Thursday, November 20, 2008

More from Taylor Valley

Last year we installed an automated station that measures wind speed and direction, air temperature, incoming radiation and relative humidity. We also installed temperature probes and moisture probes in the soil. The probes are all connected to a data logger which takes a reading every hour and saves it to a storage module. This year we can download the data and see how temperature and water content changed in the air and the soil. Using these data we want to find out if water is accumulating in the soil or if the soil is loosing water.

This year we are drilling permafrost cores. We will analyze these cores to look at the history of the ice. Some of the ice may be as old as ten thousand years. Analyzing this ice may give us an idea about the climate and environmental situation at this time. In addition it may give us a clue if meltwater from snow is infiltrating into the ground. We use the stable isotope signature of water molecules in the ice to identify climate conditions when the ice formed and other processes like evaporation that affected the ice in his historic or modern time. The pictre below shows a setup of the drill with the tent that blocks the wind and the drill mast sticking out at the top. The tent is important since wind chill temperatures here are about -30 to -40°C (-30 to -40°F). While two drillers are working in the tent to take the core, Ron and Tom are describing the core in detail outside the tent. After description the core is packed and stored at -20 C temperature. It will be shipped back to the laboratory at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Working all day outside in this cold environment consumes a lot of energy. A good breakfast like butter-fried bagels with jam, peanut butter, or Nutella is a good start for the day.

At the end of our stay in Taylor Valley we visited a research group that works in the ocean at New Harbor. Below is a picture from a pressure ridge near the coast at New Harbor and the diving hole (behing Ron). Diving in this water is very cold, the water temperature is -2 C (28.4 F).

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