Howling High Arctic Winds and Hard Rime

As a CANDAC CREATE intern, I’ve been lucky enough to spend part of my summer in beautiful Eureka, Nunavut working at PEARL as an Assistant Operator. Having never been north of the tree line, I was eagerly awaiting whatever uncommon experiences lay in store for an Arctic summer.

Soon after my arrival in late June, there were a couple days when the weather was unseasonably inclement – even by Arctic standards – leading to a rather unique opportunity for weather observation at PEARL. While temperatures at the Eureka Weather Station hovered around 0°C, the unrelenting northerly winds blew consistently over 50 km/h with gusts up to 83 km/h, making it feel a whole lot colder out on the tundra. 610 m above sea level, the PEARL Ridge Lab was engulfed by cloud. At this height, temperatures were colder and the wind was fiercer. With the addition of driving snow and ice, making it difficult to see, working safely and effectively on the exposed rooftop was impossible.

When weather conditions cleared up the next day, Pierre (the PEARL site manager) and I went up to the rooftop observing platform to assess the aftermath. We found a veritable icescape that left no doubt as to the direction and intensity of the previous day’s high winds. On the windward surfaces of the perimeter railings, support posts, and many of the instruments themselves, frosty protuberances jutted out horizontally as much as 25 centimeters. These frost formations had a granular appearance with crystalline branches at their leading edge.

The frosty railings along the PEARL Ridge Lab roof.

The frosty railings along the PEARL Ridge Lab roof.

After consulting with Kevin Sheppard, a Meteorological Technician with Environment Canada, we confirmed that this was a variety of frost known as hard rime, typically seen at high altitudes where low-level clouds form. Kevin explained how the super-cooled water droplets that constitute a “freezing fog” cloud type freeze on contact with the cold metal surface. The accompanying high winds accelerate accretion, sometimes building up these frost formations to the point where the added weight load can become a major concern to manmade structures. Fortunately, designed as they are to endure the harsh Arctic winters, the instruments atop the Ridge Lab were mostly indifferent to this weather event.

The PEARL Ridge Lab's rooftop sun photometer, covered in frost.

The PEARL Ridge Lab’s rooftop sun photometer, covered in frost.

However, the sun photometer (pictured above) needed frost removed to restore its view of the sun, and a radio antenna wire collapsed under the weight of the thick frost and ice. The radio antenna wire (pictured below) required some reassembly and de-icing. Removing the rime revealed another layer of denser frost, still clinging to the wire in a near perfect cylinder. This initial layer was likely deposited as hoar frost, before the change in conditions brought about by the freezing fog favoured rime formation.


Frosty rooftop cable

Inner frost layer surrounding the cable.

Though this frost was remarkable, the wind speeds seen at the Ridge Lab and the Eureka Weather Station alone made this a significant weather event. While it wasn’t quite the windiest it’s ever been, gusts came quite close to the maximum for the month of June (93 km/h), and were enough to make all of the veteran station folks take notice. Located on the Slidre Fiord, Eureka is normally quite sheltered compared with most Arctic weather stations, earning it the colloquial title of “Garden Spot of the Arctic”. For these couple of days however, no one here would think that an apt description, least of all the two visiting CANDAC researchers working long days on the exposed tundra on a new Meteor Radar installation.

When the clouds parted and the winds subsided, the 24-hour sun and warmer temperatures made quick work of the remaining frost, offering hope of more temperate weeks to follow. As a first-timer in Eureka, the frigid winds and the spectacular hard rime it left on the roof of the PEARL served as a memorable introduction to summer in the High Arctic.

– Peter McGovern

CREATE summer intern, University of Toronto

Posted in Eureka field research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beautiful Gravity Waves

Have you ever looked at the clouds during the day and seen what appeared to be ripples or waves in the clouds? If you have, then you have seen a gravity wave. I am examining these waves for my Masters project, which involves counting how many waves arrive during the polar night, determining if there is a direction that the waves prefer to travel in, and how particular atmospheric conditions – like Sudden Stratospheric Warmings – affect the waves. Knowing how these waves are acting will help us understand more about polar dynamics.

Gravity Waves above UNB

Gravity waves shown in the clouds above UNB Fredericton Campus

Gravity waves are not gravitational waves. Both are fascinating, but they are distinct phenomena. Gravity waves are caused by parcels of air being moved around by buoyancy; they are responsible for transferring energy and momentum between different parts of the atmosphere. Gravitational waves are caused by large masses orbiting each other, and are of great interest to astrophysicists. The waves we observe in the atmosphere (gravity waves) are also, less confusingly, referred to as buoyancy waves.

