Student Project: Radio-Glaciology Measurements of the Juneau Icefield

2015 JIRP Student Project: Radio-Glaciology measurements of the Juneau Icefield

Faculty experts: Seth Campbell, Shad O’Neel

Overview: Each year, annual “point” measurements of mass gain (accumulation of snow) and mass loss (ablation) are collected across the Juneau Icefield (JIF) to assess whether it is gaining or losing mass (a concept known as mass balance).  These measurements are added to a 50+ year continuous record of mass balance on the Juneau Icefield.  The primary goal of the radio-glaciology project is to incorporate geophysical measurements from ground-penetrating radar (GPR) into determining spatial variability of glacier snow, firn, and ice as they relate to mass balance of the JIF.  We will use GPR to complete several objectives to include:

1.      Spatially extrapolating point measurement of winter accumulation across the JIF.

2.      Comparing winter accumulation determined from GPR data collected in 2012 with winter accumulation determined from GPR data collected in 2015.

3.      Assessing dimension changes in firn layers buried below the winter accumulation by comparing GPR profiles collected in 2015 and 2012.

4.      Assessing temporal changes in water content within the snow, firn, and ice  

Level 1 students are not expected to continue their work beyond the summer field camp unless computations and write up are not completed during summer. Level 2 students should expect to continue to work on data analysis beyond the summer season, with a more detailed analysis and report turned in near the end of fall semester.

A.      Snow accumulation. Snowpits will be excavated at several (15-25) established locations on Taku and Lemon Creek glaciers to the depth of the previous summer surface. In each pit a density profile will be computed and plotted as part of the annual mass balance program. The pits will be used as depth ground-truth for GPR profiles which are collected via snowmobile and/or ski on 5-50 km long transects across the icefield.  The GPR profiles will be used to extrapolate point measurement snow pit winter mass balance information across the ice field. (Level 1&2).  Level 1 students will provide accumulation thickness estimates from GPR and snow pit ground truth information. And qualitatively compare those measurements with similar data collected in 2012.  Level 2 students will convert winter accumulation thicknesses to snow water equivalence while estimating uncertainties in SWE measurements from instrument errors and from melt by using a supplied degree day model. 

B.      Firn evolution. Approximately 150 km of GPR profiles were collected across Taku Glacier in 2012 and show multiple layers of firn below the winter accumulation.  Here we propose to repeat collection of 2012 profiles in 2015 to compare firn layer dimensions and estimate changes relative to time (Level 1&2).  Level 1 students will qualitatively infer dimensions changes of firn layers using minimal ground-truth.  Level 2 students will attempt to quantitatively infer changes and incorporate multi-year snow pits (digging into and providing ground-truth at least into last year’s firn) into the study. 

C.      Snow Melt Study.  Snow accumulated on a glacier surface in the winter experiences significant melt through the summer season in temperate glacier environments.  As the surface snow melts, water percolates into deeper layers.  We are interested in determining how much melt occurs and where the melt travels to over the time because water content and snow density both play significant roles in the calculation of snow water equivalence in a snowpack using GPR.  Questions remain regarding how much melt stays within the winter snow pack after surface melt occurs and how much melt percolates into deeper firn and ice layers.  Here we will use advanced geophysical techniques such as migration, common midpoint (CMP) and Wide angle refraction and reflection (WARR) surveys to estimate changes in water content relative to time.  Available meteorological and snowpit data will be incorporated into this study to estimate meteorological impacts on melt and compare radar derived estimates of water content with field observations.  (Level 2).

Timeline and logistics: These studies can be completed in conjunction with snowpit excavations during the mass balance studies (with 2-3 days/week spent in the field).  The radar teams will use either snowmobile or skis to tow the radar systems for A&B.  Study C will be performed at one easily accessible location near Camp 10 through the course of the program.  For longer GPR transects, project members will travel to places where most students will not. Students should expect at least 1-2 days per week in camp processing data. New data will be collected, processed and preliminary interpretations made. Additionally, student reports will use other supplied data sets such as prior GPR profiles, meteorological, and snow pit data.  Several software programs will be used for analyses including radar processing, GIS (e.g. ArcGIS), and programming software (e.g. MATLAB). 

References (numbered by priority, i.e. study #1 first, #10 last):

(1)   Woodward J and Burke MJ (2007) Applications of Ground-Penetrating Radar to Glacial and Frozen Materials. J. Environ. Engineering Geophys., 1(12), 69–85

(2)   Bingham RG and Siegert MJ (2007) Radio-Echo Sounding Over Polar Ice Masses. J. Environmental and Engineering Geophysics, 1(12), 47–62

(3)   Spikes VB, Hamilton GS, Arcone SA, Kaspari S, Mayewski, PA (2004) Variability in accumulation rates from GPR profiling on the West Antarctic plateau. Ann. Glaciol., 39(1), 238-244

(4)   Kohler J, Moore J, Kennett M, Engeset R and Elvehoy H (1997) Using ground-penetrating radar to image previous years’ summer surfaces for mass-balance measurements. Ann. Glaciol.,  24, 355-360.

