4.0)

11/8/19 L1 is Dead

A frosty view of L1 site in October, before the sun set. Photo: Anne Gold/CIRES

Such an interesting feeling being so unable to respond to problems. We noticed that yesterday at some point our remote atmospheric flux station had a power failure, our fuel cell was no longer charging our batteries. But everything else kept running, living off the slowly draining batteries. We could still monitor the internal temperature, along with all the other scientific measurements and saw the temperatures inside our data/power box plummet to -16C. But then, amazingly, the box started to get slowly warmer inside! Then colder again, and warmer again. Very strange because there is no real source of heat inside any longer and -25C outside would surely eventually win. In looking at our measurements it seems that subtle changes in wind direction impacted the internal temperature. But in the end, the Arctic deep chill did win, the battery voltage got low enough that our radio communications turned off….. And then darkness. We were rallying hard to get on a helicopter out to the site before it turned off completely, but weather conditions never cooperated. Those low level clouds that I like to study kept us from our rescue mission. It’ll have to wait for another day.

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.