Impact of melt ponds on energy and momentum fluxes between atmosphere and sea ice (acronym: MELTEX)

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, prediction models, atmospheric sciences, sea ice, solar radiation, surface albedo

Principal Investigator: Birnbaum, Gerit (1)
Licence Number: 14336
Organization: Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Licensed Year(s): 2008
Issued: Apr 24, 2008
Project Team: Dr. Gerit Birnbaum (Principal Investigator, Project Leader, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany), Heinz Finkenzeller (Operations Manager, Heinz Finkenzeller, Consulting, Aviation, Services), Dr. Joerg Hartmann (Scientist, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany), Dr. Christof Luepkes (Scientist, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany), Dr. Wolfgang Dierking (Scientist, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany), Dr. Andreas Herber (Scientist, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany), Andre Ehrlich (Scientist, Institute for Atmospheric Physics, University Main), Manuel Sellmann (Engineer, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany), Dr. Thomas Garbrecht (Engineer, OPTIMARE Sensorsysteme AG, Bremerhaven, Germany), Berthold Friederich (Technician, Institute for Atmospheric Physics, University Main), Dr. Matthias Cremer (Engineer, messWERK GmbH, Braunschweig, Germany), yet unknown (Pilot, Enterprise Air Canada), yet unknown (Copilot, Enterprise Air Canada), yet unknown (Mechanic, Enterprise Air Canada)

Objective(s): The main goal of this project is the improvement of the mathematical description of the temporal evolution of melt ponds on Arctic sea ice and of their influence on the absorption/reflection of solar radiation at the sea ice surface in numerical models used to predict future climate.

Project Description: The main goal of this project is to better understand how melt ponds evolve, and their influence on absorption/reflection of solar radiation at the sea ice surface. This information will help to predict summer sea ice melt and future Arctic climate.

Data will be collected by using instruments mounted on the German research aircraft Polar5. The airbase of Polar5 will be Inuvik. The aircraft will fly to the Beaufort Sea to conduct measurements over sea ice.

Scientific measurements will only be performed over the ice-covered ocean in the Beaufort Sea. On transfer flights between Inuvik and the Beaufort Sea the researchers will obey to the CWS and EISC flight guidelines and recommendations, and as often as weather conditions allow they will fly at a height of 10.000 ft during the transfer from Inuvik to the Beaufort Sea. They will keep away from communities, and will avoid flying over protected land areas and bird sanctuaries. They will also fly at high altitude over ocean in a buffer zone of about 50 km distance to the coast to avoid any disturbance of people and wildlife in the coastal zone. If necessary, the researchers will coordinate their flight activities with the local Hunters and Trappers Committees and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Over the Beaufort Sea, the project partly has to fly at low level for scientific reasons, but will not fly over concentrations of animals. The pilots will be very careful and will be watching for wildlife and any possible harvesting activity on the ice and near the floe edges, and take a generous detour when these are spotted. There are only five seats for operators in Polar5 and the project needs all these seats for scientists and technicians to operate the measurement instruments – hence, it is not possible to hire a wildlife observer to be on board the airplane. The total amount of flight time is 80 hours which will be spent mostly over the Beaufort Sea. Actual times and tracks of measurement flights depend on weather and sea ice conditions. Measurements over sea ice will be carried out at flight levels between 100ft and 4.500ft.The aircraft will mostly fly along horizontal lines. Maps available from the researcher and copied to the Aurora Research Institute show
typical corridors where they will perform their measurements. As shown in the maps, the flights are far away from the coast; they will not fly in the vicinity of Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, or Ulukhaktok. The flights in the Havipak Creek and Trail Valley Creek area have been canceled, so measurements over land areas are no longer scheduled for the MELTEX project (i.e., they will not perform any low-level flight over land areas). Within the CFL-IPY-project, coordinated measurements close to the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen are planned one to four times in the period of this research licence. Due to the current ice situation they expect to perform these coordinated measurements only north of 72°N far away from the west coast of Banks Island.

Regarding the scientific instruments on board the airplane, all instruments except the two laser altimeters do not emit any kind of radiation and are definitely harmless to people and wildlife. The two laser altimeters contain eye-safe lasers, and the laser beam penetrates into water only few millimeters. So the laser instruments will also not impact people or wildlife and in particular not fish and marine mammals.

During their stay in Inuvik, the researchers can give presentations about the subject and preliminary findings of their project to communities and interested organizations, in plain language. They will request help from the Aurora Research Institute to organize such presentations. They will also send a copy of all publications resulting from MELTEX to any local organization or board that would like to receive a copy.

Inuvik will benefit from the campaign MELTEX in the following way: during the 32 days of the project, MELTEX will contribute to the local economy by using facilities in the town of Inuvik for accommodation, meals, shopping, car rentals, office space, etc. The operation base for the aircraft Polar5 will be the Inuvik Airport with financial agreements about the use of airport facilities, hangar space, and aviation fuel.
The findings of the campaign will help to improve numerical climate models to better predict future climate change in the Arctic.
The aircraft Polar5 is registered in Canada, the scientific equipment has been certified by Transport Canada, and a crew from a Canadian company operates the aircraft.

Fieldwork will be conducted from May 05 to June 15, 2008 over sea ice on the Beaufort Sea from west of Banks Island to the US/Canada border, more than 50 km away form the coast (71 N to 76 N and 127 W to 141 W).