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Seeing the Greenland Ice Sheet Through Students' Eyes – Eos

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From 1926 to 1928, William Herbert Hobbs, a professor at the University of Michigan, led a series of three annual scientific expeditions to Greenland. Hobbs and his colleagues on these missions collected some of the earliest geophysical and atmospheric measurements in this region, including the first documentation of gravity-driven katabatic winds, which carry cool, dense air masses down solid slopes like ice sheets or hillsides and which earned Greenland the title of “north pole of the winds.”

Almost a century later, in June 2019, four faculty members (including P.S., M.F., and J.B.) led a team of undergraduate students (including C.S., L.G., and A.M.) from the University of Michigan, the University at Albany in New York, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and the University of Monterrey in Mexico on a 10-day field expedition to Greenland to repeat some of Hobbs’s original work. The trip provided the students with field experience and practice in collecting measurements relevant to the meteorology and climate of Greenland.

The 2019 expedition was also focused on introducing a diverse cohort of young researchers to polar science and on exploring the effects of climate change experienced by Greenlandic residents. Hobbs’s expedition teams were all male; glaciology did not include women in those days. In contrast, the 13 students in the 2019 group represented different genders, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, educations, and international experiences. Of this group, seven students identified as female, and one student identified as nonbinary. Although we came from diverse backgrounds, we were united in our passion for studying climate change and the environment.

An Arctic Adventure Begins

The journey began in Albany, N.Y., where we spent 3 days completing instrumentation training and logistical planning and getting to know the people with whom we would be sharing this unique experience. During this time, the faculty leaders introduced important environmental concepts that would be important for the trip. With this information, it was the students’ task to create a plan for when we were in the field and detail what types of measurements we wanted to take and where.

After this initial training and with all the equipment packed, we made our way to Stratton Air National Guard Base in nearby Schenectady, N.Y., where we boarded a C-130 military transport plane and departed for Kangerlussuaq Airport in western Greenland.

We were undeniably excited, but we were also nervous about the journey. For many of us, this would mark the first time we voyaged into the Arctic Circle, embarked on an international trip, or, for one student, even caught a glimpse of snow. This same feeling resonated with the professors, who were concerned about the safety and well-being of the participants.

Window real estate on the plane was limited, and the aircraft was crowded with various research groups, making it difficult to move about in the space. The cramped flight was worth it, though, when we saw our first glimpse of Greenland, the icy Arctic landscape painted in various shades of blue. We also saw large melt lakes that served as a reminder of the extreme melt season underway. It was at this moment that our group could truly visualize the devastating impacts of climate change on this landscape.

Glacial melt lakes were visible from the window of the C-130 transport plane that brought the group to Greenland. Credit: Mark Flanner

After arriving at Kangerlussuaq, we had only 10 days to fulfill the objectives of our expedition, so our day-to-day schedule was busy. We learned quickly that pursuing field experiments requires flexibility, especially with large groups. In a couple of instances, we changed plans because of the weather, and at other times we adjusted our schedule to attend presentations given by the local community.

We spent much of our time setting up field experiments that we would later conduct on and around the Greenland Ice Sheet. For example, we took the opportunity to launch a weather balloon close to our camp to capture data about wind circulation along the ice sheet.

The face of the ice sheet was visible from the top of Black Ridge, located near the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support (KISS) building, our base of operations, but we couldn’t fully appreciate the vastness of the ice until we trekked up a portion of Russell Glacier.

The ice-covered landscape was surrounded by sandy glacial deposits, home to a myriad of minerals, including garnet gems. Instead of the crisp, white snow typically depicted in museum paintings of snowcapped mountains or icy landscapes, we saw a glacier covered in dark layers of earth dug up as the ice moved. This image would become familiar after multiple hikes back to the glacier’s towering calving front.

Listening to the Glacier

When we first arrived at the calving front on an overnight field excursion, it was apparent that fragments of the glacier had fallen into the river below. The remoteness of the region and the lack of sound pollution allowed us to listen to the acoustic crackling deep within the glaciers. We wondered if more ice would soon break free, so we set up a camera overnight, hoping to record what we suspected would be a large calving event on one section of the ice.