I view gravity waves by using a camera called the All Sky Imager. This instrument is a camera that can take pictures of the whole sky. It is part of the suite of instruments located at the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) near Eureka, Nunavut.

All Sky Imager at PEARL

The All Sky Imager at PEARL in Eureka, Nunavut

The All Sky Imager takes pictures of the very faint light at specific wavelengths arriving from the airglow layer. Airglow is the emission of light from the atmosphere itself. The “airglow layer” we are watching lies between 85 km and 100 km. Below about 85 km, air molecules tend to release energy through collisions instead of emitting light. Airglow light is very faint; the only way to see it with the naked eye is to go out on a clear night away from any source of light pollution. If the stars aren’t bright then you might be able to see a faint green glow across the whole sky. If you happen to be an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, you will have a particularly impressive view of the Earth’s airglow.

Since the All Sky Imager takes pictures every minute during the polar night, it is possible to see other interesting atmospheric phenomena. Meteorites flying through the atmosphere are one striking example of what we observe with this instrument. They appear as bright lines across the image. One of my colleagues recently referred to them as “rockets flying past” in the images while making the appropriate noises to accompany their appearance! Frequently, the imager observes the aurora borealis, which looks like a band going across the image that appears to be “dancing”. An event known as bore waves can also been in some of the images. These sorts of waves are very similar to tidal bores, an example of which is the one that can occur in the Petitcodiac River due to tides from the Bay of Fundy.

Aurora Borealis in the All Sky Imager

An unprocessed image of the Aurora Borealis seen with the All Sky Imager. These are easier to notice if they are moving since they don’t move like a normal wave does.

One way to be able to see gravity waves occurring in the atmosphere is to make what is known as a ‘difference movie’. These movies are made from differences between consecutive images over a whole day.

Star field and a gravity wave image

The image is a frame from a difference movie. The black and white dots are stars moving around the image and the ripple pattern across the sky is a possible gravity wave in the image. The OH airglow at the top of the image is the emission line the movies were made from and the time stamp on the bottom right of the frame is in the format of yyyy/mm/dd/hh/mm/ss in UTC time.

Large gravity wave example

The image is a frame from a difference movie that has a large wave sweeping through the image. This large wave is commonly referred to as a bore wave, and these sorts of waves usually have other smaller waves following behind them after they move by.

I could watch them all day because I never know what interesting feature I will see in them. Unfortunately, after the fourth or fifth viewing, reality starts suggesting I should get back to my research. Below is an example of a difference movie on YouTube made with the All Sky Imager that illustrates some interesting events such as aurora borealis, ripple events, and meteorites flying by. How many waves can you count in the movie?

The All Sky Imager has been running every winter since 2007 – that’s a lot of images and movies to look at! This motivated us to program a computer to find waves in images. This challenge has been the main work behind my Master’s project. In a couple of months, I hope to find some really interesting results.

– Chris Vail

A University of New Brunswick M.Sc.student who’s not procrastinating from writing his thesis by watching movies of his data…

Posted in Eureka field research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 2014 North American Cold Wave and the Polar Vortex

There has been a lot of interest in the polar vortex this winter.  News agencies around the world have used the phrase to explain the extreme cold weather that has affected Canada and the United States since January 2nd, 2014.  However, along with this interest comes some confusion. It begs the questions: what is the polar vortex and why is it in the news?

The Polar Vortex

The polar vortex exists in both hemispheres each year during their respective winters.  Its existence is a natural phenomenon caused by the temperature contrast that occurs between the sunlit mid-latitude regions and the dark polar region. This difference in temperature (and the fact that the Earth is rotating) causes a west-to-east circulation of air in the upper atmosphere.  The polar vortex exists only in the stratosphere, the region of the atmosphere vertically above the troposphere (typically between 10 and 50 km above the surface of the Earth).  The vortex causes an isolation of polar air that tends to intensify the cold temperatures if left undisturbed.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the isolated air tends to remain that way, undisturbed, throughout the winter.  The Northern Hemisphere polar vortex is far less stable, often subject to disturbances.  Why? The answer is simpler than you might expect: there are  different landscapes surrounding the northern and southern polar regions.  In the southern polar region, the Antarctic continent is surrounded by ocean while the northern polar region is surrounded by various land masses. These land masses, particularly mountainous regions, present an obstacle for the air circulating around the pole.  The obstacle can cause waves to be introduced to the vortex, leading to a disruption in the isolation.  Imagine the affect of skipping a rock across a lake.  At each skip, the rock causes a disturbance in the water’s natural state.

