Greenland expedition 2016
and SLF researchers and a researcher from Cambridge are reporting again this year on their fieldwork on the
enormous ice sheet in Greenland's interior.
Swiss Camp on Greenland. Photo: Konrad Steffen, copyright.
News from Greenland
15.06.2015: Expedition completed
personal experiences complete the reports on this year's Greenland expedition... More
31.5.2015: Comfort in freezing conditions
the face of icy and cold conditions, the researchers were outside
performing maintenance work at the northern weather stations.
Fortunately some unusual features facilitated the hard work: one camp even had a hot sauna... More
23.5.2016: "South Traverse" - successful maintenance of the three southern stations
The research team started their trip to control three weather stations
in the South from Kangerlussuaq. The experienced pilot proved to be of great value here... More
Traverse" - seven days through the white
The whole team has now arrived at the Swiss Camp. After several days of preparation, four researchers had set out on a 100 km long traverse with various challenges... More
Greenland expedition 2016
WSL Director and climate researcher Konrad
Steffen is currently visiting Greenland for the 26th time. Two of his
colleagues, SLF snow researchers Martin Schneebeli and Lino Schmid, are
accompanying him for the second time, while two other SLF researchers, Nena
Griessinger and Neige Calonne, are undertaking their first trip. They are
spending practically the whole of May on the gigantic ice sheet, which is more
than 40 times the size of Switzerland, in the interior of Greenland. On several
occasions they will also visit Kangerlussuaq, a settlement in western
Greenland, where a suitable internet connection is available. This is the place
from which they send their messages and photographs, to share their insights from
research work and living conditions at -20 degrees Celsius and below.
Prof. Konrad Steffen studies the
interaction between climate and the cryosphere in polar and Alpine regions with
the aid of climate models, field measurements, aerial photography and satellite
images. He is especially interested in the influence exerted by climate warming
on the ice masses and global sea levels. He has spent several weeks in
Greenland every year since 1990, and visited the South Pole in 2014. Prof.
Steffen has been the Director of the WSL since 2012.
Martin Schneebeli examines and pursues all the
physical and geological processes that take place in the snowpack. He is exploring
how to improve measuring techniques for recording the properties of the Alpine
and Arctic snowpack, and how to refine the spatial resolution of the
measurements. For this purpose he also develops new measuring instruments. Dr.
Schneebeli has already taken part in three Antarctic expeditions spanning
several months. He heads the SLF's Snow Physics Research Group and, during the Greenland expedition, the
Schmid is a post-doctoral researcher at the SLF. One
aspect of his research work concerns the measuring of snow properties with
radar devices. During this year's Greenland expedition he is responsible for
all aerial photography with the drone, the snowpack investigations and service of the
ground-based radar systems that were installed last year at the SwissCamp and
the summit station.
Nena Griessinger is a PhD candidate
belonging to the SLF's snow hydrology research group. Her doctoral thesis is
entitled "Relevance of snowmelt
processes for cold region hydrology". She is taking part in a
Greenland expedition for the first time. Her primary responsibility is to take
care of the radar sledge, which will measure snow distribution during the 100
km traverse between the SwissCamp and Crawford Point.
Dr. Neige Calonne is a post-doctoral
researcher at the SLF. She is conducting research into the physical processes
that take place in
snow (e.g. snow metamorphism) by way of field and lab experiments. In
particular, she is currently investigating the microstructure of Arctic snow.
During the Greenland expedition she is responsible for the various snow
property measurements. The snow samples she collects during the expedition will be examined
more closely back in the SLF's cold laboratory. For her as well, this is the
first visit to Greenland.
Dr. Bianca Perren is a Quaternary scientist in the Paleo environments, Ice sheets, and Climate Change group at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. She specializes in Arctic and Antarctic environmental change, using lake sediment records to reconstruct changing
environmental conditions resulting from Holocene climate variability, eutrophication, and 20th and 21st Century climate warming. Dr. Perren is doing the GPS measurements around Swiss Camp this season.
and projects in Greenland
- With the support of NASA and the American
National Science Foundation, Koni Steffen has established a network of 20
automated weather stations on the Greenland ice sheet in the period since 1990. As in
every other year Steffen will be checking these stations to ensure the
continuation of the serial studies that are supporting research into the
climate and ice masses.
- Unlike in the Alps, many places in
Greenland have a continuous, multi-year snow cover. Martin Schneebeli,
Lino Schmid and Neige Calonne are examining the structure of the snowpack
here with a variety of instruments and techniques, including the
high-resolution SnowMicroPen, density and temperature measurements, and
snow profiles, which are to be recorded with near-infrared photography as
well. They are also collecting snow samples for analysis after the
expedition with the SLF's CT scanner. They will be examining the snowpack
at each one of the 20 weather stations.
- The highlight of this year's expedition is
a traverse from the Swiss Camp to Crawford Point and back, which is being
undertaken for the first time. Nena Griessinger and Martin Schneebeli are
to cover the distance of around 100 km on foot. The traverse traces a
route perpendicular to the equilibrium line across the ice. This line marks
the boundary where the same amount of snow melts as falls over the course
of the year. During the traverse the radar sledge will continuously
measure the snow distribution along the borderline between the multi-year
and annual snow cover. The researchers will also examine the snowpack with
the SnowMicroPen every 2.5 km, measure the snow water equivalent every 5
km, and record complete snow profiles every 20 km. Lino Schmid and Neige
Calonne are to provide support with these selective snow examinations and
deliver provisions to the walkers. Lino Schmid will also be using a drone
to capture three-dimensional images of the snow and ice surface.
- Lino Schmid is responsible for checking
the radar equipment used to investigate the snowpack from underneath at
the Swiss Camp and summit station. He installed the systems at the
stations last year. They allow the snow properties and layers to be
measured without destroying the snowpack and without the need for a person
to be present.
- Alongside the research work, the everyday
tasks associated with living, sleeping and cooking have to be taken care
of as well, including recharging batteries and maintaining technical
equipment. Such activities can present a challenge in the icy cold of
tented accommodation – and travel by foot, snowmobile and plane calls for
detailed planning and favourable weather. By the way, polar bears are not a danger. They do not
inhabit the ice sheet
in the interior of Greenland because of the general lack of food resources
- Kangerlussuaq – Settlement with around 500 inhabitants
on the west coast with an international airport for direct connections to
Copenhagen and transit flights within Greenland. Kangerlussuaq on
Swiss Camp is situated at 69°N, 49°W and around 1100
m above sea level, 70 kilometres northeast of Ilulissat. The camp was
established in 1990.
summit station is
located on the highest point of the Greenland ice sheet at 72°N, 38°W and
3216 m above sea level. It was built in 1989 and has been occupied
year-round since 1997.
- Map of weather stations where maintenance
work is to be performed during the expedition: automatic weather stations
in Kangerlussuaq in Greenland
at Swiss Camp
6 to 18
from Swiss Camp to Crawford Point
19 to 21
of southern weather and climate stations
21 to 31
of northern weather and climate stations
flight to Switzerland for some of the researchers
flight to Switzerland for the rest of the team