Permafrost investigations at 81°36’ N
Top image: The Station Nord area in Greenland. The new Villum Research Station is located within the red circle. Photo: Graham Gilbert/UNIS.
In August, a UNIS team travelled 750 km northwest from Longyearbyen and landed in Station Nord at 81°36’ N in Greenland two hours later. The team’s mission was to drill two permafrost boreholes, as part of establishing permafrost monitoring at the new Villum Research Station, run by Aarhus University.
19 September 2014
Text: Professor Hanne H. Christiansen and PhD candidate Graham Gilbert
The team drilled two boreholes into the permafrost down to 20 meters, cased them and installed thermistor strings (temperature sensors) in the boreholes, enabling the Villum station to have permafrost thermal monitoring as part of their basic long-term observations.
Across the largest climatic gradient
The largest climatic gradient in the high Arctic exists between Northern Greenland and Svalbard, with mean annual air temperatures ranging from approximately -4°C in Longyearbyen (78° N) to approximately -17°C in Station Nord (81° N). The installation of the new boreholes at Station Nord will, for the first time, permit the determination of permafrost temperatures on both land sides across this gradient.
The permafrost drilling was conducted over a period of 12 days in a landscape of raised marine beach ridges. The UNIS medium-sized drill rig (named “Betty”) is especially designed for obtaining frozen cores. It was possible to collect cores or sediment samples from more than half of the drilled 40 meters. Bedrock was reached in one of the boreholes, and generally the sediment cover was around 20 meters deep.
The analysis of the retrieved cores will allow for the quantification of ground thermal properties, as well as the construction of an overall landscape development model using principles of modern sedimentology, cryostratigraphy and chronology.
Longyearbyen the new connection point to Station Nord
Station Nord is a Danish military base with an operational history of approximately 60 years. The base is run year-round by a team of five people, however, during the summer this number swells to over 30 with the arrival of support and maintenance crews.
In coming years this number will be supplemented by researchers visiting the new Villum Research Station. This station will be operated by Aarhus University, in Denmark, and will provide scientists with a regional base station. The station itself builds on a 40 year legacy of Arctic air pollution monitoring and consists of laboratory spaces, living quarters, and logistical services.
The team shipped the UNIS permafrost drill rig by air to northern Greenland as part of the cargo flights to Station North with building material for the Villum Research Station. The drill rig was also returned by air, when Dornier flights brought staff or cargo between Longyearbyen and Station Nord in the end of August.
In the future, it is expected that most researchers visiting the Villum Station will travel by air via Longyearbyen using the Lufttransport Dornier to arrive two hours later at Station North. We hope that many scientists and students will enjoy working at the Villum Research Station in the years to come, and find the permafrost temperature observations now established useful.