Field Update: Nov. 13, 2010

Saturday brought an A-star helicopter transporting Joe Petit and Lisa Siegel of UNAVCO who were traveling from McMurdo Station to Coulman High.

They came to install Global Positioning System (GPS) stations to measure the vertical and lateral motions of the ice shelf at four sites spaced about 10 kilometers apart in a diamond-shaped pattern. These measurements are necessary to allow us to understand the direction of travel and speed of the ice shelf as it moves on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. We are also interested in the vertical movements of the ice up and down in response to the tides at this location, which we estimate to be about 1.5 meters or more on a daily basis. In addition, we would like to compare the ice motions at these sites with sites upstream, at the grounding line to the south and southeast, or on some of the glaciers feeding into the Ross Ice Shelf through the Transantarctic Mountains to the southwest.

Three of the GPS installations are intended for the summer only and therefore consist of a solar panel mounted on a vertical frame, an antenna, and a box of batteries and electronics to record the data as a time series of measurements throughout the season. The box is buried in the snow to insulate it from the cold and keep the batteries warm. The fourth GPS installation will remain at Site #2 for a year to collect data throughout the cold, dark winter months. It has extra cables and three solar panels, as well as extra batteries buried in the snow to provide enough power for it to survive.

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