Rastner2012

Our Scientific Research

Recent news showing that the extent of the total sea ice is at its’ lowest level since satellite records began in 1978, really highlights the need for humanity to do what we can to slow this ever increasing trend.

sea ice

Our plan to carry out self-supported scientific research in the Stauning Alps region of Greenland is our way of getting involved and helping to inform the world about one of the biggest issues facing us today.

We will collect valuable scientific data and instigate a new monitoring program, using data collected during the 1970s as a baseline for investigating changes in the region over the past 40 years and into the future. This monitoring program will utilise measurements and techniques which can be repeated by future expeditions to set up a vital, long term record of changes in the area.

So what exactly will we be doing…

We will install a similar network of ablation stakes to that measured and maintained in the 1970s. During these campaigns, a network of 26 stakes was installed in three lines; two cross-glacier lines on Roslin Glacier, and one on Dalmore Glacier, a tributary to Roslin Glacier, as shown below:

Location of the stakes installed during the 1970s.

One of the primary aims of this stake network was to measure the cross-glacier variation in ice flow speed. This required a high number of stakes in the across-glacier direction to get a reasonable resolution of the cross-glacier variation in flow speed. As surface flow speeds can now be derived from satellite imagery and constrained by a small number of ground-based point measurements, our primary interest will be in ablation measurements. Therefore, we will distribute our stakes across a wider elevation range than in 1970 and reduce the number of stakes to 10. This also means that we can realistically transport the necessary tools and stakes on the pulks which we will be towing.

Stakes will be installed using a hand drill; although more labour intensive, this will significantly reduce the weight we most carry, by omitting the power drill and power generation equipment. It’ll also keep us warm!

Drilling into the ice…

As we are installing the stakes in the early spring, it will also be necessary to remove the surface snow before drilling. This will allow an opportunity to collect density and temperature profiles of the snow on the surface of the glacier, providing insights in the accumulation rates in the upper part of the glacier as well as valuable data to validate snow and precipitation models of the area. The stakes will be drilled to a depth of up to 4 metres. This depth will allow the stakes to remain in place for a number of years without being replaced.

Stake sketch
High-tech engineering drawings of stake lengths and attachments

We will set up a base camp and stay for several days at this location on the Roslin Glacier to enable us to complete all this work. We believe that reviving the relationship between science and mountaineering could allow the collection of measurements like these which play a vital role in creating a long term record in remote areas. Measurements and records of this nature, while simple, are invaluable to scientists, particularly in determining the mass balance of the glacier and for validating modelled or remote sensing observations. We hope that this may eventually evolve into a form of ‘citizen science’ for mountaineering expeditions.

Our colour coded stakes ready for shipping to Greenland.
Our colour coded stakes ready for shipping to Greenland.

The scientific data we collect will be published and presented at scientific conferences, and used to demonstrate the potential of this untapped method of data collection.

Please do get in touch if you want to find out more and get involved in future expeditions.

1972 pic
Collating results during the expedition in August 1972.

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