Solar Radiation on the Greenland Icesheet

Update

A PolarConnect live event from the field with Jim Pottinger and the team was held on Thursday, 19 August 2010. Access the archive!

What Are They Doing?

Solar radiation is the major energy source that drives our climate and supports life on earth. In this project, the research team gained a better understanding of the solar radiation reflected back into space and absorbed by our planet, also known as the Earth’s heat balance. The team collected data related to this balance using weather observing instruments and a specially equipped aircraft that could detect wind speed and directions and electromagnetic radiation.

The measurements were part of an international effort to record radiation called the Baseline Surface Radiation Network project. The data collected was used to further study the Greenland Ice Sheet and it’s processes, such as melting and gas exchange with the atmosphere.

Studying heat balance is an important concept in climatology because light surfaces, like snow, reflect more radiation back into space while dark surfaces, like water, absorb more radiation. When you have snow cover, about 90% of the solar energy that goes through the atmosphere is reflected back into space. But increasing the amount of water on the ice sheet causes less radiation to reflect and more heat to be absorbed. This increases the temperature and causes more ice to melt.

Where Are They?

The team lived and worked at Summit Station, located at the peak of the Greenland ice cap atop 3200 meters of ice. Summit is a scientific research station sponsored by the National Science Foundation that supports a diversity of scientific research, including year-round measurements of air-snow interactions that provide crucial knowledge for interpreting data from deep ice cores drilled both at Summit and elsewhere. During the summer months the camp is accessed via Kangerlussuaq, a small community located on the west coast of Greenland.

Expedition Map

Journals

Kangerlussuaq Policeman
Goodbye Greenland It was my last full day in Greenland and it had to be a special one. I woke up early, grabbed a bike and rode to the Kantina for a superb Greenlandic breakfast. After fueling up, I immediately headed for the fiord below the airport runway, but on my way I noticed a police officer leaving the airport. I stopped him and asked if he could stamp my passport (since we arrived late upon entering Greenland, there was no one to stamp our incoming passport). He was very happy to stamp my passport and smile for a picture. Kangerlussuaq Policeman at the Kanger Airport. He stamped my...
Gear on cargo pallet
Summit Station to Kangerlussuaq The final hours at Summit were exciting yet sad. Many of the staff would be returning home after months of being away. They were very excited. I, on the other hand, was sad to see such a cool experience come to an end. I guess one of the cool things about Summit Station was getting here. So, at least I had the HC-130 trip to look forward to. We all loaded our bags on a cargo pallet and waited. Gear on cargo pallet While I waited for the crew to unload fuel and load up the cargo, I got to spend some time with the new station manager, Ed Stockard. Ed is a...
Six-foot high berm at Summit Station
Packing up Summit Station Today, the entire summer crew as well as other staff gave their final goodbyes to Summit Station. It was a busy couple of days, with the crew trying to close and organize the entire station, yet still be functional. One of the big jobs was to build a six-foot high berm to store all of the stuff needed over winter and next summer. The berm was built to keep all the gear from getting drifted in this coming winter. Six-foot high berm at Summit Station used to keep equipment, materials, supplies and gear above the expected drifting snow this winter. The winter crew...
John Augustine - Meteorologist
 PolarConnect August 19th came a lot faster than I imagined. After several reviews of the PolarTREC binder and my notes, I felt I was ready to go live. But, as we all know, Murphy’s Rule applies in any situation. In my case, I was in need of an expert in Baseline Surface Radiation Network instrumentation for the PolarConnect event. Since my primary researcher was unable to make the expedition, I had to find someone either on site or online within a short period of time. I began my search with Ken, the station manager. He was quick to direct me to Andy, a science tech, who had experience...
Nico on a ladder replacing the sonic sensor.
Radiation and weather at Summit Station, Greenland via BSRN, NOAA and the 50-meter Swiss Tower. Weather conditions:  Temperature High 24 F Low -15 F   Wind-chill 0 to – 30 F Today was a day of information gathering for me as well as the scientific equipment. We started the day by going back out to the AWS to repair a “fussy” sonic sensor that measures snow fall. The AWS transmits data on the hour via satellite to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where CIRES is located. Nico has access to the data almost as soon as the AWS transmits it to CO. Every AWS has two of...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

Dates:
12 August 2010 to 22 August 2010
Location: Summit, Greenland
Project Funded Title: BSRN - Compatible Irradiance Measurements and the Stable Boundary Layer

Meet the Team

Jim Pottinger's picture
Gateway High School
Monroeville, PA
United States

Jim Pottinger’s interest in science began as a young child when he was given the supervised and unsupervised time to experiment with science kits and everyday household items (some explosive, some not!). His passion to study science was passed on to him by great educators during his scholarly journey, from elementary and high school in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania to undergrad at California University of Pennsylvania and eventually as a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh studying beach ridges on St. Catherine’s Island. Today, Mr. Pottinger strives to inspire his students and community to embrace all that science has to offer.

Currently, Mr. Pottinger lives, works, and plays in Southwestern Pennsylvania where he works with gifted students at Gateway School District as a resource teacher and instructs astronomy students online and face-to-face at Westmoreland County Community College. He personally enjoys engineering, geology, and being an eternal student. Jim is currently completing his EdD in Educational Technology Management at Northcentral University with plans of being more involved with educational outreach through the use of technology. He enjoys alpine skiing, mountain biking, and being outdoors with his wife and three children.

Mr. Pottinger enjoys teaching because it involves the opportunity to engage fresh minds and the opportunity to share his excitement and passion about science with others. He hopes that being involved with PolarTREC will inspire other teachers and students to become stewards of the earth by getting involved in projects from the smallest level like recycling at home to larger levels such as being involved in a sustainability group in their communities.

Konrad Steffen's picture
CIRES, University of Colorado
Boulder, CO
United States

Dr. Konrad Steffen is a professor of geography and the Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research interests lie in the interactions between climate and snow and ice covered regions, in particular changes in ice sheets and sea level. Dr. Steffen has spent over thirty years conducting research in the arctic, much of which is in Greenland. To learn more about Dr. Steffen, please visit his faculty biography page (http://cires.colorado.edu/people/steffen/).

Nicolas Bayou's picture
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, CO
United States

Nicolas (Nikko) Bayou is a PhD graduate student in Geography at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Mr. Bayou's bachelor's degree is in Science, and he has a masters degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering. His science and engineering experiences include modelling aircraft engines, analyzing flight/ground tests with Airbus, and serving as project lead for a business jet engines advance project. Mr. Bayou also co-designed the hull of the Italian team yacht for the America's Cup, an international boat race. Currently he is processing Greenland Climate Network (GC-Net) automatic weather station data in preparation for his thesis.