(5)   Arcone SA (2002) Airborne-radar stratigraphy and electrical structure of temperate firn: Bagley Ice Field, Alaska, U.S.A. J. Glaciol., 48(161), 317-334

(6)   Arcone SA and Yankielun NE (2000) 1.4 GHz radar penetration and evidence of drainage structures in temperate ice: Black Rapids Glacier, Alaska, U.S.A. J. Glaciol. 46(154), 477-490

(7)   Bradford JH, Harper JT, Brown J (2009) Complex dielectric permittivity measurements from ground-penetrating radar data to estimate snow liquid water content in the pendular regime. Water Resources Research. 45(8), 12 p 

Student Project: Icefield Reflectance and Albedo

2015 JIRP Student Project: Icefield Reflectance and Albedo

Faculty Experts: Allen Pope

Overview: Surface reflectance (sometimes called albedo, although if you choose this project you will learn why that isn’t strictly accurate) is an important property for understanding how much melt energy a glacier is absorbing. The Icefield reflectance project will use a field spectroradiometer to measure the spectral reflectance of glacier surfaces, studying the spatial and temporal variability of glacier spectral reflectance and albedo. Students will develop questions relating to processes that influence surface reflectance and design data collection strategies accordingly. Some suggestions are given below. The goal of this project is a better understanding of temporal and spatial variability in Icefield reflectance.

Level 1 students are not expected to continue their work beyond the summer field camp unless computations and write up are not completed during summer.

Level 2 students should expect to continue to work on data analysis beyond the summer season, with a more detailed analysis and report turned in near the end of fall semester.

Project breakdown:

Spectral reflectance: This is the basic unit of all subsequent projects. Radiance and irradiance measurements will be collected and students will process these data into reflectance spectra. Students will choose a range of locations and times to understand the spatial and temporal variability in glacier surface reflectance. Levels 1 & 2

Albedo: The next step beyond reflectance spectra, students will incorporate spectral reflectance and irradiance measurements to calculate glacier surface albedo. Students will investigate temporal and spatial variability in albedo resulting from changing illumination conditions and surface properties. Levels 1 & 2

Grain size studies: Students will study temporal and spatial variability in snow grain size by comparing direct observations using a snow card with calculations based on measured reflectance spectra. Level 2 {Possibly level 1}

Impurities: Students will investigate the impact that impurities (dirt/dust/soot) have on spectral reflectance (and albedo). Students can design controlled experiments or locate appropriate natural study sites. Levels 1 & 2

Compare with remote sensing: Understand how your point data scale up to reflectance measurements from airborne and satellite remote sensing measurements. Level 1 students will learn how to directly compare with satellite imagery. Level 2 students will have the opportunity to compare with 2015 observations and design a larger experiment.

Link with energy balance: Join forces with the energy balance modeling project to understand what your albedo measurements mean for surface mass balance. Level 2

Advisor’s Note: I focus on glacial remote sensing, so I focus on pointing the field spectroradiometer at snow and ice. If you’re interested in looking at other reflectance spectra (rocks, algae, or something else), that is something I’m open to, too!

Timeline and Logistics: There are two main constraints on this project: availability of the field spectroradiometer and appropriate weather for data collection. The field spectroradiometer should be available for at least two weeks in mid July, and possibly in early/late July (depending on shipping constraints), but there is nothing we can do about the weather except hope it is good! The field spectroradiometer and controlling laptop need to be charged every night, so fieldwork will be based out of camps, but travel with skis and possibly snowmobiles will be incorporated as the science necessitates it. Locations and frequency of data collection will be determined by student interest. Preliminary analysis will be conducted in camp. Further data collections will then be planned.

References (in approximate order of priority):

1. McArthur, A., 2007. “ASD Collection and Processing Guides,” NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility.

2. Skiles, M., 2015. Snow Optics Lab Protocols.

3. Hendriks, J, and P. Pellikka. “Estimation of Surface Reflectances from Hintereisferner: Spectrometer Measurements and Satellite-Derived Reflectances.” Zeitschrift Für Gletscherkunde Und Glazialgeologie 38, no. 2 (2004): 139–54.

4. Pope, A., and W. G. Rees. “Using in Situ Spectra to Explore Landsat Classification of Glacier Surfaces.” Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 27A (2014): 42–52. doi:10.1016/j.jag.2013.08.007.

5. Gardner, A. S., and M. J. Sharp. “A Review of Snow and Ice Albedo and the Development of a New Physically Based Broadband Albedo Parameterization.” Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 115 (2010): F01009.

6. Schaepman-Strub, G., et al. “Reflectance Quantities in Optical Remote Sensing - Definitions and Case Studies.” Remote Sensing of Environment 103, no. 1 (2006): 27–42. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2006.03.002.

