We’ve had two days out in the field so far on this course. It is really good to get some hands on experience with the tools of the meteorologists trade. As I’m someone who spends a lot of my PhD time in front of a computer it is also a refreshing change!
Fieldwork starts early! I am not a morning person, but we have to meet at 8:30am to get kitted up for the day’s work. Depending on what we are doing and on how cold it is that might just be supplementing your own clothes with some ice grips for your shoes or donning a whole snowsooter suit with helmet and goggles.
Our first excursion took us to an old northern lights study station, not that far from Londyearbyen. It is actually pretty cosy with a couple of sofas. But there is also enough indoors space to do some work and electricity for things that need it but no loo!Our first task was to set up all the met towers and other instruments we will be using for our experiments. Partly to learn how to do it and partly so they can be calibrated against a permanent mast at the same site. I got to put together an old style Aanderaa mast, which has two anemometers (for measuring the wind speed), one temperature sensor, two wind directioners and a relative humidity sensors. Those wind things are on two different levels to see what the difference is.
We got to do the fiddly work indoors, before wrapping up and heading out into the cold. Putting up a mast is a lot like pitching a tent, there are guy rope and long pegs. But I’ve never pitched a tent on ice, with a biting cold wind bringing the temperatures down to -10C. We managed though! The other instruments we put out included a sonic anemometer (which used the speed of sound to work out the wind speed) a radiometer to look at the radiation coming down from the sun and clouds and what is being reflected back up from the snow. Along with several other masts a lot like the one I put up. It was a pretty good day, we even had pizza for lunch!
After a few days had passed the course got split into groups based on our interest, I picked looking at how the mountainous terrain affects the movement of wind around the island. We then got to plan where we would like to put out the different equipment we have available. This is really good practice at thinking what might be important and what might be possible to measure.
The next day we were off early again, this time with plenty of snow scooter sleds and useful equipment. Our first task was to take down our met masts from the northern lights station. This is easier said than done. Getting pegs out of the ground can be hard enough, now make that ground frozen solid and the pegs 60cm long! After channelling the spirit of the islands miners and trying to use pickaxes, a more modern solution was found and they were removed with the help of a little pneumatic drill! The newly arrived sun even paid us a visit, painting the tops of the mountains beautiful pink and peach colours.
Taking down the masts and strapping them onto the sleds took all morning (though it never really seems to stop being morning as the sun doesn’t get very high up yet), so after a quick lunch (sadly not pizza) we were off to put up the instruments in their new locations. Down valleys and up steep slopes or on ice by the bay. The whole day was very tiring and involved a lot of standing round in the cold. I was very pleased to get home to a hot shower and some nice tea!