Thursday, May 31, 2007

email from the "Designer and Builder of the Big House in Greenland"

Below is a letter and some photos that Jack Dibb received tonight from out of the ether from Dan Scott. It is pretty neat to see these old photos. Thanks Dan for sending these along.

One day I was wondering what ever happen to the house I built in Greenland. I thought with the annual snow fall of 4 feet a year, I built that house in 1990, that's 16 years ago. Then that would mean that that house would be 54 feet under the snow surface, subtracting the 10 feet it was above the surface. So just out of curiosity I decided to google the house site and see if I would fine anything on it.
I was profoundly surprised to find it was not only not buried in snow, but above the surface and thriving in supporting a growing community of scientific researchers. When I found your web site I was ecstatic to find such an awesome gallery of photos of the big house, as it has been called. I am glad that the summer camp I had thought I built has been winter over also is great news. The winter aurora shots are awesome too.
Well after seeing all the excitement that is going on at the Big House I thought you might like to hear from the guy who designed and built the Big House. I was working for a company in Brattleboro, Vermont, Winter Panel Co. I was the original designer for the company having been there 7 years. The company produces foam core panel homes with and without timber frames. I had just finished a job in Concord, Mass. With This Old House Show, I was in the back ground working on the job, in the show.
I have been a hiker and skier in the mountains of New England all my life, so the idea of going to Greenland excited me greatly. I over saw all prefabricated parts at the factory in Brattleboro, Vt. I personally delivered the tools, doors and windows, to Schenectady, N.Y. Hopped on a C130 with the 109 Air National Guard and in 6 hours was in Sondrestrom, Greenland. Waited a few days while the guys digging World War II planes out of snow to get to work, Then it was our turn to fly up. The US site was snowed in with a herbi, blizzard, so we flew to the European site, where they loaded up sleds with our gear, with me sitting by myself on the back, and went 40 kilometers to the US site. What a ride that was. Talk about getting away from it all. Well we had a great two weeks building the Big House, and the rest of the story is history.
A final note, the next year,1991, I got to design and build 4 summer camp buildings at the South Pole. You can see them there, they are the first buildings to be built above the surface on metal frames. They also are wintered over in.

Dan Scott Designs
Architectual CADD Design
1548 Back Westminster Road
Westminster, Vermont 05158
(802) 463-1961 phone / Fax

Short-timers and Sunday Soccer

Next week is a flight period and more than half the camp is leaving on the scheduled flights next week. So many Summit residents are offically "short-timers", they have 3 to 5 days to go. They are intently watching the weather forecast, because bad weather (i.e., poor visibility) could prevent the C-130s from landing. Lastnight was foggy (above) but today is bright and sunny with a temperature of -12.9 C. This is the all time high over the past 24 days we have been here.

Along with the fog, we get rime ice. This coats everything in camp, including our sensors. So the night shift has to stay on top of things to keep the rime off our instruments. If you look closely, you can see the bamboo flagpole is coated on the left (south) side from the southerly winds we had last night.

We have been kicking the soccer ball around on our 1/2 mile walks to and from the photochemistry satellite camp. Now that everyone has had a chance to acclimatize to the altitude. Captain Jack's photochemistry crew has challenged the Firn core drilling team to a soccer game on Sunday. The idea was that if any of the short timers over do it, they can hop on the Monday flight back to the coast (i.e., sea level). We will have a mini-draft on Saturday night to divide up the camp staff between the two teams of scientists.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Luke's Photos from Summit Camp

Here is Luke's portrait entitled "hanging out in the tent". The wind has been kicking up here, causing lots of snow drifting. Good news is that winds warm things up (mixing warm air above with cold air at the surface). Bad news is that Bonnie got trapped in her tent by a drift when snow froze the tent zipper. After a few panicked moments, she warmed up the zipper by breathing on it. In the end she was only trapped for about 15 minutes.

Not the best example, but here is a photo of Tent City before the drifting.

Tent City after the drifting. Luke took this photo yesterday. Today the drifts are even higher.

This is my impersonation of Sir Robert Falcon Scott. Antarctic explorer. Scott is famous for losing the race to the South Pole to Roald Admunsen by a few weeks, and perishing on the way home a few days walk from his ship (photo by L. Ziemba).