7. Takeuchi, N. “Temporal and Spatial Variations in Spectral Reflectance and Characteristics of Surface Dust on Gulkana Glacier, Alaska Range.” Journal of Glaciology 55, no. 192 (2009): 701–9.

8.  Greuell, W, C. H. Reijmer, and J. Oerlemans. “Narrowband-to-Broadband Albedo Conversion for Glacier Ice and Snow Based on Aircraft and near-Surface Measurements.” Remote Sensing of Environment 82 (2002): 48–63.

9. Nolin, A, W., and J. Dozier. “A Hyperspectral Method for Remotely Sensing the Grain Size of Snow.” Remote Sensing of Environment 74, no. 2 (2000): 207–16. doi:10.1016/S0034-4257(00)00111-5.

10. Dumont, M. et al. “Contribution of Light-Absorbing Impurities in Snow to Greenland/’s Darkening since 2009.” Nature Geoscience 7, no. 7 (2014): 509–12. doi:10.1038/ngeo2180.

11. Painter, T. H., and J. Dozier. “Measurements of the Hemispherical-Directional Reflectance of Snow at Fine Spectral and Angular Resolution.” Journal of Geophysical Research 109 (2004): 21 PP. doi:200410.1029/2003JD004458.

Student Project: Geobotany, Nunatak and Periglacial Ecology and Entomology

2015 JIRP Student Project: Geobotany, Nunatak and Periglacial Ecology and Entomology 

Faculty experts: Alan Fryday, Karen Dillman, Saewan Koh, David Hik, Sean Schoville, Polly Bass

Overview of Projects and Goals:

The ecological research of the Juneau Icefield Research Program is important on a global scale. The nunatak and periglacial habitats provide information on the impact of climate change on high latitude alpine habitats.  Work to date has indicated a 68% species increase since the time of first historical work in nunatak habitats of this region. 

Baseline observations allow for monitoring future changes. Threatened species, range extensions, and invasive species have been observed on the nunataks.  Study of the periglacial and nunatak habitats of the Alaska-Canada Boundary Range allow for insights into the future of this biome, which are not available from other indicators.

Research themes include habit change, species assemblages; interactions between plants, animals, insects, and substrates. Abiotic variables including aspect, dominant wind direction, slope, precipitation, and lithology, among other factors are considered. Successional processes will be investigated in conjunction with Quaternary geomorphology and landform development in the periglacial environment.  A model for species richness determinations, developed in previous research on the icefield nunataks will continue to be tested on previously uninvestigated nunataks. The data will be used to determine the validity of a hypothesis of nunatak biogeography as a corollary to the theory of island biogeography.  Students will learn basic plant (vascular and nonvascular) identification techniques, ecological field research methodologies, data analysis techniques, sampling and project design, and collection and processing procedures. Students will contribute to and participate in ongoing research. 

Specific Objectives and Possible Project Directions

A.      Carry out vegetation surveys and observations on many nunatak sites, with some sites of special interest; Observe for changes in abundance and species composition; Improve the representation of Southeast Alaska in the flora of the herbaria of UAF and UAA.

B.      Contribute to the data set to test the plant species richness per unit area model, revise and re-evaluate.

C.      Observe for and record the presence of Festuca genus grasses, with interest in the presence of Neotyphodium. Observe for the presence of foragers. Prepare collections for genetic work.

D.     Observe for, record and report the presence of species range extensions, invasive or exotic species, or fungi of interest, in particular, Taraxum sp. and Exobasidium karstenii.

E.      Consider and observe interspecies and species substrate relationships, including observations for Nebria and Bambina genus beetles; foragers, including birds, other insects, animals; and plants.

F.       Observe for the presence of Nebria sp. for studies on the dispersal of the species on the nunataks and within Northwestern North American mountain ranges. Collect Nebria, record detailed habitat observations, and prepare samples for genetic work.

G.     Re-evaluate sites investigated by Henry Imshaug, survey, observe, record, and collect lichens. Carry out lichen and bryophyte baseline studies.

H.     Assist with observation for and collection of Cryptogramma crispa, C. acrostichoides, and C. sitchensis for genetic work and study of the species dispersal since the LGM. Members of the fern genus Cryptogramma, are known by their common name as the ‘parsley ferns’. Prepare collections for genetic work.

I.        Download and re-deploy digital temperature data loggers at select sites. Analyze this data in association with other variables. Consider influence of growing season length and variations in growing season on the habitats.

