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27 July, 2001

Other projects at Storglaciaren:

We are not the only group involved in research on Storglaciaren. Storglaciaren has been and continues to be studied extensively. Glaciologists have been studying this glacier since 1946. Early studies involved measuring the annual mass balance of the glacier. Measuring the mass balance is the process of keeping track of how much ice the glacier is losing or gaining on a year-to-year basis. It may sound simple, but it is a pretty involved process. This information is useful for a number of purpsoses. But chiefly, mass balance changes for a glacier mirror local climate change. So a steady and consistent change in a glacier implies a steady change in climate.

The annual mass balance record that started in 1946 has continued up to the present. There are a small handful of people here at Tarfala that collect these data. Another glaciological project that the station is in charge of is the movement of the glacier. A huge array of stakes has been placed on the glacier, and the position of each stake is measured weekly. The position of these stakes is measured with GPS (Global Positioning System) units so that very small changes in glacier movement can be detected and recorded. A detailed understanding of how Storglaciaren flows out of the mountains is being achieved through this project. Those involved in these projects are Peter Jansson, glaciologist from Stockholm University, Mart, the general manager for Tarfala, and two hired assistants: Fia, a recent high school graduate from Kiruna, and Kajsa, a Finnish college student. Stockholm University PhD student Rickard also helps out with these projects.

Rickard also has his own research project. He is studying how the cold layer on the surface of the glacier affects the movement of the glacier (see July 12 journal for a discussion of this cold layer). And Regine, a glaciologist from Stockholm University is doing a long-term study of how energy gets transferred into and out of the glacier. She spent the last two weeks here downloading her data loggers, and setting out more temperature sensors in the ice. She has been doing research on Storglaciaren for the past 10 years. Some of her past studies have included die tracer experiments to track how water drains into and out of the glacier.

Another glaciologist from Stockholm University, Per Holmlund, will be continuing his work on studying the structure of moulins (holes in the ice that drain water into the glacier). He has the longest record of research on Storglaciaren which dates back to the mid-1970s. He is here at the station now teaching a glaciology course to 16 college students.

Having this kind of knowledge base significantly supports our own research. It allows us to reflect on how our findings fit the larger picture that has been assembled for Storglaciaren. It also provides us with some basic information that is useful in determining where and how we will carry out our study.

Yesterday we worked in a snowstorm. This morning, as I wait for breakfast, the skies are a brilliant blue and we are being blasted by a frigid arctic wind - up to 45 miles/hour. Feels like a prelude to winter.

A view up glacier to Kebnekaise, one of the tallest peaks in the area. The white stake in the foreground is one of the stake being used to measure the surface velocity of the glacier.

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