Monday, July 2, 2012

2012 Fieldwork Underway

Here we are yesterday at Logan Airport in Boston, days of packing and preparations behind us. Try as we might to cut down the amount of gear required for fieldwork on Quelccaya, this is about what we always end up with. Raising the tower must be done annually to keep up with accumulation and minimize the effect of changing measurement height, so that means tubing, fittings, cabling and lots of tools; living at nearly 6,000 m requires warm clothes and robust tents.

This year will be a small "team" (as shown above), but we have some exciting science planned in addition to servicing the station and recovering data. First up will be locating 2 survey points on a ridge overlooking the glacier, established in 1983. Dave Chadwell installed and used these to complete a thorough 3D survey of a transect up the glacier. Re-visiting these points is an idea he came up with last year, and the National Geographic Society has decided to support the effort. So now - nearly 30 years later - we hope to find the points and establish their position with centimeter-accuracy GPS. At Scripps, Dave will then compute positions for each point in the transect, and next year we will reoccupy these points with the GPS equipment to get precise elevations. The result will establish a profile of ice thickness change over the intervening 30 years -- how cool is that?

Meanwhile, our other goal for this year is to dig a snowpit back through 2-3 years of accumulation and measure a profile of density. Equipped with detailed density profiles from previous fieldwork, we hope to learn more about ablation processes and meltwater percolation.

We arrived in Cusco today with all our gear and have begun adjusting to life at 3,400 meters. We'll continue adapting for 3 or 4 more days before moving up.

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