Timeline and logistics:  Introductory information on methodology and identification will take place at the beginning of the summer and be reinforced and reviewed throughout the summer as we traverse the icefield. At least 2-3 days/week will be spent in the field.  The ecology team will transport themselves, in most cases, to locations of interests.  Students should expect at least 1 day per week in camp working on data analysis.  New data will be collected, processed and preliminary interpretations made.  Two or more overnight field trips may take place to sites such the Nugget Ridge area, Sunday Point  and Brassiere Hills, possibly the Hole in the Wall and Twin Glaciers/ Camp 4 area, Juncture Peak and Shoehorn Peak area, Ivy Ridge, the Blob and/or F-10.

Possible conferences:

The Alaska Botanical Forum (will most likely be held in Fairbanks or Ketchikan in fall of 2015).

The Northwest Scientific Association Spring 2016 Conference, The Alaska Forum on the Environment Spring 2016 in Anchorage, The AISWG-CNPM(AK Invasive Species Conference) Fall 2015.


Bjelland, T. 2003. The Influence of Environmental Factors on the Spatial Distribution of Saxicolous Lichens in a Norwegian Coastal Community. Journal of Vegetation Science(14) 4 525-534.

Cannone, N., Sgorbati, S., Guglielmin, M. 2007. Unexpected Impacts of Climate Change on Alpine Vegetation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 5(7):360-364

Halloy, S. R. P., & Mark, A. F. 2003. Climate-change effects on alpine plant biodiversity: A New Zealand perspective on quantifying the threat. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 35(2): 248-254.

Harvey, J.E. and Smith, D.J. 2013.  Lichenometric dating of Little Ice Age Glacier activity in the Central British Columbia Coast Mountains, Canada.  Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography 95, p. 1-14.

Kammer, P. M., Schöb, C., and Choler, P. 2007. Increasing species richness on mountain summits: Upward migration due to anthropogenic climate change or re-colonisation? Journal of Vegetation Science. 18: 301-306.

Keeling, C.D., Chin, J.F.S. & Whort, T.P. 1996. Increased activity of northern vegetation inferred from atmospheric CO2 measurements. Nature. 382: 11 July,  146-149.

Koh, S. and Hik, D.D. 2007.Herbivory mediates grass-endophytes relationships. Ecology, 88(11); 2752–2757.

Koh, S. and Hik, D.D. 2008.Herbivory mediates grass-endophytes relationships Reply. Ecology, 88(12);3545-3549.

Smith, V. R., Steenkamp, M., & Gremmen, N. J. M. 2001. Terrestrial habitats on sub-Antarctic Marion Island: Their vegetation, edaphic attributes, distribution and response to climate change. South African Journal of Botany. 67: 641-654.

Walther, G.R., Beiβer, S., & Conradin, A. 2005. Trends in the upward shift of alpine plants. Journal of Vegetation Science. 16: 541-548.

Walther, G.R, Post, E., Convey, P., Menzel, A., Parmesan, C., Beebee, T. J. C., Fromentin, J. M., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., & Bairlein, F. 2002. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature. 416: 389-395.

Scherrer, D. and Körner, C. 2011. Topographically controlled thermal-habitat differentiation buffers alpine plant diversity against climate warming. Journal of Biogeography 38, 406–416.

Student Project: Stable Water Isotopes

JIRP 2015 Student Project: Stable Water Isotopes to Examine Moisture Transport and Snowpack Evolution on the Juneau Icefield.

Project leader: J. Kavanaugh

This study will use measurements of the stable water isotopic ratios δ18O and δD (see Footnote #1) to examine several aspects of the Icefield’s hydrology and snowpack. These isotopic ratios are influenced by a range of important environmental parameters, including temperature, relative humidity, phase transitions, and transport path characteristics, and can thus be used to examine the movement of water through the hydrological cycle. The proposed research project will examine isotopic signatures of both freshly-fallen snow (to examine lateral and vertical gradients in isotopic values) and the upper several meters of the snow and firn pack. An additional potential project will track the change in isotopic content of one or several JIRP participants as they cross the icefield. Although not confirmed at this time, it is possible that a portion of the isotopic analyses will be performed on the icefield using a Los Gatos Water Isotope Analyzer, which can determine δ18O and δD values from samples. The remaining samples (and duplicates of some or all samples analyzed on the icefield) will be analyzed at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Students participating in this project will read papers selected to demonstrate the use of water isotopic techniques to both cryospheric research in particular and Earth system science in general.  Students involved in this project will have the option to either complete their contributions at or near the end of the summer field expedition (“Level 1”) or to extend their involvement through the Fall semester (“Level 2”).

