Heading for Zackenberg!

Team SEDIGAP are back – though this time as GEO-CAICS, a new EU-INTERACT funded project investigating the GEOlogical Controls on Arctic Ice Cap Sensitivity. Because the new project is related to our previous work we’ll be using our blog space from last year.

Photograph of the Zackenberg research centre, our home for the next three weeks.  Photo: Henrik Spanggård Munch.
Photograph of the Zackenberg research centre, our home for the next three weeks. Photo: Henrik Spanggård Munch.

This field season we are going to Zackenberg in East Greenland.  We both fly from the UK on Monday, meeting in Reykjavik before taking an internal flight to Akureyri where we stay the night. On Tuesday morning we will then fly to Constable Point near Scoresby Sund before refuelling and flying onto Zackenberg that afternoon.  Zackenberg is a field centre run by Aarhus University, Denmark. It lies inside the North-East Greenland National Park, the largest national park in the world. We’re just packing our personal and field equipment as we plan to camp while out there. Trowel – check. Chisel – check. Porridge – check.  This time our project is based mainly on geomorphological mapping and sedimentology so we don’t need to take a ground penetrating radar. As a result our bags are substantially lighter!

Kathryn's luggage!
Kathryn’s luggage!

We’ll be at Zackenberg for three weeks. We have selected two ice caps to study during this time, about 10-15 km from the field centre. We’ll be mapping present ice limits and landforms from previous ice extents, such as moraines, ice moulded bedrock, and blockfields. Using the maps we produce, we will be able to look at changes in ice cap size over time. We can also use aerial photos and satellite images to look at changes in the ice extent during the recent past. To establish the times of the changes in ice cap size, we will use a technique called cosmogenic surface exposure dating, or Cosmo for short. This involves taking samples of bedrock and boulder surfaces and analysing them in the lab using chemical processes. We can extract chlorine or beryllium isotopes to tell us how long the boulders/bedrock at a given location have been exposed to sunlight – and this tells us when the ice retreated from that point.

We will also be mapping the meltwater streams and outwash gravels in the proglacial zone the area in front of the ice margins). This will allow us to explore how the meltwater systems are responding to changes in the ice extent.

Tim's luggage, plus a cat for scale.
Tim’s luggage, plus a cat for scale.

After our fantastic experience at Arctic Station last year, meeting researchers from all over the world and from a vast range of disciplines, we are very excited to meet the other scientists again this year while we start our new adventure. Internet in Zackenberg is very limited, and we may not be able to make frequent posts. It is likely that we will be posting our blogs once we return, so keep a look out for them over the coming weeks!

Limited edition glow in the dark spork is packed and ready to go!
Limited edition glow in the dark spork is packed and ready to go!
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