Sunday, 2 March 2014

I think I've been approved... let's do some science

What has 14 points and gives me a stupid grin?...... and its not a football team (especially as that would currently be a conference team like Hyde or similar, and that is nothing to grin about)..

The answer:

A sweet pair of new crampons for fieldwork/ playing around on ice... YEY!

Granted at this stage, they aren't 100% required, considering April fieldwork involves a lot of snow and use of skis/snowshoes... and in summer, there is mostly debris on the lower glacier area..  However, upper areas of the glacier are reasonably crevassed/I have some ambitious aims for where to put my temperature tripods/I'm looking for some recreational ascents around Mt Blanc.

Either way... I feel even more psyched for fieldwork which begins in a month.  Which brings me back to my point for this weeks blog.. project approval.  Last week, I presented a 10 minute overview to my project background and my aims for the 3 years I am studying at Northumbria and attempted to answer some questions from a small panel of staff at the University...

   ... A question about how to prevent my equipment from being stolen, I couldn't really answer to be honest...

... But either way things went alright, and while I have not had any formal confirmation, I think I'm ok to carry on with my research and all it's serious ethical implications!

Last time I was talking about some potential places where I could place my temperature sensors to capture the typical variability across the Miage Glacier in Italy.  Some places I have concluded to be ridiculously hard/impossible to reach and therefore unfeasible without having a jetpack (should see if I could get this funded somehow).  But other areas have been generally agreed upon and now I have to think about logistics with regards to getting the equipment up the glacier on a sled and where to set up the initial five stations (the rest will be established in summer when we have lots of 'willing' undergraduate students to help carry things).

One idea is the effect slope angles on temperature across a glacier.  Previous studies have highlighted that temperature can be predicted by a simple thermodynamic model, whereby temperature is controlled by the movement of energy between the surface and the air (sensible heat flux) and the adiabatic heating of the air as it descends.  A study by Ulrich Strasser and company (1) found that temperature differences were much greater when temperature was measured at the base of steeper slopes of the Haut Glacier d'Arolla in Switzerland.  A nice picture of this glacier in the snow... just 'cos I have one :)

So to test the consistency of this idea, I am planning to set up two temperature tripods a the base of two tributaries of the Miage Glacier at similar elevations, one which will be at the foot of a steeper slope/ice fall and one at a more gentle incline from the main body of the debris section.  By understanding these differences, we can gain knowledge on the relative impact of these factors.

Using an even more detailed DEM derived from LiDAR survey over the main body of the glacier, we can see the presence of much steeper terrain to test this idea.  The two most central red dots are the likely placements for this test.  The new slope angles shown in the above image (reds indicating steeper slope angles) are derived from this LiDAR data which has a spatial resolution of 2 metres (meaning that each pixel of the image corresponds to 2 m in reality).  This is an improvement from the resampled 10 m resolution that can still be seen to the left of this image.  However using this high level of detail in distributed melt modelling would require a lot of processing power which is likely to be unrealistic and unnecessary for my work.

Next job: test and calibrate the temperature sensors and get the tripods in good working order... accurate results are needed!

(1) Strasser, U., Corripio, J. G., Pellicciotti, F., Burlando, P., Brock, B. W., & Funk, M. (2004). Spatial and temporal variability of meteorological variables at Haut Glacier d’Arolla (Switzerland) during the ablation season 2001: Measurements and simulations. Journal of Geophysical Research, 109, D03103. doi:10.1029/2003JD003973


  1. This is how to make sure your equipment doesnt get stolen!

    1. Nice! Just need a juvenile Squirrel now :)