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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 sheet.

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.

Field 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.

The 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.

Contact: Ashley Thompson , Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets.


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