On Thursday what we’d all been waiting for was spotted: the first Polar Bears of SWERUS-C3 Leg 2! The first one was pretty far off, I only saw it through binoculars, but still, very exciting. The second one came much closer and most of the ship got a look and a photo.

ola bear

Polar bear

This bear photo was taken by Ola Persson, leader of the Leg 2 meteorology team. Ola has been taking some great photos on the cruise, and I’ve included a couple more of my favourites here. The first is from the open-ocean work that began Leg 2, in the Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Straight (Photo 2). A series of low pressure systems built up the wind and waves in the area, as dramatically shown in the photo. Conditions onboard got a touch uncomfortable, Oden is much happier breaking ice.

bow wave

bow wave

The photo also gives a nice view of some of the instrumentation the met’ team has installed on Oden for this expedition. On the bow is the flux mast, with sonic anemometers for measuring 3D wind speeds, plus temperature and humidity sensors, at the top of the mast and at the mid point. These are my main area of scientific interest and I will probably talk about the mast more in a later post.

On the roof of the port (left) side container, partially contained in a metal cage, is the scanning aerosol Doppler LiDAR, from which we get information on cloud layers, plus aerosols and turbulence. The metal cage has motors and motion sensors and is used to counteract the movement of the ship and keep the LiDAR level. On the roof of the white container is the opening (covered in plastic sheeting) for the W-band radar. This is also motion-stabilised and gives us information on clouds. Finally, the white poles making a grid structure are the 449 MHz profiling radar, the only one of its kind deployed on a ship, which is used to measure the wind profile, i.e. the changing wind speeds up to a height of at least 3-4 km.

The final photo I’ve included is one of Dan and I looking out from Oden’s bow at passing ice. It nicely shows the beguiling nature of the ice, the complex and varying shapes and range of colours that make the Arctic a beautiful as well as a harsh environment.

ice

ice

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The meteorology team for the second leg of the SWERUS-C3 / ACSE Arctic cruise is shown in Photo 1, sporting snazzy windbreakers from our Swedish hosts.

While we all have slightly different responsibilities, we work closely together and help each other out with our various jobs. A cruise like this is a great opportunity to develop new skills by getting to put them into practice, and I’m very lucky to be working with such experienced, skilled (and fun) colleagues.

The leg-2 meteorology team: Ola, Dan, John, Barbara, and Georgia

The leg-2 meteorology team: Ola, Dan, John, Barbara, and Georgia

As an introduction, we’ve all put together a paragraph or two about ourselves. These are below, lightly edited by me (I claim any spelling/grammar errors).

Ola –
Ola Persson is a seasoned Arctic researcher with NOAA’s ESRL/PSD/Weather and Climate Physics Branch out of Boulder, CO and team leader for the Boundary-Layer Meteorology Team. His specific interests are in the interactions between the atmosphere, ocean and sea ice along the ice edge, or marginal ice zone, including those associated with clouds, mesoscale dynamics, and ocean waves. As team leader he is responsible for making sure that our scientific interests continued to be met throughout the cruise. Ola was born in Sweden moving to the US at the age of 8, though his home in the U.S. had a very strong Swedish flavor to it. He has returned numerous times to Sweden to visit relatives and work for periods of a few months to a few years. His Arctic interests began with a summer job he had working as a field assistant at the University of Stockholm’s Tarfala glaciology station in northern Sweden, where he made surface radiation, mass balance, and runoff measurements on the glaciers. This job was arranged for him by Bert Bolin, a famous Swedish meteorologist who has given his name to the research center in Stockholm and who was a former folkdance partner of Ola’s mother. Besides being a great liaison he has provided us with some insights to the crew and things that are foreign to the rest of us.

