Field and CPL Updates

2011 Core Processing Line

June 10, 2011
Update provided by Peter Neff
project update image
Becca Lawrence (DRI) cutting a chemistry stick. Photo: Peter Neff

Happy summer to you from the National Ice Core Laboratory! Last week, our initial group of about 20 students, faculty, and NICL technicians gathered to begin processing WAIS Divide core from a depth of ~1953 meters to the current WAIS Divide bottom depth of ~3331 meters. Everyone arrived in good spirits, no doubt buoyed by the sunny weather here in Denver, Colorado. Then they walked into the freezer...

Kidding aside, we had an excellent first week on the 2011 Core Processing Line. After initial safety briefings, practice runs, and seemingly endless adjustments, we ended the week having processed 157 meters of core, averaging about 27 meters per day. Our current depth is 2111 meters. This is particularly noteworthy considering we are without our NICL lead, Geoff Hargreaves, who is not coming to NICL due to an unexpected personal issue. We are constantly working on improving our efficiency and will soon up our average to 28 meters of ice per day (or more) in order to meet our goal of processing all core to 3330 meters by August 19th.

An expert NICL crew facilitates all of our sampling, and we have some great students here who already look like old pros after only a few days on the line. TJ Fudge (UW) has the electrical measurements running smoothly, and already is spotting a few probable ash layers not visible to the eye. Our 2010-2011 WAIS Divide camp manager, Pauline Roberts, decided to see what we're really up to and so is assisting with electrical measurements for a few weeks. Matt Spencer (PSU) is so far logging visual stratigraphy on crystal clear ice, but will soon have plenty of ash layers to record. Becca Lawrence (DRI) is solo at the chemistry station, cutting beautiful sticks from center-core for ultra-trace measurements. Emily Longano (CU Boulder) and Julia Brandenberger (PSU) are running the stable water isotope station, and seem to be front-runners for most efficient station of the CPL. Ross Beaudette (SIO) and Stacy Bryant (PSU) have been cutting gas samples and helping supply other stations while they wait to step up their own sampling deeper in the core. Joan Fitzpatrick (USGS) and Isabelle Hong (USGS) are working through physical properties samples taken in the field, with help from Richard Alley. Andy Schauer and Eric Steig, leaders of the UW stable isotope lab, were present for the start of the CPL, as was chief scientist Kendrick Taylor of DRI and SCO manager Mark Twickler from UNH.

We have incorporated a weekly lunchtime seminar into the schedule this year, so Eric Steig kicked things off by updating us on the latest applications of stable water isotopes in WAIS-cores. Richard Alley also gave an inspirational "big picture" climate change talk that really hit home just what we are working for with big ice core projects like WAIS Divide. These lunch meetings are meant to be informal, and a way for faculty, staff and students here at the CPL to share their work, hopefully coming away with a greater understanding of the varied scientific questions associated with the WAIS Divide core (and other projects). We are anticipating talks by Jeff Severinghaus and Todd Sowers in the coming weeks. Let us know if you are coming to the CPL so we can sign you up to speak---some PI involvement for July and August would be great!

We are all excited to be quickly moving down core to the bottom of the ice sheet! Soon we enter the ash-rich portion of the core, and will no doubt have some beautiful images to share with you all. I will be at NICL monitoring our progress and assisting with any difficulties all summer, while being sure to keep the WAIS Divide research community updated on this important step of the project.


Peter Neff
WAIS Divide SCO Representative, 2011 CPL