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Greenland ICECAPS-MELT project overview

Updated: at 08:05 PM

The ICECAPS-MELT project is an extension of the long-running (11 years!) set of detailed observations made by the ICECAPS team at Summit Station in Greenland. The basic concept of the new MELT project is to take the suite of observations from Summit, and the skills of the ICECAPS team, down to make observations in the “percolation” zone of the Greenland ice sheet. The percolation zone is where the cold high elevation ice sheet zone transitions to regular surface melt, and this zone has become a significantly larger portion of Greenland as the climate warms. Observations made in this zone will provide important insight into the changes happening as anthropogenic climate change continues to impact Greenland.

The MELT project is unique in the measurements it will make where Greenland experiences a significant amount of melt annually. Making observations there, autonomously without logistical support, is a difficult endeavor since conditions can range from frozen blizzards to soggy rainstorms. Previously measurements made in the melt region have been limited to Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) or sampling campaigns of limited duration. And the MELT project will be the first time that the “complete coupled climate system” will be observed autonomously in this region. Meaning there will be instruments and sensors measuring meters into the subsurface all the way to kilometers in the air! With processed data transmitted back home in real time for scientific research and model evaluation. Oh, and the science platform will be completely powered by renewable energy from the wind and sun. We hope you’re excited too…


Here is a brief description of the instrumentation onboard the MELT science platform. This is not a comprehensive accounting of the 50+ sensors but a summary of the scientific measurements being made but an overview of the science capabilities. The measurements outlined below are complimentary to each other and can be used in combination to answer a wide range of possible research questions about the Greenland percolation zone.

ASFSAutomatic Surface Flux Station — a suite of flux measurements that is comprised of a large set of sensors. This measures in detail everything that has an impact on the energy that goes into or out of the ice sheet surface; including radiative, latent, sensible an more, fluxes
GPRGround Penetrating Radar — Radio waves aimed at the subsurface that measure the changes in (the first few meters of) the firn structure through time
MRRMicro Rain Radar — Radio waves aimed at the sky to quantify and measure precipitation characteristics in the atmosphere
MWRMicrowave Radiometer — “Passive ” measurement of microwaves transferred through the atmosphere to quantify liquid and vapor water characteristics in the atmosphere
IMBIce Mass balance — A subsurface thermistor string measuring temperature variability in the (first few meters of) upper firn
VDLVaisala Depolarization Lidar — A laser aimed at the sky to measure the qualities of cloud layers
OGREOpen GNSS Research Equipment — High resolution GPS information for reflectometry and other algorithmic retrievals
POPSPortable Optical Particle Spectrometer — A near-surface spectrometer inlet for measuring aerosol characteristics

The Minimum Viable Powersystem (MVP)

Greenland ice edges with Raven and Summit

The MVP, a minimum viable (renewable) powersystem, is what provides the gumption to the science platform for operation. It was designed using cutting edge lithium battery technologies, solar panels, and wind turbines, to produce a maximum of 6kW of solar, 1.6kW of wind, and to store the resulting energy in a battery bank of approximately 30 kWh capacity. The powersystem provides instant power feedback to the science platform for operations, management, and the prioritization of the science measurements outlined above. The photo to the right here is from operating the custom lithium battery modules in our research fridge at -30C for testing and optimization.