When we first arrived at Oliktok a week and a half ago, it was strangely summer-like. No snow, no ice, just bare tundra. However, the last few days have dropped some snow, and last night as we were completing our last flights, things started cooling off. With the clouds disappearing and the sun only reaching very low angles in the sky, it doesn’t take much to let the temperatures plummet. This morning when we got in the truck to head to the AMF, the thermometer read near 10 F, and it finally felt like the Arctic! With the clear skies, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise and a big, though not quite full, moon. Once the skies were painted with an array of pastel colors, it was time to get the DataHawks and tethered balloon out and get to work!
In total, we completed seven flights, summing up to just over four hours of flight time! Many of these flights were focused on profiling the lower atmosphere to monitor the evolution of the stable lower atmosphere as the sun and some thin clouds interacted with it. These profiles give a great time series of the subtle changes that occur under these conditions. Additionally, they provide necessary context for the balloon measurements that were being made today – focused on turbulence and aerosol properties.
In addition, we completed another low over-water flight to monitor fluxes from the relatively warm surface (though there is more and more ice visible!) to the atmosphere. Repeating these flights under different atmospheric states and ice conditions should provide a really nice dataset for evaluating the lower atmosphere in an environment that is otherwise really difficult to sample. Larger aircraft don’t want to fly at 10-20 meters above the water surface, and it is challenging (and expensive) to put towers and/or ships in this broken ice environment. These DataHawks provide a very unique perspective in this regard. Additionally, we flew the camera-equipped DataHawk to get a perspective on things from above. All in all, a busy, busy day!
One other interesting thing to note – the clear skies and colder air seem to have spurred the wildlife into action. It’s been pretty quiet, generally, but today we saw tons of caribou, with many coming very close to our operations on the beach and runway. Additionally, we’ve seen seals out on the sea ice, some Arctic foxes, and some of the red foxes that also inhabit the area. It was nice to see all of the animals out in what otherwise is a pretty industrial and desolate landscape!
Tomorrow is supposed to be another good one for flights, so it’s time to rest up and prepare for another full day ahead!