Winter 2014

 The Arctic polar vortex began this winter in a typical fashion.  However, on January 2, 2014, a disturbance event, known as a sudden stratospheric warming, began.  This event caused winds in the stratosphere to reverse direction, becoming easterly north of 60˚N.  This change caused the vortex to separate into various pockets that migrated southward.  As these pieces of the stratospheric vortex moved across southern Canada and the United States, the cold Arctic air in the troposphere was brought along.  The significant temperature contrast between the Arctic air and the mild temperatures in the US caused a strengthening of the storm systems moving across the continent.  The strengthening brought record low temperatures, significant snowfall and periods of freezing rain.

Measurements of the Polar Vortex at Eureka

The polar vortex plays a pivotal role in the research we do at PEARL.  Its size and form are significant factors to the behaviour of ozone in the Northern Hemisphere due to the chemical reactions that can occur in the vortex. Since its size and shape varies significantly year-to-year, we can measure a variety of atmospheric conditions from Eureka.  Long-term monitoring also allows us to discern patterns in the behaviour of the vortex over Eureka. During the 2010-2011 winter, we observed a strong polar vortex that went undisturbed for most of the season.  This led to extremely cold temperatures that allowed polar stratospheric clouds to form.

During the 2011 measurement campaign at PEARL, temperatures dropped below the threshold for Polar Stratospheric Clouds to form. This enabled dramatic ozone destruction chemistry, leading to the first observered Arctic ozone hole.

During the 2011 measurement campaign at PEARL, temperatures dropped below the threshold for Polar Stratospheric Clouds to form. This enabled dramatic ozone destruction chemistry, leading to the first observered Arctic ozone hole.

These clouds, composed of frozen water vapour and nitric acid, provide a surface for ozone depletion to occur. In March and April of 2011, we observed the first Arctic ozone hole.  Due to the sudden stratospheric warming event that began in January of this year, it is unlikely that significant ozone depletion will be observed this spring.

– Felicia Kolonjari

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Toronto

Posted in Eureka field research, Public outreach | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Preparations for the 2014 ACE campaign at PEARL

By Dan Weaver
Ph.D. Candidate, University of Toronto

The 2014 ACE satellite validation team is nearly ready for this year’s research trip to PEARL.

Felicia Kolonjari checks PARIS, a portable spectrometer, before it is shipped to PEARL

Felicia Kolonjari checks PARIS, a portable spectrometer, before it is shipped to PEARL

We will be travelling to Yellowknife on February 24, then onwards to Eureka, Nunavut on February 25. We’ll be there until March 19. While there, we’ll be working with several instruments to investigate atmospheric chemistry, climate change, ozone depletion, and air quality. To follow our science adventure in Canada’s far North, there are a few places to watch.

There will be regular Twitter posts through the @CREATEArcticSci account. At the moment, I’m posting a couple photos from past campaigns each day as we excitedly approach this year’s trip. Take a look!

View from the PEARL roof

View from the PEARL roof

A new Instagram account has been started. There’s not much yet, but there will be as the campaign progresses.

In addition to this blog, there is an official campaign website. It will be updated daily during the campaign and have summaries of our work with PEARL instruments, and daily photo albums.

For anyone that didn’t see it, PEARL was featured by the Globe and Mail recently. They had a great story about PEARL and a video (featuring the lidar lab and Emily McCullough, who has been a regular campaign team member for many years).

We hope you’ll follow along. Feel welcome to post comments and share our stories!


Posted in ACE Arctic Validation Campaigns, Eureka field research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting ready for Polar Night in Eureka

With the sun already set for the year and polar night just beginning, a few CREATE students are in Eureka working on instruments which thrive on darkness! I work in the CRL lidar lab, using lasers and telescopes to understand the atmosphere.

With CRL Polar Sunrise campaigns largely taken up (and rightly so) by the collection of atmospheric measurements, this late fall campaign is an opportunity to do some of the calibrations on the lidar which take a while, or which benefit from dark skies.

CANDAC Raman-Mie-Rayleigh Lidar (CRL) at the zero-altitude PEARL auxiliary lab (0PAL)

CANDAC Raman-Mie-Rayleigh Lidar (CRL) at the zero-altitude PEARL auxiliary lab (0PAL)

One goal of my Ph.D. project is to characterize a linear depolarization ratio channel in the lidar so that it can be used to tell the difference between ice crystals and water droplets in the clouds that CRL observes all year long. To make these measurements, the lidar sends linearly polarized light into the sky.  The green light waves are all travelling the same direction (straight upwards), and are all wiggling in the same plane. The light scatters off of anything it hits in the atmosphere directly above the lidar. Some of the scattered light is directed back downwards, where it is captured using a 1-m diameter telescope. By checking the polarization state of the backscattered light, we can determine whether it was scattered by droplets (which are spherical, so we’d measure the light all the same polarization as what we sent), or by ice particles (which are angular, and which scramble the polarization somewhat).

We line up our polarization detectors in the lab to correspond to the “parallel” and “perpendicular” directions of the light that’s returned. The tricky part is that some mirrors and lenses in our detection system affect the returned light before we can measure its polarization state. Figuring out whether the upstream optics effect the polarization (which would bias our results) is very important. The goal of this fall 2013 trip is to measure the contribution of these optics in several ways.

CRL detector

CRL detector

The best way to do this is to put completely scrambled light into the telescope from the top, and measure what we get in the detectors. If the light starts out completely unpolarized, we’d expect to see even numbers of photons in each of our polarization detectors. If the optics between our telescope and the detectors are introducing a bias, we’ll see that during this calibration measurement, and be able to account for this during data analysis.

That all sounds good, but what’s the best way to do this, in practice? Completely unpolarized light sources are kind of hard to come by, so we make our own by putting a depolarizer on our instrument. We try various sizes, in various places in the lidar. Because the telescope focuses the light, if we put the depolarizing material after the focusing is done, we only need a depolarizer that is 2 inches in diameter. There is a downside, however: we miss out on understanding the polarizing effects of the telescope itself. We’ve done this in the past, but we wanted to do it better now, and see the effects.

ThirdPicture_McCullough 2

This trip, we’re going BIG on the calibration: As I write this, there is a 1-m diameter depolarizer on the entrance window to the lidar. We’re running the lidar as usual, but we’re scrambling all of the returned light, so that it is unpolarized as soon as it enters the telescope. You can see that we’ve carefully left the laser-exit-window uncovered so that the laser beam can get out, and we have anchored the depolarizer down so that it cannot blow away. We’ll find out in a day or two what the effects are!

So, where does one find a 1-m depolarizing optic which doesn’t suffer in cold conditions (below -30° C), or wet conditions (it might get snowed on or get frosty), and is not too breakable, and is light enough that I can carry it onto the roof of the lab? At the art supply store, of course!

We’ve tested various materials, and so far, the best (well, the best which costs less than $700 per square inch) seems to be archival-quality waxed paper called Glassine. In our test, we put polarized light through the glassine, and then rotated another polarizer in front of it. If the glassine is depolarizing, we’d expect to see no change in the amount of light coming through as we rotate the 2nd polarizer. With one sheet, we do a pretty good job. With two layered sheets, it’s perfect! We just need to balance the needs of a) getting a good depolarizer with b) not dimming our light by too much. Check it out:

FourthPicture_McCullough 2

We’re not the first people to use waxed paper for depolarizing purposes. My favourite reference is this one, which talks about octopi (they have eyes which can use polarized light for extra information). We’ve also tested various kitchen brands of waxed paper ourselves, but have found the Glassine to work best.

With some weather luck, we’ll have one more piece of our calibration puzzle solved by the time we fly back South!

Emily McCullough

Ph.D. student at the University of Western Ontario

Posted in Eureka field research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeking Research Inspiration at the Annual CREATE Arctic Science Summer School

The CREATE program just held its 3rd annual Summer School in Arctic Atmospheric Science this July (15th-19th) – and it was an amazing experience. I will be attending Western University this fall as a Master’s student in Astronomy/Planetary Science and will be conducting research related to the arctic atmosphere. However, I received my B.Sc. degree in Physics and Astronomy and have no background in atmospheric or arctic sciences! The week-long summer school was a fantastic way for me to learn about everyone else’s research and get ideas for my own project. Guest speakers from many different universities and backgrounds gave lectures every day covering topics such as climate change, LIDAR theory and application, atmospheric composition in the arctic, and Inuit culture and history.  Thankfully the talks were general enough that I could understand most of them!

Ed Eloranta gives a talk about LIDAR techniques

Ed Eloranta gives a talk about LIDAR techniques

The lectures were also a great help when it came time for the Poster Session. This is one of the main events of the summer school, where attending students present their own research. Not only was it a great opportunity to help students prepare for future conferences, but I found the session extremely helpful for looking for a research topic.

Attendees discuss research during the poster session

Attendees discuss research during the poster session

While the lectures provided the necessary background for most subjects and had me initially intrigued, there was no substitute for talking to people one-on-one about their research and learning what made them excited about it.  I’m still not sure exactly what I want to research, but I do know that I’m intrigued by water formation and detection in various layers of the atmosphere. I’m sure I’ll figure things out this next semester as I learn more.

Posing with my poster during the poster session. I ended up winning a prize for best undergraduate research poster!

Posing during the poster session. I ended up winning a prize for best undergraduate research poster!

By far the best part of the week was getting to know the entire CREATE Arctic Science group. I have to admit I was a bit nervous on the first day since I barely knew anyone there, but everyone was welcoming and friendly. When we weren’t in lectures, Poster Sessions, or discussions, we were socializing. The pool was by far the favorite meeting place in between lectures, but I also had loads of fun making smores at the campfire and playing soccer. Oh, and I learned one more important thing that week – I am AWFUL at playing Horseshoes (apparently getting the shoe stuck in a tree doesn’t get you any points)!

–          Shannon Hicks

Incoming M.Sc. student, Western University

Posted in conferences & meetings, CREATE Summer Schools | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hitting the tundra running: an exciting first trip to PEARL

After a great trip to Igloolik, Nunavut, from May 23rd to June 1st, I was really looking forward to returning to Toronto and getting back to the heat. I had been on a CANDAC Outreach trip with three other CANDAC members (Ashley Kilgour, Jonathan Franklin, and Melanie Wright) to help the Ataguttaaluk School elementary students present the weather data they had been collecting for the past few months.

When I returned to work the following week, there was discussion at a research group meeting about a potential opening to go to Eureka, Nunavut to work at the PEARL Ridge Lab. I was unofficially offered to go, and the first thought that went through my head was “Oh no, I just buried my winter gear in the closet.” Nevertheless, as a new member of the team, I was anxious for an opportunity to make a trip to Eureka.

A week before the campaign, I got the thumbs up to join Dr. Pierre Fogal (PEARL’s Site Manager) and Prof. James Drummond (Dalhousie University, PEARL’s Principle Investigator) on their trip. I was excited to have an opportunity to work with Pierre and Jim up at Eureka.

Pierre, Jim, and I began our mission on June 19th with a flight to Yellowknife, where we would spend the night and depart for Eureka the following morning. When we arrived at the Arctic Sunset Hangar the next morning, I saw the smallest plane I have ever boarded in my life. Even though I’m not scared to fly, I was a bit nervous about our 6 hour flight. Sure enough, the flight was smooth and we landed safely in Eureka on June 20.

The plane we took from Yellowknife to Eureka

The plane we took from Yellowknife to Eureka

The main goal of the campaign was to install a new suntracker for the Bruker 125HR Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR) to optimize the quality of our measurements, and enable remote operation of the instrument. Despite a few sunny days at the beginning of the trip, the Sun seemed to vanish for almost a week. This complicated our work plan.

Working on the new suntracker dome on the PEARL Ridge Lab roof

Working on the new suntracker dome on the PEARL Ridge Lab roof

We installed a few Vaisala weather stations around the lab, anxiously waiting for the Sun to return.

Canada Day rolled around on July 1st, along with unfortunate weather. It snowed and rained most of the day, leaving us stranded at the Weather Station. Despite losing a day of work, Canada Day turned out to be great. There were lots of food and festivities with the Weather Station and military staff.

After Canada Day, on July 2nd, the Sun finally returned! With only 2 days left of our trip, we worked hard to get the suntracker up and running. We calibrated the suntracker and began taking measurements with the Bruker. In addition, we have set up remote access to the instrument and both computers required for its function. We also set up a camera to monitor the alignment of the beam, and a camera to check the weather. Despite a few more issues that need to be addressed, the campaign was a success.

New suntracker camera installed

New suntracker camera installed

Aside from all the work, Eureka also showed me some fascinating wildlife. I saw my very first muskoxen, Arctic hare, caribou, and a wolf, which was amazing. The drive to the Ridge Lab everyday allowed me to take some great pictures of some of the animals we saw!

Muskox and a wolf seen during the trips to the PEARL Ridge Lab

Muskox and a wolf seen during the trips to the PEARL Ridge Lab

Overall, the trip was an amazing experience and very beneficial to my work in the future. Working side by side with both Pierre and Jim greatly increased my knowledge of how the instruments at PEARL are set up and function. Having the chance to pick at both their brains was very helpful! I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to work at the PEARL Ridge Lab, and hope to make a visit again soon.

–       Anthony Pugliese

Summer Intern and incoming Masters Student, University of Toronto

Posted in Eureka field research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Return to Igloolik

It was the 1st of June, and the outreach team was in the air somewhere over Northern Quebec, heading South. Feeling quite pleased (and rather exhausted) after a successful outreach trip to Igloolik, Nunavut, I started thinking back to when I was first contacted about joining this outreach team of CANDAC CREATE scientists. “A little over a week up North” – initially it sounded like a long time. Every week is precious to me as I approach the end of my doctoral work at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia). But I had been a part of a similar outreach team to Pond Inlet, Nunavut in May 2010 and, in the end, my fond memories of that trip convinced me that I couldn’t turn down a chance to return to the classrooms of the North.  And suddenly, like all such trips, it was over in a flash and I was back on the plane finding myself wishing it wasn’t already time to head back South.

The Igloolik Airport

The Igloolik Airport

This outreach event was a follow-up trip to an initial visit back in March when Ashley Kilgour (CANDAC outreach coordinator), Melanie Wright (M.Sc. student, Western University), and Niall Ryan (Ph.D. student, University of Toronto) spent a week in Igloolik teaching students at Ataguttaaluk School, the local elementary school, how to measure basic atmospheric properties.  Eight weeks later, the students were ready to share their observations.

Student measurements

Student measurements

A conference prevented Niall from attending this trip, so Anthony Pugliese and I joined Ashley and Melanie instead (Anthony is an undergraduate summer student at the University of Toronto). After a brief pause in Iqaluit, we arrived in Igloolik on 24 May to bright sunshine and temperatures around -5 °C.  At this time of year, Igloolik experiences 24 hours of daylight. Although the sun quickly hid behind the clouds (never to return before we left), thick curtains in our rooms were critical to maintaining any semblance of a normal sleeping routine.  A quick look out the window at 1 AM would often reveal a group of children playing in the streets. Despite the happy exhaustion of working in the school all day, it was far too easy to stay up too late without the familiar arrival of darkness reminding us we need to sleep.

Anthony, Jonathan and Mel

Anthony, Jonathan and Mel

As we entered the first classroom on Monday morning we were immediately greeted with cries of “Hi Ashley, Hi Mel!….   Where’s Niall?!”  Clearly, the students remembered the March visit!  A quick look through their log books showed a decent amount of data despite a few equipment failures.  We came prepared with alternate data just in case, but we all breathed a sigh of relief that it would not be needed. Our student researchers had done a fantastic job.

We must have been quite the sight as we shuttled our cart of materials from classroom to classroom. The days were full — four classes before lunch, and four more in the afternoon. We barely had time to blink before we were surrounded by a whole new group of young faces. Over the course of the week we worked with 11 different classes, meeting with each group a few times.  Grade 1 and 2 students had been recording the temperature each day, while grade 3 and 4 students monitored wind speed and direction. Grades 5, 6, and 7 had made daily measurements of solar insolation with pyranometers, and everyone made notes about sky conditions and the type of clouds overhead.

My favorite part about this trip was how student centered it was.  My previous outreach trip to Nunavut involved more formal presentations and demonstrations — this time the students directed their own efforts. “How do YOU want to share your data?” was a question I found myself asking continually throughout the trip. The variety of ideas was heartening. Some wanted to write a story about collecting the data, while others wanted to graph how the solar insolation changed throughout the project.  The artists drew pictures representing the cloud types observed, and one group made a video demonstrating how to use the pyranometer to measure the solar radiation.