This is the U.S. GISP II (Greenland Ice Sheet Project II) bore hole where the 3200 m ice core was drilled between 1989-1993. This ice was provided a high resolution of the past 200,000 years. But the best record goes back 110,000 years. This is one of the reasons we are here. What we learn about the current Arctic atmosphere and snow chemistry may help the glaciologist interpret this long term record. The other thing I recently learned is that Summit Camp was mis-named. We are not really at the Summit of the ice sheet, we are 28 km due West of the highest point. A group of European scientists drilled a complementary ice core at the GRIP (Greenland Icecore Project). Since we are not really at the Summit, Summit Ice Camp is moving a little over a meter per year towards the coast.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sunny days back at Summit

Here is a photo of me on the roof of the Balley Building with the rest of the Summit camp in the background. Temperatures have warmed up quite a bit. Just in time for our Memorial Day Barbeque on Sunday Night. Not sure of all the plans yet, but I hear that we good chance that we will play so Greenland Golf (with orange balls), horse shoes, and kick the soccer ball around. Acutally have a long day of snow pit sampling every 4 hours from 0800 to 2400 LT planned for tomorrow, so I will be looking forward to some time off on Sunday night.

Also, wanted to introduce Jo Dodds, a middle school Earth Sciences teacher from Idaho visiting Summit to learn about what we are doing and to teach a couple of Webinars on the PolarTREC website. Her next webinar from Summit Greenland will be on 01 June, and will try to answer the questions: Does snow cause air pollution?

Please check out Jo's online journal at:

Happy Belated Birthday to Summit Camp

May 25th. Hard to believe that I will be back in only a month [if all goes according to plan]! I feel like, in so many ways, we just got here. I suppose it's nothing more than my point of reference- in that I'm used to being on trips for much longer times.
I decided I haven't taken enough photos of the place. So, I took the time to wander around last night (about 1am local time) and take some photos along the perimeter of camp. I like how this captures the texture of the snow surface, which is constantly changing. We've had some breezy days, hence the texture of all the waves. There is a bit of a wind layer on the snow as well. When we first got here, the snow was much smoother from the different conditions before our arrival.
It has been a bit warmer lately, particularly in the tents- increased solar radiation. Still, the sauna is an often refreshing past time for some (will take a photo of that particular feature later).

Other than that, things, from my perspective, seem to be moving along groovy enough. The whole community here gets along well. No complaints. In fact, one of the hardest parts I forsee in leaving this place is going to be leaving the cooks! Aside from Sunday, they cook every lunch and dinner for us, and it's always fantastic (and extremely diverse)! Here is a photo of the birthday cake (Oh yeah, Summit Camp turned 18 on the 24th of May, so she's now legal and can kick us out). Beside the cake in this photo is one of the infamous cooks I mentioned- Kathy. Whatever she gets paid, she needs a raise! Tina (not photoed) is the other beautiful cook, who also isn't paid enough. The food here is spectacular, and I'm not even that much of a food person.

Whenever we get the next fog, I'm going to look at climbing the 50m tower (usually a warmer place than the ground with the related inversion) and take some photos down on camp, if the opportunity presents itself. Should be neat, though a wee bit chilly. Often, the inversion from 2m to 8m is on the magnitude of 10 C!
And on that note, bis dann.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Calm winds and radiation fog

You can just barely see the big house in the photo taken a few minutes ago. It as been sunny and warm all day, and now that the winds have died down, the fog as just started to form. The NOAA website say that radation fog "forms at night under clear skies with calm winds when heat absorbed by the earth’s surface during the day is radiated into space. As the Earth’s surface continues to cool... the humidity (can) reach 100% and fog (may) form. Radiation fog varies in depth from 3 feet to 1,000 feet and is always found at ground level and usually remains stationary. This type of fog can reduce visibility to near zero at times .

These are two more photos of the clam conditions tonight, the weather port (above) and the shovel we use to keep the drifting snow away from the door (below).