We mounted the camera between two small rocks to protect it from strong wind gusts and looked forward to returning the next day. When we returned, it was obvious that part of the glacier face had indeed calved, but the camera had stopped recording after a few hours and missed the event. Fortunately, the river flow instrument we had also left at the site caught the change in water height when the calving event occurred. Seeing firsthand how quickly changes to the glacier face could occur reiterated how fast these seemingly permanent structures can break apart and disappear.

A partial collapse of the calving front of Greenland's Russell Glacier
A partial collapse along the edge of Greenland’s Russell Glacier is apparent in this photo. Credit: Chelsea E. Snide

After our return from the overnight expedition near Russell Glacier, we flew on a C-130 to Summit Station at the center of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Although our visit to the research station lasted only an hour, it significantly affected us all. The endless expanse of ice and drifting snow seemed to belong to a world other than the one in Kangerlussuaq.

At Summit Station, we saw a grid of poles—set up by researchers conducting snow accumulation experiments to prevent confusion in whiteout conditions—marking paths to different locations. In the Big House, the main structure of Summit Station, we learned about living and working conditions at the station, including the fact that during winter, typically, only a few people are in residence and food supplies can run short. Despite the difficult circumstances there, several of us left inspired to one day return to pursue research at Summit Station.

Learning by Doing

An important aspect of the expedition was for the undergraduate students to learn necessary skills for designing and executing successful research projects. During the campaign, our team measured surface energy flux and stream flow on and around the Greenland Ice Sheet, and we collected upper air radiosonde data on pressure, temperature, dew point, and wind speed and direction. The students used drones to learn about remote sensing practices, and we collected topographic data to create a 3-D map of Russell Glacier that will help in monitoring ice loss in our changing climate.

A lasting outcome of the trip was our installation of an air quality sensor, attached to the Danish meteorological station outside Kangerlussuaq, for real-time monitoring using the PurpleAir network. The sensor captured elevated particulate matter levels during the Greenland fires that broke out 2 weeks after our expedition.

This effort is the start of obtaining a long-term data set of aerosol particulate concentrations in this remote location—data that will be used to monitor how aerosols are transported to Greenland and their associated impacts on air quality and ice melting.

To commemorate the original Hobbs expeditions and contrast techniques of old and modern remote sensing capabilities, we also launched several pilot balloons similar to the ones used on Hobbs’s expedition and tracked their trajectories with a theodolite (a telescope-like surveying tool used to measure horizontal and vertical angles).

A group of students stands near a theodolite, which they used to track the trajectories of pilot balloons.
Like the scientists on William Herbert Hobbs’s 1926 expedition, students on the Greenland trip last June used a theodolite to track the trajectories of pilot balloons. Credit: Mark Flanner

A Lasting Impact

Events in Greenland (which is served by only two commercial airlines) remain largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. But the reality of climate change and its effects on this remote land became particularly apparent through our conversations with local community members. Many of those we spoke to remarked, for example, about a recent increase in polar bear sightings in the Kangerlussuaq region, attributed to the bears roaming south in search of food.

The Greenland expedition left a significant impression on the students. As the trip concluded, they reflected on their experiences and what the trip meant to them. Several reported that the experience sparked their interest in pursuing research about the environment or about climate science in graduate school. And after the expedition, the student participants remained engaged through analysis of the data collected during the trip and through advocating for climate justice and diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Involving undergraduate students in experiential learning introduces them to new skills and interests and is essential for academic and professional development. Research experiences in remote environments inspire students and allow them to explore a wide range of interests while learning how to create cohesive research plans and work through obstacles that arise in the field. This expedition enabled students to explore different fields related to polar science in a dynamic environment.

Leading a trip like this one is not an easy task. It requires extensive planning and organization, but it offers an important—and potentially career altering—learning experience for participants.

Author Information

Chelsea E. Snide ([email protected]), Lydia Gilbert, Abigail Meyer, Perry Samson, Mark Flanner, and Jeremy Bassis, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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Remains of small armor-plated dinosaur found in Argentina – Mint Lounge

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Buenos Aires, Reuters: Paleontologists on Thursday heralded the discovery of a previously unknown small armored dinosaur in southern Argentina, a creature that likely walked upright on its back legs roaming a then-steamy landscape about 100 million years ago.

