Measuring snow density and stratigraphy on the Greenland Ice Sheet

By Anna Hogg, ESA Living Planet Research Fellow, Leeds


Andrew Shepherd and I led a ground based field party onto the Greenland Ice Sheet last week as part of the ESA CryoVex land ice validation campaign. We were based at Ilulissat on the West coast of Greenland, and took 3 helicopter flights up onto the ice sheet. We carried out 3 experiments at 3 field sites on the EGIG line transect, which goes from the ice sheet margin to the dry snow zone at the ice sheet summit. We collected ice cores to measure snow density and stratigraphy, snow pen data to measure the snow depth to the last summers melt layer, and placed metal surface reflectors on the snow surface to calibrate the airborne measurements.

It was a really successful campaign, despite the cold temperatures of up to –29ºC! Now that we are back home we look forward to analysing the data to extract what we hope will be some really exciting and important science results.



Thank you very much to everyone who provided scientific advice in support of this field campaign. I’m certain that the quality of the field data we collected was greatly improved by having up to date information to hand from the whole team.

Rob Mulvaney (BAS) provided invaluable guidance on the best ice coring technique, Peter Kuipers Munneke and Stefan Ligtenberg (University of Utrecht) modelled the present day depth of the 2012 melt horizon, Christoph Rohner and David Small (University of Zurich) measured the melt extent on the Greenland ice sheet throughout this summer season using Sentinel-1 data, Kirsty Langley (ASIAQ) hosted the field team during a stop over in Nuuk, Debbie Rosen (University of Leeds) organised all CPOM satellite communications and logistics, and Rene Forsberg (DTU) managed to coordinate all helicopter and airborne flights despite being in Asia. Definitely a great team effort!