Research Topics:                                    

1. Examining changes in isotopic ratios along lateral and vertical gradients. As moisture is transported from its source region inland, its isotopic signature changes as the result of (a) Rayleigh distillation (whereby moisture becomes progressively more depleted in heavy isotopes as less and less of the original moisture remains) and (b) the temperature dependence of isotopic fractionation upon phase change (e.g., condensation from the vapor phase). Snow samples will be collected along both lateral (i.e., along moisture path) and vertical (i.e., elevational) transects in order to tease out horizontal and vertical isotopic gradients. Ideally, these transects will be sampled in as short a time period as practical, and at least twice: the first during or shortly after a fresh snowfall (if conditions are deemed safe to do so) to capture unmodified isotopic values and the second after the snowpack has been exposed to several freeze/thaw cycles and other aging effects that could modify the isotopic signature. (Level 1 and 2) Following completion of JIRP, Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) models will be used to determine the air mass trajectory for the sampled precipitation events to determine along-path distances and moisture source characteristics. (Level 2)

2. Examining isotopic variations within the snowpack. A 2014 student study of isotopic signatures in snowpits indicated that water contained in ice lenses was generally isotopically lighter (i.e., more depleted in heavy isotopes) than was water contained in the surrounding snow. This difference is of interest because it can be used to examine whether ice lenses form from rainfall events, from the refreezing of melted snow, or from a combination of these two mechanisms. Students in 2015 will examine the isotopic signature of ice lenses, and the snow immediately above and below them, in much greater detail than was done in 2014, in order to address this question.

Additional work will be performed to examine the evolution of isotopic signatures with aging of the snow and firn. First, one or more snow pits will be dug to reveal two years’ worth of accumulated snow and firn (i.e., one year’s greater accumulation than typical). Firn samples in the layer dating from 1-2 years (i.e., corresponding to the snow sampled during JIRP 2014) will be analyzed, and isotopic values will be compared to those obtained in 2014 to determine the magnitude of change. Second, snow and firn will be sampled from the exposed faces of several crevasses and analyzed to determine whether isotopic values vary significantly (due to atmospheric exposure and possible meltwater contamination) from those obtained from snow and firn samples in nearby snow pits. Ideally, the multi-year snow/firn pits will be dug in locations that (a) were sampled for isotopic analysis in 2014 and (b) are near crevasses suitable for study. (Levels 1 and 2)


1These so called “delta values” are measures of the ratio of “heavy” vs “light” water molecules (e.g. those with 18O vs 16O isotopes, respectively) in any sample compared to a global standard.


Dansgaard, Willi. "Stable isotopes in precipitation." Tellus 16.4 (1964): 436-468.

Merlivat, Liliane, and Jean Jouzel. "Global climatic interpretation of the deuterium‐oxygen 18 relationship for precipitation." Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (1978–2012) 84.C8 (1979): 5029-5033.

Jouzel, Jean, and Liliane Merlivat. "Deuterium and oxygen 18 in precipitation: modeling of the isotopic effects during snow formation." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012) 89.D7 (1984): 11749-11757.

Kavanaugh, J. L., and Kurt M. Cuffey. "Space and time variation of δ18O and δD in Antarctic precipitation revisited." Global Biogeochemical Cycles 17.1 (2003).

Dansgaard, Willi, et al. "A new Greenland deep ice core." Science 218.4579 (1982): 1273-1277.

Student Project: Glacier Mass Balance

2015 JIRP Student Project: Glacier Mass Balance

Faculty experts: Matt Beedle, Lindsey Nicholson, Shad O’Neel.

Overview: The glacier mass balance project works to directly measure the gains and losses of snow and ice across the surface of Taku and Lemon Creek glaciers. These measurements will be added to and placed in the context of the 50+ year continuous record of mass balance on the Juneau Icefield. The goal of this project is to quantify snow accumulation and ice melt for balance year 2015.

Level 1 students are not expected to continue their work beyond the summer field camp unless computations and write up are not completed during summer.

Level 2 students should expect to continue to work on data analysis beyond the summer season, with a more detailed analysis and report turned in near the end of fall semester.

A.    Snow accumulation. Snowpits will be excavated at several (15-25) established locations on Taku and Lemon Creek glaciers to the depth of the previous summer surface. In each pit a density profile will be computed and plotted with a provided template. Column average density and snow water equivalent are calculated. Levels 1&2.

B.     Snow and ice ablation. Stake measurements will be measured as possible (3 sites at minimum). These measurements will be used to calculate snow and ice melt. Levels 1&2.

C.     Firn evolution. At snowpits near the ELA, continue excavation through 2014 firn. Compare and contrast SWE with 2014 observations. Level 2.

D.    Glacier-wide balance. Students will learn to construct a balance profile from the point-data and then estimate the glacier-wide balance using a supplied glacier geometry. Levels 1&2. Level 2 students will use a degree-day model (supplied) to adjust all measurements to a common date (may involve synthetic wx data) and compare estimates over the original and present-day surfaces to compare and contrast 2 common analysis frameworks (conventional vs. reference-surface balance).

E.     Cumulative balance. Using the entire measurement time series, students will calculate the cumulative mass balance as a function of time and display this work graphically. They will discuss the similarities and differences between the two glaciers response to similar climate forcing. Levels 1 & 2.

F.     Climate forcing. Quantify the relationship between temperature and mass balance, as well as precipitation and mass balance. This exercise is for Level 2 students upon return from the icefield.

