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Final Education Blog of the 2015 Greenland Climate Project

Captain Matt and I are waiting out some stronger winds before heading back South to Sismut and finishing our work along the way. We are pretty comfortable on anchor hiding on the leeward side of Upernavik Island. Soon we will fuel up and get some food from a food market but we have to seek out a different non-exposed harbor as it needs to be calm instead of full of breaking waves. I can’t wait to get cheese so I can make pizza. We collected 70 casts over 1450 nautical miles for the NASA Ocean Melting Greenland Project so I am ready to celebrate with a pizza party. Check out examples of a CTD cast profile of temperature and salinity of the ocean water column in the pictures below. We definitely found the warm salty North Atlantic Water we were searching for multiple times and it got warmer and possibly wider as we headed south. Next year we will have a longer line to drop the CTD because it would have been nice to get below 2100 feet in order to find how wide the warm/salty water layer was in the southernmost regions of our survey. In the uppermost part of our survey the layer seemed to get narrower and cooler as we headed North.

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Melting from Above and Below: The Effect of a Warming Ocean on the Greenland Ice Sheet

The Greenland Ice Sheet is melting from all sides. Not surprisingly, as air temperatures above it continue to warm, scientists have observed a steadily increasing amount of surface melt each year. What is less known is that where the ice sheet meets the ocean—in valleys and fjords referred to as “marine-terminating glaciers” – the ice is being melted through contact with warm (i.e. greater than 0 degrees Celcius) ocean water. Recent results suggest that the total loss of mass (or ice) from the Greenland Ice Sheet has quadrupled when comparing the periods 1992-2001 with 2002-2011 (see Straneo and Heimbach, Nature 2013). The total mass loss from Greenland includes not only surface melt, but increased melting and glacier calving around the edges.

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Exploration & Science Hand in Hand

Exploration and science often go hand in hand. Since the early days of the polar exploration, science including land and sea survey have almost always been on the agenda. It was totally normal for a crew to sail towards the poles, shoving ones way into totally unfamiliar frozen territory until boats were forced on top of the ice for months, even years and only at that point did their work really begin. It is unbelievable that in the 21st century parts of this world are still uncharted such as in Northern Baffin Bay and Smith Sound where we just were working.

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Ships and Satellites Together Modelling World Ocean Salinity and Temperature

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After a mix of snow, headwinds, and fog we made it to Robertson Fjord. I saw my first fogbow! Over the past few days we collected our first deep trough and near glacial casts. It was thrilling. We will be at our furthest North in a few days, planning to get some great never before acquired data. You cannot get much further North than Cape Alexander as the sea becomes ices floes threatening to lock you in.

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Midnight Sun in the Arctic

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It is 12:00 am and Matt woke me up for my watch, as usual I pull on my boots and warm layers on then emerge from my cabin. I am in awe with what I see and immediately become wide awake. Just off the bow the persistent sun casts a glow behind intimidating dark towering shadows of what’s left of an old mountain chain created when two even older land masses collided some 1800 million years ago. The deformed rocks are topped off with snowy valleys at its peaks.  It is 6 degrees Celsius out, I wonder if that is usual.  Summer in Greenland was warmest on record last year in Kangerlussuaq, a town nearby where the average June temperature was 2.3 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2000 average. Due to multiple factors, including temperature the inland ice sheet lost 39.3% of its surface mass in 2014.

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Response to Stem Students Elijah and Sarah

As we head Northwest every day that we trawl our samples increase in the amount of plastic micro-debris. The other day I amused myself for a few hours and I played a game trying to catch all the floating trash that went past the boat, with a large net while steering. There in the distance was a white floating object with a bird resting on top. It looked like a little ice berg. As it came close the bird flew away and I was in awe of the large chunk of foam. Every 5 minutes more debris would float by including, a car bumper, light bulbs and water bottles. I was certain that we reached the elusive North Pacific Gyre (Eastern Hemisphere). How does the plastic in this gyre behave? Would the debris stay suspended in this gyre indefinitely or be spit out onto nearby Pacific Island beaches with the possibility of becoming vulnerable to transformation into Plastioglomerate.

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