Black and Bloom: Sheffield Update


In a flash, three months have passed since I started working at the University of Sheffield on the NERC Black and Bloom project. This exciting project aims to constrain the role of ice algae in Greenland ice sheet surface melt, building on the work of the Dark Snow Project. There are four work packages – one to examine the microbiology of the ice surface, one to examine inorganic materials on the ice surface, one to measure and model the albedo of the ice surface, and one to upscale field observations to the macroscale using satellite remote sensing. I am the PDRA on work package 3.

It has been a hectic start to the project, but amazingly, all the field kit has been purchased, inventoried and sent off on pallets to be stored in Kangerlussuaq (Greenland) ready for our field season in July. We had a great ally in CragX climbing shop in Sheffield, who helped us to procure our camp and safety equipment, and even let me put our mess tent up in their main climbing hall!

Checking the mess tent at The Foundry, Sheffield (UK)

Checking the mess tent at The Foundry, Sheffield (UK)

We’ve all also been working away at refining our individual science plans and getting to grips with new equipment, techniques and experimental designs to make sure we hit the ice running in the field in July. For me, this has meant lots of time with the ASD FieldSpec – a device for measuring electromagnetic radiation at very high resolution. This device will be crucial for understanding how impurities – including ice algae – change the energy balance of ice surfaces.

Ice algae, soot and dust darken the ice surface on the Greenland Ice Sheet (ph. J Cook)

Ice algae, soot and dust darken the ice surface on the Greenland Ice Sheet (photo J Cook)

I’ve also been getting my coding skills up to scratch, with help from the NCAS team (National Centre for Atmospheric Science) who provided an excellent scientific computing course at the University of Leeds.

So, with our kit currently sailing somewhere between here and western Greenland, we await our July put-in, cautiously going over our plans and developing our experimental designs. If the last three months are anything to go by, the time between now and July will be busy and exciting.

About the author Joseph Cook

Dr Joseph Cook is a PDRA on the Black and Bloom project at the University of Sheffield who is particularly interested in researching the links between biological and physical processes on glaciers and ice sheets, and modelling albedo. He completed his PhD at the University of Sheffield (UK) in 2012 and has undertaken several Arctic field seasons. He is also an avid rock climber and mountaineer and maintains a cryosphere-focussed website.

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