Timeline and logistics: snowpit excavation occurs on a semi-regular basis throughout the traverse, with 2-3 days/week spent in the field.  This is a labor-intensive project. The mass balance team generally transports themselves to snow pit locations via human power.  Logistics are limited for this project, but the project members will travel to places where most students will not. Students should expect at least 1 day per week in camp working on data analysis. New data will be collected, processed and preliminary interpretations made. Additionally, student reports will need to include external (supplied) data sets such as Area Altitude Distributions, and historic mass balance values.

References (numbered by priority, i.e. study #1 first, #10 last):

1. Pelto, M., Kavanaugh, J., and McNeil, C., 2013, Juneau Icefield Mass Balance Program 1946–2011: Earth System Science Data, v. 5, no. 2, p. 319–330.

2. Arendt, A.A., Echelmeyer, K.A., Harrison, W.D., Lingle, C.S., and Valentine, V.B., 2002, Rapid Wastage of Alaska Glaciers and Their Contribution to Rising Sea Level: Science, v. 297, no. 5580, p. 382–386.

3. Gardner, A.S., Moholdt, G., Cogley, J.G., Wouters, B., Arendt, A.A., Wahr, J., Berthier, E., Hock, R., Pfeffer, W.T., Kaser, G., Ligtenberg, S.R.M., Bolch, T., Sharp, M.J., Hagen, J.O., and others, 2013, A Reconciled Estimate of Glacier Contributions to Sea Level Rise: 2003 to 2009: Science, v. 340, no. 6134, p. 852–857.

4. Cogley, J., Hock, R., Rasmussen, L., Arendt, A., Bauder, A., Braithwaite, R., Jansson, P., Kaser, G., Möller, M., Nicholson, L., and others, 2011, Glossary of glacier mass balance and related terms, IHP-VII technical documents in hydrology No. 86, IACS Contribution No. 2: UNESCO-IHP, Paris.

5. Owen, L.A., Thackray, G., Anderson, R.S., Briner, J., Kaufman, D., Roe, G., Pfeffer, W., and Yi, C., 2009, Integrated research on mountain glaciers: Current status, priorities and future prospects: Geomorphology, v. 103, no. 2, p. 158–171.

6. Criscitiello, A.S., Kelly, M.A., and Tremblay, B., 2010, The Response of Taku and Lemon Creek Glaciers to Climate: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, v. 42, no. 1, p. 34–44.

7. Larsen, C.F., Motyka, R.J., Arendt, A.A., Echelmeyer, K.A., and Geissler, P.E., 2007, Glacier changes in southeast Alaska and northwest British Columbia and contribution to sea level rise: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, v. 112, no. F1.

8. O’Neel, S., Hood, E., Arendt, A., and Sass, L., 2014, Assessing streamflow sensitivity to variations in glacier mass balance: Climatic Change, v. 123, no. 2, p. 1–13.

9. Huss, M., Hock, R., Bauder, A., and Funk, M., 2012, Conventional versus reference-surface mass balance: Journal of Glaciology, v. 58, no. 208, p. 278–286.

Field Work of the Seismic Bandits

by Dan King, State University of New York at Oneonta

The Other Seismic Bandits:

Lizzie Kenny, Bowdoin College; Julian Alwakeel, Florida International University; Josh Ivie, Tarleton State University; and Mike Staron, Keene State College

Our Project:

Most research groups here at Camp 10 have now prepared, or already begun, their various projects. The seismic group, or the Seismic Bandits as weve come to call ourselves, has completed our research because all of our fieldwork needed to be done on the Taku Glacier.

Our research became a race against the clock upon our arrival at Camp 10. The delayed departure of the latter trail parties from Camp 17 certainly didnt help our cause. Our faculty research advisers, Don Voigt and Kiya Riverman (both from Penn State University) were set to fly out of camp just under two weeks after the arrival of the first members of our research group  ( Lizzie and I) and our fieldwork needed to be concluded prior to their departure. Don and Kiya were also kind enough to provide the group with all of the essential equipment needed to conduct our fieldwork. Just a few days after arriving at Camp 10, our group began testing the field equipment in Icy Basin, just a couple hundred meters Southeast of Camp 10. Collection of the critical data for our research project did not begin until all of the Bandits had arrived at Camp 10 several days later.

In the past, Don and Kiya have typically used explosives for their seismic work. However, since we didnt have permits for seismics, we used a sledge hammer, and occasionally an instrument known as Betsy, for a sound making device. Betsy is a surprisingly light piece of equipment that fires blank 12 gauge shotgun rounds into the glacier.