Barbara –
Barbara Brooks is from the UK’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) and is based at the University of Leeds, UK. She has fingers in a number of instrument pies, primarily the atmospheric sounding system, LiDAR, and Radiometer, but is also helping out in the running of the Leeds flux mast and Waverider buoy. In her spare time she is also baby sitting the methane measuring system from Stockholm University that ran on the first leg. Her husband Ian Brooks [who runs this blog} was on the ‘Met Team’ for leg 1 and they managed to say hello during the crew change over in Barrow. This is the first time she’s actually sailed on ODEN: during the 2008 ASCOS project she had instrumentation deployed on the ship but spent the project flying over it in the NASA DC8 research aircraft along with Ola as part of the AMISA project.

Dan –
Dan Wolfe “Grandfather of the BAO”, though semi-retired, volunteered for this research cruise with the desire to explore a part of the Arctic he’d never seen. He first came to the Arctic in 1970 on board the U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Glacier as part of WEBSEC, a baseline study north of the Western Beaufort Sea prior to the Alaska pipeline. It is this adventure that encouraged him to begin a career in meteorology first with NOAA and now half-time for NOAA through the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science at the University of Colorado. He sees this as a chance to launch one more of what could be his last weather balloon in the same environment as he launched his first!!! For those of you who don’t know, BAO stands for the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory. He has been a part of this research facility and its 300m tower located near Boulder, CO since its inception in 1977 and is kiddingly referred to as the grandfather by a number of his much younger colleagues. Dan is also blogging about the cruise at http://ciresblogs.colorado.edu/icebreaker/

Georgia –
I’m a
 PhD student at the Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University. I was born in Athens, Greece, I got my bachelor degree in Physics and master degree in Environmental Science at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. I moved to Stockholm two years ago to study the Arctic boundary layer and Arctic clouds. This is my first time in the Arctic and my first time involved in fieldwork! On Oden, I am responsible for the weather station, the temperature and humidity sensors and the sonic anemometer deployed midway up the flux mast. Launching radio soundings twice per day is my favorite task.

John –
I’m a postdoc scientist at Leeds University in the UK, working for Ian Brooks. This is my first time in the Arctic. I’ve previously been south on a hydrographic section from the Falkland Islands to the British Antarctic base Rothera, and I’m pleased to get to visit both ends of the world, though sadly not the poles (unless things on Oden go badly wrong…).

My main responsibility on this cruise is the air-sea flux mast on Oden’s bow, making use of my scientific background in directly measured air-sea fluxes. As a sort of hybrid oceanographer/meteorologist, I also deploy the Waverider buoy when conditions allow, launch the occasional radiosonde and help out Barbara and the others with their various systems.

That’s the met team – I’ve also added one of Dan’s IR camera pictures of us from the team photo shoot (Photo 2). The photos were both taken on the Oden’s helipad in a bitter wind, but I think we’ve managed to make our grimaces look like smiles.

Other blogs from the cruise, for both legs 1 and 2, can be found via the official SWERUS-C3 website: http://swerus-c3.geo.su.se

The meteorology team in infra red!

The meteorology team in infra red!

After five days of open ocean work north of Wrangel Island, the Oden has moved further north to our second work area and we have entered the ice! After the grey and featureless monotony of the Bering Straight, everyone on board was excited when the first ice was spotted, some so much so that they were able to ignore the wind chill (about -20°C; Photo 1).

[Photo 1 caption: Pedro braving the wind to spot the first sea ice on leg 2].

So far we have stayed in loosely spaced ice away from the pack and havent spotted any wildlife. The ice is beautiful, with the passing small bergs and patches having a surprising range of shapes and colours (Photo 2), and the actual breaking of ice by the Oden is noisy and dramatic.

[Photo 2 caption: The author enjoying the view. Photo courtesy of Dan Wolfe].

At night (fairly brief this far north in August) the Oden’s front spotlights shining through falling snow onto approaching sea ice creates a spooky, atmospheric scene (Photo 3).

[Photo 3 caption: Oden moving through sea ice at night].