Finally, David Lew (NOAA) is working on fixing an problem with the mercury instrument. It is an intermittent problem, the most difficult to troubleshoot. He just took the whole instrument back outside, so that makes me think that he has has it working again.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Daily comings and goings

This is a photo of the ARGO that pulls the water "pig" from the melter to the Big House. Our water source here is melted snow. The melter is a metal box that is attached to the diesel generator, and uses the heat from the generator to melt the snow. The melter box is filled by a small bulldozer. Once the 200 gallon pig is towed to the Big House, an electric pump transfers the water from the pig to the 400 gallon water reservoir in the Big House. This is the water we use for washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, drinking, showering, washing clothes, etc. The Big House goes through about 400 gallons a day. Because it is a bit of a pain to keep refilling the pig, we try to conserve water. We try to limit ourselves to one 2-min shower each week, and try to only wash our clothes only once every 2 weeks, since I think this is about 25 to 30 gallons.
Today was a great day for me, I took a shower, washed my clothes, and cut my hair. I feel like a new man.

This is Ryan, a camera man from Polar-Palooza. They are in the Arctic this summer filming and interview scientists for a 1 hour film and a series of educational podcasts. Check out their website to see what they have been up to:
Ryan and Geoff Hains-Stiles are visiting Summit to learn more about the science going on here and what is it like to live here at Summit. Should be exciting to see what they come up with.

Here is Jack Dibb putting away a snow sample. Jack is collecting daily surface snow samples and analysing the major cations and anions dissolved in the snow. I will be collecting some a couple of snow samples each week and send them to Cort Anastasio of UC-Davis. Cort will measure the dissolved organic compounds in the snow and also how much solar UV radiation they absorb. This will help me interpret my measurements of UV sunlight in the snow.

Here is a photo of Jochen Stutz (a professor at UCLA). This was Jochen's turn to be the "House Mouse". The mouse is responsible for doing all the breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes. As well as clean the tables, vacuum the carpet, clean the bathroom/shower, mop the kitchen and galley, restock the breakfast bar (bagels, cereal, muffins, juice), restock salt/pepper/napkins, help the cook, etc. This takes about all day. In my opinion, the best benefit of being the mouse is that you get to choose the music.

Wind brings warmer temperatures to Summit

It has been windy for the past 3 days and this has kept the nighttime temperatures warmer here. Winds have also reduced visibility and caused some drifting (see above). Notice the UH flag. I am curious to see how long it lasts if the winds keep blowing. Winds have died off a bit for the past 6 hours. Wind direction has also changed, have been getting some Northerly and now Easterly winds.

The NOAA Atmospheric Watch Observatory (AWO) measures the air temperature 2 and 8 meters above the snow. The first 10 days of our project were quite sunny and at night the atmosphere was well stratified. Notice how the 8 m air is much warmer at night while the 2 m air temperatures cool down to below -35C.

Winds were typically 3 to 7 m/s for first 10 days, and have been mostly above 6 m/s for last 3 days. Higher winds at night have done a good job of mixing the air, keeping the surface (2 m) air temperature from getting so cold. This has made it much easier to sleep. During the day the temperatures feel about the same, especially when you consider the windchill factor.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

First windy day

Our first 2 weeks at Summit have been beautiful. Every day has been bright and sunny, with only a few minor high cirrus clouds. The plot above shows UV levels I measured over the past few days. You can see how the it has been very few clouds. Today the winds have gotten up to 20 miles per hour, so we have some blowing snow, which has reduced our visibility.

Here is a photo from the Total Sky Imager (TSI) that is used to calculate the percent cloud cover. You can not see any clouds in this photo, but you may be able to see the halo (or sun dog) around the Sun. This is caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere which are hexagonal in shape. The ice crystals could be in high level cirrus clouds or right at the surface in diamond dust (ice fog). Last night we had diamond dust forming, but since it is so windy today, these ice crystals are from cirrus.

There is a photo of the Big House last night around 0100 as Sun is low on the horizon and diamond dust was forming in an ice fog. It may not seem like much, but we were all excited that weather is changing some. The reactions we are studying are driven by sunlight, and we observed our most interesting results during blowing snow conditions. Now that all the instruments are more or less working we are hoping that the weather cooperates and brings us a few days of high winds and white out conditions over the next 4 weeks.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Summit's First Wind Generator

On Monday (14th May) the Summit Crew in were ready to raise the first Summit Wind powered electricity generator.

We all helped using the hand winch to raise the wind mill. The winching was a bit difficult at first. Each stroke of the winch pulled in 1 inch of cable, so it took about 45 minutes to get the wind mill all the way up.

This prototype project was led by Tracy (middle) and assisted by Larry (left) and Joe (right). This particular wind generator has a peak output of 6000 W. If the winds get too strong it pushes back the blades. This particular system is rated for - 60 deg C. If it survives the cold temperatures and stong winds of this winter, we are hopeful that we can have more (and larger) wind mills up here in the future.

