2002-2003 Science Planning Summary


Dr. Julie Palais
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 98-14676
Station: McMurdo Station
RPSC POC: Kirk Salveson
Research Site(s): Traverse from Byrd Surface Camp to South Pole

U.S. ITASE: Snow and firn microstructure and transport properties
Dr. Mary Albert
Cold Regions Research & Engineering Lab

Deploying Team Members: See U.S. ITASE Management (IU-153-A)
Research Objectives: Not all valuable data are buried deep within the ice. The microstructure and bulk properties of snow and firn near and at the surface control the air/snow/firn transport processes. An example of such a process is the incorporation of heat, vapor, and chemical species from air into snow and polar firn. Since many of the snow and firn properties will also affect how radiation in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum behaves, such field measurements provide a valuable baseline profile against which to range complementary efforts that use remote sensing to map the spatial variations of snow, firn, and ice properties.

This project does the field and lab work to characterize snow and firn properties along the U.S. ITASE traverses in West Antarctica. In the field, they provide measurements of snow and firn properties near the surface (down to 2 meters), ratio, and tortuosity. In the laboratory, they analyze firn cores from as deep as 20 meters for these properties and for their microstructures. Ultimately, this group will develop a transport model to elucidate the nature of the air/snow/firm exchange and the firnification process at the various sties along the traverse routes.

Field Season Overview:
The ITASE project team and support contractor staff traverse West Antarctica from Byrd Surface Camp (BSC) to South Pole Station. Two trains pulled by Challenger 55 Caterpillar tractors will transport personnel, instruments, and field camp equipment. Along the way, team members will collect ice cores and surface snow and ice samples, take meteorological readings, and collect radar profiles of the ice sheet. Periodically, Twin Otter aircraft will resupply the traverse team and transport samples back to Byrd Surface Camp. At the end of the traverse, the group will return to McMurdo Station where they will begin to analyze some of their samples. Other samples will be returned to their home institutions.