Blog Image

Project updates


For more information about this project please go to:

Sad news

2012 Posted on Feb 12, 2016 12:40

Sad news: The owner of the hut we stayed in during fieldwork has died. Kjell was very enthusiatstic about all research in Svalbard and without his help the fieldwork last summer would have not been possible. I wish I could have had the chance to share the research results with him. You can read more about Kjell’s work and life in Svalbardposten.

First results!

2012 Posted on Feb 12, 2016 12:39


The first results! I received carbon isotope data of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from Susan Lang (ETH Zurich) and sulfur isotope data of sulfate from Tim Heaton (British Geological Survey). There are definitely clear differences in the stream water chemistry of the two streams. Although a full interpretation will have to await the results of the rest of the chemical analysis, an initial overview is presented in a report submitted in conjunction with receiving the Arctic Field Grant which can be found below.

Field 2

2012 Posted on Feb 12, 2016 12:27

22 July – 7 August

For the second field period we were a group of six: Alix, Marita, Andrea, Kjetil, Thorstein and I. Marita and Andrea were collecting field data for their masters thesis projects. We walked over to Fardalen on 24 July, Longyearbreen was nearly snow-free providing easy walking conditions. On the other side of the pass there was still some large snow patches but they were melting fast. We were met at Kjell’s hut by Wieslaw who was staying for four weeks to study landscape and ecosystem changes in the nearby valleys. The day we arrived we installed the instruments for monitoring hydrological properties (water stage, conductivity and turbidity). Unfortunately, it turned out the turbidity meter did not work and that we arrived on a day when the water level was relatively high such that after two days we had to reposition the sensors because the water level had dropped so much that they were out of the water in both streams. Nevertheless, data logging was successful for the rest of this field period. Water stage was converted into discharge by doing several salt tracing tests, here we added 1-2kg of salt to the river and monitored the conductivity downstream. From the increase in conductivity over baseline values it is possible to calculate a discharge. Stream water samples were collected as we did during the first field period, but since the rivers were more turbid, filtering took a lot longer. Luckily when one of the hand pumps broke it was at the end of the trip!

As well as collecting water samples we went up to the front of Dryadbreen to take a sample of supraglacial meltwater and samples of sediments and rocks. After ten days of sampling it was time to pack all the equipment up. Some samples we could carry out, but the majority are awaiting the return of snow when it will be possible to collect them with a snowmobile.

Field 1, Part 4

2012 Posted on Feb 12, 2016 12:24

14-19 June

Alix arrived on 13 June and so the next day we headed back into Fardalen hoping that we would find some water. Although there was still quite a lot of snow there had been enough melting that the streams had started to cut down through the snow pack so that when we arrived the bottom of the streams was actually ice and over the week, the streams cut deeper and deeper until in places we could see the rocks at the bottom. This made crossing the streams a bit problematic since the snowbanks at the sides of the stream were liable to collapse and jumping with snowshoes on isn’t so easy.

Despite the streams being predominantly snow-melt there was still a clear difference in the sediment load and alkalinty (the only chemical parameter that is measured directly in the field) between the glaciated and the non-glaciated stream. I found this quite surprising. We managed 6 days of water sampling, alternating between the two streams each day. We would sample in the morning and then spend the rest of the day filtering the collected water for the various chemical and isotopic analyses which will be performed on these samples later. Unfortunately we were unable to install the instruments to measure discharge automatically since there was still too much snow and the channel shape would change too much as the snow continued to melt. However, we did measure discharge each day when the samples were taken using salt as a tracer.

We walked back out to Longyearbyen through lots of slushy snow on the 19th and so ended the first field period. Not as many samples as expected but we still had a very successful last week. Predicting what the snow-conditions would be like in spring when booking flights in winter was never going to be easy…

Field 1, Part 3

2012 Posted on Feb 12, 2016 12:21

28 May – 13 June

We waited in Longyearbyen for the snow to melt. It actually went surprisingly fast with the ice audibly breaking up and new streams appearing every day. While we were waiting we took the opportunity to experience the surroundings of Longyearbyen. We visited an englacial meltwater channel on Larsbreen. There was of course no water in it at this time of year so we could walk for several hundred meters down the channel. There were fascinating ice formations everywhere and definitely plenty of sediment in the ice to be subject to weathering reactions! Other trips included the Russian town of Barentsburg, the mine at Hiortfjellet and general walks around the vicinty of Longyearbyen.

Field 1, Part 2

2012 Posted on Feb 12, 2016 12:17

27 May

There was still enough snow to take a snowmobile into Fradalen and Liam very kindly provided us with a lift in on 25th. Driving over the pass it was immediately clear that there was still an awful lot of snow in Fardalen. We went down to where the stream would normally be and dug a 1.5 metre deep hole but still didn’t get down to rock, everywhere it seemed there were deep snow drifts. On the night of 26-27 it even snowed more. So instead of waiting in the hut for several days maybe weeks with not much else to do but sleep and melt snow to drink, we opted to come back and wait in Longyearbyen instead. We had bought snowshoes so it was a relatively easy three hour walk back.

Field 1, Part 1

2012 Posted on Feb 12, 2016 12:14

22 May

Tomorrow I will arrive in Svalbard for the start of a four week sampling campaign. The webcam over the last few days has shown a fair bit of snow loss so fingers crossed we can still get a snowmobile over to Fardalen. On the other hand, snow loss should produce some interesting changes in stream water chemistry. Kjell Mork (former mayor of Longyearbyen) has generously allowed us to use his hut in Fardalen for the duration of the fieldwork, which is definitely preferable to a tent. Assuming that the streams are not still under deep snow drifts, the plan is to sample the glacial and the non-glacial stream on alternate days.

A number of samples for different types of analyses will be taken each day which will entail the filtration of around 25 L water. One of the first tasks though, will be installing the water stage measuring stations on both streams in order to get a long a record as possible of discharge this summer.

Arctic Field Grant

2012 Posted on Feb 12, 2016 12:13

10 February

Today I got the news that my Arctic Field Grant application for 2012 was successful! This is a grant awarded yearly by the Svalbard Science Foundation to help researchers cover the costs of organising field trips to Svalbard. My grant covers the cost of flights, food and the rental of safety equipment for this summer.

Next »