Meteorological Controls on Snow Accumulation and Chemistry in the St. Elias Mountains

This Project is supported by a generous grant from the
Dan and Betty Churchill Exploration Fund

July 6th to 24th, 2006

July 7-10:
Whitehorse, YT and Kluane Lake Research Station






After a few minor travel snags and near mishaps along the way I arrived in Whitehorse, YT, at 12 am local time on July 8th. Being near the height of summer, night never really fell, rather just a prolonged twilight. The rest of the day was spent collecting the miscellaneous supplies for that would be necessary for completing my work up at the Divide site. The morning of the 9th I rendezvoused with the University of Ottawa glaciology field course participants led by Luke Copeland and Peter Johnson and caught a ride up the Alaskan highway to the Kluane Lake Research Center operated by the Arctic Institute of North America out of the University of Calgary. We arrived to driving rains and chilly temperatures. The one day delay in camp due to unsavory flying weather provided me with ample opportunity to make a final check of the field gear and round-up the necessary equipment to be flown up to the field site. The weather finally broke and I was able to reach the field site on the morning of the 11th.
July 11-19: Divide Site

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5 meter snow pit


Lunch on the nunatack










I was the last to arrive at the Divide site and therefore had the benefit of having camp already set up for me by the Ottawa students. The first two days in the field were spent digging the first four meters of the proposed five meter deep snowpit to be sampled at 5 cm intervals for snow chemistry. With six undergrads helping, it was relatively light work allowing us to dig an impressive two meters a day without resorting to a narrow confined shaft. With the relative speed of our work I was able to complete my sampling of the daysí digging during the late afternoon and early evening hours. This turned out to be important on July 12th when we received an evening snowstorm (our only inclement weather while on the icefield).

On the third day we trekked to the nunataks near our camp to download the meteorological data from a weather station there.  On the way back I proceeded to return the favor of the digging provided by the Ottawa students by helping them in an exercise of ice depth sounding.  The next two days were spent digging the final one meter and sampling of the snowpits, as well as digging down to the cooler containing the data logging equipment at the base of the snow depth sounder near camp.  We spent the next two days charging the battery pack with a solar panel and attempting to download the data.  After several unsuccessful tries we were forced to call in some help from Christian Zdanowicz of the Geological Survey of Canada, who was successful in downloading our data for us.

With the sampling complete and weather station data downloaded, we were then able to accomplish our final task of raising and securing the snow depth sounder weather station near camp.  We were able to raise the sounder to 3.44 m above the current snow surface in anticipation of the accumulating snow over this upcoming winter.  We then secured and sealed the cooler at the base of the pole.  With the objectives of the field season we were free to spend the last day in camp hiking to the big nunatak 4 km from base camp.  It was a spectacular climb with rewarding views of Mt. Logan and the surrounding glaciers. 

July 20-22: Kluane Lake Research Station

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My camp on Lake Kluane
After successfully completing my work at the Divide Site, it was nice to kick back and relax by the shores of Kluane Lake (Fig 4). We ended up getting lucky in flying down on the 19th in that the weather in the mountains took a turn for the worse and prevented flights for the next three days. In the mean time I was able to organize my gear for the long trip home, and was even given the opportunity to talk to a Canadian journalist doing a piece on climate change.
July 22-24: Whitehorse, YT and the trip home
The last few days in Whitehorse were really enjoyable in that I was free to do some of the sightseeing that I was unable to do while shopping for supplies on my only other day in town. Some of my highlights include the Beringia Musuem and some hiking on the bluffs above town which included getting within 10 ft of a bald eagle. The trip home was largely uneventful and the samples survived the repeated abuse of airline baggage handlers without any significant loss or contamination.

click on photo to see full size Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

on photo to see full size Whitehorse, Yukon Territory