The first leg of ACSE / SWERUS-C3 has now finished and the second leg of the cruise is underway. The Oden stopped in Barrow, on the north coast of Alaska, so that the ships crew and scientists could swap over. The crew rotation went very smoothly thanks to the unusually calm conditions, and the second leg got under way on Wednesday, a full day earlier than planned. This meant more work for some of the scientists on board, as they had less time to prepare. On the plus side, an extra day of science, and an early escape from Barrow, not the most picturesque location in summer time.

It was interesting to see that satellite dishes in Barrow are oriented almost horizontally: the high latitude here means that geostationary communication satellites, which orbit roughly above the equator, are very low in the sky. As we go further North onboard the Oden, we wont be able to see the satellites at all, and have to rely on other, more expensive communication methods. So no internet, Skype etc, and just text-based (+ low-res pictures) email, which is how this blog is sent out.

Ian and the first leg team are home now, so myself and Barbara from the second leg team will be taking over blogging duties here. I’m John Prytherch, a postdoc scientist working for Ian at Leeds University. My scientific interests are mainly in air-sea interaction, in particular the turbulence driven transfer of momentum, heat and mass (e.g. gasses such as CO2) between the ocean and the atmosphere. This is one component of the measurements being made by the meteorology team onboard Oden.

The meteorology measurements all run continuously for the duration of the cruise. Much of the other work planned for the cruise, including CTDs and coring, are focussed in particular study areas. We have reached the first of these, in open ocean near Wrangel Island, NW of the Bering Straight. Scientific work has begun but a series of low pressure systems have been arriving, bringing with them moderate winds (~ 14 m/s) and rougher seas. The Oden is designed for ice-based rather than open ocean work, and its hull is shaped somewhat like a bath tub this makes things uncomfortable for us scientists when the waves pick up, and puts a stop to any work needing a winch, such as CTDs, coring or boat work.

Luckily, so far Ive avoided feeling too green, and in a few days well be in the ice, where motion wont be a problem, the science work can really get going and most importantly, we should see some wildlife!

I’ll introduce the other members of the leg 2 team, the science were hoping to carry out, and our experiences living onboard the Oden in later posts. Now, I’m off to use the ships gym before the wind picks up again and the treadmill starts to feel like a rollercoaster!

When I first went to sea an old hand at research cruises told me that whatever I thought I ought to be able to achieve in a day, I should half it when at sea. This was pretty good advice. In part it is because the working conditions can be physically difficult – it can take a lot longer to do a simple job when the world is moving up and down and side to side. But it also results from the difficulty in maintaining focus and motivation.

After nearly 6 weeks at sea, when every day is pretty much like every other, the tedium of doing the same thing every day – the same routine instrument checks, the same backup jobs, the same routine of meals (and as supplies of anything remotely fresh run down the same foodstuffs*) – can take its toll on motivation. The fact that we’re usually tired doesn’t help. It’s often hard to sleep soundly – too much noise and ship motion. On this trip our sleep pattern is getting more and more out of sync with the ‘day’ as we go on. Although we’ve sailed half way round the Arctic Ocean – we crossed the international date line a day or two ago – the ship has stayed on UTC time. Early in the cruise this didn’t matter much; the sun never set, so day and night had little meaning. Now, however, the sun is below the horizon for about 4 hours in the middle of the day – it was setting as I got up (late) this morning; the darkest time of day is lunch time, and the brightest time is the middle of our ‘night’. This screws up your body clock – we feel sleepy in the middle of the day as it gets dark, and wake up at night when the sun is brightest.

Next week we will arrive in Barrow, Alaska, and have to make the switch to local time. Some of us seem to be drifting that way already.

*The peppered cabbage salad is really very good…but I don’t want to see it again for a long, long time after I get off the ship!

We’ve seen very little wildlife on this cruise, we’ve barely even seen any birds for the last week or two; however, last night we sailed straight past multiple groups of walruses and several polar bears in the last mile or so of marginal ice before entering open water. Here’s a couple of photos of the walruses: