Science

From Seamonster
Jump to: navigation, search


Introduction

Lemon Creek Watershed and environs (image courtesy of NASA World Wind)


This page serves as the starting point for SEAMONSTER science. SEAMONSTER is about adapting technology to environmental science and so we have tried to make scientific research our primary guide.


Location

We began in our own back yard in Juneau Alaska specifically in two watersheds at the southwest corner of the Juneau Icefield: Lemon Creek and Mendenhall. Lemon Creek watershed is steep and heavily forested, capped at the top by the relatively small Lemon Creek Glacier and emptying at the bottom into a saltwater estuary called Gastineau Channel. Mendenhall watershed includes the Mendenhall Glacier which currently (2009) terminates in Mendenhall Lake. From the opposite side of this lake the Mendenhall River flows a short distance to empty into the northwest end of Gastineau Channel.


Boreal ecosystems

In broad brushstrokes we want to contribute to environmental science in boreal ecosystems, running from glaciers and icefields through their outlet watersheds and into the marine environment. For each part of this complex system there is current understanding and a corresponding field of unanswered questions. For example we know that glacier ice moves down-valley by sliding and deforming. However we don't understand too well how liquid water moves and works in relation to the ice.


Mendenhall Glacier retreats up to 145 meters in one month, summer 2007.
Click for full figure (2MB image).


Even though glacier ice is constantly moving down-valley, the bottom end-points of most glaciers are observed to be receding back up the valley on a time scale of years. The image above shows just such terminus locations (colored lines) and hence traces the glacier recession over two summers. Glacier recession and thinning in Southeast Alaska is a marker of climate change, connected with increase in both global temperature and sea level. Anthony Arendt and others estimated the contribution of Alaska's melting ice to sea level rise at about one quarter of a millimeter per year in 2002. We'd like an update on this number: What is it six years later?


Measuring the terminus position


Primary Questions

1. How does one monitor a glacier outburst flood?

  • Lake level, stream flow, stream chemistry ...
  • Instruments: Pressure transducers, webcams, temp sensors, water chemistry sensors ...

2. How does one measure orographic precipitation?

  • Both rain (rain gauges) and snow (depth sensors) ...
  • Multitude of locations throughout the watershed ...
  • National Weather Service has difficulty getting interior data ...
  • Snowfall is non-trivial to convert to water equivalent ...
  • This is both scientifically interesting and important for runoff prediction...

3. How does glacier melt influence hydrochemistry?

  • Determine the amount of water produced ...
  • As well: chemical composition ...
  • Same questions in response to rainfall ...
  • Importance: Effect on the aquatic habitat ...
  • The glacier adds very turbid and very cold water, with an immediate affect on biota ...
  • Biological response will be very different for glacier versus rainfall input ...


Secondary Questions

1. What does a glacier's energy budget look like?

  • Albedo, temperature, relative humidity, radiation, energy balance ...

2. What are the key climate-coupled observables in the watershed?

  • Can take a page out of the JIRP playbook ...

3. How much sub-glacial hydrology may be inferred from glacier surface motion?

  • Evidence suggests overburden pressure is routinely exceeded ...
  • This should produce transient uplift/relaxation signals ...
  • These in turn will appear (filtered) on the surface ...
  • Yields new insight into floor plumbing ...

4. To what extent is glacier dynamism evident in glacier seismicity?

  • Preliminary data suggests more data mining ...
  • Multiple seismic sensors will be necessary ...

Motivation and Plan

Hydrology: The study of water in all its forms.


We do this of course because it's interesting... and fun...


...but what is the plan? The plan is to combine these questions with resource constraints (time, money, people) to arrive at a geographic distribution of instruments. We place the instruments, get data flowing back to a computer database, and we try and ensure that the data are valid and useful.


{ Science } -> { Sensors, Layout } -> { Motes, Microservers, Server } + { Software } -> { Data Acquisition } -> { Publications, other applications }

Related pages

  • Hydrology, the study of water in all its forms.
  • Glaciology, the study of persistent ice.
  • Marine Ecosystems, saltwater units of interdependent plant, animal, and micro-organism life.
  • Meteorology, the study of the atmosphere and weather.