Before I get too specific, Ill take a step backward Our original goals were to use standard methods of seismic reflection to determine the depth of the Taku Glacier, and also to determine the underlying material (bedrock, sediment, water, etc.). We also planned to do seismic refraction surveys in areas of both low and high strain on the Taku Glacier in order to create firn density profiles. Firn is snow that has survived at least one entire melt season. It is denser than fresh snow, but not as dense as glacial ice. Using the firn density profiles that we create from our surveys, we hope to better understand how regional strain can affect the rate at which firn densifies into glacial ice. Firn densification is important to consider when trying to understand ice flow dynamics this is where our work becomes valuable.

After getting into our fieldwork, we decided unanimously that we would prefer to devote our time to the refraction surveys, and to drop reflection from our work entirely. We did this, in part, because we were crunched for time, but mainly for other reasons: While seismic reflection had been used on the Taku Glacier before, refraction surveys to examine properties of firn densification have not. The Bandits agreed that it would be best to devote our time to a single research project that was unique to the area, and our advisers supported that decision.

We conducted 4 refraction surveys: two in areas of relatively low strain, and two in areas of relatively high strain. Each individual survey, however, was conducted in the same manner. We would start by laying out 500 meters of cable in a line, with nodes at 20 meter intervals. At each node, we dug a hole, buried a geophone, and connected it to the node. The cable was connected to a magical box called the geode. Also connected to the geode, was the trigger switch, which we connected to the end of the sledge hammer, or to the mallet used to trigger Betsy. We ended up using the sledge hammer much more than Betsy because it was faster and worked just as well, if not better. The geode was connected to a battery and our laptop. These connections made up our temporary seismic station for each survey.

One of several temporary seismic stations.  Don Voight - left, Kiya Riverman - right;  photo by Dan King

One of several temporary seismic stations.  Don Voight - left, Kiya Riverman - right;  photo by Dan King

Starting at the closest geophone, and gradually moving to a distance of 20 meters, we would place the “shot” then take several recordings. The “shot” is the term for each sledge hammer hit. When ready, the Bandit manning the computer would say, “Quiet on the line,” to eliminate noise interference from the group, and the person manning the sledge hammer would strike a metal pipe on the surface of the glacier. The impact would trigger the switch and start a timer. The computer then recorded the magnitude and time of arrival of the sound wave(s) produced by the shot at each individual geophone, which we analyzed back at camp. Shots were usually taken 0-20 meters away from the first geophone, at an interval of 2 meters each.

Although the fieldwork was repetitive, we never got bored. Each of the Bandits learned the various team roles, and became masters of using the equipment. After a while, I became the designated sledge hammer-er… The team even started calling me “Thor.” Mike’s ski ballet was also a brilliant source of entertainment during our brief moments of down time. In the end, we were all able to walk away with great data and close bonds from our memorable moments in the field. All that’s left now is to return to camp and crunch our data.

Don, Josh, Julian, Lizzie, Dan, Kaya - right to left; Mike - center; photo by Randall Stacy

Don, Josh, Julian, Lizzie, Dan, Kaya - right to left; Mike - center; photo by Randall Stacy

Id like to thank Don Voigt and Kiya Riverman, not only for their instruction and the use of their equipment, but also for the enthusiasm and patience they expressed while working with the Bandits. I speak for us all when I say that it was a pleasure to work with you two. We couldnt have done it without you. Perhaps the Bandits will someday reunite.


Portable Cloud 9

by Jennifer Berry, University of Michigan

Camp 9 – Plan of the day

8:45 – Roll over in sleeping bag to do morning check-in

9:30 – Actually get out of sleeping bag to make breakfast

9:45 – Eat breakfast with a topping of nutella

10:00 – Press 4 buttons to sample aerosols

10:05 – Press same 4 buttons

10:10 – Press same 4 buttons

10:15 – Press same 4 buttons

10:20 – Press same 4 buttons

10:25 – Press same 4 buttons

10:30 – Go crazy after pressing same buttons so many times. Decide to sample every half hour

11:00 – Eat chunk of frozen nutella

11:15 – Think about eating lunch

11:30 – Warm up nutella on pilot bread using the cover of the pot of boiling water

12:00 – Make and eat lunch, dessert of nutella

14:00 – Wonder what exactly happened in the past two hours. Eat more nutella

14:30 – Pick out all the M&Ms from a few bags of GORP for a nice present for the mass balance group coming in a few days

15:00 – Brainstorm GoPro ideas

15:30 – Throw GoPro tied to a rope into the bergschrund

16:00 – Eat more nutella

17:00 – Throw rocks into bergschrund

18:00 – Stare off into space

19:00 – Make and eat dinner. Wonder why you’re eating so much despite not having done anything all day

20:00 – Dessert of pilot bread and nutella

20:15 – Try melting M&Ms because Jenny admitted to really only eating fruit when it’s covered in chocolate

20:30 – Notice that M&Ms aren’t melting. End up squishing M&Ms onto apple slices

21:00 – Wonder how we ate a large container of nutella in less than 3 days

23:00 – Lights out

For those that aren’t that familiar, every day at camp the staff tells us the plan of the day so everyone can know what’s going happening. Camp 9 is slightly different though, being only one building and holding a maximum of 8 people. When I was at C-9 there wasn’t exactly much to plan and there were only 3 people at camp, so we ended up coming up with a joke “plan of the day”. The walls of C-9 have these kind of plans of the day going back decades, each one hilarious. Most of them talked about sleeping in late and discussing odd things like how many cups are in a quart (but does anyone really know that off the top of their head?). One of my favorites went something like “Initiate search for mass balance group by yelling,” followed by “observe silence in the fog.” All of these plans posted on the walls show how much free time you get at C-9, and my stay was no exception.

