High Arctic Change 09

What Are They Doing?

The research team, which included undergraduate geoscience students participating in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, traveled to Svalbard, Norway, to investigate how climate change affects sediment transport and deposition associated with the tidewater glaciers, icebergs, meltwater streams, and marine currents. Tidewater glaciers are among the fastest changing systems in the Arctic, offering the team the opportunity to monitor rapidly changing and dynamic systems.

The research team sampled glacier and iceberg ice for debris concentrations and performed CTD casts to define where the sediment from the glacier was being transported and deposited. Glacial sediments deposited on the bottom of the fiord were collected to identify the structures forming on the fjord floor and their relation to observed glacial processes. Bathymetric maps of the seafloor were obtained by using a small sub-bottom profiler and established baseline data allowing researchers to determine the rate of sediment infilling of the fjord by the glaciers. The team also utilized aerial photographs and GPS mapping to determine the position of the glacier as well as its rate of retreat compared to 2005 data. Using this data, the team determined if relationships can be derived between sedimentation, meteorological, glaciological, and oceanic variables that allow for the historic sedimentation record to be better interpreted.

The Svalbard archipelago has been marked by the retreat of glaciers, reductions in sea ice, and measurable warming throughout the Holocene period, and more specifically during the past 90 years. The region is an ideal location for this study because it has preserved the geologic records of climate change since the last ice age and into the 20th century. The Arctic is particularly sensitive to climate change and climatically induced environmental changes in this region can instigate further changes of global consequences. Melting glacial systems and their contribution to sea level rise will have consequences on shorelines globally.

Where Are They?

For this project, the team flew to Spitsbergen, an island of the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean located between Norway and the North Pole. They stayed in a permanent settlement and worked out of a field station and marine laboratory on Svalbard called Ny Ålesund (78° 55´ N, 11° 56´ E). From there, the team traveled by small boat to reach the tidewater glaciers and fjords in Kongsfjord, home to one of the most rapidly calving glaciers on Svalbard.

Expedition Map


She's from Everett, Washington. She is an Earth Sciences major,  with an Environmental Studies minor, at Dartmouth College,  in Hanover, New Hampshire. She will be celebrating her 22nd birthday while she's here in Ny Alesund. Here's the best part about Laura Kehrl . . . she rides back and forth across the fjord with her head in a garbage bag. No, it's not that she's having trouble dealing with the 24/7 sunlight here. It's part of what her project is . . . . . . "Kongsfjorden floor morphology and its implications for glacier stability" Laura K with her head in a bag as we...
It seems many of you who have been following our "High Arctic Change" adventure have been wondering . . . "What kind of food do you eat in Svalbard?" When I found out where we were going to be headed on this expedition, I was wondering the same thing. Would we be eating processed food out of a can? Sardines in mustard sauce? Dried fish and reindeer meat? You may have seen that while in Longyearbyen, we did try whale meat at a restaurant. And it was actually very good. But here in Ny Alesund it is certainly not the type of fair I expected. You may be surprised as...
Ironically, the quietest, most reserved, members of our crew have been dubbed,    the "Iceberg Cowboys" by everyone else. This journal entry will introduce you to Phaedra Tinder and Hector Zamora. You will learn a little about them and their projects, as well as the science they are doing that has earned them the moniker, the "Iceberg Cowboys". Phaedra & Hector collecting samples from a recently calved ice berg.  Phaedra Tinder calls Vero Beach, Florida her home town. But as a student majoring in Geology, she heads a bit north to the Philadelphia, PA area where...
It's midnight. We have a boat. We have our survival suits. We have water skis.We have what???? That's right! Water skis! Ever since we noticed the water skis at the French station, we just knew . . . we had to try it. 'NASA Phil' waterskiing in the midnight sun. It's a good thing, cuz I can't ski. Need more practice I guess. 8000 people on that cruise ship. Zero doing this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaSRjtOPZas Just so you know . . . real scientists don't just sit around in lab coats looking in microscopes all the time. They have fun! Especially polar geoscientists! Keep...
If you've been following along on our expedition through these journals, or the photo gallery, you may be wondering, "Who are these people?"In the Overview tab, you found out about me, the PolarTREC teacher, and Ross Powell and Julie Brigham-Grette, the researchers. But not about the REU students. Go back to the Overview tab, and you'll see this photo: Mike Rhinard, Hector Zamora, Julie Brigham-Grette, Theo Barnhart, Laura Kehrl, Laura Poppick, Hannah Marshburn, Phaedra Tinder, and Ross Powell You'll also be introduced to Hector, Theo, Laura K, Laura P, Hannah, & Phaedra...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

10 July 2009 to 15 August 2009
Location: Svalbard, Norway
Project Funded Title: The Svalbard REU - Holocene and Modern Climate Change in the High Arctic

Meet the Team

Mike Rhinard's picture
Riverglen Junior High School
Boise, ID
United States

Although he was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Mike Rhinard moved to Idaho 20 years ago to work for the U.S. Forest Service while pursuing his degree in Earth science education at Boise State University. Mr. Rhinard has taught Earth science at Riverglen Junior High School for the past 11 years, and making Earth science relevant to his students is a daily goal. Outside of teaching, he enjoys coaching wrestling, camping, rafting Idaho’s awesome rivers, traveling, and, on most days, his ongoing home remodeling projects. He is excited to work with researchers “doing science” and to share the “real stuff” with his students.

Julie Brigham-Grette's picture
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA
United States

Dr. Brigham-Grette's research interests are focused on the stratigraphy, sedimentology, and chronology of geologic systems that record the climate evolution and sea level history of the Arctic since the Pliocene. Most of her research program is aimed at documenting the global context of paleoenvironmental change across "Beringia", i.e., the Bering Land Bridge, stretching across the western Arctic from Alaska and the Yukon into NE Russia including the adjacent marginal seas. Starting in the 1980s with fieldwork on the sea level history and glacial stratigraphy of vast Arctic coastal plains and coastal environments in comparison with regional alpine glaciation, she is now focused on the integration of records from marine and lake systems.

Since 1991, her group has participated in numerous field expeditions to remote regions of Arctic Russia and she was co-chief scientist in 2002 of an expedition on the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, taking sediment cores from the Bering and Chukchi Seas. She is the US Chief Scientist of the El'gygytgyn Lake Scientific Drilling project, a multinational field program leading to the first unprecedented recovery in 2009 of a 3.6 Myr record of terrestrial paleoclimate. She has previously been involved in the IPY STEM Polar Connections project to integrate the study of polar regions and International Polar Year activities into the middle and high school curriculum from the terrestrial Arctic.

Ross Powell's picture
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL
United States

Ross Powell has been a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences at Northern Illinois University since the early 1980's. His main research interests focus on processes where glaciers and ice sheets enter the sea, and his recent research has focused on Alaskan and Antarctic glacimarine processes and paleoclimate history involving underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROV's) among other scientific tools. He has played a lead role in the [ANDRILL](http://www.andrill.org/static/index.html) (Antarctic geological Drilling) Program and the [WISSARD](http://www.wissard.org/) program, collecting sediment cores for the first time from a subglacial lake in Antarctica—Lake Whillans. He has mentored teachers in polar field research through the Cape Roberts and ANDRILL programs in Antarctica and the Svalbard REU program in the Arctic. He is also periodically a guest lecturer at the University Center ([UNIS](http://www.unis.no/)) on Svalbard.