We will monitor temperature and moisture around locations where we know that snowpacks were in place last month. We expect them there again and when they disappear, we will be able to monitor any melt that gets into the soil. Our dataloggers will record readings from the sensors every 30 minutes from here on out (through the harsh winter as well!).
The fate of snow important because we have such a dry environment that we see most snow disappear quickly from the ground when it snows in the summer (like the snow you saw in my last post). The snowpacks we are studying build up over the winter though and are deeper and more persistent. We expect that much of this snow sublimates (goes from solid ice to vapor) rather than melting. Our study will quantify this in a few ways for the first time in the Dry Valleys.
We are also setting out LARGE tarps (20 ft x 40 ft) to collect snow. Next year when the snow disappears, we will see how much melts and runs along the tarp into a rainfall measuring device, and how much is there to begin with. The difference is the amount that sublimates. Below is the one that Dave and I set out today. On the far boulder there, we had a timelapse camera set up for the past month or so. We will retrieve those images next week. In the mean time, I will be trying to upload our other timelapse movies from other sites onto YouTube. I will update the blog with links when I get them up.
We got picked up by 3-6-Hotel (the helicopter that dropped us off) around 3:30 pm and then made it back to McMurdo to catch up with Kevin and Adam. We are now all showered and well-fed. Great week for science despite the weather!