Jonathan working with grade 3 students

Jonathan working with grade 3 students

We finished the week with a large assembly in the school gymnasium.  The students hung their finished projects around the room and we set up tables of various atmospheric demonstrations. These included homemade thermometers, clouds in jars, and a nifty demonstration of atmospheric circulation using hot and cold dyed water. All of the students, teachers, school staff, and even some of the students’ families joined us for a celebration of their hard work.

Students set up solar radiation measurements

Students set up solar radiation measurements

Soon it was time to pack our bags and prepare to head on home, but not without one more late night walk under the midnight sun.  We stood silently at the edge of the still frozen Foxe Basin and I soaked in the view of the community one last time.  Happily, the somber mood was quickly broken by a sudden cry of “You’re it!” and a crazy game of tag began with a group of the children we had been working with all week.  It was the perfect ending to a fabulous trip.

–          Jonathan Franklin

Ph.D. Student, Dalhousie University

Posted in Public outreach | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

March 2013 Igloolik outreach trip

In mid March, I had the amazing opportunity to travel north to Igloolik, Nunavut with two other members of CANDAC — Ashley and Niall.  We went there to launch the student-researchers collaborative research project with students in grades 1-7 at Ataguttaaluk Elementary School (AES).  They were very eager to learn about temperature, winds, and solar radiation.  Whenever we asked for a volunteer, everyone’s hands shot up as a chorus of “Me!  Me!  Me!” resounded; their enthusiasm comparable to that of the seagulls from Finding Nemo (“Mine!”).

Ashley engages students in an Igloolik classroom.

Ashley engages  eager students in an Igloolik classroom.

The students also taught us about their language and culture; such as ᖁᔭᓐᓇᒦᒃ (qujannamiik, which reads “coy” (like the English synonym for shy), “N” (the name of the letter), “na”, “me”) and its response ᐃᓛᓕ (ilaali).  We visited the high school where the elders were building igloos and we got into town just in time to see one of the people’s magnificent carvings that is now at the Inuit Museum of Art in Toronto.



Carving now located at the Inuit Museum of Art in Toronto, ON

Carving now located at the Inuit Museum of Art in Toronto, ON

The teachers were also very helpful in making our stay a memorable one.  One teacher, took us out with her dog sled team—The Dream Team—and another pair of teachers had us over for caribou stew.  I am eagerly looking forward to visiting the students at AES in May to wrap up the project!

The Dream Team hard at work.

The Dream Team hard at work.

(If you are interested in reading more stories and seeing more photos from the trip, visit my blog.)

– Melanie Wright

M.Sc. Student, University of Western Ontario

Posted in Public outreach | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Watching for Arctic ozone holes

This year’s ACE Arctic Validation Campaign is moving smoothly towards its end. I’ve started to compare measurements taken from this year to 2012. We have all taken more spectra this year due to the great weather. We’ve enjoyed clear skies and sun for almost two weeks at PEARL. This year has been interesting because we’ve had very low temperatures. This might generate polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs), which can accelerate ozone depletion in the stratosphere. This could be a very comparable to what happened in 2011, when an ozone hole was observed for the first time above the Arctic by scientists (including the PEARL team).  So, we are all very interested to see whether another ozone hole will form this year.

UT-GBS measurements of total ozone above Eureka in 2011 (ozone hole) and 2012

UT-GBS measurements of total ozone above Eureka in 2011 (ozone hole) and 2012

 However, at the same time, there hasn’t been a strong and steady polar vortex. The atmosphere above the Arctic is not isolated from the surrounding air, as it would be with a strong vortex. This reduces the chance of an ozone hole forming.

University of Toronto's Ground-Based Spectrometer (UT-GBS), located at PEARL

University of Toronto’s Ground-Based Spectrometer (UT-GBS), located at PEARL

I’ve performed initial analysis of data taken by one of my instruments, the UT-GBS (University of Toronto Ground Based Spectrometer), between late January and last Monday. I can see no severe stratosphere ozone depletion over Eureka. Yet. This might because air with high ozone concentrations can come into the high Arctic from outside freely, without facing the blockage from the vortex.

UT-GBS measurements of total ozone above Eureka in 2012 and 2013

UT-GBS measurements of total ozone above Eureka in 2012 and 2013

Including this year, the UT-GBS has been continuously taking measurements in Eureka for 13 years. We will continue to monitor the ozone concentration, and hope to understand whether Arctic ozone holes will form in the future.

– Xiaoyi Zhao

PhD student, University of Toronto

Posted in ACE Arctic Validation Campaigns, Eureka field research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment