In Search of Clouds Over Greenland

Final views of MSF »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: June 7th, 2010

We’re getting ready to leave in two days.  Been making the final decisions and cleaning up for longer term operations.  This is a collage view of the inside and outside of the MSF with all instruments installed and labeled.  Everything is up and running now except the PAERI, which will be operational in a few weeks when Von comes to Summit.  Tonight I gave a presentation on Arctic cloud research and the types of things we plan to do with our observations from Summit.   It seemed to be well received by the Summiteers, with lots of great questions about clouds and their various processes.

VIP Visit »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: June 7th, 2010

On June 3 we had a visit at Summit from a group of important people for the activities here. Simon Stephenson (Director of the Division of Arctic Sciences at NSF) and Laurie Fulton (US Ambassador to Denmark) were in attendance and made it out to the Mobile Science Facility to get a quick rundown of the ICECAPS activities and objectives.  Here I’m explaining some of our observations as Dr. Stephenson looks on.

ICECAPS install team »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: June 3rd, 2010

The ICECAPS install team (Duane, Mike, Ryan, Erik, Matt, Brad, Chris) soaking up the rays on the deck at the Mobile Science Facility on a beautiful day at Summit.  That is the look of success…. most instruments are up and running.  The two that are not yet are in the works.  Now we are cleaning up, organizing, finishing off some details (and I have a lot of software and documentation to write!).  Some of the crew will be headed out tomorrow if the planes fly.  Many thanks to all of the hard work from this team!

Frequent fogs »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: June 3rd, 2010

Fog has occurred almost daily at Summit since we’ve been here, typically in the “evening” as the sun gets lower in the sky (it never actually sets right now, just dips down to a few degrees above the horizon).  As the sun goes down, the surface cools, as does the atmospheric boundary layer, leading to condensation.  The fog is often very thin, as seen to the left (that is a 47 m tower in the background).  There have been times when layers are only about 1-2 meters thick and you can clearly see below and above.   And often there are fog bows opposite the sun.  The layering is rather phenomenal, and the boundary layer depth often decreases to only 10-20 m thick.

Seeing clouds »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: May 31st, 2010

With most of our instruments now installed, we’ve focused on the details….  Tuning up the instruments, making them all talk with each other via the network, moving data files around and making sure they are archived, and evaluating data quality.  Two days ago we had an ICECAPS team meeting and starting putting together a list of things that still need to be done, and it was a very long list!  Glad I still have more than a week here at Summit, and I’m thinking that some of the last details will be handled remotely after getting home.

During the last couple of days we’ve had a great stratiform cloud layer, mostly overcast with occasional breaks.  And almost continuous, but light, precipitation of ice crystals.  The cloud view from the radar is shown to the left:  Multiple cloud layers over the course of yesterday, up to altitudes of 6 km.  But the most notable feature is the persistent, low-level stratiform mixed-phase cloud with signs of in-cloud turbulent motions.  While our time at Summit has been rather short, and we only have a couple day’s worth of data thus far, I’d say that the clouds we’ve observed here are not too different from those that I’ve seen at other Arctic observatories in Barrow, Eureka, and over the Arctic Ocean.  Can’t wait to observe the seasonal evolution of clouds at this site!

Instruments »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: May 31st, 2010

We’ve had some success lately at getting our instruments up and running.  When the carpenters finished their work, we moved in our boxes (probably 40 of them) and exploded them all over the space.  It was a bit chaotic for a few days, but then started developing into a nice observatory.  A sampling of our instruments is shown here (clockwise, starting top left):

* Polar Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (P-AERI): sticks through the wall and looks up through a hatch, measures spectral infrared radiation that provides information on cloud micrrophysical properties, temperatures, and trace gases.

*Millimeter Cloud Radar (MMCR): Computers and transmitter live inside the building, while the antenna sits on top.  Provides information on cloud locations, cloud microphysical properties, and cloud-scale atmospheric dynamics.

* Micropulse Lidar (MPL): observes the atmosphere and clouds through a window in the ceiling of the MSF, providing information on cloud locations and microphysical composition.

*Ceilometer: Provides a robust measurement of the ceiling, or effectively the cloud base.  This information will be very useful not only for our science but also for airplanes as they attempt to land at Summit.

* Microwave Radiometer (MWR) – looks like a grey and blue mailbox:  We have two of these making measurements at a number of frequencies around 20, 30, 50, 90, and 150 GHz, which tells us about atmospheric moisture, condensed liquid water, and temperature.

* Cloud-Aerosol Polarization and Backscatter Lidar (CAPABL):  the rebirth of the depolarization lidar from SHEBA.  Tells use about cloud locations, phase, and possibly something about ice particle orientation.

Path to the Big House »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: May 27th, 2010

The pathway from MSF back towards the Big House.  That’s where we go for excellent food (thanks Rosemary!), entertainment, toothbrushes, and friendly smiles.  Speaking of the food, I’m astounded at how well we eat here.  Fresh food comes in with many of the airplanes, and there is a great system in place for storage of a wide variety of items.  The primary “freezer” is a hole with stairs leading down into the ice sheet.  Meals are diverse; we’ve had Italian, Thai, Indian, Greek, and many more.  And there is always the dangerous cookie jar!  It is so nice to have a dedicated chef!  And almost as nice is a dedicated dish washer…..  That role is spread out among the various folks up here.  Yesterday was my day to be the “house mouse.”  Dishes, vacuuming, cleaning, helping the chef, etc.   It’s a hard day’s work (and it really does take all day), but nice to contribute to the Summit community.  I put in a partial day of my equipment set-up work AFTER my house mousing, getting me to bed at 1:30 am.  That was a long day, and morning yoga came way to early!

Traversing the ice sheet »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: May 27th, 2010

Today the “traverse” arrived…  a month’s journey from Thule over the ice sheet to Summit.  They brought fuel (much more efficiently than with aircraft) and supplies.  The Case pulled most of the weight, while the Tucker pulled living quarters for the crew and some supplies, while it also pushed a downward-looking, ice penetrating radar.  These tractors are pretty amazing and quite capable in this environment.

First sounding »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: May 26th, 2010

Last night we sent up our first radiosonde balloon, starting our twice daily radiosonde program. We send these up for a few reasons.  First, we need to have information on the thermodynamic structure of the atmosphere to complement many of our other measurements in order to derive certain cloud and atmospheric properties.  Second, thermodynamic profiles over Summit Station help to place the observations that we make here in the context of the broader meteorology, helping us to better understand the synoptic, or larger-scale, influences on the local conditions.  Lastly, these radiosonde profiles will be made available to the general public, and hopefully ingested into operational models to assist them in forecasting the weather.

The radiosondes are the most costly component of our project at Summit, primarily because they require a large supply of helium bottles to be transported to the station.  Transport happens via aircraft, which are expensive to operate.  We feel that the scientific benefits to our project and the broader scientific community are well worth the high cost.

Growing Ice »

by Matthew Shupe | posted: May 24th, 2010

Today as we began to install our equipment in the Mobile Science Facility, a fog bank rolled in.  We watched it approach from the distance, engulf the Big House, and then eventually make it to us.  It left its signature on many surfaces including this rope: feather-like ice crystals that result from riming on the upwind side.   Fogs have occurred every couple of days since I’ve been here.  Riming on the surface, as well as direct vapor deposition (hoar frost) appear to contribute significantly to the total accumulation at the surface.  One of the questions we’d like to answer with our project deals with exactly this issue:  What is the partitioning of the total surface snow accumulation between 1)  riming/deposition, 2) the slow production of ice crystals from supercooled liquid clouds, and 3) the more aggressive snowfall experienced during storms?