The windmill has been working well the past 4 days. We have only had light winds so far but it is already tapped into the Summit grid helping us do our science.

p.s. Thanks to Sandy Starkweather for the photos of the wind generator.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Katrine's Blog

Katrine Gorham, a graduate student at the University of California - Irvine is here at Summit collecting whole air samples is the air and testing a snow chamber to help get a better understanding of the chemical reactions occurring above and within the snow. Take a look at her blog:

Ozone Cam

Sorry for the long delay between posts. We all have been busy getting instruments set up. Many things have happened over the last 5 days. The Summit crew has installed their first Wind Turbine, so for the past 2 days, some of our electricity has been generated by the wind. We will do a special blog on this later in the week. Other news is that 14 new scientists, staff, and technicians arrived yesterday and now the total population of Summit Camp is 49 people. Another C-130 arrives tomorrow, and we will be back down to 35 people. As far as the science goes, lots of good news to report. A new power supply arrived on the flight yesterday (Tuesday) and so the Snow Profiling Spectroradiometer (a.k.a. SnowBird) is now collecting data. Also, the GaTech Crew (Dave Tanner, Bonnie, and Justin) fixed the ozone monitor and has 2 or 3 days of OH and HO2 data. Katrine (UC-Irvine) has started her whole air sampling. Every 4 hours she fills a stainless steel can with ambient air. She gets help from Justin for the 0300 and 0700 samples. Katine will post more on this later.

The photo above is a picture of Greenland from 30,000 ft taken on 02 May 2007. Andy Clark is the scientist in charge of the ozonesonde balloon measurements up here and he attached a digital camera to his ozone instrument. And every 30 seconds the camera took a picture. The balloon and attached instruments rose to 32,000 ft until the balloon burst and then the parchute gently floated back down to the ice sheet about 20 km from Summit. Andy lost the on-board GPS signal when the parchute was about 9 km above the snow. Knowing the windspeed, wind direction, and descent rate, Andy calculated when it may have fallen. It took him two attempts, but on Sunday Andy found the ozonesonde and the ozone cam within 2 km of where he calculated it to be.

Below are more photos from this balloon flight:

This photos shows tent city in the lower left, and the track of the C-130 that was having trouble taking off.

Flat Earth

Since most of my Hg measurements have been behaving, I've been helping out the
staff a bit in their duties. This is Sarah and I, sitting atop the pit 5 of us have been cutting out with chainsaws. It's going to be a food freezer for the next 5 years or so. The sagging ceiling on the current one is making enough people nervous that it's time for a new one.

I helped set up the reflector side of a retro (active long range spectrum-analyzer) in the clean air zone a few days ago, which is an extremely restricted area. As you can see, the place really is this flat. This is a photo of the summit station from 5 km away. The neatest thing is there are snow formations (mainly just waves, hardly even sastrugi), though they are never even 10 cm high. Also there are random patches of harder snow or softer snow, for no obvious reason.

In general the temps have been warming up, though earlier this week we did hit -40 C... Tuesday night I believe. However, with the increasing solar radiation the place seems quite warm. -20 C is a rather average temperature outside, and if I'm doing any manual labor I typically remove my jacket about there. Just adapting I suppose.

Steve Brooks left Summit yesterday. He's now in Kanger, Greenland, slowly making his way back to the states.

We did get an additional 16 ppl at camp yesterday, putting us up to a whopping 48, though 12 or so are leaving tomorrow. Quick visit.

Most things are pretty mellow and cruisy at this point. I did discover that we have a freakin sauna here last night, which is wonderful. Though it was roughly a 170 F difference from inside to outside (roughly 145 F inside when I left, and about -25 F or - 30 F outside).

The 24 hr daylight doesn't seem to be strange any more, more just a fact of life. Walking around camp at 3 am to go to an outhouse with the sun up just seems normal, though it's easy to tell it's still the middle of the morning by the angle. Difficult to take dramatic photos here.

