Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Dear Students: Thank You for Your Questions II

How deep is the snow there?

Now that's a complicated question. Do you remember the story about every thing there is to know about snow? Well, one of the things we are measuring is the depth of the snow and it varies wildly with location. At each site we dig a pit. The deepest ones are over 80 cm deep and the shallowest, only 2 cm deep. The difference is due to uneven ground, trees, the wind which is almost always blowing. Here's are a picture that shows both the deepest and shallowest areas. It's a very bumpy peat bog. The white patches are as deep as the bit and the parts with peat showing through are very shallow.

Yesterday we dug and sampled pits that were about nine feet deep complete with stairs to get in and out. The snow had drifted during high winds and gathered behind a small island of trees on the tundra.

When I asked Dr. Kershaw what he'd be using the data for, he said it was to figure out yearly precipitation. The same kind of work must go on anywhere that large numbers of people depend on snow melt for their dry season water. In a changing climate, rain and snow fall will shift, making prediction based on past years more and more difficult. Follow this link to a short article relating snow pack and global warming:

Here is the view from inside the pit. I was passing up samples and helping dig core samples out of the wall of snow. The temperature under the snow at the bottom of the pit was quite warm (-1 degrees celsius) while the air temperature was -34 degrees C.

Have you seen a arctic fox yet?

We haven't been lucky enough to see an Arctic Fox, but we were lucky enough to see these tracks.

Do people in Churchill use sled dogs?

There are four teams of dogs in town. There is a big 250 mile race schedule to start from Churchill on March 24th.

Have you seen polar bears?

I haven't seen polar bears. (Watch for a story later this week that will explain why.)

How many people are living where you are?

There are about fifteen people on our team and a group visiting to watch and study the Aurora. All together it amounts to about forty people staying overnight at the station each night. That station is about 15 miles outside the town of Churchill.

In your opinion, can we reverse the damage we have caused to the Arctic?

The climate is changing faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on earth. There are two main reasons for this: more land mass than water in the north means more heat is absorbed; and currents bring warm water from the south. A third factor will also increase the speed of warming near the pole: As ice melts, more water is exposed, and water does not reflect like ice does.

Dr. Kershaw, our chief scientist answered your question with a metaphor: He compared humanity to the captain of the Titanic. We know we're going to hit the iceberg, and we don't have a choice about that. We can however impact whether we hit it dead on at high speed or slow down and glance off of it. Here is a graph from the International Panel on Climate Change website showing different predictions of future CO2 that depend on the decisions that all of us make every day. Click on it to make it bigger. Go to the source to find out what the different predictions mean.


Many of you have been asking what students can do about global warming. Watch for a message in the coming days for some ideas.


libraryguy said...

Jana -

What kind of flora are common on the tundra? You mention trees - what species? Any smaller plants?


crazeemonkey82 said...

Are you having a lot of fun?

that is a deep hole! how did you get out when you were done?

have you seen any mammal wildlife?

i hope you are having a lot of fun, and you are enjoying the time while you have it!

Dont freeze!
i miss you!
your student
tess warren

clint said...

Hi Mrs. Dean. We all say hi again. We all miss you terribly. We hope you are having fun. We want to know the people that get to work in the hole. Josh wants to know who started the whole global warming warning and brought it to the governments attention?

Have a nice time
Period 4