The Cretaceous Period dinosaur, named Jakapil kaniukura, would have been well-protected with rows of bony disk-shaped armor along its neck and back and down to its tail, they said. It measured about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and weighed only 9 to 15 pounds (4-7 kg), similar to an average house cat.

Also read: New dinosaur found in Mexico was ‘very communicative’

Its fossilized remains were dug up over the past decade near a dam in Patagonia in Rio Negro province’s La Buitrera paleontological zone. The scientists described Jakapil in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-15535-6.pdf.)

The scientists said Jakapil marks a first-of-its-kind discovery of an armored dinosaur from the Cretaceous in South America. It is part of the thyreophoran dinosaur group that includes the likes of Stegosaurus, known for its bony back plates and spiky tail, and tank-like Ankylosaurus, covered in armor and wielding a club-like tail.

Also read: Fish once labeled a living fossil surprises scientists again

Lead paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia and his colleagues found a partial skeleton of Jakapil along with 15 tooth fragments featuring a leaf-like shape, similar to iguana teeth.

Jakapil resembles a primitive form of thyreophoran that lived much earlier, making it a surprise that it dated from the Cretaceous. Apesteguia said never before has such a thyreophoran been dug up anywhere in the southern hemisphere. 

(Reporting by Miguel Lo Bianco; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Will Dunham for Reuters)

Also read: ‘Death shadow’ dinosaur is largest megaraptor ever unearthed

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Perseid meteor shower of 2022 thrills stargazers despite bright moon (photos) – Space.com

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The Perseid meteor shower of the 2022 reached its peak this weekend and while the bright full moon may have washed out the best of the “shooting stars” display this year, that doesn’t mean skywatchers were left completely in the dark.

Stargazers around the world captured some dazzling views of the Perseid meteor shower as it peaked overnight Friday and Saturday (Aug. 12-13) and they shared the photos to prove it. Some observers took to Twitter to share their meteor views while other astrophotographers snapped truly stunning photos for Getty Images. 

“Perseid fireball I saw last night from Oxfordshire,”  skywatcher Mary McIntyre of Oxfordhire in the United Kingdom wrote (opens in new tab) on Twitter, adding that she captured the Perseid photos with a meteor camera. “The ionization trail was awesome.”

Related: Perseid meteor shower generates early “shooting stars” (video)

The Perseid meteor shower is typically one of the best meteor displays of the year, but its peak in 2022 came just one day after the Sturgeon supermoon (August’s full moon) on Aug. 11. Since dark skies are vital for meteor watching, even bright moonlight can dim a stargazers prospects. 

Photographer Wu Zhengjie for the photo service VCG and Getty Images still managed to capture stunning views of the Perseids from the Eboliang Yardang landform in Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province of China. The images show brilliant Perseid meteors over a striking landscape. 

Another photographer, Veysel Altun of the Anadalou Agency and Getty Images, managed to capture a Perseid meteor streak over a campsite in Samsun, Turkey. 

A Perseid meteor streaks across the night sky over Atakum district of Samsun, Turkey on Aug. 13, 2022.  (Image credit: Veysel Altun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Photographer Ercin Ertuk, also of the Anadalou Agency and Getty Images, snapped a photo of a Perseid as it streaked across the sky over trees in Ankara, Turkey.

A view of the Perseid meteor shower over Ankara, Turkey on August 13, 2022. (Image credit: Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Still more stargazers managed to catch views of the Perseids with either their own cameras or meteor cameras that constantly watch the sky to record fireballs. Here’s a look at some of our favorites spotted on Twitter.

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The Perseid meteor shower occurs each year in mid-August when the Earth passes through the dusty trail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. When those comet bits slam into Earth’s atmosphere, they can spawn bright trails as the streak across the sky. They appear to radiate out from the constellation Perseus, hence their name. 

The next major meteor shower of 2022 will be the Orionid meteor shower in October. That shower will peak on Oct. 20 and 21, but its activity period runs from Sept. 26 to Nov. 22. It is caused by the remnants of Halley’s Comet as the Earth passes through that trail. 

Check out our guide for the best meteor showers of the year to prepare for your next stargazing experience.