Okay, time to go jump back in the sauna now that all of my daily duties are done.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Electric Powered Vehicles

Above is a photo from the C-130 while idling at the Summit taxi-way. Notice the black soot on the snow behind the engines. Summit does not have many C-130 flights, averaging about 18 per year. We are very sensitive to local pollution because we travel all this way to study atmospheric and snow chemistry in a remote area, we want to make sure we are not contaminating the air and snow we are trying to study. Other sources of local pollution include the electric power generator, snow mobiles, a bulldozer, and runway groomer. The dominant wind direction is from the South, so to be sure we are sampling clean unpolluted air our measurement site is about 1 km south of the main. To keep our site clean we walk (i.e., do not drive snow mobiles) out to/from Sat Camp and have defined a "clean air sector". The Summit crew avoids driving any tractors or snow mobiles into the clean air sector and the C-130 aircraft are not supposed to fly in this area. In addition the Summit staff refrains from doing major activities (i.e., snow moving, run way grooming) when we occasionally have winds North winds (about 10% of the time). What is amazing is that they minimize activities during North winds all year round, not just when we are here doing an experiment.

The good news is last year NSF purchased an electric 4WD utility vehicle (above towing our scientific equipment) and two electric snow mobiles. The electric snow mobiles did not work so well, but the electric buggy is a hit. It works great around camp, only limitation is that it can only drive on packed snow. In fact the e-buggy sunk into the snow when we drove off the path soon after this photo was taken. It is light weight and we were easily able to pull it back onto the packed snow. In addition, a new and improved snow mobile is arriving here at Summit next week. I'll tell you more about this after it arrives. The other exciting project is that NSF and VECO Polar will be testing out a small (6 kW) wind turbine here at Summit. Next week the last pieces of the windmill will arrive and it will only take a couple of weeks to set up. We hope that in near future Summit Camp will be 100% wind and solar (during the summer) and have diesel generators as an emergency back up.

There is a photo of the high rent side of Summit tent city. Advantages of these sites include a short walk to the outhouse and the Big House. Big House has a shower, kitchen, dining area, and office. The big ball on the roof contains the satellite dish that keeps us in contact with the rest of the world. Summit Camp has wireless internet pretty much everywhere and a voIP phone.

Right now there are 24 hours of light here at Summit which takes some getting used to. But in my opinion the high altitude is a bigger adjustment. Summit is approximately 10,500 ft above sea level (approximately 3 km) so it is difficult to run to dinner when you are late. The last time the Sun set (was just below the horizon) was the day we arrived 07 May 2007. The next time the Sun will touch the horizonl here at Summit is August 7th, 2007.


Good morning all! It's Friday morning, and things seem to be moving along somewhat smoothly I suppose. Looks like most of the equipment is up. The mercury Tekran system Steve and I are running is chugging along fine.

Here's a photo I took of our tents 3 days ago. I noted that most of the photos posted for Summit are either of the plane or individuals here. Yes, the black little buildings are outhouses, though there is a heated bathroom inside the Big House as well.
It was -33C when I went to bed last night, so things are rather cozy and everyone seems to be in their own little groove now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mercury Studies at Summit

Dave Lew (NOAA – mercury studies) on arrival at Summit

Steve Brooks (Above; NOAA ATDD and Canaan Valley Institute) and Dave Lew (NOAA ATDD) have the mercury systems up and running at Summit. Measurements will include oxidized species that have been form by gaseous elemental mercury and halogen species. We are operating a Tekran mercury speciation system, and will monitor total mercury in the surface snow and gaseous elemental mercury fluxes out of the snow pack.

Air National Guard LC-130 ski plane using rocket assist to take-off from the high-altitude Summit site May 8th.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Begin instrument set up

We spent most of the day ferrying instruments and cylinders from the main camp out to our satellite camp where we will be making the air and snow chemical measurements. Above is a photo of the Satellite camp Weatherport where some scientists will be working on data, others will be analyzing samples. It is a nice warm place with some snacks and hot water so we can make tea or coffee.

Best thing is that it has wireless internet access so we can keep up with email. Here is Jack Dibb from Univ. of New Hampshire working on email and trying to trouble shoot his mist chamber instrument that he is just set up this afternoon.

I am writing this blog entry from the sat camp weatherport while I am calibrating my solar spectroradiometer. This instrument measures the intensity of sunlight in the ultraviolet and visible wavelengths. In other words, I measure solar photons that do photochemistry up here (the photo in photochemistry).

Tonight the temperature has dropped to -29 deg C (-20 deg F) and has gotten quite foggy. The forecast calls for temperatures to continue to get colder over the next few days.