ARCTIC BLOG: Enduring an Arctic storm

18 March, 2015

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Diary entry: Wednesday 18 March 2015

Time: 2237 hrs UTC
Position: 82° 34.7′ N / 22° 43.6′ E
Air Temperature: −32.6 °C
Wind Speed: 12 knots

The storm lasted not even 48 hours, but chilly with winds of 35 knots at -20ºC, and there was blowing snow up and over the Crow’s Nest, as well as glimpses of blue skies not much further aloft. All in all favourable conditions for testing our hypothesis on blowing salty snow and the consequences on the production of tiny salt particles in the air.  However, for our ice floe the consequences were not so favourable: new cracks and leads opened over night, running right through through the middle of expensive scientific equipment installed on the sea ice.

Fallen weather mast: the 10m weather mast was cut down by the raging storm (Markus Frey)
Fallen weather mast: the 10m weather mast was cut down by the raging storm (Markus Frey)

As the visibility improved the truth dawned on us as we took in the scene from the ship’s bridge: the 10m weather mast had not survived; it was felled by the raging storm, laying now across a new lead covered by thin ice and blooming frost flowers.

Fragile frost flowers form within hours on top of a recently refrozen open lead (Markus Frey)
Fragile frost flowers form within hours on top of a recently refrozen open lead (Markus Frey)

Harvard, the expedition leader from the Norwegian Polar Institute gave the orders during our daily morning meeting: shift from data collection to instrument salvaging mode. But first we needed to move the ship, which was frozen in to a large 2m thick ice floe …would we be able to free ourselves and get back to Longyearbyen before Easter..?

Snow trap in storm: catching blowing snow using a “rocket trap” pointing into the storm (Markus Frey)
Snow trap in storm: catching blowing snow using a “rocket trap” pointing into the storm (Markus Frey)
Ice floe after storm: new open leads around the ship opened up by the recent storm (Markus Frey)
Ice floe after storm: new open leads around the ship opened up by the recent storm (Markus Frey)
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