Camp 9 (aka Cloud 9) in a whiteout.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Camp 9 (aka Cloud 9) in a whiteout.  photo by Gillian Rooker

I was at Camp 9 to set up atmospheric sampling instruments away from the burn pits of the other camps. Sent all the way from Michigan, I had a 2B Technologies ozone monitor, an AeroTrak, and a microAeth in order to look at ozone, black carbon, and size-resolved particle counts of the atmosphere. We had a sampling line run out from the porthole window, up a metal pole that we conveniently found already at C-9, to up inlet that stuck above the roof. So far there hasn’t been much of a chance to look into the results of this study, but even just the data on the monitors shows some really interesting events going on. The first day we turned on the instruments we saw that the ozone values were around 250 ppb (around of the levels of ozone found in Mexico City) and after that it started to slowly drop down, but there were also really high particle counts in the atmosphere at the same time. Sadly, at the close of the first day things started to go wrong. One of the ozone monitor wouldn’t connect to the computer, meaning that the data was only logged onto the internal memory of the monitor. This left the chance for the loss of the data if the monitor stopped logging data, which naturally happened at the end of the first day. Just around that time, the AeroTrak stopped being able to reach the proper flow level. This mean that the only way to sample was to manually hit start every couple of minutes. I’ve been told that everything going wrong is a part of field work, but it certainly is frustrating. In the end, the generator breaking was the final nail in the coffin of my study.


Camp 9 still in a whiteout.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Camp 9 still in a whiteout.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Beyond the frustrations of field work, Camp 9 was amazing. After spending most of the time in large camps with upwards of 50 people, being in a one building camp with only 2 other people felt like a vacation. It was a very relaxing change to be able to sleep in a bit and sit outside (when the weather permitted it) while reading books and writing letters. I was able to go to Camp 9 two separate times and the first time there the weather was beautiful. It was rather windy, but if you sit behind the right corner of the building you could be blocked from the wind but still facing the sun. Camp 9 is the closest thing you can get to a vacation on the icefield. We only had to start the AeroTrak sampling every 30 minutes and fill up the generator every 5 hours. Even though my second trip was during a whiteout that included rain and snow, it was just as enjoyable. I loved my time at Camp 9 and I was really sad to leave it behind when my study came to an end.

Packing up Camp 9 after the generator died.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Packing up Camp 9 after the generator died.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Alternative JIRP

by: Stephanie Romano (Binghamton University)

The goal of Alternative JIRP is to analyze fossil fuel consumption at each of the camps and to determine solar and/or wind availabilities in hopes of propelling JIRP into a more sustainable future. The project based on the four main camps (17, 10, 18, and 26), and will be conducted my mentor, graduate student Kim Quesnel from Stanford University, and me.

Camp 17 and Camp 10 currently use a 2.5 kilowatt generator to power electronics including lights, laptops, radios, cameras, and a projector for lectures. When they are occupied, both camps have a consistent load of 1.5 kilowatts for about 11 hours. This equates to a daily consumption of 16.5 kilowatts (16,500 watts). These readings will be used to estimate how much wind or solar power would be necessary to continue current operations.

Thus far, hourly solar radiation measurements have been taken for Camp 17 and Camp 10 using a pyrometer (measured in watts/m2) in both “bluebird” and cloudy/rainy weather. Radiation measurements are recorded with a percentage probability of the different weather conditions; for example, “Cloud 17” has poor weather about 80% of the time. Radiation measurements will continue at the two remaining camps (Camp 18 and 26) when we arrive.

Meteorological stations have been recording wind measurements at Camps 17 and 18 for a few years. I am currently analyzing these readings and using average wind speeds to determine if wind turbines are a feasible option. Unfortunately, a reliable record of wind speed has not been found for the other two camps.

Findings at this stage suggest that solar and wind power could be a feasible option for JIRP camps. Additionally, these alternative technologies could serve as learning tools and possible future projects for JIRPers.

We have submitted an abstract about this project to the Geological Society of America (GSA) and hope to present our final report at their annual meeting.

Below I have included a figure expressing Camp 17’s solar availability and generator usage.

Solar availability and generator usage at C-17.

Solar availability and generator usage at C-17.