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Greenland Ice Sheet ‘Home’ for Two UofU Student Researchers

Geography PhD student Clement Miege arrives on the Greenland Ice Sheet to start an NSF supported scientific expedition to measure snow accumulation rates.

Two geography Ph.D. students, along with two other expedition members, were flown onto the Greenland Ice Sheet today to start a 700 km (430 mile) long scientific traverse of the ice sheet. They arrived via a ski equipped US Air National Guard C-130 cargo plane along with 11,000 lbs. of gear. The team consists of Clement Miege and Evan Burgess (Geography PhD students), Terry Gacke (ice core drilling engineer), and Brian Ballard (mountaineer).

Crew in Kangerlussuaq Greenland getting ready to be flown to the ice sheet.

The expedition is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation to measure how much snow is accumulating in the remote southeast portion of the ice sheet where up to 4 meters (13 ft.) of snow is added to the ice sheet per year. Because of current warming conditions, more snow and ice are being lost from the ice sheet than are being added (negative mass balance), therefore, the Greenland Ice Sheet is contributing to our present-day global sea level rise. To improve our calculation of Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise we need to be able to measure the amount of snow accumulating as accurately as possible. The expedition–named the Arctic Circle Traverse 2011(ACT-11) because of its close proximity to Arctic Circle (66.5 degrees North)–will measure snow accumulation with ice cores and an ice penetrating radar.  The ACT-11 team will drive snow mobiles pulling small sleds with food, fuel, camping gear, an ice drill, and other scientific gear 350 km (215 miles) to the first drilling site (ACT11-A).  Additional food and fuel have been cached in advance via airplane along the traverse route. 

We plan to post updates of the ACT-11 expedition frequently, so check back to keep up with their progress.