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Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets researcher embarks on Greenland traverse

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Claude Laird, a research assistant at the Center for Remote Sensing
of Ice Sheets at the University of Kansas, will spend a large part of
his summer living 10,000 feet above sea level on the Greenland ice

Laird is part of an international team of
researchers and students who will traverse along an ice divide in
central Greenland to establish an ice drilling site, where they hope to
acquire the most complete record of the Eemian interglacial era, which
began approximately 130,000 years ago.

Data suggests that
successful drilling for Eemian ice is likely at what has been dubbed
the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling Site. The site was chosen by
Danish scientists at the University of Copenhagen after a previously
chosen site called NorthGRIP was shut down because melt near the
bedrock prevented them from obtaining a complete Eemian record.

research at the site is expected to continue through 2011. If the
mission is successful, a complete Eemian ice core would be the most
comprehensive record of climate data ever obtained. First, though,
Laird and the other scientists must make sure the location is suitable
for this endeavor.

The main objective of the expedition is to
survey the bedrock of a 39-square-mile area around the site to provide
the Danish scientists with the local basal conditions. More permanent
camps will be set up next year if drilling conditions in the region
prove optimal.

Laird left for Greenland on June 17, but
hazardous wind conditions brought him and the nine other scientists
back home within a week. The team departed again for Greenland on July
8 and are scheduled to return in mid-August. They will spend the first
week at NorthGRIP, digging out equipment left over from the previous
field expedition, putting together trains of vehicles for the 186-mile
trek to the new site and preparing themselves for the harsh conditions.
Temperatures can plummet as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit because of
the high altitude and winds.

Although Laird is making his
third trip to Greenland, he said conditions will be different than what
he is used to because this is his first traverse. In the past, he’s
flown into already-established camps and stayed put for the entire
expedition. This time, the group will haul 2,500 pounds of equipment
during the seven- to 10-day journey, including sleeping tents, which
will be set up every night as the team moves across the ice. The team
will work an average of 12 hours per day, digging snow pits and
performing a high-resolution radar survey of the area around the North
Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling Site.

Laird is joined on the
team by five Danish scientists, two German scientists, one Icelandic
scientist and a University of Colorado professor.

Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets was established by the National
Science Foundation in 2005. Its mission is to understand and predict
the role of polar ice sheets in sea level change. With headquarters at
KU, the center has partner institutions around the world, including the
University of Copenhagen.


Ashley Thompson

, Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets.

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