Editor’s note: If you snap an amazing photo of a Perseid meteor or any other night-sky sight and you’d like to share it with Space.com for a story or image gallery, send images, comments and location information to spacephotos@space.com.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com (opens in new tab) or follow him @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab). Follow us @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab)Facebook (opens in new tab) and Instagram (opens in new tab).

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B.C. poet illuminates pages of popular scientific magazine with verses about the nature of light – CBC.ca

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On clear summer nights, poet Donna Kane sleeps on the front deck of her farmhouse in Rolla, B.C., in an old-fashioned bed under a blue quilt printed with crescent moons.

The writer draws inspiration from looking at the sky in this northern part of the province, more than 750 kilometres distant from Vancouver.

“I feel connected. I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself, and I feel comforted by that. You’re looking at the origins of light when you’re lying there, looking up at the stars,” Kane said.

Kane’s musings about star light in the night sky inspired her to write a poem that blends scientific principles and the human experience of light’s reflection — a poem that now appears in a respected U.S. science magazine.

The poem, On Visible Light, was published in the July edition of Scientific American magazine, alongside more traditional scholarly research on the thermodynamic limit, momentum computing and interstellar space.

For Kane, the inclusion of her poem is proof that literature and science are more closely connected than many people believe.

“I’ve always thought science and art are very, very similar, trying to discover the mysteries of the world and the universe. They both have that urge,” Kane told CBC News. 

“Poetry explores. Ideas can emerge from really good poems that maybe scientists hadn’t really thought of in that same way.” 

‘Science and art are very, very similar because both disciplines are trying to explore the mysteries of the world and the universe,’ poet Donna Kane said. (Submitted/Donna Kane)

Kane’s poem is a villanelle, a structured type of poem with refrains and a strict rhyming pattern, a form that dates back hundreds of years. She weaves together science and imagery with lines like “Just a slice of electromagnetic/ wavelength and sight is ours, a blindness gone/ at the end of travelling through our nights.”

Its appearance in the pages of Scientific American, which has more than eight million online readers worldwide each month, has brought Kane stratospheric exposure.

“I’m pretty sure I’m never going to get a bigger audience than that,” said Kane. “Usually the reach of poetry is very small.”

The cover of 'Scientific American', whose lead story is 'Voyagers' Final Frontier'. It features an image of a satellite.
Kane’s poem features in the July issue of Scientific American. The magazine has an online readership of around eight million each month. (Submitted/Scientific American)

The editor of Scientific American’s poetry column, Dava Sobel, told CBC News that Kane’s poem is “gorgeous.” 

“It’s emotionally evocative and yet scientifically informative. And it adheres to a very strict poetic form. So it’s a difficult thing to achieve. But she’s really done it,” said Sobel, a former science writer for the New York Times who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Sobel, who had astronaut Neil Armstrong write the forward to one of her books and also has an asteroid named after her, believes that poetry can illuminate science. 

“Creativity flows smoothly between those two,” she said.

Dava Sobel poses for the camera in front of a sundial. She has white hair, cut short, and is wearing red-rimmed glasses.
Dava Sobel, poetry editor of Scientific American, has previously published poetry written by Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and physics. (Submitted/Glen Allsop)

Sobel said Scientific American published poetry in its very first issue in 1845 but only featured rarely since, until she launched a monthly science poetry column in the magazine in 2020.

Since then, in addition to Kane’s villanelle, she’s included poems written by Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and physics.

“Poetry should not be off limits to anybody, nor should science,” she said.

Even though it’s an imaginative work, Kane’s poem still had to meet the bar for accuracy and was rigorously fact checked by Scientific American before it was published.

“They’re pretty serious that … what you’ve written is accurate. You can do playful things, but the poem has to stand up to the actual science,” said Kane.

B.C. poet Donna Kane's face is shown reflected in the Pioneer 10 space craft during a visit to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Donna Kane’s face is reflected in a prototype of the Pioneer 10 space craft during a visit to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. The B.C. poet is drawn to writing about science and space. (Submitted/Donna Kane)

The poet said she’s always loved science and has written other works about space.

Her 2020 book, Orrery: Poems, featured a number of pieces about Pioneer 10, a space probe launched to study Jupiter’s moons. It was a finalist for a Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry. 

One of her space-themed poems will be included in a forthcoming anthology published by Cambridge University Press.

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